On April 29, 2019, Linda Lacewell, the Acting Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”), announced the combination of DFS’s previously separate Enforcement Division and Financial Frauds and Consumer Protection Division into a newly created Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division. Superintendent Lacewell said the new Division will be a “powerhouse” and referred to DFS’s mandate to “guard against financial crises and consumers and markets from fraud.”[1]

The new division will be led by Executive Deputy Superintendent Katherine A. Lemire. Prior to her appointment, Lemire was a partner at StoneTurn, a consulting firm specializing in corporate internal investigations, compliance, and monitoring. Previously, Lemire served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 2002 to 2009 and as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for five years before that. Matthew L. Levine continues to serve as Executive Deputy Superintendent for Enforcement.

The reorganization appears to be motivated, at least in part, by DFS’s statement in January that the agency was disappointed by a “troublesome policy shift away from consumer protection” at the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and that DFS would “take action to fill the increasing number of regulatory voids created by the federal government.”[2]

The units within the new division will be: Enforcement; Investigations and Intelligence; Civil Investigations; Producers; Consumer Examinations; Student Protection; and Holocaust Claims Processing. The Consumer Assistance Unit, formerly part of the Financial Frauds and Consumer Protection Division, was not mentioned in DFS’s announcement. DFS’s plans for that unit are not clear. The Consumer Assistance Unit is responsible for receiving and mediating complaints from consumers.

Acting Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell was appointed by Governor Cuomo to head the DFS on January 4, 2019, assuming office on February 11, 2019. She was previously Governor Cuomo’s Chief of Staff and before that an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Lacewell is awaiting confirmation by the New York State Senate. Lacewell is expected to take a more assertive enforcement posture at DFS.[3]