Mark Winston Griffith
Spitzer’s Banking Superintendent Must Show and Prove
Considering how willing Attorney General Spitzer was in confronting abuse and discrimination in the financial services industry, economic justice advocates have been guardedly optimistic about Governor Spitzer's State Banking Department ambitions.
The first indication that the Governor might not be as aggressive in challenging the banking industry as the Attorney General came when the Banking Superintendent under the Pataki administration, Diana Talyor, was invited by Spitzer to stay on the job. Yes, the same Taylor who was better known for her romantic ties to Mayor Bloomberg and corporate connections than her grasp of banking and consumer rights issues. The same Taylor who directed the New York State Banking Department to allow NY State chartered banks to offer overdraft protection, an abusive and predatory banking product targeted at low-income customers.
Ultimately, Taylor told Spitzer thanks, but no thanks. So on Wednesday word came from Spitzer's office that he will be nominating Richard H. Neiman to the post of NYS Bank Superintendent. Neiman's resume includes a litany of executive positions in the banking industry. In other words, he's hardly, at least on paper, the consumer protection and community reinvestment advocate that some of us imagined in our, perhaps misguided, dreams. The most that can be said about him in this regard is that he cut his teeth as a lawyer working at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Unfortunately, given the OCC's record of being asleep at the regulatory wheel, this is not particularly comforting.
It's only fair to Mr. Neiman that we reserve judgment until he actually gets on the job. And if there is one thing Spitzer has earned up to this point in his career, it is the benefit of the doubt. But at a time when Federal and State chartered banks are operating under shockingly permissive regulatory conditions, what would have been encouraging is a Bank Superintendent candidate who has demonstrated an independence from the banking industry and has not so consistently fed from its trough.