A man lauded as an exceptional regulator in some quarters and a thorn in the side of the mortgage industry in others is stepping down from the agency he helmed for more than four years.
Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, just announced that he will depart the agency in late-June after serving as the founding superintendent for the agency.
Lawsky, the “regulator with zeal” as some called him, was unanimously confirmed to his position by the New York State Senate in May 2011.
"I am deeply proud of the work our team has done building this new agency and helping strengthen oversight of the financial markets. We have assembled a great team at NYDFS and I have full confidence that the critical work of this agency will continue seamlessly moving forward,” Lawsky said in a statement.
“I also want to thank Governor Cuomo for the trust he showed in appointing me to this position and for providing us with the opportunity to serve the people of New York. On a personal level, I am deeply grateful to the Governor, who has been an incredible mentor and amazing friend to me over the past eight years," he said.
A summary of NYDFS initiatives and enforcement actions is contained in its Annual Report, which can be viewed, here.
Rumors that Lawsky would be stepping down have been circulating since November, but today’s announcement made it official.
Speaking just Tuesday at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Secondary Market Conference, Lawsky gave no sign he was preparing to leave his office, spending his speech bemoaning the state of the massive glut of foreclosures that are choking an over-stressed New York system and threatening the state’s homeowners.
“The state’s foreclosure process is broken and badly in need of change,” Lawsky said.
Whether those in the industry loved or hated him, Lawsky has been a tireless watchdog on the mortgage finance industry, the mortgage servicing and the mortgage and title insurance industries, well beyond the borders of New York state.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment in the mortgage space came in December of 2014, when Ocwen Financial (OCN) Executive Chairman William Erbey agreed to resign from the Ocwen family of companies and Ocwen pay $150 million to homeowners under an agreement with Lawsky's office.
For the first several years, Lawsky labored away more locally, but he came to the forefront of the national mortgage space at the start of 2014 when he went after Ocwen. In February 2014 he put an indefinite freeze on a $2.7 billion MSR deal between Ocwen and Wells Fargo (WFC), which put him front and center for mortgage financing.
[UPDATE: 2:58 p.m. E.T.]
According to Bloomberg, Lawsky plans to set up his own consulting firm in New York, “advising financial institutions on matters related to technology, cybersecurity and virtual currency. He will also become a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Cyber Initiative starting in the fall.”
Possible replacements for Lawsky have been floated, the wire service reports, including "Jonathan Schwartz, general counsel for Univision Communications Inc. and a former JPMorgan executive, and Michele Hirshman, a former federal prosecutor who is a partner in New York at a Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison."