February 3, 2022
SUPERINTENDENT ADRIENNE A. HARRIS WORKS TOWARD A FAIRER FINANCIAL SERVICES SYSTEM AND EQUITABLE NEW YORK ECONOMY
Actions to Advance Economic Opportunities and Financial Services for New Yorkers, Address Climate Change, As the State Continues to Rebuild and Recover from COVID-19 Pandemic
The New York State Senate confirmed Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Adrienne A. Harris on January 25, 2022 as Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS). Superintendent Harris has taken several actions to deliver a fairer financial services system that works for all New Yorkers since her nomination in August 2021. These forward-looking actions have been critical to continue and to bolster the Department’s mandate to protect consumers and uphold the integrity, safety, and soundness of New York’s financial services industry, which includes – the supervision of nearly 1,800 insurance companies with asset of $5.5 trillion and more than 1,400 banking and other financial institutions with assets totaling more than $2.9 trillion.
“As a woman of color, I know first-hand the importance of building a financial system that works for all and not only for the privileged,” said Superintendent Harris. “I look forward to applying my diverse experiences to preserve and bolster consumer protections while also securing the safety and soundness of industry for a fairer and more just New York economy.”
During the first 100 days, Superintendent Harris:
- Established a Climate Division, making DFS the first state financial regulator in the nation to do so and ensuring that DFS will maximize the integration of climate risks into its supervision of regulated entities. The newly created Climate Division issued final guidance detailing DFS’ expectations that all New York-regulated domestic insurers start considering the financial risks from climate change into their governance frameworks, business strategies, risk management processes and scenario analysis, and developing their approach to climate-related financial disclosure.
- Proposed a new regulation addressing top concerns from consumer advocacy groups, acting to protect New Yorkers against healthcare provider directory misinformation. Individuals who believe that a provider is in their network based on incorrect information provided by their insurer will pay no more than their in-network cost-sharing for services from that provider.
- Issued a proposed amendment to DFS’s debt collection regulation that will help ensure consumers pay only debts they owe and pay them only once. This proposed amendment will enhance disclosures to consumers; reduce opportunities for debt collectors to mislead consumers about their debt obligations; and prevent harassment of consumers with excessive communication through stricter limits on phone calls than federal regulations impose.
- Brought an enforcement action against insurers who violated mental health and substance use disorder parity requirements, securing $2.6 million in penalties and returning $473,565 directly to New Yorkers. The penalty provides critical funding for initiatives supporting parity implementation and enforcement on behalf of consumers as well as restitution for consumers.
- Championed the expansion and modernization of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in New York State. Harris pushed forward legislation (now law) to cover non-depository lenders and proposed a new regulation to allow the Department to evaluate how well New York-regulated banking institutions are serving minority- and women-owned businesses within local communities.
- Worked alongside the NY State of Health to announce an extension of the Open Enrollment Period and provide new and returning consumers many quality, low-cost health insurance options amidst the ongoing pandemic.
- Secured more than $10 million in penalties from Columbian Mutual for failing to pay unclaimed death benefits on thousands of life insurance policies, many of which were purchased by low-income families and people of color. More than two-thirds of the settlement ($7.83 million) was paid directly to New York beneficiaries harmed by Columbian Mutual.
- Proposed a small business lending disclosure regulation that will increase transparency and help businesses and individuals understand and compare the terms of different commercial financing offers so they can make more informed financial decisions.
- Convened leading Minority Development Institutions (MDIs) and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to maximize opportunities to grow lending in communities that often have been overlooked by the larger commercial financial industry. Harris immediately reacted to issues raised at the meeting by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) with the intention of updating the current Vacation Policy as an Internal Control Safeguard guidance.
- Helped to secure the first awards from the New York State CDFI Fund. With a multi-year, $25-million state commitment, the CDFI Fund will provide resources to deliver affordable financial products and services and financial literacy programming to historically underserved and low-income communities across New York State.
- Advocated for Holocaust victims and their heirs, requesting that New York State-chartered institutions voluntarily waive wire transfer and processing fees associated with Holocaust reparations payments. Through the DFS Holocaust Claims Processing Office at DFS, Harris has engaged over one hundred and eighty of New York State’s financial institutions to create a reliable list of institutions that committed to waive these fees.
- Safeguarded the retirement assets of New Yorkers by securing a $3 million dollar penalty against Pacific Life Insurance Company for soliciting and engaging in insurance business in New York without a license.
- Renewed the Department’s commitment to protecting our national security by announcing a $100-million penalty against Mashreqbank for processing payments in violation of U.S. sanctions laws.
- Guided DFS in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and extensive damage throughout New York State. DFS was on site immediately and to date has provided insurance advice to more than 2,700 affected New Yorkers both in person and through its consumer hotline. DFS expedited the issuance of temporary permits to qualified, out-of-state, independent insurance adjusters so that more adjusters are available to process claims and help get consumers’ property repaired and claims paid. Harris toured multiple disaster sites, meeting with constituents and ensuring the DFS’ resources were maximized to assist affected communities.
- Mandated continuing education in flood insurance for property/casualty insurance producers in response to increasing flood risk due to climate change. In addition, DFS is now the first state regulator to require education in diversity, inclusion and the elimination of bias for its insurance producer and public adjuster licensees.
About Superintendent Adrienne A. Harris
Adrienne A. Harris was nominated to lead the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) by Governor Kathy Hochul in August 2021. Superintendent Harris was confirmed on January 25, 2022 by the New York State Senate.
Superintendent Harris began her career as an Associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York City before accepting a position at the United States Department of the Treasury under President Obama.
While at the Treasury Department, Superintendent Harris served as a Senior Advisor to both Acting Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Mary Miller, and Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin (now President Biden’s Nominee as the Federal Reserve Board’s Vice Chair for Supervision). Harris’ work ranged from financial reform efforts to identifying solutions to the student loan crisis; analyzing the nexus between foreign investment and national security; and working to promote financial inclusion and health in communities throughout the country. Following her time at the Treasury Department, Superintendent Harris joined The White House, where she was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, as part of the National Economic Council. In this role, Ms. Harris managed the financial services portfolio, which included developing and executing strategies for financial reform and the implementation of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – the most sweeping financial reform in modern history, consumer protections for the American public, cybersecurity and housing finance reform priorities.
After leaving the White House in January 2017, Superintendent Harris went on to serve as General Counsel and Chief Business Officer at States Title, Inc. (now DOMA), which provides a more simple and affordable closing experience for homebuyers. Prior to being nominated, she also served as a Professor and Faculty Co-Director at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's Center on Finance, Law and Policy at the University of Michigan, as well as a Senior Advisor at the Brunswick Group in Washington, D.C.