N.Y. Official Gives Views on Subprime, Preemption

Article excerpt

In his first speech to a banking industry group since his confirmation in April, New York State Superintendent of Banks Richard H. Neiman said Friday that his tenure will be defined by subprime lending and federal preemption of state banking laws.

These issues "will not only have a lasting impact during my term," but they also "may result in significant market and structural changes long after I am gone," he told the New York Bankers Association at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

Mr. Neiman was most outspoken about his reaction to the Supreme Court's April 17 decision in the Watters v. Wachovia case, which reinforced the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's power to preempt state oversight of national banks.

"In addition to making the national charter more attractive, the decision is likely to chill state regulation and/or encourage the migration of state institutions to states with less regulation," he said.

"No state wants to put their own state institutions at a competitive disadvantage. Certainly with New York's vibrant financial markets, this is a critical issue for us."

The court's ruling "will further impede local efforts to respond quickly and with innovative measures," he said.

Soon after taking over from Diana Taylor, Mr. Neiman was put in charge of a statewide task force seeking ways to help victims of predatory loans.

"When you look at the current issues facing subprime borrowers," he said Friday, "it's hard to argue that we don't need multiple levels of enforcement. To put it quite succinctly, we need more cops on the beat, not less."

The task force is holding a series of meetings to gather input, and the first was in New York on April 11. The next one will be held over the summer in Buffalo, Mr. Neiman said. He did not say when the group would issue its recommendations.

The group is considering whether a new federal law is necessary, he said.

"In addition to reviewing efforts at the state level, we are also reviewing - in light of the preemption issues - the need for legislation at the national levels for statutory anti-predatory standards," he said. …