New York State Senate Confirms New Top Financial Regulator

Adrienne Harris has run NYDFS on an acting basis since her nomination.

AccessTimeIconJan 25, 2022 at 9:59 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 3:48 p.m. UTC

The New York Department of Financial Services officially has a new head.

The state Senate confirmed Adrienne Harris, a former federal official and professor, to run the Wall Street regulator on Tuesday. Harris has been serving as the acting superintendent of NYDFS since her nomination in August.

Harris was a special assistant to the Barack Obama White House on economic policy, as well as a senior adviser to then-Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sarah Bloom Raskin, who's now a nominee to be vice chairwoman for supervision at the Federal Reserve. Harris was also recently on the board of the Digital Dollar Foundation, an advocacy group that was founded by former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo and former LabCFTC head Daniel Gorfine. LabCFTC is a part of the CFTC responsible for promoting innovation in fintech.

In a statement following her confirmation, Harris thanked New York Gov. Kathy Hochul for her nomination and the Senate for confirming her.

"I am honored to serve as the Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services. As the first African American woman to lead DFS, I am personally committed to working with all stakeholders to build a robust, fair and sustainable financial system, creating a better economic future for all New Yorkers," she said.

During a nomination hearing before the state Senate Finance Committee on Monday, Harris said she hoped to bolster the regulator’s BitLicense team to clear a backlog of applications for New York’s landmark virtual currency license.

“One of the things I have done is undertake a review of that unit and see what’s causing that backlog,” she said in response to a question from state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island).

Savino also asked if Harris supported a bill that would enable NYDFS to collect assessments from the virtual currency companies it regulates, noting that the entity is not funded by the state. Harris said she would.

“Cryptocurrency is here to stay, but the risk of anti-money laundering, consumers, for cyber are incredibly high, so we need real rigor,” Harris said.

Matt Homer, a former senior official at NYDFS and now an executive-in-residence with Nyca Partners, told CoinDesk her responses during her hearing show “she’s superbly qualified to serve as superintendent.

“She has deep expertise that cuts across the financial services landscape and highly relevant prior experience from the Obama White House and Treasury Department, as well as the private sector,” he said.

Harris said she wants the NYDFS to have more resources to oversee crypto, fintech and financial services at large. Crypto in particular is continually evolving, she said.

“It is quickly evolving. Even though we've had the BitLicense since 2015, it didn’t account for things like stablecoins … there's always more we can do,” Harris said.

UPDATE (Jan. 25, 2022, 22:07 UTC): Adds statement from Harris.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.