Sink: Florida Lax in Bank Fraud Efforts
A top state financial regulator told Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet Tuesday that his agency’s resources can be better spent in ways other than joining several other government entities around the country in going after Bank of America.
Saying that the financial giant is being challenged on at least three fronts over its controversial purchase in 2008 of Merrill Lynch, Tom Cardwell, Secretary of the Office of Financial Regulation, said there was no reason for his office to pile on.
Instead, Cardwell, who was appointed to the new post in August, recommended that the state monitor progress in a trio of legal actions being waged against the company and its CEO Ken Lewis and focus its attention on smaller cases that may not attract the same level of national outrage.
"The Bank of America action is, quite frankly, a national issue that has drawn a lot of heavy artillery," Cardwell said.
Cardwell’s responses to questions about whether Florida should go after Bank of America, and an earlier report on debt collection companies did not sit well with Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor, who has said for months the state needs to be more aggressive in protecting consumers against financial fraud.
“What was disappointing was there seemed to be a little bit of an attitude that we couldn’t do these things because we don’t have the resources,” Sink said after Cabinet meeting.
Sink said her comments were based not only on Cardwell’s response to the Bank of America issue, but an earlier rundown on state efforts to go after debt collection agencies that use questionable tactics. Outlining a set of recommendations to bolster state oversight of debt collection companies, Cardwell said current regulations and tight funding severely limit his enforcement options.
Sink said she was “not impressed” by the Cardwell’s comments
“I was sent here by the people of Florida to be aggressive and protect them against bad actors,” Sink said. “That’s what I wanted to hear and I did not hear that today. I was very disappointed.”
During his presentation, Cardwell responded that he was not making excuses but stating facts. With limited resources and 28 lawyers, his agency has to focus its attention.
“Respectfully, we are being aggressive where we need to be,” Cardwell said.
Sink's Republican opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, called Cardwell to the meeting to update the Cabinet on Bank of America litigation following a lawsuit filed last week by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against the banking giant's 2008 takeover of Merrill Lynch.