UPDATE: 12/18/15, 11:50 a.m. -- After this story was published, Blackstone spokesman Peter Rose told IBT that Bill Mulrow's inclusion on the state's list of registered 2015 lobbyists "seems to be a clerical error." He said Mulrow had not done any work for Blackstone since the end of December 2014, and that following IBT's story, the firm today filed an official lobbyist termination form.
Original story: Earlier this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed a top Wall Street lobbyist, Bill Mulrow, to serve as his top aide. Now, as a federal corruption probe intensifies questions about influence peddling in Albany, Wall Street has been asking their former compatriot Mulrow for regulatory relief from a Cuomo-controlled agency charged with enforcing the laws governing Wall Street.
In a story looking at how the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) had become “a fearsome Wall Street regulator,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that over the last six months lawyers like H. Rodgin Cohen — senior chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, which represents many banks before the regulator — called on Mulrow to get the DFS to adopt a softer stance.
The Journal noted that officials from other financial and insurance firms also directed complaints about the DFS' enforcement efforts to Mulrow. The newspaper reported that “there isn’t any indication that Mr. Mulrow has acted on any of the complaints” — but his ties to Wall Street are extensive: he spent 32 years in the financial industry before being appointed Cuomo’s top aide.
Despite now being one of the top officials in state government, Mulrow is still listed as a lobbyist by Blackstone Administrative Services Partnership in the company’s 2015-2016 disclosures filed with the state’s ethics commission. From 2011 to 2014, Mulrow was also listed as a Blackstone lobbyist. In those filings, the company said its lobbyists were “attempting to influence the decisions of the comptroller, members of his staff, or the boards of trustees, or members of their staffs, about the investment of pension funds.”
In that time, Blackstone secured hundreds of millions of dollars in new pension investment commitments from the state pension system, which is controlled by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. While Mulrow was at Blackstone, the firm also benefited from the Cuomo administration’s decision to approve a Blackstone-linked company’s controversial power line project. Meanwhile, Cuomo appointed Mulrow to head the New York Housing Finance Agency while he was still at Blackstone — and the agency delivered a $260 million state loan to a top Cuomo donor.
In the Journal’s story, Kathy Wylde, a board member of a corporate group that spent millions on ads to promote Cuomo and his agenda, said the financial industry wants Cuomo to make sure the DFS is not too tough on Wall Street.
“I and others have heard from the financial community consistently that they are frustrated by having an adversarial relationship with their regulator, and they’d like to see somebody in that job who doesn’t think of themselves as a prosecutor or an enforcement agent,” Wylde told the newspaper.
The Journal noted that, earlier this year, Cuomo’s office “butted heads” with the acting head of the DFS “over the Cuomo administration’s efforts to approve document requests and subpoenas before they are sent by the department.” That order, said the newspaper, came from a staffer who reports to Cuomo’s top aides, including Mulrow. The newspaper previously reported that the acting head of the department resigned “amid the agency’s battle with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration over the regulator’s independence.”