“By his own admission, even New York’s top financial regulator did not know he could use the Dodd-Frank law to enforce consumer protections until very recently.
“Once he did, however, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the state’s superintendent of financial services, put the power to use.
“On Wednesday, Mr. Lawsky’s office filed a lawsuit against a subprime auto lender in New York, accusing it of violating certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul act.
“The move appears to make Mr. Lawsky the first state financial regulator and the second state regulator to take advantage of a weapon many of his peers may not have even known was in their arsenal. And as officials across the country seek to appear tough on wrongdoers after the financial crisis, the action could encourage other state regulators to follow suit.
“The authority is clearly there, but it’s never been used by a state regulator before,” said Alan S. Kaplinsky, a lawyer who leads the consumer financial services group at Ballard Spahr. “Once Lawsky does it, other state regulators are going to look at it.”
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