Murphy picks a ‘consumer’ to regulate NJ banks and insurers
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has now picked three assemblywomen for posts in his Cabinet, including Tuesday’s selection of attorney, municipal prosecutor and three-term lawmaker Marlene Caride as commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance.
Caride, 54, of Ridgefield, is on the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee but otherwise has no background in the industries she’ll now be in charge of regulating. She said as a lawyer she dealt with short sales and foreclosures with banks, personal injury cases with insurance companies and knows about small-business lending issues as owner of her Union City law office.
“I don’t come from a banking background,” Caride said. “However, I am a consumer. I am an attorney who handles real estate matters that deals directly with mortgage companies.”
Murphy said Caride has sponsored bills expanding insurance coverage for fertility treatments and contraceptives and flood insurance protections, as well as worked on consumer protections.
“Marlene understands how government works and the importance of government having the backs of the residents it serves,” Murphy said.
DOBI accounts for only $64 million of spending in a nearly $35 billion state budget, less than 0.2 percent of state spending, and it’s entirely funded through fees on the industries it regulates. But Murphy said it will have to play a bigger role as the federal government seeks to undo the Affordable Care Act and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“As Washington moves away, and let there be no doubt it is moving away from protecting consumers, it will fall to states to pick up what they have dropped,” Murphy said.
Caride mentioned huge medical bills for out-of-network health care as one area of concern, calling the costs outrageous and unfair.
“And it’s my job – or it will be my job – to ensure that New Jersey consumers are treated fairly not only by our lending institutions but by our insurance companies,” Caride said.
Caride, whose parents are from Cuba, would be the first person of Hispanic heritage to serve as banking and insurance commissioner if she’s confirmed.
Auto insurance wasn’t mentioned once at the news conference at which Murphy announced Caride’s selection. Average premiums in New Jersey are still above the national average, though no longer tops in the nation, though there are concerns it will rise if marijuana is legalized.
Part of Caride’s assignment would be to oversee the creation of a public bank, as Murphy promised in the campaign.
She said a state bank will help support small businesses, provide loans at lower interest rates to college students and fund small infrastructure projects.
“This, to me, is a wonderful idea that will help to grow the economy of New Jersey,” Caride said.
Only one state has a public bank, North Dakota, but Murphy said it’s “not doctoral calculus.”
“Bring home the billions of taxpayer dollars we currently invest in Wall Street banks or in foreign banks or in short-term commercial paper in companies that don’t even reinvest one dime in New Jersey,” Murphy said.
Murphy's lieutenant governor, former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, will run the Department of Community Affairs. He has also announced he will nominate Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio as state treasurer.
Murphy has also announced he will nominate Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal as attorney general and administrative law judge Tahesha Way, a former Passaic County freeholder, as secretary of state.