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Former Top New York State Financial Services Regulator Starts Advisory Firm

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Maria Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, has launched a strategic advisory firm.

She said in an interview that she plans to counsel clients on a variety of matters, including regulation, compliance and strategic litigation.

Vullo said she’s been weighing whether to start her own firm since she left state government earlier this year.

(Related: New York Imposes $19.75 Million in Fines in Pension Risk Transfer Case)

“It’s a new chapter in my career and I’m very excited about the different things I’ll be able to engage with, and services I’ll be able to provide,” Vullo said.

She left her post as head of what is arguably the leading state financial services regulatory agency in the country in January. Now, she’s planning to take the experience she gained at the New York department, coupled with more than two decades of private practice in the same area of law, to launch a new venture.

“I think my skill set and my value add is the strategic advisory function that combines both the regulatory and legal framework, as well as my knowledge of public policy and governmental operations,” Vullo said.

Vullo said she doesn’t plan to limit her firm’s practice to a specific sector of financial services, instead opting to use her experience in previous positions to advise clients in several areas, from compliance to emerging industries. That includes cybersecurity and financial technology, or fintech, both of which became priorities for the New York department while she led the agency.

She focused similarly on regulation and compliance at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in Manhattan, where she was a partner for more than two decades. She started as an associate at the firm, but grew to take a leading role before departing for state government.

She was nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016 to become New York state’s second superintendent of financial services. The agency was created in 2011 as a merger between the state’s former banking and insurance agencies.

The three years that followed her confirmation by the state Senate were marked with a series of major accomplishments by the New York department. Vullo oversaw the agency’s landmark cybersecurity regulations for financial institutions, for example, which have become a national model for other regulatory agencies who’ve considered a similar focus on digital security.

She was also at the helm of the agency when it required state-regulated health insurance companies to provide coverage for contraceptives and abortions without imposing cost-sharing measures, such as co-pays or deductibles.

Vullo said she expects her firm’s practice to similarly cover a broad area of regulatory and compliance matters, as well as litigation.

“While financial services is my expertise, I wasn’t looking to specialize in any one area,” Vullo said. “I think the strategic advice I could offer covers a wide range of topics that I have expertise in.”

That’s partly because her career has spanned several areas of law and regulation, but Vullo also said she expects to handle a diverse caseload so she can continue taking on challenges while her career enters this new stage.

“I like to be intellectually challenged,” Vullo said. “I didn’t want to narrowly specialize in one particular area of financial services because I have a broad range of expertise and I have an intellectual curiosity on a host of different topics.”

Vullo said having her own firm will give her time to pursue other interests as she sees fit.

She’s currently regulator-in-residence for the Fintech Innovation Lab, for example, which provides strategic counseling to early-stage tech companies. She’ll continue in that role through next year, after being named to it in April.

Vullo is also a senior fellow at the New York University School of Law Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement. She joined the program soon after leaving the New York department in February.

“I continue to spend time writing, commenting and speaking publicly on a host of different areas,” Vullo said. “That’s why my broad range of interests compelled me to form my own firm, so I can maintain all of the above and still enjoy a private sector practice.”

Vullo left the New York department earlier this year when Cuomo entered his third term as the state’s chief executive. She said it was the “natural time” for her to leave during an interview with the New York Law Journal in December.

She was replaced in February by Linda Lacewell, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, who was confirmed by the state Senate as the new superintendent of the New York department last month.

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