Former state lawmaker and long-time securities fraud litigator Tom Grady has taken little time to promote changes in his newest endeavor as the state top banking regulator.
The Naples Republican, now the commissioner in the Office of Financial Regulation, is asking lawmakers to give him more flexibility to spend agency money as he sees fit under a pilot that would give him fewer hoops to jump through when it comes to regulating banking, securities and other financial services.
Meanwhile, Senate leaders have called on the new top banking and securities regulator to come up with a slate of laws that could be repealed without jeopardizing consumer safeguards. Grady told members of Senate committees last week he would use any newfound flexibility to reward innovative managers and coordinate agency services. Only a month into his new job, the former lawmaker said legislative decisions, however well-intentioned, often hamstring regulators who must wait at least a year to remedy unintended consequences.
Grady is asking for permission to submit a two-year, $71 million budget that gives him wide discretion on how money is spent. Instead of myriad line items, Grady said his proposed budget includes just three “buckets” within which he would have spending authority.
Under the proposal, the agency would divide its duties into administrative support, compliance, and an investigation unit that would work more closely with Florida compliance officials and less with federal partners. The goal is to focus more of the agency’s resources on regulating institutions that are not also overseen by the federal government.
In his first month as head of the agency, Grady says he has met many hardworking, competent state workers who feel restricted in their ability to affect change.
“I think that people perform consistently with what you expect from them,” Grady said. “I want to ramp up those expectations, but I want to give them the tools and flexibility in order to make that more than just a gesture.”
Grady appears to have the support of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee chairman, fellow Naples Republican Garrett Richter and Senate budget subcommittee chairman, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, two influential allies in that chamber.
“How you get there is not as important,” Hays said. “If you can streamline it, why shouldn’t we give you that latitude to do so? It’s the end result that matters.”
Grady’s ties to House leadership due to his tenure in that chamber will also be helpful, but he faces a stiff institutional foe in the Legislature’s propensity to be tight-fisted when it comes to managing money and giving agencies wide discretion.
Beyond budgetary concerns, Grady said he will also seek legislation to remove some statutory requirements over what the agency must oversee and how it must accomplish its goals.
“At the end of the day, judgment matters and discretion is important in performing those duties,” Grady said.
Email Michael Peltier at firstname.lastname@example.org.