NY Attorney Outlines Focus For Next Term
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, fresh off re-election, said Thursday he'll focus his second term on government corruption, wage theft and drug trafficking, expanding initiatives from his first four years.
Schneiderman cited more than 55 cases brought against corrupt public officials and cronies during his first term, many with referrals from state auditors under an arrangement with Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that they plan to expand. His office is also collaborating with federal prosecutors, he said.
"This is an issue where the culture of corruption has to change, and we'll be as aggressive and creative as we have to be to make that happen," he told the Associated Press.
With a staff of 1,761 - including 664 attorneys - and a $224 million budget, the attorney general's office defends New York against lawsuits, pursues civil claims, oversees charities, investigates consumer complaints, directs the state Organized Crime Task Force and prosecutes cases it receives as referrals.
Schneiderman, a 59-year-old Democrat from Manhattan who also ran on the Working Families Party line, got 55.5 percent of the vote Tuesday. Republican challenger John Cahill got 41.6 percent. An attorney from Yonkers, Cahill was chief of staff to former Gov. George Pataki.
In his speech after winning, Schneiderman said the office has talented staff and thanked civil rights activists and the labor movement for their support.
"We go after people if you hurt ordinary New Yorkers, and we don't care if you're big, you're rich or you're powerful," Schneiderman told cheering supporters.
Another ongoing target is wage theft by employers after his office recovered $18 million for 14,000 low-wage workers. "It's also a problem for higher-paid workers, and I expect us to be very active on that, in that area, and in the lives of low-wage workers," he said.
Schneiderman, who co-chairs the federal working group investigating bank activity in the national housing market collapse, said they've reached three settlements for $60 billion and more will follow.
"So any bank that is not JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank is still out there. It is ongoing, and I'm looking forward to following up," he said.
Concerning New York's financial markets, Schneiderman said that if they see a new bubble or emerging problem that could hurt investors like mortgage-backed securities did when they collapsed in 2008, they won't hesitate to investigate and bring it to the attention of federal regulators.
"One good example of that," he said, "is that we were the first agency to bring a significant case on high-frequency trading and dark pools and the SEC is now engaged there, and engaged in a positive way with us."
Other initiatives are the Organized Crime Task Force's targeting heroin traffickers and the establishment of New York's prescription drug database to crack down on doctor-shopping for illicit opiates. Schneiderman said he wants to extend both in collaboration with authorities in other states.