California’s Top Financial Regulator Is Stepping Down

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Manny Alvarez, the commissioner of California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, is leaving the agency.

Alvarez told staff Friday that he plans to step down on June 18. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said it will appoint Chief Deputy Commissioner Chris Shultz, who currently oversees the department’s business operations, as acting commissioner. Shultz previously served as chief deputy director of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

Alvarez, who led the agency for just over two years, said in a brief interview that he wanted to turn his attention to other areas and is evaluating where his skills and expertise may be needed. He said he accomplished what he set out to do in a short period of time.

“I feel pretty good about the work we’ve done, and when I consider the world reopening, now may be a good time to hit pause and enjoy some time,” Alvarez told American Banker on Friday.

The change in leadership comes just six months after the state significantly expanded the department’s powers over a wide range of previously unregulated industries including debt collectors, fintech firms, credit reporting agencies and merchant cash advance lenders.

Alvarez joined the agency formerly known was the Department of Business Oversight in 2019. At the beginning of this year, the agency’s name changed to the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation following the passage of a new consumer protection law last year, and Alvarez stayed on as the head of the new regulator.

He previously had been the general counsel and chief compliance officer at Affirm, a San Francisco fintech lender. Alvarez also had served as an enforcement attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“I am so proud of the work that the DFPI has been able to accomplish and am confident that the Department’s momentum to champion consumers, responsible innovation, and diversity will continue,” Alvarez said in a statement “Today, the DFPI is better positioned to regulate emerging financial products and encourage licensees to embrace diversity and equity work that ensures an inclusive economic recovery in California.”

In February, the department hired Suzanne Martindale, a former senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports, to lead the agency’s Consumer Financial Protection Division. Martindale was a key architect of California’s Consumer Financial Protection Law.