As Wall Street Sheriff, Coffey would be discreet

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – New York state attorney general candidate Sean Coffey on Thursday said he was the only contender qualified to police Wall Street and called Democratic rivals career politicians fixated on becoming governor.

Coffey is one of five Democrats seeking the nomination to succeed Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer as the so-called Sheriff of Wall Street after Spitzer turned the office into an aggressive enforcer of financial crimes.

A former Wall Street lawyer who has represented wronged investors and firms, he boasted of being the only Democrat to promise not to run for governor if he was attorney general, as both Spitzer and Cuomo did.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Dan Donovan, the lone Republican running in the heavily Democratic state, in the November 2 general election. Donovan has made a similar pledge not to run for higher office.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than a prosecutor who’s politically ambitious and has a cavalier attitude toward the facts,” Coffey told Reuters in an interview, saying Democratic rival Kathleen Rice fit that category.

“I understand that the Attorney General can cut a stock price in half with a bad press release,” Coffey said at another point, adding that his experience as a federal prosecutor taught him the value knowing when not to press a case.

Coffey said he would draw on pieces of both Cuomo and Spitzer but also stressed that, as a lawyer who has been a plaintiff and defender of firms accused of malfeasance, that prosecutorial discretion was paramount in an attorney general.

Spitzer successfully ran for governor in 2006 and Cuomo is the front-runner this year, though Spitzer resigned in 2008 when he was caught in a prostitution scandal.

Coffey took aim at Rice, the district attorney for Nassau County, and the other candidate he considers a serious rival, state Senator Eric Schneiderman. He overlooked two others in the primary fight: state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Eric Dinallo, a former Assistant Attorney General under Spitzer.

Seeking to distinguish his financial credentials from those of his rivals, he referred to collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps (CDSs) — two of the investment instruments at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis.

“Find out who actually knows the difference between a CDO and a CDS. There are a lot of folks here who don’t have a clue,” Coffey said, calling the race “very important for the financial markets” because the state attorney general may have to pursue offenses that federal regulators miss.

“It’s important for the AG to understand Wall Street, not only so they can root out misconduct … but also not to bring cases that chill legitimate profit-making conduct. In other words, knowing a good case from a bad case,” Coffey said.

“The next AG needs to be pro-business when it’s appropriate.”

Coffey is the son of an Irish immigrant who he says came to America with a fourth-grade education and put seven kids through college. He is now the father of three children aged 13 to 18.

As a teenager he worked on the former World Trade Center, hanging sheet rock in the north tower, before joining the U.S. Naval Academy. After completing active service, he attended law school while working a job in the Pentagon, going to work as a federal prosecutor and litigator in private practice.

“The reason I left the comfort of private life was to be a catalyst for reform in Albany,” Coffey said, referring to the state capital and a synonym for what he called New York’s “non-functioning state government.”

To fight Albany’s legendary corruption, he vowed to back a law requiring state lawmakers to disclose income earned outside of their legislative salaries, to support non-partisan redistricting, and to remove a law that requires the attorney general to seek permission from other state authorities before opening an investigation into political corruption.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Grant McCool, Edith Honan and Basil Katz; Editing by Mark Egan and Andrew Hay)

As Wall Street Sheriff, Coffey would be discreet