Former SEC official tapped as top state regulator

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ronald Rubin, a former special counsel in the Division of Enforcement at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was named Tuesday as Florida’s top financial regulator.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet -- Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis -- picked Rubin to serve as commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation. The other finalist for the post was Linda Charity, a former director of the state Division of Financial Institutions who twice served as interim commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation.

Fried said she expects Rubin to take seriously his role as the “watchdog” of financial-services providers in the state.

“I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve heard by Mr. Rubin, not just today, but also in our office yesterday,” Fried said.

Rubin will be paid $166,000 a year, matching the salary of Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.

Rubin agreed with concerns raised by Fried and Patronis that banks need to accept money from the medical marijuana industry. Banks in Florida and other states have shunned cannabis companies because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“Not having good banking services creates very bad problems … which invites crime, basically. But, also, it hurts revenue of the state,” Rubin said.

He also indicated he is reluctant to support advocating the use of cryptocurrency, an issue that has drawn concerns from Patronis.

“In my mind, I’m still not certain that, basically, that you can’t have a run on Bitcoin (a prominent type of cryptocurrency), that there is nothing to support it in a way that people will not lose confidence in it,” Rubin said.

Last summer, Patronis created a statewide cryptocurrency chief to oversee the growth of cryptocurrency companies in Florida.

Rubin’s resume said he is a freelance writer after serving in 2015 as senior counsel and chief adviser for regulatory policy on the majority staff of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services.

Rubin, who was with the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1996 to 2003, has also been a senior special counsel for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and a managing director of the legal and compliance department at Bear Stearns.

Rubin and Charity were the only candidates invited to interview Tuesday for the job from nearly 30 applicants.

The office, which oversees state-chartered financial institutions, securities firms, finance companies, money-service businesses and debt collectors, has an operating budget of about $41 million a year and nearly 360 employees.

The commissioner’s job opened last year when former Commissioner Drew Breakspear resigned under pressure from Patronis. Patronis pointed to a “lack of cooperation, responsiveness, and communication” from Breakspear’s office. Breakspear disputed the claims.

Deputy Commissioner Pam Epting served as interim commissioner after Breakspear’s departure. An organization chart on the Office of Financial Regulation website Tuesday quickly showed Rubin as commissioner.