Commissioner of the Department of Corporations: Who Is Jan Owen?

Monday, July 09, 2012
Jan Owen

Governor Jerry Brown’s appointee to head the Department of Corporations, Jan Lynn Owen, has extensive experience in government and the financial industry, with strong ties to big banks that make some consumer advocates nervous.

Owen received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from California State University, Fresno in 1975. She was chief internal auditor and credit risk officer at Vallicorp Bancorp from 1981-1991. Owen was briefly chief internal auditor at Sunrise Bancorp and chief financial officer at Gold Country National Bank between 1991-1992.

The West Sacramento Democrat moved to the public sector in 1992 as chief consultant to the California  Senate Banking Committee. In 1996, she was hired as executive director of the state Department of Insurance and stayed for seven months before being appointed deputy commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions. She was elevated to commissioner in 1999. 

Owen returned to the private sector in 2000 as executive director of the California Mortgage Bankers Association, where she worked on behalf of the lenders she will now be regulating. In 2001, she lobbied against SB 60, legislation proposed by state Senator Joe Dunn that would have curtailed predatory lending practices ranging “from the charging of exorbitant fees and interest rates from those least likely to afford them, to aggressive sales of costly and unnecessary services, to outright fraud aimed at forcing foreclosures and allowing seizures of property.”

Owen wrote in a newsletter at the time, “There is a fine line between protecting consumers and making the process so cumbersome and risky that lenders will simply do business elsewhere.” The bill died in committee.

Owen left the bankers association in 2002 and moved to Washington Mutual Bank where she was state director of government and industry affairs. She was with the bank for six years until its collapse in 2008 during the mortgage meltdown and stayed for a year as vice president of government affairs after JPMorgan Chase bought the bank.

Owen took a job as strategic initiatives manager at Apple, Inc. in 2009, but left Apple in 2010 to start her own consulting company, The Owen Group. A year later, on December 27, 2011, she returned to government work as commissioner of the Department of Corporations.

“These are big institutions, some of which don't even exist anymore because of what they did in the mortgage business, and what they did to California,” Rick Jacobs, president of the Courage Campaign, which advocates on behalf of policies for poor and working-class families, told the Associated Press after Owen’s appointment.” That should be watched very carefully.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

The Commissioner of Corporations (Department of Corporations website)

Jan Owen (LinkedIn)

Brown Bank Regulator an Insider (by Juliet Williams, Associated Press)

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