Contributed by Sidley Austin LLP
Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Compliance)
Consumer finance is among the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. Businesses operating in this area are subject to an array of requirements and restrictions under both federal and state law, and laws vary tremendously from state to state. These requirements affect the businesses in which companies can engage and their specific business practices, and also the disclosures and communications they have with their customers. Businesses can face significant liability for violations - in government enforcement actions and private class action litigation - and are often subject to routine examination by their regulators. Given this extensive regulatory framework, companies make substantial use of specialized legal counsel with experience in this area.
The marketplace for consumer financial services has changed dramatically over the past several years. After years of strong growth, the financial crisis saw an unprecedented contraction in consumer credit starting in 2007. More recently, business activity has picked up, and consumer financial services have begun expanding once again, including through the development of new products and services. However, this development remains tempered by new regulatory frameworks introduced in the aftermath of the crisis that are shaping the current growth. The lessons of the crisis continue to influence regulators, providers, and consumers of financial products and services.
At the leading edge of the changed landscape of consumer finance is residential mortgage lending. That industry has been all but reinvented in the past years, with some of the largest lenders disappearing and the established source of liquidity – securitization – once all but stopped, and only slowly re-emerging. Although loan rates have remained at historical lows, lenders have introduced substantially more restrictive underwriting rules and the secondary market has been all but monopolized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in spite of their takeover by the federal government. Home equity loans, which had grown to great popularity, all but disappeared from the market, with existing lines terminated and new loans hard to find.
Not surprisingly in this context, legal and regulatory changes have been imposed on the residential mortgage industry. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued expansive new rules to implement changes to the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. The rules impose new disclosure requirements, as well as substantive restriction of lending practices. New federal and state underwriting requirements have been imposed, mainly to eliminate previously common practices such as stated income loans and loans for 100% (or more) of the value of the property. States have also been active in new mortgage regulations, affecting both new originations as well as ongoing servicing and foreclosure practices. Following passage of the federal SAFE Act, individual mortgage loan originators have been subject to new licensing requirements at the state level.
Mortgage lending, and especially mortgage servicing, has experienced substantial litigation, including both private lawsuits and government enforcement. The largest mortgage servicers announced global settlements with the federal government and the states, requiring substantial monetary payouts. The settlements also included new substantive requirements for mortgage servicing, especially in the area of loss mitigation and foreclosure practices. Those new requirements are also serving as the benchmark for new regulation of the industry.
Credit Card Lending
Consumer credit card lending has also been reshaped by the events of the past few years. As has been widely reported, card issuers tightened credit standards and closed credit accounts. However, there are now more signs of increased lending, with even prescreened offers returning.
In 2009, Congress passed the Credit CARD Act, adding important new provisions to the Truth in Lending Act that, in an unprecedented way, regulated card practices rather than simply disclosures. Under the new rules, card issuers generally: cannot raise interest rates on existing balances, are required to consider income or assets of applicants in determining the ability to pay, must allocate payments in a way favorable to consumers, can charge only “reasonable and proportional” penalty fees, and must review any interest rate increases on a regular basis. In addition to these new rules, the federal regulators thoroughly revised the traditional disclosure formats and contents for advertisements, applications, account agreements, periodic statements, and change-in-terms notices. Issuers are now required to file all of their credit card agreements with the regulators.
Credit card lending remains a target area for litigation and enforcement action. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s first three large enforcement settlements all involved credit cards, with two of them addressing “add-on” products marketed to cardholders. Those actions have resulted in an industry-wide examination of marketing practices and compliance generally. Credit card collection practices have also come under scrutiny, by regulators and private plaintiffs.
The development of mobile payment products, and the delivery of all manner of consumer financial services through mobile devices, has become a significant growth area. Mobile products raise a number of regulatory and compliance issues. Key issues are the security and privacy of data, and the manner of delivery of compliant disclosures through a mobile device.
Other Financial Services
Other areas of consumer finance have also been affected the financial crisis and the nascent recovery, from auto lending to student loans to overdrafts on deposit accounts. Given the downturn, increased attention has been focused on industry practices in connection with defaulted obligations – in connection with debt collection, foreclosure, loan restructuring, and related practices, as well as in bankruptcy practice. Numerous proposals to further restrict these practices have been made, and some have already been enacted. Overall, the past few years have been an unprecedented period of change in all areas of consumer finance at the business level and, perhaps to an even greater degree, at the legal and regulatory level. Attention to the details of legal requirements – and especially pending and proposed changes – has never been more important.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”). The Dodd-Frank Act created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “Bureau”), a new independent agency charged with expansive authority over a broad swath of consumer financial products and services.
The Bureau has expansive rulemaking, supervisory, and enforcement authority. The Bureau’s authority includes pre-existing laws (such as the Truth in Lending Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act), and new authority in the areas of unfair, deceptive or abuse practices and disclosures provided in connection with consumer financial products and services.
The Bureau has been very active already. It has finalized significant new rules in a number of areas, including mortgage lending, prepaid cards, and consumer remittances. The Bureau is supervising large banks, mortgage lenders and servicers, private student lenders, payday lenders, large credit reporting agencies and large debt collectors. It has also taken enforcement actions, including multimillion dollar penalties assessed against credit card lenders and mortgage insurers.
The Bureau has several areas of focus through its specialized offices. These include financial education, servicemember protection, fair lending (particularly in connection with auto lending), student lending and the protection of the elderly. These areas are likely to see substantial activity by the Bureau in the future.
Privacy and data security is an area of regulation that is currently receiving a great deal of attention across all industries. Consumer finance is no exception, particularly given the sensitivity of some of the information routinely collected and generated in the course of providing financial services. There is an existing framework for privacy at the federal level under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 and the older Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as under additional laws in some states. In 2011, a new model form came into use for the federal requirement that financial institutions disclose their information sharing practices to consumers. Further development – from the Federal Trade Commission, the Bureau, or new legislation – seems likely.
Ongoing Rulemaking and Legislation
The past few years have provided – and the next few years are likely to continue to present – an unprecedented volume of legislative and regulatory changes in consumer finance. Congress remains active in the area of consumer finance law. The Bureau continues be very active and, having finalized many of the specific requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act, may have greater time to exercise its more general powers and authorities. As a result, industry participants will face new requirements. But these ongoing proceedings also present opportunities for industry participants to make their views known, and to seek to affect the legislative and rulemaking process. Given the importance of the regulatory framework to the consumer finance industry, companies are well served to both monitor and participate.
The legal and regulatory landscape for the consumer finance industry is complex, and only growing more so. In this environment, it is more important than ever to maintain an up-to-date focus on the ever-changing legal requirements.
Due to the number of tables in this section, the editorial
is in alphabetical order
by firm name.
Financial Services Regulation - Nationwide
THE FIRM Allen & Overy is recognized for the continued development of its regulatory practice in the USA, and is particularly noted for its respected broker-dealer team. The firm provides regulatory advice across a wide range of issues including representation before federal agencies and Dodd-Frank Act compliance to the trading arms of major global financial institutions. Key clients include HSBC, ING, Bank of America and UBS.
Client Service "I have been delighted with their work product, timeliness of responses and high-caliber work. They are willing to go the extra mile."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Broker-dealer regulatory expert Barbara Stettner "has a great depth of knowledge about that part of the industry and is concise and to the point in her advice." Sources praise her "masterful ability to really focus the questions."
Christopher Salter is "remarkably dedicated to clients" and "is a strong advocate," say sources. He advises broker-dealer and investment clients on regulatory and enforcement issues.
THE FIRM Arnold & Porter remains prominent in the bank regulatory arena and is considered to have a deep understanding of the technical complexities of both current and historical regulatory regimes. It is noted for its strong connections to the governmental and regulatory heartland, and for its knowledge of the political context of legislative change. An area of particular strength is the firm's investigations and enforcement practice. The team continues to advise significant financial institutions embroiled in the fallout from the financial crisis, including Lehman Brothers subsidiaries Woodlands Commercial Bank and Aurora Bank. On the compliance side, the team has assisted Banco do Brasil in achieving US holding company status as part of its expansion plans, and counsels clients such as State Farm and Toyota Financial Services on regulatory strategy relating to ongoing banking reform.
Client Service "Arnold & Porter is one of the key firms in the federal preemption space. They have good government contacts, and they are pragmatic and are great at client service."
Commercial Awareness "I look to them for very specific questions that are highly technical relating to corporate structure: things a financial regulator can oversee but that are not straightforward. They understand our statute well and give appropriate advice."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice co-head Patrick Doyle "is experienced in the US banking world and his connections in Washington, DC are invaluable; there isn't much he hasn't seen or heard," explains one client. Doyle advises financial institutions including large insurers and Fortune 100 and investment companies on the impact and implications of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Kevin Barnard is a "good and strong lawyer" with a "good background in state and federal regulation," comment sources. He co-heads the firm's financial service team alongside Doyle and has been advising a number of foreign banks including Banco do Brasil in relation to the ongoing development of the US banking regulations.
David Freeman advises a range of financial institutions and broker-dealers on regulatory matters. He has been advising Toyota Financial Services on its regulatory strategy and response to the ongoing Dodd-Frank rulemaking.
"Superb lawyer" Richard Alexander excels in the area of banking enforcement and investigations. He serves as the firm's managing partner and has represented clients in matters brought by the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Office of Thrift Supervision, among others.
Brian McCormally's knowledge of federal enforcement action procedures is appreciated by respondents. He has "developed a solid practice" following his move to private practice after careers at both the OCC and the Office of Thrift Supervision. Sources note that he "performs at the highest level."
Washington, DC-based litigator Howard Cayne has been active in some of the financial services industry's landmark litigations. He has cemented a reputation in high-stakes preemption litigation and is valued by clients for his "very vigorous and very careful" approach.
Michael Mierzewski counsels clients on both regulatory compliance and enforcement actions in the banking and consumer finance areas. He is adept at counseling clients on fair lending issues and continues to advise Visa on a range of litigious and antitrust issues.
John Hawke is considered to be a legend in US banking regulation. He continues to employ his considerable experience to advise clients on enforcement and compliance matters. Financial services company Federated Investors has recently sought his expertise in response to a federal regulators review of money funds prompted by the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act.
THE FIRM Ballard Spahr houses a premium consumer finance team with significant expertise in handling complex class action and litigation defense and impressive regulatory compliance capabilities. The 37-partner team has considerable experience in advising mortgage finance sector clients on federal investigations and civil litigation. In other areas it has been counseling First Niagara Financial Group in connection with its purchase of a number of retail branches from HSBC and their associated credit card lending portfolios. Multiple clients have turned to the firm for guidance on the remit and proposed rulemaking of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) including advice on meeting investigative requirements. Additionally, it has been active in helping non-bank organizations comply with anti-money laundering regulations which came into force in August 2012. Notable clients of the team include Discover Financial Services, JPMorgan Chase and Sallie Mae.
Client Service "They have been fantastic and by far the best firm in putting out 'webinars' - updates to the field. They're on top of any big issue that arises and they're extremely helpful."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "First-class" consumer finance attorney Alan Kaplinsky is described as an "outstanding lawyer" who is "extremely knowledgeable, detailed and articulate." Kaplinsky has been fundamental to the firm's response and guidance in relation to CFPB compliance and enforcement matters.
Jeremy Rosenblum is an accomplished litigator with a solid consumer finance practice. One source states: "He's terrific and I've worked with him on many briefs. He is very bright and talented."
Stanley Mabbitt is a "knowledgeable and well-known consumer attorney" who has a "good background in consumer finance laws" and is a "fabulous mortgage lawyer," comment sources.
The "bright" Mark Furletti is praised by sources as a "terrific young man and lawyer." He continues to win plaudits as a future leader in the consumer finance arena.
THE FIRM Bingham McCutchen is highly rated in the financial services sector and is noted for its presence in the banking compliance and broker-dealer spaces. Recent matters include advising Altrinsic Global Advisors on regulatory matters concerning its conversion to a bank holding company affiliate. An impressive client roster also includes Bank of America, Barclays and State Street Bank.
Client Service "The firm has knowledge on the breadth of the financial services world. I can go to them with any question in this area and get prompt, well-informed answers and judgment. They give clear information that is reliable and quick."
KEY INDIVIDUALS David Boch is a well-known and skilled broker-dealer attorney. He counsels multinational financial institutions on a broad array of regulatory requirements at both a state and federal level.
James Rockett cochairs the firm's financial institutions corporate and regulatory group. He is active in advising clients on banking compliance, corporate governance and regulatory issues. Sources praise him as a "terrific lawyer" who is "responsive, knowledgeable, experienced and practical."
THE FIRM This Texas-headquartered firm has carved out a solid reputation in the financial services arena with a broad practice that encompasses regulatory advice, investigations and transactional support for financial institutions. It has represented Main Street Bank, Texas Capital Bank and United Central Bank in varied compliance matters. The team has also advised MetroCorp subsidiaries Metro Bank and Metro United Bank on the lifting of control orders imposed by the OCC, FDIC and California Department of Financial Institutions. Notable M&A clients include Prosperity Bancshares and WashingtonFirst Bankshares.
Commercial Awareness "We appreciate their broad and deep knowledge of the industry and space in which we operate. We have found them to be accessible, on-target and consistently solid advisers."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sanford Brown is a respected bank regulatory attorney. He has a strong financial institutions M&A practice and has recently been advising DFW Capital Holdings on its acquisition of Texas-based Schwertner State Bank. One commentator remarks: "I am a huge fan of Sandy. I have had great dealings with him and he is a successful lawyer."
Julian Rainero is a respected broker-dealer regulatory compliance attorney. Respondents agree that he "is knowledgeable, provides good practical advice and is soundly grounded in securities law and regulation."
Head of department and M&A regulatory lawyer William Luedke "knows all the players and agencies, which makes it easier to negotiate and get a deal done," say sources. He advised Texas-based holding company Prosperity Bancshares on its merger with American State Financial including gaining regulatory approval.
THE FIRM BuckleySandler is acclaimed as one of the most enterprising firms in the financial services sector. The firm's significant reputation in the consumer finance space is illustrated by its provision of a broad range of consumer regulatory advice to some of the country's biggest banking brands including ISIS, Citibank, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. It has been retained by a leading national bank to provide it with an outline of the scope and application of rulemaking post-Dodd-Frank in relation to its student and residential mortgage lending operations. The team also maintains a stellar profile in consumer finance litigation and represented Wells Fargo in relation to alleged unfair lending practices.
Commercial Awareness "Any mortgage lender, servicer or real estate specialty firm would be myopic to overlook BuckleySandler for legal representation and counsel. They stay informed and do an impeccable job of keeping their clients informed of current developments."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Andrew Sandler continues to win unanimous praise from the market. Sandler's "exemplary professionalism and problem-solving approach, coupled with his well-developed relationships and credibility with regulators, make him one of the premier enforcement and litigation attorneys for consumer-facing financial institutions." He has a broad regulatory skill set and is particularly noted for his excellence in consumer enforcement and litigation matters, while he is often considered one of the nation's preeminent attorneys in the fair lending space.
The "top-notch" Benjamin Klubes is highly rated by respondents as an "extremely able" financial services regulation attorney. He has particular strength in enforcement and consumer litigation matters.
Joseph Kolar is seen as a "talented lawyer" and one of the country's leading experts in the mortgage arena.
Co-managing partner John Kromer advises clients on consumer finance compliance matters at both state and federal level. He headed up a team that has conducted an expansive review of state consumer laws for six leading national banks in relation to compliance and federal preemption law changes.
Jeffrey Naimon "really stands out" for advice on mortgage lending and servicing issues, according to respondents. One interviewee reports: "I have worked with him regarding regulatory questions on transactions and he is one of the smartest people I know."
One of the elder statesmen of the industry, founding partner Jeremiah Buckley is a highly respected consumer finance practitioner and has incredible depth of expertise in the mortgage sector.
Rising star Clinton Rockwell is "unquestionably one of the most practical and user-friendly lawyers in the regulatory compliance and licensing space for consumer-facing financial institutions," relates one highly impressed source. Rockwell advises banks, mortgage companies and auto lenders on a range of regulatory matters.
Since publication Richard Gottlieb has joined the team from Dykema Gossett. Gottlieb is applauded for his knowledge and problem-solving abilities. He has a recognized expertise in consumer finance matters and is described as "incredibly client-focused."
Walter Zalenski recently joined the team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Respondents consider Zalenski to have a fine reputation in the consumer finance regulatory space. He has provided advice on a number of transactional matters while at his prior firm, including representing Advent International in its purchase, with Goldman Sachs, of consumer credit reporting company TransUnion.
THE FIRM This firm's 17-partner financial services team excels in the provision of regulatory compliance and enforcement counsel in the broker-dealer space. Notable matters include advising a host of systemically important financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase in connection with the establishment of swap dealer compliance procedures. In addition, the firm has been advocating on behalf of numerous foreign banks in relation to the Volcker Rule and its global impact. Clients include Wells Fargo, Standard Chartered and Morgan Stanley.
Sources say: "They respond quickly and they are knowledgeable and approachable."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Steven Lofchie heads the firm's financial services team and has a "superb reputation" for providing high-level broker-dealer regulatory advice. Sources describe him as "a smart guy who thinks outside the box and can solve problems ."
The "knowledgeable" Maurine Bartlett is considered to be "good at explaining and translating things from legalese." She counsels broker-dealers and large financial institutions on compliance and enforcement issues including proceedings brought by the SEC and FINRA.
THE FIRM Cleary Gottlieb maintains its position at the cutting edge of financial services regulation and reform. The firm has cultivated an experienced team of specialist practitioners and continues to attract new talent from the regulatory community. The team's broad spectrum of capabilities across compliance, enforcement and transactional matters is highly valued by clients, which include some of the county's leading financial institutions. It has been advising Bank of America on a broad array of transactional, compliance and enforcement matters regarding its merger with Merrill Lynch. Other notable clients include Credit Suisse, HSBC, BNP Paribas and Citibank.
Commercial Awareness "They have an extremely good understanding of the business and market risks. They give pragmatic solutions and advice that you can 'operationalize' and work well with the regulators on."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Robert Tortoriello operates in the highest levels of the bank regulatory sphere. One interviewee reports: "He is brilliant! A legend who has impeccable client service despite what must be enormous demands." Tortoriello is considered by peers to be "a world leader and recognized authority on international banking law in the USA." He is particularly noted for his strength in compliance and enforcement matters, and is increasingly recognized for his handling of financial institution transactions.
Derek Bush is "superstrong on institutional knowledge," relate sources, who also comment that "he is very invested in his clients, is smart and practical, and definitely thinks about things from a business perspective." Bush enjoys a reputation as a "top-flight adviser" in both domestic and international bank regulation and legislation.
Michael Krimminger joins the firm this year from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), where he served as general counsel. His recent regulatory experience and insight are considered to be of great strength to the firm. One source comments: "I think the world of him; he is the next generation."
Katherine Mooney Carroll continues to impress sources with her commitment to client service and maturity in relation to regulatory matters. "She is pleasant to work with, smart and practical," comments one source.
"First-rate" partner Giovanni Prezioso's expertise spans broker-dealer regulatory advice and securities law. He "brings a lot of value through his SEC tenure and has a real presence in the industry." Recent highlights have included the representation of the Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) in a number of SEC enforcement action appeals.
David Aman's strength, according to one source, is his "historical knowledge: he is very good at the nitty-gritty detail of the rules as well as understanding the politics, interpretations and background to the regulations." He has been particularly active in the representation of trade organizations such as SIFMA as well as financial institutions participating in the ongoing dialog with the regulators.
The "highly regarded" Linda Soldo is considered to be "a great practitioner" in regulatory enforcement and investigations.
THE FIRM Covington & Burling is recognized for its fine bank regulatory and enforcement practices. The firm's financial institutions advisory practice continues to go from strength to strength. The firm has developed a team which combines broad regulatory expertise in the financial services sector with high-level federal agency experience. It provides guidance on implications of the Dodd-Frank Act to industry associations such as SIFMA and the American Banking Association and both domestic and foreign banking entities. In the enforcement arena, the team has had a busy year representing Wells Fargo and Citi in Federal Reserve Board actions, as well as a range of clients involved in OCC and FDIC matters.
Sources say: "What impresses me the most is the high degree of professionalism and the fact that they are smart and they give us good opinion and advice. They are humble, straight shooters and incredibly talented people."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Former Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan has an international banking law practice and the "political acumen, substantive knowledge and ability to give great advice" to help clients navigate the regulatory arena. He heads the team and is noted for his ability to "put into context what's coming out in the new regulations and the expectations of the examiners."
Stuart Stock is described as "smart and well informed," while sources point to the "scope and depth of the legal knowledge he always brings to the table." He advised Wells Fargo in relation to an investigation and financial consent order brought by the Federal Reserve Board.
Mark Plotkin has a wealth of experience in banking compliance matters and is considered to be a strong regulatory lawyer. He also has knowledge of financial technology and data privacy issues and advises both banks and non-banks on wide-ranging financial services compliance and investigatory concerns.
"Sophisticated" former president and CEO of the American Bankers Association Ed Yingling has "superb intellect, great breadth of knowledge and political acumen," say sources. He provides thought leadership on regulatory, legislative and policy matters to financial institutions and industry associations.
Prominent regulatory attorney Jean Veta is acknowledged for her advice and representation in regulatory investigations. She "comes up with questions about corporate governance and is valuable for her links in Washington and to the regulators," explains one source.
THE FIRM The premier financial regulation group at Davis Polk has an outstanding reputation as industry thought leaders on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act. The team provides elite counseling and regulatory advice to US banking giants The Bank of New York Mellon, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs as well as global entities Santander and RBS. Its market-dominant, web-based Dodd-Frank tracking service has been heralded by clients as a vital resource on the changing regulatory regime. The team has been advising industry trade organizations including SIFMA on compliance issues and has also been engaged by two financial institutions to advise in relation to Libor agency investigations.
Client Service "They have great depth at multiple levels, which means you can mine the team at various cost bases. They also have outstanding historical experience in various in-house roles and you get that wealth of experience brought to bear. I give them the highest marks as a group."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice head Randall Guynn is a standout financial services lawyer with strength in banking compliance and financial institution transactions. He is considered by sources to have "a deeper understanding than probably anyone on the likely evolution of the regulatory environment. He is a thought leader in the area." He has been advising a number of domestic and foreign banks, including Deutsche Bank and Barclays, on compliance matters in relation to the Swaps Pushout Rule of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Margaret Tahyar has an "impressive" reputation in bank regulatory matters. She "is widely recognized as the authority on Dodd-Frank and her advice is widely sought after," according to one source. Tahyar is considered to be an "expert on the Volcker Rule" and has been active in authoring responses to regulators on behalf of SIFMA and other stakeholders in relation to the rulemaking proposal.
"Savvy lawyer" Luigi De Ghenghi is "front and center of the regulatory space. He is in constant dialog with the regulators, which gives us confidence in his interpretation of existing and proposed rules," one source comments. De Ghenghi advised prepaid card company Green Dot on its unique multimillion-dollar purchase of Bonneville Bancorp and its successful application to the Federal Reserve Board.
Annette Nazareth is widely regarded as an outstanding broker-dealer adviser who has strong connections within the regulatory community at all levels. Sources have the utmost "respect for her view and judgment," and her wealth of in-house experience at the SEC is reflected in her understanding of the rulemaking proposals and implementation. She "has a unique skill set and great credibility, and is highly technical and strategic," sources say.
Another valued member of the firm's broker-dealer advisory practice is partner Lanny Schwartz. His experience and expertise span the regulation of trading and markets, broker-dealers, banks and related transactions. He advises a range of clients including exchanges, financial institutions and trade associations.
George Bason co-heads the firm's global M&A practice and has a respected financial institutions transactional practice. He advises investors and boards of directors on a range of matters including restructures, joint ventures and corporate governance issues.
THE FIRM Debevoise & Plimpton's thriving financial services practice is underpinned by its status as go-to regulatory counsel for organizations in the insurance industry. The team, which includes a large contingent of regulatory alumni, is noted for its business-focused and strategic compliance advice on both a domestic and international level. The team advises a wide array of industry associations and their members in relation to regulatory changes in the USA and abroad including the Financial Services Roundtable and Risk Management Association. Additionally, the team maintains an active practice in the financial institutions M&A arena and has represented Goldman Sachs and AIG in recent high-level transactions.
Client Service "They are knowledgeable, thoughtful, flexible and solution-oriented. They have been willing to help in a variety of ways, based on our needs. I appreciate the insights they provide, whether we’re working on a major matter or seeking a discrete piece of advice."
Commercial Awareness "Debevoise is a leading firm in financial services regulation. The firm includes many former regulators and is adept at understanding the nuances of federal and state regulatory agencies. They are on the cutting edge of regulatory advisory and transactional work."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "I appreciate that Paul Lee is intelligent and very detailed, really understands the issues and has historical perspective. He also has credibility with the regulators, Capitol Hill and other people in the industry," explains one source. Lee has been involved in advising a number of leading international financial institutions including American Express, Credit Suisse and Prudential Financial on compliance issues and the impact of ongoing regulatory reforms.
Gregory Lyons has a broad financial services practice and "deep regulatory and transactional knowledge," according to sources. He recently represented Admirals Bank in a joint venture agreement regarding the $1 billion purchase of distressed loans.
Satish Kini is "a trusted adviser who is thoughtful, strategic, responsive and extremely knowledgeable," and whose expertise is relied upon for "many sensitive and significant matters." He advises a wide range of financial institutions on strategic regulatory matters including guidance on the ongoing Dodd-Frank reforms.
Nicholas Potter has a strong transactional practice. He has advised a number of significant corporations on regulatory and transactional matters, including CIGNA and Goldman Sachs.
John Vasily is considered to be an "exceptional" transactional and M&A lawyer. He has a strong international practice and advised AIG on its sale of Nan Shan Life Insurance to Ruen Chen Investment for $2.16 billion.
THE FIRM Dechert has continued to cement its position in the financial regulation space following the arrival of its specialist regulatory team in 2010. The banking and financial institutions team has gone from strength to strength in the enforcement arena, where it has advised the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago in relation to a cease and desist order imposed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Transactional work has included the representation of Citadel LLC in the $100 million sale of hedge fund Omnium to Northern Trust.
Sources say: "Dechert is outstanding for thinking outside the box and it is number one at keeping us abreast of regulatory changes."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Head of department Thomas Vartanian "brings unparalleled experience and judgment to difficult decision-making both as a deal-maker and regulatory guru," comments one source. Vartanian advised the US directors of ING Direct on its sale to Capital One Financial for $9 billion.
Robert Ledig plays a key role in some of the firm's largest bank regulatory compliance and enforcement matters. He has a "great analytical mind" and "the key ability to make sure every stone is turned and the issues addressed," sources comment.
The "responsive and pragmatic" David Ansell "regularly demonstrates a very high level of proficiency in the bank regulatory area," comment sources. He has a strong transactional practice and recently represented an investment management firm in connection with a fund formation.
THE FIRM Goodwin Procter's national practice combines broad geographical scope with deep expertise in bank regulatory, consumer finance and M&A transactions. Its consumer finance team is noted for its ability to defend complex class actions as well as provide strategic compliance and regulatory enforcement advice in areas such as mortgage and credit card lending, electronic payment services and insurance products. A highlight was the team's US Supreme Court victory for client Quicken Loans in a case concerning the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. The team also provides regulatory counseling to an array of financial institutions including advice on compliance, legislative reform and transactions. On the M&A side, the firm represented Brookline Bancorp in its purchase of Bancorp Rhode Island.
Sources say: "An outstanding firm. I've been very happy with their response time."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "First-class" banking and consumer finance attorney Lynne Barr leads the firm's consumer financial services team. She advises leading financial institutions including American Express and US Bank on a broad spectrum of regulatory compliance matters. Sources describe her as an "exceptional lawyer" who has "put together a good and effective group."
Thomas Hefferon is an "experienced, reliable and strong" consumer finance attorney. He handled the aforementioned matter for Quicken Loans.
Chair of the firm's banking practice William Mayer is a "superb lawyer" who has a reputable practice at both a state and national level. He has an active M&A regulatory practice and has represented clients such as Brookline Bancorp and Camden National Bank in connection with transactional matters.
Regina Pisa is considered to be an important player in the financial services M&A market. She continues to participate in counseling the firm's banking clients on regulatory and transactional matters.
THE FIRM The Hogan Lovells financial institutions group maintains its respected showing in the regulatory space. The team is skilled at helping international banks to navigate the US regulatory system. It is also well versed in the community bank space and advises Bangor Bancorp, Eagle Bank and Watertown Savings Bank on a range of regulatory matters. On the M&A side, the team recently represented BankAtlantic Bancorp in the holding company's intended sale of Florida-based subsidiary BankAtlantic.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Stuart Stein has a broad compliance, enforcement and transactional practice and is co-head of the firm's global corporate practice group. He recently advised Banco Industrial de Venezuela on a range of US regulatory compliance matters.
Richard Schaberg is co-head of the firm's financial institutions practice. "He has a good legal knowledge base and brings a good business perspective to his legal work," comments one source.
THE FIRM This specialist consumer finance and privacy firm is noted for its expertise in the full array of financial products and services including mortgage lending, payment cards and auto finance. The team advises clients on regulatory compliance at both a state and federal level. Representative clients include auto financiers BMW Financial Services and Capital One Auto Finance, banking organizations Citibank and OneWest Bank, and numerous trade associations.
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "outstanding" Robert Cook is an experienced consumer finance attorney who counsels a diverse range of financial institutions including banks, lenders and credit unions on regulatory compliance.
Thomas Hudson also handles consumer finance matters. Sources name him "a very fine lawyer."
THE FIRM K&L Gates has a standout financial services team with impressive strength in the consumer finance area. The team has been engaged in a multitude of complex enforcement and litigation matters on behalf of three of the country's largest banking institutions. Recent matters include representing Bank of America in securing a significant $1 billion settlement relating to a Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance False Claims Act case. It also counsels clients on consumer lending and payment system regulations. Other clients include American Express and HSBC.
Commercial Awareness "They are the go-to team when discussing state and federal regulation in the mortgage arena – it's their breadth of experience and relationships with federal and state regulators. They also provide an ongoing webinar and a very extensive newsletter - invaluable resources for the industry in what's going on."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Laurence Platt is a stalwart of the consumer finance regulation sector and receives high praise for his sheer breadth of knowledge. His expertise is particularly respected and valued in the mortgage arena, where he is seen by peers and clients alike as a leading attorney. One source comments: "In anything dealing with government-related loans, loan origination or loan underwriting, he is the man."
Steven Kaplan's reputation continues to grow in the consumer finance compliance space. Respondents appreciate his "knowledge of consumer products and federal and state laws" and provision of "good practical advice."
The "talented" Melanie Brody advises clients on regulatory enforcement and compliance relating to consumer finance products and services. She has been involved in counseling Goldman Sachs prior to an examination by the CFPB.
Phillip Schulman is considered to be a "fantastic lawyer who develops good working relationships with counterparties." He has expertise in Federal Housing Administration insured loans and was instrumental in advising Bank of America in relation to its aforementioned False Claims Act settlement. He is particularly recommended for his expertise in HUD matters.
Susan Grafton joined the firm's investment management and broker-dealer practice groups in June 2012 from Gibson Dunn. She has a strong reputation in the industry and advises the securities working group of the Financial Services Roundtable on regulatory reform issues relating to the Dodd-Frank Act.
THE FIRM Latham & Watkins has a respected financial services practice in the broker-dealer space. The respected team recently advised Credit Suisse on regulatory and structural matters regarding the merger of its Switzerland-based brokerage CSPA and its US equivalent Credit Suisse Securities. Other clients include Morgan Stanley and Barclays.
Sources say: "They are very client-centric and extremely responsive."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Dana Fleischman is applauded as "one of the top lawyers" in the broker-dealer space. Sources note that a key strength of her practice is her expertise at the intersection between broker-dealer regulation, research and capital markets.
The "talented and skilled" Stephen Wink "is a trusted adviser: he's patient, calm and always available, and his advice is well received," report interviewees. He provides advice to broker-dealers and industry organizations on regulatory compliance and rule changes.
Alan Avery is a respected financial services advisory lawyer who is considered to have "extremely high credibility and knowledge of the latest regulations."
THE FIRM Mayer Brown is commended by respondents for its expertise in financial services regulation. It has been advising the Royal Bank of Canada on challenges posed by the ongoing regulatory changes including the proprietary trading restrictions under the Volcker Rule. On the enforcement side, the group represented Ally Bank and HSBC in investigations brought by multiple government agencies relating to MBS issues. Other significant clients include Capital One and Wells Fargo.
Sources say: "The firm has prepared and updated an analysis of how the Dodd-Frank Act will affect the operations of my organization. That analysis, with the teleconferences and tailored advice specific to my situation, has materially assisted in focusing our attention on high-priority, high-impact aspects of its implementation."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Scott Anenberg cochairs the firm's financial services regulatory and enforcement group. He is a respected regulatory attorney and provides advice to financial institutions in relation to expansion considerations and transactional requirements.
Sources comment that the knowledgeable and approachable David Sahr is a "prominent expert in banking and securities law." He advises financial institutions on the domestic and global impact of US regulations and Dodd-Frank implementation considerations.
Jerome Roche maintains a strong profile counseling broker-dealers on regulatory compliance matters particularly in connection to Dodd-Frank implementation. He is a "dynamic lawyer" who has "good substantive knowledge," say sources.
Thomas Delaney has been active advising clients on the implications and requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. Respondents consider him to be "knowledgeable about banking laws in general, and enforcement actions in particular."
THE FIRM This firm is particularly noted for its presence in the mortgage and lending space. The team is highly rated for its ability to advise clients on statewide licensing and regulation requirements and how they interact with federal consumer finance regulation. It has been actively involved in counseling mortgage industry clients through the fall-out from the foreclosure crisis and increased regulatory scrutiny. Clients include Capital One, Clayton Homes and Regions Bank.
Sources say: "McGlinchey Stafford is absolutely top-notch and puts together the best two-day seminar. The topics are fantastically relevant to what we do day in, day out."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Consumer finance regulation expert Bennet Koren receives praise for his "understanding of the regulatory schemes and practical application of the rules." He heads the firm's financial services practice and provides ongoing counsel to national organizations such as Consumer Portfolio Services.
Marc Lifset is widely considered to be a "national expert in the mortgage and manufactured housing lending area." He is "one of the most knowledgeable people I know to do deep dive on highly technical legal issues for the mortgage industry," attests one market observer.
THE FIRM This firm has a team of respected broker-dealer regulatory advisers. Increasingly they have been advising clients on compliance and investigatory issues at the intersection between technology and the securities industry. The firm is particularly known for its work in enforcement matters pertaining to the broker-dealer space and the assistance it provides with respect to internal regulatory compliance procedures.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Broker-dealer enforcement and advisory expert Richard Sharp is a partner in the firm's litigation and arbitration group. According to sources he "understands litigation risks, helps guide you through difficult pre-litigation scenarios and is a good adviser in structured products and broker-dealer issues."
Wayne Aaron advises clients in the securities arena including broker-dealers that are involved in enforcement and investigation proceedings brought by the SEC and other regulatory organizations.
The "knowledgeable" Douglas Landy recently joined the team from Allen & Overy. He advises domestic and international banking clients on compliance matters.
THE FIRM This respected firm handles a wide variety of broker-dealer regulatory matters for its portfolio of leading banking and brokerage clients. One of the team's recent highlights was its representation of Penson Worldwide with regard to its exit from the clearing business. The group is also adept at handling regulatory enforcement actions in the broker-dealer space, and has experience representing clients in investigations by federal agencies, including the OCC, SEC, FINRA and Commodity Futures Trading Commission. An enviable client roster also includes Barclays Capital and Goldman Sachs.
Sources say: "We use Morgan Lewis for general broker-dealer regulatory advice. They are experts in the field. They are responsive and their billing practices are reasonable."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The respected Steven Stone heads the firm's investment management group and handled the matter for Penson Worldwide described above. Sources name him "a great broker-dealer lawyer."
Robert Mendelson is particularly noted for his broker-dealer compliance and enforcement practice. He impresses sources with his practical approach to issues and solid judgment. Mendelson recently acted for Lehman Brothers International Europe in a range of claims before the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.
John Ayanian is also a respected member of the firm's broker-dealer advisory practice. He advises clients on both compliance and transactional matters. Recently he assisted Wells Fargo Securities with regulatory considerations in relation to its purchase of brokerage technology and services business Merlin Securities.
Charles Horn recently joined the team from Morrison & Foerster. Horn advises clients on banking regulations including the Dodd-Frank Act and the Volcker Rule. Sources admire his ability to "decipher and understand what the implications of the rules are for banks of all sizes."
THE FIRM Sources note that the strength of the Morrison & Foerster regulatory practice is its depth of knowledge and expertise in the consumer finance space. The team has been advising financial services giants including JPMorgan Chase, Capital One Financial and ING on the regulatory compliance considerations surrounding consumer product portfolios and transactional matters. It has been active in helping clients to comply with credit card regulatory requirements imposed by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. It also draws upon the firm's broad international platform to advise non-US banking entities on US regulatory matters, notably gaining regulatory approvals on behalf of Bank of Communications, a Chinese financial institution, for a new West Coast branch.
Client Service "They are easy to work with and they give great advice. They are always available and accessible when we need them."
Commercial Awareness "They have the expertise and depth to provide quick concise legal analysis for us to understand not only the legal aspects but also the political context."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Richard Fischer is described by sources as the "dean of consumer lawyers." He is "knowledgeable on both historical and current regulatory trends" and is "creative in his ability to ensure that you can get to the right answer." Fischer's particular forte is in the credit card arena and he has been advising Capital One on the new compliance requirements imposed by the CARD Act.
Oliver Ireland advises the firm's banking clients on regulatory compliance issues. He is considered to be a preeminent expert on consumer finance payment system issues, with sources noting that he has "superb insights" and moreover "helps us navigate a very complex regulatory environment and is an incredibly valuable resource."
San Francisco-based Michael Agoglia is an active and well-respected litigator practicing in the consumer finance arena. He is a former cochair of the firm's financial services litigation group and is noted for his handling of consumer class actions.
Respondents consider Los Angeles-based Henry Fields to be "experienced, knowledgeable and creative when it comes to regulation and M&A." Fields has particular strength in the West Coast market and is valued for his knowledge of "all the pitfalls and regulatory options and his ability to explain them."
Respected banking lawyer Barbara Mendelson provides regulatory counseling to domestic and international banks and assists clients to obtain necessary regulatory approvals in relation to transactions. She handled the aforementioned matters for the Bank of Communications.
New York-based consumer finance litigator Mark Ladner gains recognition for his expertise in the payment card and systems arena and is an accomplished consumer class action attorney.
Highly respected consumer regulatory specialist Leonard Chanin joins the firm from the CFPB, where he served as assistant director. He is tipped to be an important player and a future leader in regulatory compliance matters at a federal level.
Donald Lampe recently joined the team from Dykema Gossett. Lampe is considered to be a talented attorney who "really gets into the fight on issues." He represents a range of financial service providers on consumer regulatory matters, with a focus on mortgage-related compliance issues.
THE FIRM This firm is committed to helping its clients to review regulatory compliance programs and policies in light of changes wrought by the Dodd-Frank Act. The four-partner regulatory team is praised for the strength of its advice across both banking and consumer compliance issues. Key highlights include providing social commerce regulatory advice to Facebook and counsel to Scottrade Financial Services on compliance requirements and FDIC issues.
Client Service "They're very business-focused, and willing to provide business advice in addition to stellar legal advice."
Commercial Awareness "They are gifted at being able to cull down complex information into understandable terms and are proactive in terms of keeping us updated about anything on the horizon."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Gerard Comizio is "a knowledgeable and proactive attorney who works as a solid team leader, a quality second to none," relates one interviewee. Practice head Comizio has been assisting Brooklyn Federal Bancorp on its agreed merger with Investors Bancorp.
THE FIRM This firm has a reputable portfolio of financial institution clients including UBS, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. The team includes a number of former prosecutors and has significant expertise in defending clients involved in complex litigious matters. It provides a broad range of advice to organizations involved in investigations brought by US agencies such as the DOJ and the SEC.
Sources say: "Paul Weiss has world-class expertise for any area of litigation or regulatory exposure I have encountered."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "smart and savvy" Brad Karp impresses respondents with the depth and breadth of his practice. He is a highly respected litigator who is well known in the New York Bar and is active in regulatory investigations. This is exemplified by his recent successful handling of regulatory matters for JPMorgan Chase in relation to events surrounding Bear Stearns in 2008. This resulted in no charges being levied against JPMorgan Chase.
THE FIRM This firm is recommended for its knowledge and expertise in banking and broker-dealer compliance matters. The team has represented a number of financial institutions and broker-dealer clients requiring regulatory advice ranging from transactional matters to Dodd-Frank implementation requirements. Notable highlights include advising Natixis on the creation of Natixis Securities North America, involving the consolidation of two broker-dealers linked to different exchanges.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Bradley Sabel is a "well-known and excellent lawyer," comment respondents. He is active in transactional and compliance matters and continues to advise ICE Clear Credit in relation to Commodity Futures Trading Commission, SEC and Dodd-Frank requirements and clearing system development.
Russell Sacks is a respected attorney who gains recognition for his expertise in broker-dealer compliance. One source comments that his "legal analysis is rigorous and I trust his due diligence and analysis."
THE FIRM Sidley Austin's national financial services practice advises both US and foreign financial institutions on a range of issues, from discrete projects to ongoing compliance matters. The team has been acting for UBS and Morgan Stanley in relation to the impact of the Truth in Lending Act exemption changes brought about by the Dodd-Frank Act. On the consumer side, the firm enjoys a strong reputation in the credit card space with recent clients including MasterCard and Green Dot. The firm's greatest strength is arguably in the broker-dealer arena, where its dedicated team represents some of the leading brokerage firms before securities regulators and advises them on the full spectrum of compliance considerations. Notable clients in this area include BNP Paribas Securities Services and Goldman Sachs. Shortly before going to print, Sidley welcomed a sizeable broker-dealer team from Bingham McCutchen.
Sources say: "Sidley has a deep bench in broker-dealer regulatory advice and a top-notch transactional practice."
KEY INDIVIDUALS William Eckland has vast bank regulatory expertise and provides a range of advice to domestic and international clients on compliance matters. He provides "sophisticated analysis and is excellent at understanding how the banking regulators view the market," say sources.
James Brigagliano is considered to be a "real asset" to the firm's broker-dealer regulatory practice and brings with him a considerable amount of technical experience in securities and market trading. "In addition to his extensive and invaluable contacts in the regulatory world, he has unique insights into recent regulatory initiatives," say sources.
Kevin Campion is a respected broker-dealer regulatory attorney. He provides broad advice including SEC and FINRA research rules, record keeping and registration matters, and is considered to have extensive knowledge of short sale regulatory requirements.
Dennis Hensley has significant experience in advising clients on compliance and enforcement matters in the broker-dealer space. Recently he acted for a sovereign wealth fund on its purchase of a broker-dealer business.
Consumer finance compliance and litigation expert James Huizinga provides "an extraordinary synthesis of the law and the facts," note interviewees. He recently represented the Consumer Bankers Association in its response to proposed CFPB rules affecting prepaid credit cards.
David Teitelbaum's experience and expertise cover a wide range of regulatory matters, notably with respect to the consumer finance arena. He has particular knowledge of electronic payment systems and is considered to be an "extremely smart and capable lawyer" who is "technically excellent, practical, responsive and efficient."
Connie Friesen advises clients on bank regulatory compliance matters. She has an active practice advising foreign-based financial institutions particularly from Europe, China, Singapore and Australia on their US expansion plans and regulatory compliance.
Hardy Callcott has a strong reputation in broker-dealer advisory and compliance matters. He is recognized for his work on transactional matters and his solid regulatory practice. At his previous firm he represented Citigroup Global Markets in the settlement of a number of FINRA inquiries.
Former FINRA head of enforcement Susan Merrill is described as a "fantastic" attorney who is thought of highly for her knowledge and understanding of the regulatory enforcement process."Her ability to communicate with the regulators and know who to reach out to is a real strength," says one respondent.
Neal Sullivan maintains a strong reputation in the broker-dealer compliance and enforcement arena. Sources attest that he "communicates our message and helps us to understand what the regulatory concerns are." He is a global coordinator for the firm's securities and derivatives enforcement and regulatory practice.
THE FIRM Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has an outstanding corporate and transactional practice which is reflected by its robust showing in the financial institutions M&A space. Recent work includes the representation of The Carlyle Group during its $671 million IPO. The team also provides clients with cutting-edge advice in relation to Dodd-Frank and Basel III and continues to guide the US Treasury in relation to its Troubled Asset Relief Program implementation.
Sources say: "They are sharp and professional, and have been very generous with their time."
KEY INDIVIDUALS According to sources Lee Meyerson has "terrific judgment about regulatory questions" and is a "very commercial thinker." He heads the firm's financial services and M&A groups and is highly regarded for his banking compliance acumen and transactional advice.
Stacie McGinn has provided bank regulatory advice on a number of the firm's key financial institution transactions including the aforementioned matter for The Carlyle Group. She is considered to be a "strong technical lawyer" with "broad expertise across banking and consumer regulation."
The well-regarded Maripat Alpuche advises clients on financial institution M&A transactions. Interviewees value her "detail-oriented and helpful" approach.
Elizabeth Cooper is described as "an absolute star" and is acknowledged by sources as a rising star of the financial services regulatory sphere.
THE FIRM This firm draws on its global expertise to provide both US and foreign financial institutions and non-banking clients with a full spectrum of regulatory advice, particularly in relation to the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act and subsequent rulemaking. The regulatory team is widely acknowledged for its ability to handle considerable cross-border M&A transactions. Its work in this area includes advising BNP Paribas in relation to the sale of the bank's North American lending business to Wells Fargo. In addition, the firm has considerable expertise in representing clients involved in litigious and investigative matters involving the FDIC, DOJ, CFPB and Office of Foreign Assets Control. It has an active consumer finance practice in this area and recently represented online poker giant PokerStars in a DOJ action.
Sources say: "The team is instrumental in moving applications along and getting quick responses to things."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "talented" William Sweet has "extremely good knowledge of the regulatory players" and is a "technical lawyer with a great academic mind," say sources. He is considered to be one of the world's leading banking lawyers and has been instrumental in advising a number of the firm's leading financial services clients in relation to Dodd-Frank, regulatory compliance and transactions.
William Rubenstein has been active in advising US investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods in its role as financial adviser to a number of transactions in the financial services industry. Respondents describe him as a "practical lawyer" who is valued for his efficient and concise approach.
The "highly skilled" Jamie Boucher has a solid reputation in the bank regulatory sector, particularly in relation to enforcement actions, investigations and financial sanctions compliance.
Well-respected consumer finance litigator Joseph Barloon is "analytical, detail-oriented, and good at asking the right questions and getting deep into issues."
Anand Raman advises clients on investigatory and enforcement matters in the consumer finance space. He recently represented PokerStars in the DOJ matter alluded to above.
Brian Christiansen takes a "pragmatic approach to things and is quick to offer constructive opinions," comment interviewees. He advises financial institutions including BankUnited on regulatory compliance matters and Dodd-Frank considerations.
THE FIRM Sullivan & Cromwell houses one of the country's most respected bank regulatory teams. It has formidable expertise in banking compliance matters and provides big-picture strategic regulatory advice in relation to the Dodd-Frank Act. It maintains an active practice in the M&A space, advising leading global financial institutions on complex domestic and cross-border transactions. It represented HSBC in the $2.6 billion disposal of its US credit card business to Capital One and its sale of 195 US branches to the First Niagara Bank for $1 billion. On the enforcement side, the team has counseled Goldman Sachs and Moody’s in high-profile government investigations relating to the fallout from the MBS crisis. Its enviable client base includes the nation's top five banks plus leading non-US financial institutions such as BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, ING, Barclays Bank and RBS.
Client Service "They're there to help us. They're knowledgeable about the industry but they're not a firm wanting to clock up the hours. They make it easy because they're responsive to our needs."
Commercial Awareness "They are very well versed in the intricacies of financial regulation and the dos and don'ts of executing in such a regulated environment."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Rodgin Cohen retains his legendary status as trusted counsel and industry "standard-bearer," and "continues to be spectacular" at the forefront of the ongoing reform of banking industry regulations. His ability to "cut through issues that may hang up others" and find creative solutions cements his position as arguably the preeminent attorney in the field. Cohen is considered to have particular strength in facilitating complex M&A deals, advising clients on overarching regulatory challenges and understanding regulatory dynamics. One source captures market feeling by commenting that he is "a role model of impeccable conduct, extreme professionalism and judgment," and attests that "he is simply one of the most amazing people I have ever worked with."
Michael Wiseman is considered to be a "forward thinker" who "provides strategic advice" and "comes to the fore to provide a position on the form of new banking legislation and how it is likely to be resolved." He advises a broad portfolio of some of the world's leading financial institutions on compliance, enforcement and transactional matters.
Michael Escue has a "comprehensive knowledge of banking laws, regulation and regulatory supervision," say sources. He advises on a range of regulatory issues including Dodd-Frank, and provides ongoing counsel to clients such as American Express and CIT.
Donald Toumey is described as a "guru in New York" for his "substantive knowledge of banking regulations." He has both a national and global reputation in compliance matters. While he advises a range of major financial institutions, he is considered to have particular strength in counseling international banks on the impact of US banking regulations on their operations in the USA and abroad.
Former FDIC general counsel William Kroener is valued for his advice in relation to banking matters, and particularly FDIC regulations.
Mitchell Eitel has a significant reputation in financial institutions M&A and related regulatory issues. Sources report: "He's extremely smart, dedicated and commercial, and will deliver a point of view even if it's not what you want to hear. He's seen it all with regards to execution so one is well advised to go with his advice."
Mark Menting is a respected banking compliance and transactional lawyer who is "impressive on complex matters," according to sources. He is strongly recommended for his "careful, thoughtful" approach and consideration of clients. He advised EverBank Financial on its multibillion-dollar purchase of Business Property Lending.
Karen Patton Seymour has a fine reputation in regulatory investigation matters. She represents Goldman Sachs in a range of enforcements and investigations brought by a number of regulatory and governmental agencies. "Her major strength is in relation to her management skills and ability to bring issues to resolution in a calm and rational way," note sources.
Samuel Seymour has been advising HSBC in relation to an ongoing governmental investigation relating to Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions and anti-money laundering issues.
The "talented" Andrew Gerlach is described by sources as a "smart and accomplished lawyer" who is "diligent, good at seeing the issues and a good communicator." He worked with Cohen to advise The Bank of East Asia on the sale of an 80% stake in its US subsidiary to Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, and to gain Federal Reserve board approval for the deal.
Tipped as a rising star in the financial services arena, Whitney Chatterjee is praised as a "thoughtful, constructive, and commercial" attorney who is "not afraid to take a view and make a decision."
THE FIRM This firm enjoys an excellent national reputation in the financial services sector. The banking and finance group represents senior executives, shareholders and financial institutions in regulatory compliance, enforcement matters and investigative actions brought by federal agencies such as the OCC and FDIC. The team recently advised directors and officers of Cooperative Bank in an action brought by the FDIC. Other notable clients include Auto Club Trust, USAA Federal Savings Bank and ING Direct.
Sources say: "On bank operational issues the team has outstanding technical and analytical expertise."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department chair Ronald Glancz is "very client-oriented" and "easy to work with," comment respondents. His command and understanding of Dodd-Frank and what it means for clients is highlighted as a key strength of his practice.
Respondents appreciate John Beaty's "knowledge base, work product and style." He is considered to have "outstanding technical and analytical expertise" in relation to bank operational issues.
Ralph Sharpe is considered to be a "fabulous lawyer who knows enforcement and compliance incredibly well." His advice is of great value to clients as it "always incorporates a unique perspective and a variety of alternatives on how best to resolve a particular issue."
New partner Suzanne Garwood stands out in the consumer space according to sources. One client reports: "We have drawn on her expertise in the subprime consumer space and her knowledge of how to navigate Washington, and I have been thoroughly impressed."
THE FIRM Wachtell is considered to be a major player in the bank M&A space. Its superior corporate practice includes regulatory specialists with a wealth of experience and expertise in sophisticated US and cross-border transactions. The team advised Capital One Financial in connection with numerous acquisitions including that of ING Direct USA. Other notable clients include PNC, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase.
Sources say: "On the M&A side, they are as prominent as they come and their regulatory work is of a high level as it relates to M&A transactions." "They're extraordinary - those guys are unbelievable in the corporate M&A and corporate governance arenas."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "talented" Edward Herlihy earns "enormous respect" from sources in relation to the scale and complexity of deals he has worked on. He ascends to the star ranking for M&A lawyers in the financial services space after receiving outstanding feedback from market observers.
Richard Kim maintains a prominent reputation in the industry. He is noted for his ability to advise clients on both regulatory and transactional matters. Respondents have a "world of confidence in him" and peers hold him in high regard as someone who is "easy to work with" on M&A deals.
Corporate partner Nicholas Demmo is an accomplished deal lawyer with a practice centered on advising banks and other financial institutions involved in complex M&A transactions.
Patricia Robinson enters the rankings this year following strong praise and recognition from sources. Interviewees highlight her "wealth of knowledge in banking law compliance."
THE FIRM This firm's financial institutions advisory practice provides regulatory advice to bank and non-bank clients. It has strong transactional expertise and can also draw on the firm's global platform to counsel clients on cross-border regulatory considerations. The team represents a number of highly respected international organizations including Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas. It is also playing an active role in the investigation by US regulators into the Libor scandal and represents two non-US financial institutions.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Co-head of the firm's global financial institutions advisory group Ernest Patrikis is a "font of knowledge in the bank regulatory area," according to respondents. He advises a number of non-US banks including ICBC and Bank of China in relation to Federal Reserve applications and regulatory compliance requirements.
THE FIRM WilmerHale's financial institutions regulatory team provides a unified regulatory offering spanning compliance, enforcement and transactional advice. It has recently advised HSBC and Nationwide on a range of investigative and regulatory matters, in addition to providing ongoing guidance in relation to the Dodd-Frank Act. The firm also has a preeminent broker-dealer practice that provides a full range of regulatory advice in this area. Significant clients include Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and SIFMA.
Client Service "They do a great job for us. They are very responsive and timely, and they have learned a great deal about our business, so we have developed some synergies based on their knowledge of what we do."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The highly respected Yoon-Young Lee receives praise as a "solid and experienced compliance lawyer." She has a strong broker-dealer regulatory compliance and enforcement practice, and particular strength in research issues. She works closely with industry associations including SIFMA and the Loan Syndications & Trading Association on regulatory reform issues.
Respondents praise Russell Bruemmer's considerable knowledge and experience in bank regulatory compliance matters. His ability to provide clients with strategic advice and assist them in managing issues is noted as a key strength. One interviewee reports that "from a big-picture standpoint he was very good."
Franca Harris Gutierrez continues to be noted by interviewees as a talented regulatory compliance lawyer. Sources attest to her "deep subject matter expertise" and note that "she is good at partnering with clients and understanding large organizations."
Bruce Newman "knows how the regulators think, has incredibly good insights and judgment and you trust what he says," explains one client. Newman has a strong reputation advising broker-dealer clients on compliance and enforcement matters.
Andre Owens is considered by sources to be "one of the best broker-dealer compliance lawyers." He advises clients on regulatory and compliance matters and is described as "smart" with "really good client skills."
Stephanie Nicolas joins the rankings and is highlighted as a "smart, super-responsive, practical and forward-thinking" attorney who has strength in the broker-dealer space.
THE FIRM This firm represents both domestic and foreign financial institutions and provides advice on a broad range of transactional and regulatory matters. The financial services team has been involved in providing industry association the Financial Services Roundtable with advice and guidance on the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act and its implementation. Other notable clients include Bank of Hawaii and Continental Investors.
Sources say: "The firm has knowledge across the breadth of the financial services world. I can go to them with any question and get a prompt, well-informed answer and judgment."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Julius Loeser is described by sources as a "great financial institution attorney" who is "skilled and responsive." He provides bank regulatory advice on matters such as Dodd-Frank implementation to a range of financial organizations.
Christine Edwards heads the firm's financial services regulation department. She advises financial institutions and boards of directors in the banking and securities sectors on regulatory compliance and corporate governance matters.
Consumer finance expert Duncan Douglass of Alston & Bird LLP is "an experienced and knowledgeable payments attorney with a clear understanding of all aspects of the various card products and the legal relationships among issuers, processors and payment networks," explains one source.
Laura Pruitt recently joined Alston & Bird LLP and is praised for her "depth of expertise" in broker-dealer compliance and knowledge of alternative trading systems.
Steven Gatti of Clifford Chance US LLP joins the rankings this year as a respected attorney with noted expertise in broker-dealer enforcement matters. Clients describe him as a "solid performer" who provides "good commercial advice."
Ohio-based Darrell Dreher is a respected consumer finance attorney and heads the practice at Dreher Tomkies Scheiderer LLP. He is active advising clients in the credit card and consumer lending space on regulatory compliance.
Practicing from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP's Washington, DC office, Amy Rudnick "has a great reputation" for her banking enforcement and investigations expertise. She cochairs the firm's financial institutions group and has particular expertise in anti-money laundering compliance.
Banking regulatory attorney Michael Mancusi of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP makes his debut in the rankings and is flagged by sources as a key player in the enforcement arena. He has recently been involved in representing clients involved in FDIC investigations and enforcement matters.
The "talented" Robin Maxwell of Linklaters is "knowledgeable in banking matters" and described as a "thoughtful and energetic counselor." She provides a broad range of financial regulatory advice and is seen as "an important bridge for the firm's international client base seeking to understand US markets."
The "outstanding" Dwight Smith of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP provides clients with guidance on Dodd-Frank implementation and represents financial institutions before federal agencies including the Federal Reserve Board.
Joseph Vitale's "counsel runs the gamut from transactions to regulatory issues and his advice stands the test of time," explains one source. Vitale is at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, and wins praise from a number of sources for his knowledge of the regulatory environment.
SEC alumna Holly Smith of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP is highly regarded by commentators for her ability to understanding the cutting-edge issues in the market, and for her deep industry expertise.
Leading attorney John Villa of Williams & Connolly LLP has a stellar reputation in the bank regulatory enforcement and investigations area. He is considered to be an experienced and versatile financial services litigator who is also active in the representation of individuals in malpractice defense cases.
Howard Kramer is a securities regulation expert at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP who focuses on broker-dealer compliance matters and is also highlighted for his market structure knowledge. Kramer is described by respondents as "incredibly knowledgeable" and "tenacious and a strong advocate."