WASHINGTON -- The office has moved and the work is a little bit different, but the relationships built over 26 years have not changed in his current post as a partner with Venable, LLP, Bill Donovan said.
"I think it's been a great move," the former NAFCU general counsel and chief lobbyist commented upon his one-year anniversary with the law firm with the largest credit union practice in the country. "I really value every one of those 26 years that I spent at NAFCU and was completely invested in what I did while I was there and built friendships within the credit union community that are going to last a lifetime. The transition from general counsel at NAFCU to an attorney in private practice at Venable has gone very smoothly and the real neat thing is my ability to continue working very closely with an awful lot of the leaders of the credit union community with whom I had ongoing dealings with all those years."
The crossover work from legislative to regulatory advocacy remains somewhat the same, Donovan explained. "My practice is a combination of legislative work as well as the more traditional financial service practice of compliance and contract review and enforcement...The interesting thing there is the legislative work has broadened and I enjoy that. In the practice here at Venable, I've had the opportunity to represent clients' interests in the data security legislation that was working its way through Congress last year."
He continued, "I got involved in rulemaking proceedings before agencies that I didn't traditionally deal with, dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration and their awarding of an authority to fly direct flights from the United States to Beijing and working with different airlines to determine what city might be the American gateway to Beijing."
Another area where the scope of Donovan's work has expanded is representing banks, on deposit insurance reform in particular. "I'm working with a coalition of banks that we put together. Particularly the common characteristic of the banks we've been working with is that they were all banks that were established after December 31, 1996," he said. "Those banks are impacted differently than other FDIC-insured institutions. We've been working with them to do the best we can so they're not disadvantaged as far as the insurance premiums that they're required to pay." FDIC-insured institutions created after that date are generally not eligible for the one-time deposit insurance credit the agency is considering that was expected to be finalized last Thursday after press time.
However, Donovan said, the biggest difference between his work at NAFCU and Venable is "in almost all instances, we're working to realize the goals of an individual client...whereas at the trade association, there's always a balancing of interests and multiple inputs and diverse opinions. At a law firm you're talking about individual clients with particular and at times unique needs and it's those interests that you're advancing." And an issue requiring swift resolution can sometimes seem to pop out of thin air. "On more than one occasion I received calls from credit union CEOs who are dealing with issues that they had not anticipated dealing with when they went to work that morning," Donovan recounted. "They could be issues of compliance. They could be issues of legal rights and responsibilities. They could be issues dealing with unexpected events that fall upon them in the course of a day and some of them can be very significant as far as the reputation of the credit union is concerned, as far as member relations is concerned and so we try to resolve those issues as quickly and as satisfactorily as we can."
Donovan said he has enjoyed a number of the projects he has taken on since joining Venable, but specifically pointed to the firm's work on the Nationwide Federal Credit Union merger into Nationwide Bank. As a long-time credit union advocate, Donovan likes how members were treated in the Nationwide deal. "It has been satisfying to see the principled way in which the board of directors of Nationwide Federal Credit Union and Nationwide Bank have approached that issue. I think that when all is said and done--while none of us who have been dedicated to the credit union system as long as [Nationwide FCU CEO] Paula Edwards, Bruce Jolly [Venable partner], Gwen Baker, and myself have been--like to see any credit union, particularly a terrific credit union like Nationwide, no longer exist, under the facts and circumstances, we're real pleased that that merger is really demonstrating its situation warrants going down this path. The participants are able to...handle the transaction in a way that truly respects the ownership interest of the members and treats every member of the credit union equally as far as any type of financial benefit that might flow from the transaction. I'm very pleased that if that merger was going to occur that we had the opportunity to play the role that we played and that most people that I've heard express an opinion on it do seem to agree that its one that is setting a new standard for handling those types of mergers in a very, very principled and appropriate way." --firstname.lastname@example.org