Is Banking on Attorneys a System for Success? | ABA Banking Journal


By Debra Cope

As nominating committees contemplate their board candidate combine, they could need to be aware of a brand new research that paperwork the speedy rise of attorneys on financial institution boards.

Attorneys now occupy seats on three-quarters of U.S. financial institution boards, and new proof suggests their speedy rise is linked to improved threat administration and will increase in financial institution valuation.

This text initially appeared within the September/October 2020 subject of ABA Banking Journal Administrators Briefing. Subscribe now.

These are key findings of a paper, “Banking on the Lawyers,” that was revealed in February by the Cornell Regulation College as a part of its authorized research analysis sequence.

The analysis discovered that in 2017, 74% of banks had not less than one lawyer- director, up from 42.8% of banks in 1999. The share reached a excessive of 76.5% in 2014, earlier than leveling off barely. The common year-over-year enhance in lawyer-directors on financial institution boards was 4.1%, whereas the entire change in lawyer-directors from 1999 to 2017 was 73%.

The paper discovered that banks with lawyer-directors assume extra threat in odd, non-crisis circumstances and fewer threat when a disaster arises, in ways in which have tended to boost worth.

“Lawyer-directors do that by drawing on advocacy expertise to critically analyze opposing factors of view, a vital high quality in managing the dangers banks face immediately,” the paper discovered. “They’re additionally extra more likely to make complicated info, sourced from a number of consultants, extra accessible to a financial institution’s board as a part of its decision-making course of. Lastly, lawyer-directors are expert at assessing litigation and regulatory dangers, which have grown considerably lately.”

The paper additionally concluded that having a lawyer on the board promotes will increase in financial institution worth. Within the first yr after a lawyer-director joined a financial institution, the financial institution’s worth elevated by 5.7% relative to the pattern imply.

The authors mentioned their findings problem the idea that stricter regulation is sufficient to promote environment friendly threat administration. As a substitute, to handle a financial institution successfully, “administrators should have the abilities to assume critically about threat,” they wrote. They mentioned the findings additionally underscore the worth of administrators’ experience. Specialised data can improve a director’s contribution to the board.

“Banks with lawyer-directors do greater than merely decrease ‘dangerous’ threat. Additionally they pursue ‘good’ threat underneath circumstances which can be extra more likely to lead to larger financial institution worth,” the paper discovered.

The findings additionally underscore that board composition has an impression on how banks handle threat, the authors wrote. Lawyer-directors can do greater than merely assess litigation and regulatory dangers, they concluded; they “additionally add worth by drawing on advocacy expertise to critically analyze the dangers that banks face, in addition to by making complicated info extra accessible to a financial institution’s board.”

The paper was written by Scott B. Guernsey of the College of Tennessee; Saura Masconale of the College of Arizona Heart for the Philosophy of Freedom; Simone M. Sepe of the College of Arizona Rogers Faculty of Regulation, the College of Toulouse, and the European Company Governance Institute, and Charles Okay. Whitehead of Cornell Regulation College.


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