Ray Gustini has represented banking institutions throughout the United States for over three decades. He has led the firm’s Bank Regulatory practice for a number of years and is a leading resource on bank transactions, regulatory and compliance issues, board of director matters, corporate governance and financial privacy and security. He leads the firm’s Financial Institutions Advisory Team (FIAT).
What do you focus on?
Banks, because the presence of federal deposit insurance and their unique role in the nation’s economic health, are unique businesses. What would otherwise be traditional business activities require, with respect to banks, the input and approval of federal and state bank regulatory agencies. Thus, transactions such as bank mergers, capital raises, expansion and new products generally cannot be accomplished without input from bank regulatory agencies. This makes a banking practice unique and places a premium on the ability to identify pitfalls and prepare “approvable” transactions. Throughout my 39-year career as a banking lawyer, I have in effect “seen it all.” My practice includes experience in all forms of business transactions for financial institutions ranging from mergers, capital raises and board of director governance issues to risk management, privacy and security, regulatory compliance, money laundering and matters such as the Volcker Rule.
The boards and committees I have served on have given me a perspective that I believe has served my clients well. Specifically, I have been co-chair of both the American Bar Association Joint Task Force on Privacy and of the Subcommittee on Electronic Privacy of the ABA’s Cyberspace Law Committee. I have been a faculty member of the National School of Banking, where I lectured on bank mergers. I served on the American Bankers Association’s Subchapter S Advisory Committee and its LLAC Committee.
My work in boardrooms on both sides of the table has been helpful to my bank clients and has provided me with unique insights from the perspective of a board member. I currently serve as a director of Western Community Bancshares, Inc. (and its subsidiary Frontier Bank FSB) where I chaired the Compensation Committee of its board of directors for ten years and as a director of Harbor Community Bancshares of Port St. Lucie, Florida.
What do you see on the horizon?
For the next several years, there will be an increasing need by banks to focus on compliance. This need results not only because of the proposed increases in capital under Basel and Dodd-Frank Act compliance issues, but also because the bank regulatory agencies in the post-Dodd-Frank world have far less tolerance for regulatory missteps. As banks in this environment experience “regulatory fatigue,” this should lead to an increase in bank merger activity, particularly at the community bank level.