MBA Endorses FICC

December 17, 2007
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LANSING — The Michigan Bankers Association has given the thumbs up to membership in the Financial Institutions Compliance Cooperative, which provides high-level research, analysis and advice on a range of state and federal regulatory and operational issues of interest to financial institutions that operate in Michigan.

Since 1982, the FICC has been providing its members banking law expertise through the law firm of Bodman LLP, a Detroit-based firm with the largest banking law practice in the state.

“FICC membership is an outstanding opportunity for MBA members to reduce their legal costs while increasing their access to top legal advice on regulatory and operational issues,” said Dennis Koons, MBA president and CEO.

Richard B. West, a partner in Bodman’s banking practice group, said the FICC is a cooperative, so all the members pay an equal share for services. Bodman advises members on a group basis through a variety of means but primarily through the FICC News, which is published 12 to 15 times per year and sent to all members, West said. FICC News carries in-depth analyses of both state and federal legislation and its potential impact on financial institutions. 

“That’s our primary communication technique,” West noted. “It contains articles by our attorneys about legal developments that either will or have been passed and how it impacts a Michigan bank. We try to interplay the relationship between the federal law and state law.”

The Bodman attorneys who write articles for FICC News bill by the hour. Their hours are added up each month, and the cost is split equally among all the members, West said. He said an individual member’s bill typically runs $200 to $300 per month.

FICC News is written for bankers, not lawyers, West noted, and it gives specific “fact situations” that might arise under new or proposed laws and how Bodman attorneys think banks should react to those situations. The News also provides sample policies, forms and contract clauses if contracts need to be amended because of new laws or regulations.

West said FICC members also get the equivalent of about three hours of legal advice a month on any topic, not just those featured in FICC News. Furthermore, they get discounted rates on individual representation should they have a problem specific to their bank and need an attorney to represent them.

Offering the service tends to drive new business Bodman’s way because FICC members get to know Bodman attorneys and because the members get discounts on the work they bring to the firm, West noted.

As part of the agreement, the MBA is going to start preparing articles to include in FICC News and is going to put on some seminars jointly with Bodman. Bodman holds seminars twice a year in either Marquette or Escanaba and in Lansing. Three years ago the firm also started conducting regional meetings twice a year as part of its membership benefits. The regional meetings have proved to be very popular among FICC member banks, West said. 

“We divide the state into six regions and present a two- to three-hour meeting that’s almost like an executive briefing on a variety of different topics that the banks suggest in advance,” he explained. “They don’t just cover regulatory compliance; they cover trust and taxes and any legal topics that impact banks’ operations.”

The MBA sees FICC membership as a more efficient and cost-effective way for MBA members to stay abreast of the latest legal issues affecting banks, said MBA spokeswoman Gail Madziar. Banks are so highly regulated that whenever there is any kind of a change, in compliance, for instance, very often it’s not a matter of changing just one thing; they have to make a concerted effort to change everything that goes along with it, she pointed out.

“I would say the issues aren’t getting any easier, and I think in terms of legal issues there are new regulations and new legislation coming down the pipe that always have an effect on our members,” Madziar said. “We need to make sure they’re aware of them.” 

FICC currently has nearly 100 members. Membership is open to all financial institutions, including community banks, suburban savings and loans, and multibillion-dollar holding companies. 

Detroit-based Bodman has 140 attorneys across offices in Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Cheboygan and Lansing. For five consecutive years, its banking practice has received the highest possible rating from the national Chambers USA publication, and it’s the only Michigan law firm that can make that claim.

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