Donovan Exits NAFCU For Firm

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In a surprising move last week, long-time NAFCU executive Bill Donovan, announced he is leaving the national trade association to become a partner in well-known Washington law firm, Venable LLP.

"This is one of those things where certain opportunities present themselves as you go through life; and it's an exceptional opportunity," said Donovan, the chief congressional lobbyist and senior vice president who has often been the face of NAFCU during his 26 years with the organization. "This is just an extraordinary opportunity that was too good to pass up."

Donovan has had a long relationship with Venable and hired the firm to represent NAFCU in several lawsuits, including the landmark AT&T Family FCU case, in which NAFCU participated in as an intervenor on behalf of NCUA.

The firm, which has been trying to build a credit union practice over the last few years, also hired NAFCU's director of regulatory affairs, Gwen Baker. Two years ago, Venable hired well-known credit union attorney Bruce Jolly to help it bring in more credit union clients.

Donovan, 55, spent the vast majority of his professional career helping to build NAFCU, starting off in 1979 as the only employee in its government relations office and building it to more than 14 full-time lawyers and lobbyists. At Venable he will work in the firm's financial services practice, with not only credit union clients, but banks and retailers that have relationships with financial institutions, and other financial service providers, he said.

The job will allow Donovan to continue working with many of the credit unions he has worked with over the years, either as NAFCU's representative or on issues that the trade associations, including CUNA and NASCUS and the state leagues, have worked on together.

Donovan has worked not only as NAFCU's chief congressional lobbyist, but as its chief legal counsel, heading up strategies on lawsuits NAFCU has ventured into, such as the AT&T case, other suits brought by the bankers against credit unions, and more recently the lawsuit in Texas over NCUA's actions in the Community CU conversion to mutual savings bank.

NAFCU President Fred Becker called Donovan a "significant force in the credit union community." "Over the years, Bill has shaped such vital legislation as the Credit Union Membership Access Act and the more recent Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA). He built a team of outstanding lobbyists and attorneys that have represented our members well," said Becker in a prepared statement.

Venable, 100 years old, is one of the best known Washington law firms, with more than 500 lawyers in its six U.S. offices-240 in Washington, and such high-profile partners as former Sen. Birch Bayh, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, Tom Quinn, known as one of Washington's top lobbyists, and Benjamin Civiletti, former U.S. Attorney general, who heads the firm.

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