When the American Bankers Association wants to sue someone, it puts Mike Crotty on the case.

Mr. Crotty, 46, is the ABA's top litigator. As such, he has participated in suits against almost everyone crossing the banking industry's path, from insurance interests to credit unions. On Supreme Court cases alone, Mr. Crotty has represented the ABA in 170 separate pleadings.

But of all the cases he tracks, the one is he is watching most closely is an annuities case known as Valic (for Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co.).

"It will make a difference to the ability of banks to sell annuities, and may be even more important than that, depending on how broadly or narrowly the court rules," Mr. Crotty said. "Regardless of the breadth of the court's decision, it is going to be important."

Next on his list is a series of "common bond" cases, in which the banking industry is arguing that credit unions are being allowed to appeal too broadly for customers. Those cases have the potential to rein in an increasingly active competitor for banks.

After that, there are another 45 cases Mr. Crotty is tracking closely. It is this part of his job -- "managing the litigation function" -- that he sees as the most important.

"Trying to keep track of the 45 cases going on simultaneously, and trying to make sense of how they fit together," is his goal. He also prepares the ABA's briefs, and unlike many Washington lawyers, he does no lobbying.

Mr. Crotty grew up in Baltimore, and wanted to be a lawyer since at least the seventh grade, he said. "I guess I decided to become a lawyer because I was too scrawny to be a middle linebacker."

Still, he said, the general philosophy is the same in either case. "I enjoy combat. I can do to people with my mouth and my mind what Dick Butkus did to people physically," he said, referring to the former Chicago Bears linebacker.

After earning a law degree at Northwestern School of Law, he spent three years in the Navy trying court martial cases, then joined the ABA's legal department.

He came to Washington, he said, because "Washington, D.C., is where it's at for a lawyer."

Mr. Crotty also occasionally serves as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association and the Maryland Health Claims Arbitration office.

He talks most excitedly about his work with the ABA when it is named as a party in a run-of-the-mill case. When the cases go to court, "you get to act like a real lawyer again," Mr. Crotty said. "Cross-examining witnesses. Yeah, that's fun."

Michael Crotty

Deputy general counsel for litigation

American Bankers Association

1120 Connecticut Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20036

202-663-5028

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