Getting through regulatory hurdles is a tough slog for many private-equity firms that want to buy or start banks, but some have found that having former banking regulators by their side can smooth the way.

Some of these ex-regulators are high-profile, like former Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James Lockhart, who signed on in August with WL Ross & Co., Wilbur Ross' private-equity firm. Others have worked at the Federal Reserve for decades.

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