Industry Mourns Respected Figure
WASHINGTON -- William Taylor, the highly respected chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., died unexpectedly Thursday, one week after undergoing colon surgery. He was 53.
His death, coming when he appeared to be recovering from the operation and a related bout of pneumonia, left the industry stunned.
The official cause of death was a heart attack, FDIC officials said, adding it was unclear what precipitated it. Mr. Taylor died about 5:30 a.m. at Fairfax Hospital in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.
As the news spread through the FDIC Thursday morning, a numbing silence overtook the agency, one staffer said.
Mr. Taylor had built a sterling reputation as a tough but fair regulator, and his death was met with dismay from bankers and fellow regulators alike. (For reaction, see page 5.)
FDIC Vice Chairman Skip Hove was named acting chairman.
Mr. Taylor's appointment as FDIC chairman last October capped a 30-year career as a bank supervisor, most of which was spent at the Federal Reserve System.
By taking the FDIC's helm, Mr. Taylor was trust into a high-profile position at a time when the agency's reserves were facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit.
Pushed for Higher Premiums
Much to the chagrin of bankers, Mr. Taylor pushed hard for a big increase in deposit insurance premiums to rebuild the reserves. He also proposed the speedy implementation of a system of tiered fees based on the riskiness of a bank's activity.
Mr. Taylor entered the hospital Aug. 12 for colon surgery, which was performed successfully the next day. While he came down with pneumonia over the weekend, Mr. Taylor was reported to be making a good recovery. Family members who had come into town over the weekend returned home, expecting the worst had passed.
He was taken off an oxygen hookup Wednesday and was breathing on his own. Mr. Hove said he visited Mr. Taylor on Wednesday.
"We left there yesterday and the doctor said he was progressing fine," Mr. Hove said. "Then boom."
Mr. Taylor's wife, Sharon, called Mr. Hove with the news shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday.
It remained unclear Thursday whether Mr. Taylor was suffering from colon cancer.
Memorial Services Monday
Memorial services are set for 10 a.m. Monday at the Washington National Cathedral. Visitation hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at DeMaines Funeral Home, 5308 Backlick Road, Springfield, Va.
The son of a Scottish immigrant, Mr. Taylor was proud of his success but humble at the same time.
In a recent interview, Mr. Taylor said his hardest adjustment on becoming FDIC chief was getting used to all the attention. "I ask for something, and people fall all over themselves to get it for me."
Mr. Taylor grew up on the south side of Chicago. After graduating from Cornell College in 1961 he took a job as a bank examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
In 1968, he left the government for Chicago's Upper Avenue Bank, where he was in charge of business development. He moved to real estate developer James W. Rouse & Co., in 1972 where he managed the finance operation.
Climbing the Fed Ladder
Mr. Taylor rejoined the Fed, this time in its Washington headquarters, in 1976 to tackle the Real Estate Investment Trust crisis. He steadily climbed the Fed ladder, becoming top man in the bank supervision division in 1985. He was director of supervision when he was tapped to run the FDIC last year.
Mr. Taylor was widely respected for his toughness. The joke around the agency was that FDIC came to stand for Forever Demanding more in Capital. But Mr. Taylor was also caring.
"Something a lot of people didn't know about him: He was compassionate," said FDIC board member C.C. Hope. "He was very concerned that we would do the right thing always."
That compassion combined with a sharp wit and a knack for getting to the nub of an issue won him many friends.
In his 10 months on the job, Mr. Taylor made in this goal to get the FDIC's revenues to exceed its losses.
|Pay Your Own Bills'
"You can't assert independence if you can't pay your own bills," Mr. Taylor once said to explain why the banking industry needed to recapitalize the FDIC.
It appalled him that the FDIC's expenses outstripped its income for the past six years. The goal of balancing the FDIC budget spurred him to seek an increase in deposit insurance premiums, which he won in May by a 3-to-2 vote. A final vote on the hike had been scheduled for Aug. 25.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Taylor is survived by three children: Claire, who just graduated from college; William 3d, who will be starting his junior year at North Carolina State; and Emily, a junior in high school here.