Few big deals gain the government's blessing without some help from William J. Sweet Jr., who leads the regulatory practice at the Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom law firm.

Whether it is Great Western Financial Corp.'s merger with Washington Mutual, Banc One Corp.'s acquisition of First USA, or Wells Fargo's bid for First Interstate, Mr. Sweet and his law firm cleared away the regulatory hurdles.

Mr. Sweet is well connected. His first job out of Georgetown University Law Center was at the Federal Reserve Board, where he worked closely with J. Virgil Mattingly, now the Fed's general counsel. He joined the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter in 1982, lured there by John D. Hawke Jr., who is now Treasury under secretary for domestic finance.

He also has strong ties within Skadden Arps, one of the country's largest and most influential law firms. Robert C. Sheehan, who now runs the firm, personally recruited him in 1984.

"Bill is one of the most knowledgeable lawyers around on Federal Reserve issues," Mr. Hawke said. "He is very capable and highly regarded."

Mr. Sweet spends most of his time advising banks on how to get regulators to approve particular transactions. He was instrumental in getting the Fed to rule that cash raised from trust-preferred securities counts as Tier 1 capital. He also advises banks on securities issues, represents directors and officers in liability cases, and battles the Justice Department over fair-lending probes.

"We spend lots of time advising banks on how to deal with regulators over compliance issues, new products, capital market issues, and deals," he said.

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