Unplugged … Again

"Poppycock." That was former bank regulator Bill Isaac's one-word assessment of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's claim that he had no authority to rescue Lehman Brothers Inc., and it cut through the cocktail-hour din to garner laughter and applause from Isaac's audience.

"They could have done anything other than what they did. They should not have let it go into bankruptcy," said Isaac, who signed copies of his book, "Senseless Panic: How Washington Failed America," after a reception Tuesday in New York's Plaza Hotel. It was part of investment bank Rodman & Renshaw LLC's annual global investment conference.

Isaac, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in the early 1980s, also chided the Securities and Exchange Commission for regulatory missteps, accounting regulators for their interest in mark-to-market accounting and Congress for a host of reasons.

In short, the man was on a roll.

One of his biggest applause lines came when a conference-goer asked for his take on the new Basel capital requirements. "Well, I was against Basel II," he said, citing what he said was its pro-cyclical nature and objecting generally to the idea that the United States would cede any authority over its financial system to an international consortium. Though Isaac said not enough details have been released for him to form an opinion on Basel's newest iteration, he told the audience, "I think we can do better. I don't think we should subcontract that out to a committee of 30 in Basel, Switzerland."

Isaac is chairman of the consulting firm LECG's global financial services practice and chairman of the board at Fifth Third Bancorp.

Alphabet Sopa

This pairing could be the ultimate Scrabble team.

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA has signed a multiyear deal to become the "official bank" of the National Basketball Association. In essence, BBVA will be a big supporter of the NBA; financial terms were not disclosed.

Gregorio Panadero, a spokesman for the Madrid company, said raising the "visibility of both brands in Europe and America is fundamental" to the deal. BBVA will also be the top bank sponsor for the Women's National Basketball Association and developmental leagues in the United States and Spain. The deal "opens up a new and ambitious pathway to growth in Spain," Panadero said.

BBVA has a growing U.S. banking presence anchored by its 2007 purchase of Compass Bancshares Inc. in Birmingham, Ala., and last year's government-assisted takeover of Guaranty Bank in Austin. The NBA deal will let the company unveil a series of basketball-themed promotions.

A 'Reality' Compass

Barry Koling, who supervised external communications at SunTrust Banks Inc. for two decades, has retired.

Koling, who called it a career at the Atlanta company on Wednesday, said the secret to his longevity was simple: "What matters is the integrity of the message, which should be based on reality." Koling, 60, said in an interview that this mantra helped him get through various ups and downs, including rampant speculation that SunTrust might be bought by a bigger competitor. And he made it work with a staff far smaller than those at many similar-size competitors.

"I really tried to focus on what to say rather than how to say it," said Koling, who has no immediate plan for a second act. "I also found that spin doesn't work and that the key to perception is reality and not legions of PR people."

His successor is Craig D. Smith, formerly a Bank of America Corp. senior vice president and corporate communications executive.

Fit to Print

Dick Bove is frequently quoted — somewhere north of 100 times in the last month, according to the Factiva news database. Though some of those appearances are repeats or citations from his voluminous research, many people in the banking industry get more updates on what's on Bove's mind than they do about what's on their spouse's.

Even so, the Sunday edition of The New York Times might be a high water mark for him. The Rochdale Securities analyst was featured in a lengthy story about his long feud with BankAtlantic Bancorp — the story suggested that Bove was right to question the company's health and gutsy to fight its libel suit, which the company stopped pursuing. He also showed up on the op-ed page, where he wrote an article arguing that capital requirements are holding back the economic recovery.

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