There's nothing like celebrating a victory within weeks of taking a job.

Rich Whiting became executive director of the American Association of Bank Directors in mid-August, and one of his early concerns was a crucial point in new federal guidelines for directors of large national banks and federal thrifts.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency this year proposed the guidelines, and the AABD wanted the agency to change some wording that suggested board members have some management responsibilities.

The OCC listened. It finalized the guidelines this month, but with revisions that reflected the AABD's concerns.

"The final guidelines were revised to provide clarity and avoid imposing managerial responsibilities on board members," the OCC said in a Sept. 2 press release.

That was welcome news to the AABD and to Whiting.

"We pointed out that members of boards of directors are not management," Whiting said. "They oversee management. It's not their responsibility to handle managerial functions."

Whiting began the job at AABD after it submitted its comment letter to the OCC, but he immediately joined in the effort to get the clarification.

The guidelines applied primarily to large banks, but the group was "concerned that it might become an informal standard that's applicable to all banks," Whiting said.

Whiting, who was executive director of the Financial Services Roundtable until leaving in February and has toiled for years in Washington, is very familiar with policy fights of all magnitudes.

One of his biggest challenges ahead likely will concern directors' liability issues, especially concerning the rising number of lawsuits filed against directors.

He's never been a bank director. But Whiting sheepishly admitted to being a director of the Federal Reserve Board Federal Credit Union while he was working as a senior attorney for the Fed.

Whiting took over as AABD executive director from David Baris, a banking attorney at BuckleySandler who handled the role for years with a staff that included only a law clerk and an administrative assistant. Baris will remain the AABD's president.

Whiting will continue to maintain his other jobs while directing the AABD, which he says is a good thing because "they're all intertwined." He's chairman of the board of advisors of Boston University's Center for Finance, Law and Policy. He's also an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where this semester's classes started this week.

"We've got students who work at the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] and the Fed and the agencies on Capitol Hill," Whiting said. "They have some sophistication in the area of banking. There's some good give-and-take."

And give-and-take is what it takes to survive in Washington.

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