The financial crisis of 2008 looms large. It had a tremendous impact on the political and business landscape, and touched every American in some way or another. For most of us, sitting on the outside and watching things fall apart, the lead-up to the crisis and its aftermath were somewhat remote. But James Odell, now a partner at Blank Rome LLP had a front row seat for these events, as he held high-ranking positions in the legal departments of various large international banks during the collapse. Odell recently spoke with InsideCounsel to discuss the changes he has seen in the regulatory landscape over the past 14 years.
In the early years of the 21st century, Odell was Global General Counsel of Investment Banking for Citigroup, and he saw before him a bit of a regulatory void. “What characterized 2001-2005,” he says, “was that other regulators and law enforcement folks were stepping into a vacuum. State attorneys general were ramping up their focus, really for the first time, and we were dealing with people outside of normal regulatory relationships.”
Later, Odell went to UBS as GC for the Americas, eventually moving into the role of acting GC for the entire group. He says he was at the Fed with other major banks the weekend that Lehman Brothers failed, and they were struggling with that fact as well as the failures of Merrill Lynch and AIG.
“For me, it was initially a bit of confusion,” Odell recalls, “not knowing how the process would be organized. When it became clearer what the challenges were, it was a race against the clock to get enough information and have enough time available to put measures in place to put off a Lehman bankruptcy or a Merrill Lynch sale. It became increasingly clear that there was not going to be enough time, that there would be a regulatory not a market solution.”