Florida's Bank Regulator Giving Up the Fight for Independent Oversight
Rhoads, Christopher, American Banker
Florida state banks will continue to be regulated by the state's elected comptroller, despite a yearlong effort by that office to cede regulatory powers to another body.
Comptroller Robert F. Milligan - who vowed to depoliticize the state's regulatory structure in his successful campaign to unseat 20-year incumbent Gerald Lewis in the fall of 1994 - said last week he would abandon the attempt for the current legislative session, and would not try again next year.
"The simple fact is that they (state banks) like the system, and they've been able to influence this process because of its politicized nature," said Art Simon, the state's director of the Division of Banking.
A task force assembled by Mr. Milligan shortly after he took office last winter had proposed that regulatory duties be handled by an independent seven-member board made up of people nominated by the comptroller, approved by the governor, and confirmed by the state Senate.
State banks, however, rose up against the idea in recent months, prompting several revisions and, finally, its withdrawal.
"We felt that this wouldn't depoliticize it but actually make it more political," said Rudy E. Schupp, chief executive of Republic Security Bank in West Palm Beach. "We also felt that if it's not broken then what are we trying to fix?"
Florida is the only state whose bank commissioner - in this case called the comptroller - is elected. Mr. Milligan has criticized the structure for giving at least the appearance that its regulator can be influenced by those he regulates through campaign contributions.
Mr. Milligan, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, lambasted his predecessor during the campaign, saying Mr. Lewis was too close to the banks he was in charge of regulating. A political unknown, Mr. Milligan surprised many when he defeated the popular Mr. Lewis, though by a slim margin, 50. …