The American Bankers Association announced Tuesday that former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating will be its new president, replacing the organization’s longtime chief, Edward Yingling, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Keating will join the ABA on Dec. 1 and assume the role of president at the beginning of the new year. The former CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers assumes the helm of the ABA at a time when financial institutions are facing increased regulation and more government scrutiny in the wake of the bank bailout of 2008.
The Republican has held numerous government posts and has been critical of President Barack Obama, including raising the issue of his drug use during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Stephen Wilson, ABA chairman, said that Keating brings “a strong history of involvement in financial issues, the respect of policymakers on both sides of the aisle and extensive management experience.” “Coming out of the financial crisis, we are entering a period of great change for our industry,” Wilson said in a statement. “We wanted a strong, proven leader and consensus builder who will listen to the concerns of bankers and be a dynamic champion for our industry during this critical time.”
Keating will face the challenge of guiding an organization that has been on the defensive for much of the past year as lawmakers sought to clamp down on what they viewed as abuses by financial institutions that led to the recent Wall Street crisis. Obama signed the Wall Street reform law earlier this year to increase government oversight of banks. The ABA aggressively opposed the measure when it was being debated by Congress.
In the coming year, the ABA will devote much of its time to monitoring the implementation of the law, as well as Congressional oversight of the industry, including the growing problem of bank foreclosures. Yingling, who announced his departure in July, had been with the ABA for a quarter-century and was one of the most visible figures for the industry on Capitol Hill. He received almost $2.3 million in total compensation and expenses from the ABA in 2008, according to the association’s most recent tax filings. Of the compensation, $963,000 was for contributions to employee benefit plans and deferred compensation.
Keating has a long history of government experience. He held various posts in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and was governor of Oklahoma from 1995 to 2003, a period that included the Oklahoma City bombing.
While he was governor, Keating faced controversy for accepting financial gifts of almost $250,000 for himself and his family from mutual fund chief Jack Dreyfus. Dreyfus was trying to promote the drug Dilantin through his health foundation and had solicited Keating’s help in promoting the drug to control violent inmates, and Keating wrote every governor in the country and President Bill Clinton recommending experimentation with the drug on inmates. The Keating family returned the financial gifts from Dreyfus after the issue became public.
Keating drew headlines again in 2008 when, as co-chairman of the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), he raised the issue of Obama’s past drug use, calling him “a guy of the street.” Speaking on comedian Dennis Miller’s radio show, Keating said of Obama, “He ought to admit, ‘You know, I’ve got to be honest with you. I was a guy of the street. I was way to the left. I used cocaine. I voted liberally, but I’m back at the center.'”
During his almost eight-year tenure at the American Council of Life Insurers, Keating was credited with improving the trade group’s reputation and putting it on better financial footing. He attracted more than 50 companies back to the ACLI — including MassMutual, MetLife and other large insurers — and moved to make the ACLI more bipartisan, promoting Kim Dorgan, the wife of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), as its chief lobbyist and pressuring the trade group to make is political giving more balanced. The ACLI announced in September that former Sen. Dick Kempthorne (R-Idaho) would replace Keating, who stepped down early this month.
The ABA hired the recruiting firm of Korn/Ferry International to help in the search for its new president.
The ABA is one of several high-profile trade groups that have been looking to fill their top jobs before the new Congress convenes in January. The Business Roundtable is expected to soon tap a new president, and contenders include Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who is retiring this year; Nick Calio, who worked in both Bush administrations; and internal candidates Larry Burton and Johanna Schneider.
The Motion Picture Association of America is also looking for a new president, as is the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.