Isaac '69: Giving Back to OSU in His Own Way
A substantial planned gift will be presented to the Moritz College of Law in the future
By By Rob Phillips
After leading the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation during the volatile years of 1981 to 1985, William Isaac ’69 hoped the country would not encounter another time when the same lessons were needed.
But as the country sunk into recession throughout 2008, Isaac’s experience leading the FDIC in what was one of the corporation’s most tumultuous periods, has become increasingly valuable to those people charged with turning around the economy.
“I am actually quite surprised that we have gotten ourselves into this crisis today,” Isaac said from his Sarasota, Fla., home. “The economy was very good for a long time. You couldn’t expect that to go on forever without some adjustments. We had a bubble in the housing market and that bubble had to be pricked, but things have gotten far worse in the financial and real estate markets than I could have ever imagined.”
Isaac’s expertise has been called upon by members of Congress, national media, and others. And through his work with a global consulting firm, Isaac has continued help financial services organizations with his insight.
A portion of Isaac’s success can be credited to the Moritz College of Law, and Isaac has not forgotten that. He continues to extend his generosity by supporting the College.
“I really can’t say enough about the regard that I have for Ohio State,” he said. “I think it is just a great university and a great law school.”
Isaac has made a substantial planned gift that will be presented to the Moritz College of Law in the future. He said that gift is intended to help “worthy students with financial needs” make their way through law school.
That gift and several others that Isaac has made since he graduated from the law school were easy decisions for many reasons, he said. “I had a great education there,” he explained. “And after my first year, I was given scholarships and had a free ride the next two years. I just felt a real strong need and desire to repay the school in some way.”
After graduating from Ohio State, Isaac began work at Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee. During his five years at the firm, he began to hone his familiarity with banking law, specifically regulatory affairs, acquisitions, and branching.
He left Milwaukee to start as vice president, general counsel, and secretary of the First Kentucky National Corporation in Louisville. There he was responsible for the corporation’s legal department, government relations, and economics department, among others.
As part of his responsibilities involving government relations, he worked with members of Jimmy Carter’s campaign staff. And when a Republican seat opened on the three-member board of directors for the FDIC in March 1978, Isaac was recommended and appointed to the position.
Following Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the then-36-year-old Isaac was named chairman of the FDIC’s board of directors in 1981.
“The FDIC wasn’t really a hot bed of activity when I began there,” he said. “But the banking system began to experience a lot of problems.”
Shortly after Isaac began leading the FDIC, the country entered a severe two-year recession. In 2008, 27 banks closed in the United States, what is now being reported as a staggering figure. But in the 1980s and early 1990s, nearly 3,000 bank and thrift failures were recorded.
The FDIC, after Isaac’s appointment to chairman, was suddenly a hotbed of activity. Isaac and his fellow colleagues at the FDIC are credited with making decisions that eventually quieted a tumultuous economy.
“We were able to handle all the turmoil in the banking system, and the rest of the 1980s were booming economically. It was a very strong economic recovery.”
That success has spurred almost daily phone calls to Isaac from Washington, D.C., politicians and others dealt with improving the economy’s current position.
“That is one of the things that I can do,” he said.
While Congress was contemplating the passage of a $700 billion bailout, dubbed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, Isaac, at the request of several Congressional Republicans and Democrats, flew to Washington to offer alternatives to the proposed legislation and insight from the 1980s crisis.
His experience in the banking industry has led to his success in the private sector as well. In 1986, Isaac founded the Secura Group, which was acquired by LECG, LLC two years ago. The company consults financial institutions on a variety of issues, including financial advisory, strategic planning, regulatory counseling, and risk management.
Isaac is currently the chairman of global financial services of LECG. He is also chairman of his family’s various real estate development companies.
He is also busy with a number of other boards, organizations, and nonprofits. He is a founding member of the American Bankers Council. He is on the board of directors for the BankCap Investment Fund and Oceanwood Capital Management, which are equity firms that invest in the financial services sector, and the MPS Group, a leading provider of staffing, consulting, and solutions in a variety of fields. He is on the board of directors for The Ohio State University Foundation and Goodwill Industries, and served for a number of years on the board of the Miami University Foundation (his undergraduate alma mater).
“I don’t envision retiring,” he said. “I enjoy what I do and I have a fair amount of freedom to do it.”
Isaac is married and has two grown children and two younger ones – ages 7 and 6.