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Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 10 years ago

Ruling the Regulators

Merger and acquisition law expert Nat Doliner is taking a national position to help direct the future of financial regulation.
by: Alex Walsh Web Editor

Merger and acquisition law expert Nat Doliner is taking a national position to help direct the future of financial regulation.

At a time when financial regulatory reform appears inevitable, a long-time Tampa business attorney will be stepping into the national spotlight.

Nathaniel Doliner, managing shareholder for the Tampa office of Carlton Fields, will bring decades of experience in merger and acquisition law to the forefront of the reform debate as he becomes chairman of the ABA's Business Law Section.

For more than 20 years, Doliner has been a member of the American Bar Association, an organization that is now increasing its participation in the financial reform process.

The ABA recently developed an advisory Task Force on Financial Markets Regulatory Reform to encourage common sense regulation in Washington — a goal that is sometimes difficult to achieve.

That Task Force, which started in October of 2008, is a product of the ABA's Business Law Section, where Doliner has actively participated throughout his tenure with the organization.

Now, it's the section that is putting Doliner in charge, giving him a key opportunity to impact the direction of what may be this nation's next significant regulatory shift.

As the ABA Task Force prepares to speak with leaders in Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the White House, Doliner says his focus will be on recommending “regulation where it's needed, without unduly impinging on a vibrant economy.”

Vibrant indeed
Doliner's experiences in the merger and acquisition market support his characterization of the economy.

Companies in the retail and technology sectors are taking advantage of the current “buying opportunity,” Doliner acknowledges.

“We are seeing an uptick in activity within the last couple of months,” he says, but he adds that activity is being hampered by a continued lack of funding from banks in the short term.

As the recovery starts to take effect, Doliner points out that companies interested in selling will continue to participate in deals as their sale values slowly rise.

Because of the correlation between merger activity and available funds, Doliner says increased activity may be a harbinger of a sustained recovery. As competitors consolidate, a more stable market will encourage continued growth.

It's crucial, then, for any regulation of financial markets to allow for exactly those kinds of activities.

That appears to be the focus with the ABA's Task Force, which has recently taken steps to define their position on reform. Doliner has worked closely with ABA members on the development of two key documents: a recommendation for the House regarding future reforms, and a corporate governance report that covers the responsibilities of a corporation's management.

The reform policy recommendations in particular establish points that follow along with what Doliner says his group's focus has been on in dealing with regulation: using common sense, and avoiding doing too much.

The document lists a set of principles to guide reform efforts, and of the eight, the third is perhaps the best example of the philosophy Doliner talks about:

“The federal financial regulatory system should be simplified by means that include, to the extent appropriate, the elimination of overlapping and duplicative oversight and reduction in the number of regulatory agencies.”

Other themes like independence and transparency appear as well, but it's this specific mention of avoiding duplicate regulations that might have the biggest impact in preventing Washington from regulating for the sake of regulating. That is, if it were to be taken seriously and adopted by Congress.

ABA - or IBA?
The Task Force's report appears at first glance to have a strictly domestic focus. The document itself states that it's “designed to improve the regulation of financial institutions and markets in the United States.”

So what's Principle #8 doing in there? It reads:

“U.S. financial regulation and supervision of institutions and markets should reflect the increasing internationalization of financial institutions and markets, including through the coordinated efforts by U.S. regulators to work with foreign counterparts to develop harmonized international regulatory and supervisory standards.”

Internationalization? According to Doliner, it's inevitable.

“The fact of the matter is, it's happening,” he says, “and we realize it's going to happen more and more.”

Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The term “internationalization,” unwieldy as it is, could mean many different things.

That's why the ABA has a group focused on understanding emerging trends in the internationalization of business law.

The group aims to anticipate changes to the law over the next five to fifteen years, and formulate ways to deal with those trends.

As a result of the way membership in the ABA has changed over the past several years, it's not just American lawyers doing the anticipating.

The organization today boasts more than 400,000 lawyers from 50 countries.

What started with Canadian lawyers wanting to learn more about their neighbor's methods has grown into a movement that has seen lawyers from across the world join the ranks.

On top of the international diversification, the ABA is also adding members from diverse professional backgrounds. In Doliner's case, for example, bringing investment bankers and CPAs on as members of the ABA can help clarify some of the finer points of business laws and regulations, and allow for a broader base of expertise to create policy recommendations.

“It's been a development,” Doliner says.

While markets reorganize and ABA membership changes, Doliner's ties to the Tampa area have remained a constant.

His civic service resume is long. Some examples: he served on the Board of Governors for the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, as Chairman of the Board for Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, and as President of the Tampa Club.

His ties to Tampa's legal community have been formed via his career with Carlton Fields, where he has honed merger and acquisition expertise for the past 31 years.

Now, Tampa will be watching him, at a time when his legal advice may carry more weight than ever.

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