Trust Updates Archive
(Jan. 9, 2014--Chicago, IL) -- Dean Edward Miller, former Deputy Comptroller of the Currency, died on December 3. Mr. Miller, 83, oversaw the drafting and implementation of 12 C.F.R. § 9, the regulation that governs the fiduciary activity of national banks, earning him the moniker "father of Reg 9."
"Dean was universally respected by his regulatory peers and by bankers," recalls Bob Wallgren, retired Executive Director of Operations and Finance, American Bankers Association. "But he never thought of himself as being very important and indeed was inclined to dismiss the accolades."
In his nearly 40-year tenure at the OCC, Mr. Miller was a fervent defender of the rights of banks to exercise their trust powers.
"Dean had a profound influence on the development of what we now call the wealth management industry," notes Eugene Maloney, Executive Vice President, Federated Investors. Though Miller was an advocate for industry expansion, he was insistent on protecting the rights of beneficiary and other trust clients. His ability to maintain this balance has been widely praised.
"Dean was well regarded, both by bankers and other regulators for his encyclopedic knowledge of the area," says John Harvey, who, during Miller's tenure, was his FDIC counterpart. Miller's regulatory colleague at the Federal Reserve, Bob Plotkin, notes it was always a pleasure to exchange ideas with him. "I delighted in his integrity and soft-spoken but firm thoughts."
Maloney agrees, noting "Dean was a person of immense knowledge and integrity; he will be sorely missed."
Miller had a reputation rare among regulators: applying regulations in a reasoned and fair manner.
"Dean was widely respected by trust officers because he was approachable and willing to listen to reason," says James D. McLaughlin, Retired Director of Regulatory Affairs, American Bankers Association. He adds "Dean was one of the fairest and most reasonable regulators I've ever worked with."
Steven Saxon, partner, Groom Law Group, recalls Miller "was out to help solve problems for banks and people, always looking for the practical solution." Saxon is the son of former OCC Comptroller James Saxon, who convinced Miller to leave the First National Bank of Chicago and join the OCC in 1961.
James Saxon, who had been appointed by President Kennedy, had as his top priority expanding the national banking industry. To achieve this, Saxon pushed for the establishment of an advisory committee, which, among other things, recommended substantial changes in the oversight of trust activities by national banks.
Miller was hired by Saxon, shortly after his appointment, to serve as his attorney-advisor. Miller's focus was the enactment of the trust power transfer legislation, which shifted fiduciary oversight from the Federal Reserve to the OCC.
In September 1962, following passage of legislation transferring trust oversight, Saxon reorganized and enlarged the OCC's trust division. He appointed Miller as deputy comptroller for trusts.
Miller first task, and one that would prove to be his professional passion, was to bring federal fiduciary oversight into the 20th century through Reg 9.
Joel Miller, OCC Asset Management Group Leader, who currently oversees fiduciary activities and is not related, writes, "We all continue to be amazed that the regulatory structure Dean built in the early '60s continues to reflect the core principles upon which most bank trust departments operate. While Dean's contributions will be remembered by his OCC colleagues, even more importantly the tens of millions of investors who benefit from the protections Dean built into the fiduciary regulations continue to be protected by his work and ideas."
While the new regulation would serve as a model for many state regulators, the OCC's examination process was woefully lacking. Miller pushed for more innovative, comprehensive, and flexible regulations. It would take until 1975 before examination policies and procedures were updated as part of the OCC's Haskins & Sells study. The update modernized trust regulation, introducing sampling and risk management oversight before it became widely accepted in the commercial banking business. In a TRN interview in 1992, Miller noted that, while he received credit for the new risk management process, it was the brainchild of Chuck Burgess, a trust examiner in the Southeast District. He also credited the development work to a task force of OCC trust examiners.
Miller, according to his colleagues, liked to surround himself with a talented staff. Among the notables were Don Johnson, who focused on overall examination activities, and Bill Granovsky, a collective investment fund specialist.
In the mid '80s, the OCC initiated a phase-out of trust examiners as a distinct career path—in favor of bank examiners who specialize in trust. Miller became deputy comptroller for compliance, a position he held until April 1990, when he was appointed senior advisor for fiduciary activities.
In 1995, he oversaw the first significant update to Reg 9. The revision clarified when a national bank is required to have fiduciary powers and expanded the scope of multistate activities. The revision also clarified the responsibilities of bank directors for overseeing fiduciary operations, especially annual asset and account reviews as well as audit requirements.
Miller spent the next few years addressing examiner and banker questions regarding the revised regulations, as well as tweaking them. He retired from the OCC in 1999 and joined the Washington, DC law firm of KL Gates. He remained with the firm until a few months prior to his death.
Miller is remembered by former examiners and bankers as someone who relished sharing his technical knowledge and whose strong foundation in the law translated to regulatory decisions rooted in reason. He is also fondly remembered for emphasizing the importance of maintaining a sense of humor.
No statement in this issue is offered as or should be construed as legal opinion or advice or as an indicator of future performance.
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