Leadership


William M. Isaac

Co-Chairman

William M. Isaac

William M. Isaac headed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 1978 through 1985, during the banking and thrift crises of the 1980s. He worked closely with the late Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Paul Volcker, helping to maintain stability in the financial system during one of the most tumultuous periods in U.S. banking history, when over 3,000 banks and thrifts failed, including many of the largest in the nation. Mr. Isaac was appointed to the board of the FDIC by President Carter and confirmed by the Senate at the age of 34, and was named Chairman by President Reagan two years later, making him the youngest FDIC board member and chairman in history. Mr. Isaac also served as chairman of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (1983-85), as a member of the Depository Institutions Deregulation Committee (1981–85), and as a member of the Vice President’s Task Group on Regulation of Financial Services (1984).

In addition to his service as FDIC Chairman, Bill Isaac has decades of experience in regulatory counseling and risk management services. Mr. Isaac founded The Secura Group, a leading consulting firm, in 1986. Secura was acquired by FTI Consulting in 2011, where Mr. Isaac served as senior managing director through 2019 when Mr. Isaac partnered with Howard Milstein in the financial services business, serving on the boards of New York Private Bank & Trust and Emigrant Bank, as well as serving as non-executive Chairman of Sarasota Private Trust and Cleveland Private Trust. The Isaac-Milstein Group is their financial consulting arm.

Mr. Isaac is former Chairman of Fifth Third Bancorp, one of the nation’s leading banking companies, and is a former board member at TSYS, a leading payments processing company (now part of Global Payments). Mr. Isaac has also served on the boards of Amex Bank, The Associates (finance company formerly owned by Ford Motor Company), TransUnion (credit reporting company formerly owned by the Pritzker family), and MPs Group (staffing firm now owned by Adecco).

Mr. Isaac is involved extensively in thought leadership relating to the financial industry. He is the author of Senseless Panic: How Washington Failed America with a foreword by Paul Volcker. Mr. Isaac’s articles are published in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, American Banker, Forbes, Financial Times, Washington Times, and other leading publications. He also appears regularly on television and radio, testifies before Congress, and is a speaker before audiences throughout the world.

Mr. Isaac was formerly a senior partner of Arnold & Porter, which was a founding partner of The Secura Group. Mr. Isaac left the firm in 1993 when Secura purchased Arnold & Porter’s interest in the firm. Before his appointment to the FDIC, Mr. Isaac served as vice president, general counsel and secretary of First Kentucky National Corporation and its subsidiaries, including First National Bank of Louisville and First Kentucky Trust Company. Mr. Isaac began his career with Foley & Lardner where he practiced general corporate law specializing in banking law.

Mr. Isaac received a Distinguished Achievement Medal in 1995 from Miami University and a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013 from The Ohio State University. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Miami University Foundation and is a Life Member of the Board of Directors of The Ohio State University Foundation. In 2016 Mr. Isaac co-founded with his former classmate the William Isaac & Michael Oxley Center for Business Leadership at Miami University.


Howard P. Milstein

Co-Chairman

Howard P. Milstein

Howard Milstein is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of New York Private Bank & Trust and its operating bank, Emigrant Bank, the country’s largest privately owned, family-run bank. He also chairs and operates the Milstein family’s real estate companies, including Milstein Properties, Milford Management, and Milstein Brothers Real Estate. Mr. Milstein is the founding Chairman of the merchant bank FriedbergMilstein.

Howard Milstein is the third generation to lead the Milstein family business and philanthropic activities. In addition to his financial and real estate interests, Mr. Milstein is also the owner of 8AM Golf, home to GOLF magazine and the GOLF.com website, the Nicklaus Companies (in partnership with Jack Nicklaus), legendary Japanese club maker Miura Golf, and other companies. In the philanthropic arena, Milstein is a Trustee at Cornell University, an Overseer of Weill Cornell Medical College and serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board of Harvard Law School. He is Chairman of the American Skin Association, the Howard and Georgeanna Jones Foundation for Reproductive Medicine, and the Milstein Medical Asian American Partnership Foundation. Milstein also serves on the boards of the National September 11th Memorial, National Committee for U.S. – China Relations, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and PGA REACH. Milstein was named the 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year by Cornell University, and also served from 2011-2014 as Chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority, where he successfully led the design and procurement process for a new Tappan Zee Bridge–the largest infrastructure project in the nation.


James C. Watkins

Senior Managing Director

 
James C. Watkins - Senior Managing Director

James C. Watkins has nearly four decades of domestic and international bank regulatory experience. Mr. Watkins may be the only senior official to have served the FDIC through the bank and thrift crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, the Great Recession’s financial and banking crisis of 2008 to 2013, and the pandemic of 2020. He is a recognized expert on crisis management, credit risk assessments, liquidity strategies, operational risks, bank stress testing, resolution plans, prudential regulatory standards, and complex regulatory applications. Mr. Watkins also has expertise in community banking and the formation of new banks.

Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Watkins was Senior Deputy Director of Supervisory Examinations leading all FDIC safety and soundness programs nationally.  In this capacity, he led units responsible for the regulatory and deposit insurance oversight of community and large banks.  Mr. Watkins was a key advisor to the Chairman, Board members, and others on significant policy initiatives; complex, unique or sensitive matters; banking conditions and trends, and strategies for addressing troubled banks.  Regulatory programs overseen under Mr. Watkins’ authority included remediation for severely troubled institutions and organizations, leadership of Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) activities, issuance of enforcement actions on culpable individuals, development of the current large bank examination strategies, and processing of complex applications. He has also participated in international policy development while he represented the FDIC as a member of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s Supervision and Implementation Group.

Prior to serving as Senior Deputy Director, Mr. Watkins was Deputy Director of Supervisory Examinations at the FDIC, having joined the Washington Office at the height of the financial crisis in 2010. As Deputy Director, he directed initiatives that resulted in streamlined enforcement actions, reduced processing times, and lowered resolution costs; strengthened the processes to reduce the number of problem banks; and arranged for the orderly resolution of hundreds of banks. He also provided guidance and oversight of FDIC’s problem and failing bank units, BSA/AML programs, and enforcement action and application areas. 

Mr. Watkins rose to his role at FDIC’s headquarters from New York, where he served as Deputy Regional Director. This role involved directing risk management supervisory programs in Mid-Atlantic states, managing bank programs, evaluating financial and banking trends, developing supervisory responses for banks in areas of increasing concern, and serving as Agency spokesperson in the region. Before serving as Deputy Regional Director in New York, Mr. Watkins served in executive roles at the FDIC’s Atlanta office.

Mr. Watkins, a CPA, holds an M.B.A. from University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management and a B.S., cum laude, from James Madison University.  He is also a graduate of the Stonier School of Banking. 


Richard J. Wolf

Managing Director

Richard J. Wolf

Rick Wolf, Managing Director of Isaac | Milstein, is a former corporate and legal executive with extensive experience as a consultant specializing in designing governance, regulatory and corporate compliance, and risk management programs. Since the enactment of Sarbanes Oxley Act and related, broad changes to the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations, Mr. Wolf has designed and implemented start-up compliance programs for several multi-national corporations, designing programs for employees and executives in over 50 countries. His body of work includes creating ethics and compliance programs, whistleblower systems, regulatory compliance programs, enterprise risk management systems, corporate governance charters and reporting procedures, targeted training and awareness programs, and education for boards of directors and executives on ethics and leadership.

Mr. Wolf has worked as a Senior Advisor for FTI Consulting, and founded Lexakos Consulting LLC, a leading legal business consulting firm specializing in designing governance, regulatory and corporate compliance, and risk management practices for public, private and non-profit organizations. Following the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York engaged Mr. Wolf to serve as a special compliance advisor, where he handled a variety of critical assignments, including revisions to the central bank’s BSA/AML and OFAC Sanctions compliance policies and procedures.

Mr. Wolf is also the former Chief Ethics Officer of HSBC North America, Inc., where he developed a comprehensive ethics program for the US-based subsidiary of one of the largest banks in the world and helped lead a team that formulated a global whistleblower system for managing global financial crime risk and early fraud detection. Mr. Wolf earlier served as Senior Vice President – Legal and Head of Global Compliance at Cendant Corporation, where he was a managing lawyer and the multinational corporation’s first compliance and information governance executive. His vertical industry expertise includes financial services, health care, franchising, chemical, petroleum, automotive and non-profits.

Mr. Wolf was recently appointed to the member consultative team for the upcoming Restatement on Corporate Governance, published by the American Law Institute (ALI), where he has been a member since 2007, and the ALI Principles of the Law, Compliance, Risk Management, and Enforcement. He is also former president and board chairman of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Greater New York Chapter, where he directly succeeded then general counsel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and then general counsel of the Port Authority of NY & NJ. He has also served as a certified mediator for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and to the Panel of Distinguished Neutrals for the CPR International Institute for Conflict Resolution, where he has officiated over commercial mediation and arbitration.

Mr. Wolf is a frequent lecturer on topics of governance, risk management and compliance and has been a featured speaker and subject matter expert for organizations such as The Conference Board, Compliance Week, Practising Law Institute, American Bar Association, and ARMA International, among others.

Mr. Wolf began his career as an attorney at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, and Pitney, Hardin, Kipp & Szuch (now Day Pitney). He earned a B.A. from Stockton University and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was an editor on Washington University Law Review.