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Corporate attorney also serves as compliance officer for bank

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Growing up on a 126-acre farm in north-central Indiana, it might have been fate that Stephen Wilson ended up working as an attorney focused on the agricultural aspect of life.

After all, he credits the livestock feeding, hay bailing, barn cleaning, field mowing, and corn hauling with having a tremendous impact on shaping his eventual career choice and giving him even more experience in the legal role he now holds.

The longtime lawyer works as general counsel and compliance officer for First Farmers Bank & Trust Converse, building on a 23-year career as a banking attorney by going back to his agricultural roots. Now, he's stationed at a financial institution that's remained successful, but busy despite the national banking crisis hitting many of the country's banks during the past 18 months.

"The fact is that we're very different in what we do from what the bigger banks do," he said. "But what's happening now is going to have a significant impact on our bank and smaller community banks. ... We're all reaping the benefits of what we've done in the past as a financial industry."

Wilson said his farming experience - plus the fact that he's also raised hogs - and the initial years of his legal career paved his way to First Farmers.

After attending Purdue University and studying economics in the 1970s, Wilson decided that he wanted to study that topic and politics more closely. So he went to the London School of Economics for political theory.

Earning his law degree from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis and an LL.M. in taxation from New York University School of Law, Wilson started as an associate at the Valparaiso firm of Hoeppner Wagner & Evans before making the switch to banking law. He's held positions with First National Bank & Trust in both Logansport and Kokomo for a combined 20 years, and Merchants/National City for 13 years.

Eventually, he found his way to First Farmers in 2007. The community bank has branches in more than a dozen Indiana communities and has assets totaling about three-quarters of a billion dollars with about 60 percent of its loans being related to agriculture, Wilson said.

As general counsel and compliance officer, Wilson is responsible for any and all of First Farmers' legal matters except for personnel or mergers and acquisitions. Mostly he's seen work involving loan documentation, foreclosure, bankruptcies, and collections. He also oversees a three-person compliance department that monitors the bank's obedience with state and federal laws, as well as providing assistance in implementing changes that result from new laws and regulations.

Working at larger banks in the past, Wilson said that and his agricultural background prepared him for what's involved in his current position and he's able to more fully appreciate the changes that have happened in the industry during the past couple decades and that are under way now. For example, bankers at smaller institutions are able to issue loans more carefully based on familiarity with someone's character and their personal history with the bank instead of simply relying on what a paper banking record or credit history shows.

"What you see with larger banks is that, although they may hold themselves out as community-minded and having interest in the community and local customers, the bigger they are the harder it is to provide that local aid and comfort," he said. "You don't know customers as well and you're not able to evaluate the intangibles."

At First Farmers, it's different because customers may not be able to pay immediately until a crop comes in or livestock is produced at different times of the year, Wilson said. Customers may have unique collateral like livestock and farm equipment that other banks wouldn't understand how to value or take security interest on, he said.

While those differences have kept the bank safer than many mainstream institutions statewide and nationally, Wilson expects significant changes in 2010. Congressional legislation would require community banks - including First Farmers - to escrow insurance taxes and offer private mortgage insurance, which would have a huge impact. He also pointed to laws and regulations that have taken effect already, such as new settlement procedures for Housing and Urban Development loans, and overdraft policies on all loans.

He knows the flood of changes will continue, and even though he does hope it will slow eventually, he doesn't anticipate the pace changing anytime soon.

Amber R. Van Til, the vice president of government relations for the Indiana Bankers Association, said what Wilson and First Farmers is seeing is being echoed in all of the state's smaller community banks.

"Being a corporate counsel for any bank these days is a job that has lot of weight on their shoulders," she said. "Changes are coming so fast and furiously that it's tough to keep up with these new regulations and how they complement what's been in place in the past. The banking world we know today is no longer the banking world we grew up with or knew 30 years ago."

She credits those like Wilson who serve in both the general counsel and compliance officer roles because finding those compliance officers can be a tough task for community banks. Those people aren't required to be attorneys, but many are turning to lawyers because of the amount of legal work involved.

"There's so much more legalese involved and a lot to understand, especially when there's so much legislation out there," she said

"As a corporate attorney and one-person legal department, you have to be a generalist and field multiple questions in different areas every day," Wilson said. "If you don't want to be continually learning or you're not used to a fast-paced life, being a corporate attorney isn't for you."

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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