February 16, 2017

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Mauricio Videla

Raised in a single parent home with very little means, Mauricio Videla never envisioned himself going to college. Now, a lawyer, he works at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a commissioned examiner, and serves as the ABA’s Vice Chair of the Young Lawyer Committee. In fact, he joined the ABA during his first year of law school, something he recommends to law school students. “Academic success is critical, but establishing a network is equally important and often overlooked,” he says. “The ABA offers a wealth of opportunities for students and young lawyers to get involved, develop their leadership skills, and find mentors along the way.”

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What inspired you to become a lawyer?

I never aspired to be a lawyer. In fact, and surprising to most of the people that know me now, I never envisioned myself attending college, let alone studying law. I was raised in a single parent home with very little means, so I consistently worked part-time throughout high school in order to assist my mother. My ambition at the time was very shortsighted given the circumstances, but thankfully, my mother’s prevailing wisdom encouraged me (likely, threatened!) to attend college.

I initially enrolled in college as an accounting major since I excelled in those courses in high school and early in college. I was first exposed to business law through this major and I became fascinated with the intersection of business and law. I retained a business focus in my studies and career, and I put the idea of pursuing a JD in a parking lot for several years. The thought of becoming a lawyer never escaped me since that one business law class, so it became a matter of picking the right time. I made the decision to pursue the JD once I completed my Masters in Public Administration.

You currently work as a commissioned examiner with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Tell us what you do.

As you may know, the CFPB is a 21st century federal agency that assists consumer finance markets work by creating more effective rules, enforcing these rules more consistently and fairly, and empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. I serve as a commissioned examiner in the CFPB’s office of supervision examinations where I perform supervisory oversight of our country’s largest financial institutions. CFPB supervision is a comprehensive, ongoing process of pre-examination scoping and review of information, data analysis, on-site examinations, and regular communication with supervised entities and prudential regulators (e.g., OCC, FDIC, etc.). My work helps to ensure that banks and nonbanks comply with federal consumer financial laws and to detect and assess the risks to consumers that arise from these businesses. I continuously collaborate with my colleagues in supervision policy and enforcement to employ a consumer-centered approach to supervision based on: a focus on risks to consumers in the policies and practices of consumer financial providers; the analysis of available data on the activities of service providers, on the markets in which they operate, and on the risks to consumers; and, in the application of consistent standards in supervision of both bank and nonbank consumer financial companies.

What best prepared you for this job in terms of your previous work experience?

This role has effectively fused my diverse professional experiences. My career has encompassed banking and law, nonprofit corporate governance and policy, and commercial insurance operations. I have significant knowledge of the intricacies of large banks from my experience working in Citibank’s retail banking division, and both the legal and compliance divisions of TD Bank. There are two defining experiences at TD Bank that truly prepared me for my current role at the CFPB. First, I had the opportunity to work in TD Bank’s office of the general counsel under the direction of then-SVP and Senior Counsel Jacqueline Parker. This was my first exposure to the CFPB as Jackie and I worked diligently to bring the bank’s credit card program into compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act, meanwhile ensuring that the program also complied with the nuances of state laws. Subsequently, I served as a compliance officer for TD Bank’s US Credit Card, Target Card, and retail/merchant credit card business units, providing a range of support, guidance, and analysis on regulatory, compliance, and technology issues. In this capacity, I gained a deeper understanding of the critical role the business and control stakeholders have in the successful operation of a line of business. Here, I worked under two outstanding compliance attorneys, Sharon Morgenroth (SVP and compliance director at TD Bank) and Annemarie Hebert (then VP and compliance manager at TD Bank) who were instrumental in my development as a compliance professional.

What best prepared you in terms of law school?

A strong work ethic, above all, is what prepared me most to study law. Without question, I derived a strong work ethic from my mother who empowered me to withstand adversity and remain resolute in any goal I had set out for myself. I was cognizant of the demands associated with studying law, which is why I kept deferring enrollment until I was certain I wanted to pursue a legal career. Completing my legal studies, as with any meaningful life goal, had its peaks and valleys . . . I experienced many successes and a few setbacks, but it is the latter that really helped me build character and resiliency.

But my success was equally rooted in a strong support system. Indiana University offered a strong academic support framework. At the time, Mrs. Carlota Toledo Goncalves served as the law school’s associate director for student affairs and she was instrumental in helping me master those difficult 1L subjects and establishing effective study habits that were distinct from my undergraduate and graduate studies. Additionally, I was fortunate to serve as a law clerk at Cohen & Malad LLP, a renowned civil litigation law firm, under the direction of Irwin Levin. Irwin is the managing partner of the firm and a highly accomplished litigator. He was the first attorney that helped me put theory and practice into perspective, and he inspired me with his counsel, passion for the law, and humility.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The ability to actively serve as a change agent. I am privileged to effect change by working with the CEOs and senior executives in the boardroom of the largest financial institutions, which has resulted in millions of dollars of redress for financially harmed consumers, and helping financial institutions to improve their business practices to prevent the need for enforcement action. It has been my experience that most financial institutions truly desire to do right by their consumers as they do for their shareholders, so it excites me to be a part of that process.

I have also had the opportunity to work informally outside of my current role to collaborate with my colleagues in the Division of Consumer Education and Engagement (CEE). CEE is charged with fulfilling the CFPB’s congressional mandate to educate and empower American consumers to improve their financial lives. I have been fortunate to work on initiatives to expand the reach of the CFPB’s financial literacy tools, coordinating CLE programs, and training business lawyers to perform pro bono work. Most notably, I am coordinating efforts between the ABA Business Law Section and the CFPB to host a pro bono legal service project in New Orleans for the 2017 spring meeting. We plan to provide financial literacy training to older Americans who have progressively become an at-risk community for fraud and financial exploitation.

Consumers can file complaints about financial services with your bureau. Does one story told by a consumer stand out?

The (CFPB) is the first federal agency solely focused on consumer financial protection, and consumer complaints are a critical function of that work. My colleague’s in the CFPB’s office of consumer response hear directly from consumers about the challenges they face in the marketplace, and that medium helps raise their concerns to the attention of companies, and assist in addressing their complaints. In September 2016, the CFPB reached a milestone in handling over one million consumer complaints. The CFPB first began taking consumer complaints in July 2011 when it began accepting credit card complaints submitted by consumers online, over the phone, and through the mail. Since then the CFPB has continually expanded its complaint handling to include a wide variety of financial products and services including mortgages, bank accounts, debt collection, and more. Consumer complaints help inform the CFPB of problems in the financial marketplace, and this data has been instrumental in my role within the CFPB’s Division of Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending. Consumer complaints have empowered us to identify the root cause of regulatory violations resulting in millions of dollars in monetary relief to consumers as well as non-monetary relief, such as cleaning up credit reports or correcting the terms of a loan.

You’ve been very involved in community development and diversity initiatives. What advice would you give to law schools looking to increase the number of low-income and minority law school graduates?

Prior to enrolling in law school at Indiana University, I was fortunate to serve on the board of directors for my fraternity—La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc.—where we dedicated ourselves to working with underserved populations in order to help bridge the gap in higher education. The success we achieved in helping teens and adolescents matriculate and graduate as first generation college students served as the impetus behind my involvement with the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO). For over 45 years, CLEO has worked tirelessly to diversify the legal profession by expanding opportunities for minority and low-income students to attend law school. CLEO’s alumni network of legal professionals exceeds 10,000, including myself.

Despite the progress made, there is an obvious disconnect between these two populations, and frankly, the traditional recruitment model has proven unsuccessful for law schools as it has for many law firms. My best advice to both segments of the legal profession would be to dare to be different in their recruitment and retention methodologies. There are a wealth of untapped opportunities for law schools and firms to recruit and retain qualified diverse candidates. I am very passionate about these things, and I often debate if I should provide some consulting work to help remedy this issue. But, I also encourage diverse lawyers to expand the scope of their reach in terms of potential schools and employers. They, too, should step outside of their comfort zone and explore smaller markets where they can share their talent, culture, and different perspective.

You once gave a speech: “If I Knew Then What I Know Now: How to Sharpen Professional Skills for Every Career.” I’m curious, what would you tell your younger self to better prepare yourself today?

Be fearless, yet calculated in approaching new goals or tasks. Never stop learning. Be patient; success is a journey, not an endpoint. Help others succeed as others have helped you.

You also gave a speech: “What Rock Stars, Young Lawyers, and In-House Counsel Can Teach You about Social Media, Practice Development, and Ethics.” What three main things should lawyers know about social media and practice development and ethics?

If there is one central theme in my ABA experience is that when opportunity knocks, you should answer. Judge Elizabeth S. Stong (U.S. Bankruptcy Court EDNY) and Professor Jonathan Lipson (Temple University Beasley School of Law) conceived the program idea and kindly asked me to chair the program on this timely subject. I was joined by an all-star panel featuring Business Law Advisor and rock star Paula Boggs (former Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Law and Corporate Affairs at Starbucks Corporation), U.S. Magistrate Judge Mac McCoy (U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida), Manny Alvarez (General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Affirm, Inc.), Shara M. Chang (Counsel, BuckleySandler LLP), and John Hellerman (Partner, Hellerman Baretz Communications LLC).

In our Social Media 101 crash course, we emphasized that privacy settings are not substitutes for common sense, regardless if your profession requires business development or not. Your reputation is always at stake. Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook can be a land of opportunity or equally filled with threats. Since the internet has radically transformed the way we get our news and more people are relying on alternate online sources to obtain information, attorneys should be cognizant of the various benefits associated with each platform and strategically develop, package, and share their content with a target audience.

With regard to ethics, the intersection between legal ethics regulation and social media is largely uncharted territory and the landscape changes constantly. The Rules of Professional Conduct that apply to your day-to-day legal practice also apply to professional or business activities on social media. Active users of the various social media platforms must actively consider what they are doing with social media, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and how all of the ethics rules potentially apply in light of those considerations.

You’ve been very involved with the ABA. What’s the value of the ABA for young lawyers?

I was very fortunate to have discovered the ABA Business Law Section early in my first year of law school. I was part of a small cohort of diverse attorneys that received a Business Law Section scholarship where we were honored at the spring meeting in Denver, Colorado. Upon arrival, I was first introduced to Lynne Barr who was the Section Chair and it was immediately apparent that she, her leadership team, and the Section members were invested in our academic success and our future as members of the profession. The spring meeting was truly a life-defining moment for me because it helped conceptualize my ambition to become a successful business lawyer, Section leader, and champion of diversity initiatives. The Section empowered me to thrive and, after seven years and four different leadership roles, I look forward to the journey ahead.

As Vice Chair of the Young Lawyer Committee (YLC), I welcome the opportunity to highlight the value added by membership in the Business Law Section. I begin with our value proposition, which is our phenomenal membership. We belong to a global network of highly accomplished business lawyers whose diverse experiences transcend traditional practice, judicial, corporate, academic, and public service roles. Next, I hope to temper someone’s anxiety, as it can be daunting to immerse yourself in this massive, unknown environment. And that’s where the YLC comes in, because we exist to help young lawyers navigate over 50 substantive and administrative committees to find the best fit. Finally, I invite young lawyers to walk this journey with me because the true value is realized by their active participation in creating CLE programs, publishing articles, and establishing life-long friendships.

What advice would you give to law school students?

The legal job market has improved, but many recent graduates and young lawyers still face challenges in securing employment. Academic success is critical, but establishing a network is equally important and often overlooked. Students should begin to their professional reputation and brand as early as their 1L year. The ABA offers a wealth of opportunities for students and young lawyers to get involved, develop their leadership skills, and find mentors along the way. Mentors have been crucial to my personal and professional development, so I would encourage everyone to join a network where they can surround themselves with honest and constructive critics.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am grateful to have become a member of the Business Law Section, and for the Section leadership’s continued faith and trust in my ability to add value to the membership and profession. I am in indebted to so many wonderful people that I have met in this journey, and it would be very remiss of me if I did not especially thank Judge Gail Andler, Doneene Damon, Nicole Harris, Jacqueline Parker, Agnes Bundy Scanlan, Judge Elizabeth S. Stong, and countless others who have served as the bedrock to my continued success.

Thank you so much!