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2019, September - MEMBER SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: MICHAEL UNDERWOOD

09/03/2019 8:57 PM | Anonymous

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: MICHAEL UNDERWOOD

MEET R. MICHAEL UNDERWOOD OF FSDA CORPORATE MEMBER, BUCHANAN INGERSOLL & ROONEY P.C.

We are speaking today with Mike Underwood of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney P.C., in its Tallahassee, Florida office.

Mike, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Tennessee and spent summers there, but I was raised on the Florida Space Coast, graduating from Satellite High School in Satellite Beach in 1968. I avoided the draft by dumb luck, worked briefly on the Apollo moon launch program and edited an underground newspaper before enrolling at USF in Tampa. From there, I transferred to the University at Buffalo to earn a degree in philosophy. In large part due to the influence of the Watergate hearings, I decided to go to law school and managed to get in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Through law school, I worked part-time for a title insurance company, assisted a law professor to write a new judicial article for the Tennessee Constitution and served as Research Editor of the Tennessee Law Review. After graduation, I returned to Florida and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1980.

Tell us a little about your experience with the predecessor to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.

The predecessor of OFR was the Office of the State Comptroller, also known as the Florida Department of Banking and Finance. Both the Cabinet position of Comptroller and the Department were abolished in 2002, replaced respectively by the Florida CFO and the Department of Financial Services, of which OFR is an autonomous unit headed by the Governor and Cabinet. From 1982 through 1990, I served Comptroller Gerald Lewis as Deputy General Counsel and Chief Legislative Counsel. In these positions, I prosecuted oil and gas fraud cases in Florida, served as counsel to a Task Force on Securities Regulation chaired by former Governor Rubin Askew and wrote many statutes and rules applicable to banking, securities and consumer finance. I was additionally appointed by Attorney General Jim Smith as a Special Assistant Attorney General to appear for the state twice in the U. S. Supreme Court.

Tell us a little about your current legal practice and the types of clients that you represent.

I became Of Counsel to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in 2014 when it combined with Fowler White Boggs where I was a shareholder. Today I work in the firm’s Litigation practice, chiefly in administrative law, representing business clients before government. I also serve in the Firm’s Blockchain Practice Group and Financial Services Industry Group. My clients include broker-dealers, investment advisers and their associated persons as well as banks, insurers and financial technology firms. I appear before OFR, FINRA, SEC, FinCEN, OCC, the Federal Reserve Board and other state and federal regulators.

Why is it important for Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. to be a member of the FSDA?

I have been a member of FSDA for approaching thirty years and a member of its Board of Governors for a dozen years. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney succeeded Fowler White Boggs as a corporate member. Since the merger in 2014, senior partners of the firm like Hala Sandridge and Stan Yorsz have taken part in FSDA events. We regard these as networking opportunities, keeping up with the current and potential clients and staying informed about issues of concern to the industry we serve.

I know that you are very involved with Big Bend Cares in Tallahassee. Please tell us a little bit about this organization and your involvement.

Big Bend Cares is a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that provides education and comprehensive support to people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. It serves the mainly rural eight-county area surrounding Tallahassee in the Florida Panhandle. My wife, Zilpha, has been a volunteer at Big Bend Cares for many years and a few years ago, after a career in journalism, joined the staff. During the holiday season, the Tallahassee office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney adopts a family served by Big Bend Cares to donate gifts through its Holiday Angels program. In this photo our conference room was filled with presents for a family with five children ages 5 to 14 whose dark and difficult holiday was, we hope, brightened by our efforts. 

Mike, thanks for taking time to speak with us today.

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