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T. Harris Collier

Trustmark’s long-serving general counsel retires

By TED CARTER

Jackson’s First National Bank, predecessor to today’s Trustmark National Bank, elevated T. Harris Collier from staff attorney to general counsel 36 years ago.

Collier’s appointment set him on a career in which banking went well beyond a traditional role of taking deposits and making loans. Geographic restrictions fell and so did limits on the lines of business banks could pursue.

The new opportunities brought new risks and new regulations. It fell to Collier, a Brandon native and Mississippi College Law School alum, to assure Trustmark correctly navigated the legalities of the changing banking landscape.

Collier joined the bank’s credit department in 1973 after receiving a finance degree from Ole Miss and moved to the legal department after getting his law degree in 1975. He retires today as general counsel, secretary of the corporation and senior vice president, ending 42 years with the bank.

“The people at Trustmark have made my years around here really enjoyable,” he said in an interview last week.

“It’s just been a wonderful culture.”

Replacement Granville Tate Jr. comes to Trustmark after 30 years with the Jackson law firm of Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, where he chaired the firm’s financial institutions practice. In addition to general counsel, Tate will serve as secretary of the corporation and executive vice president.

Major issues Collier worked with at the start of his Trustmark career included federal legislation that sought to increase consumer protections. Along with the Consumer Protection Act, the new laws included the Truth in Lending Act and a toughening of Community Reinvestment Act provisions. “They put teeth into it,” Collier said of Congress.

Today, banks must have high grades in community reinvestment compliance in order to gain federal approval to acquire other banks or merge, Collier said.

“The second large law changes were the branching and interstate banking law” changes, Collier said.
The first opportunity for expansions in Mississippi came with the state’s repeal of restrictions that prohibited banks in the state from opening branches more than 100 miles from their headquarters. Those type restrictions were common in the early 1970s, with only a dozen states allowing unrestricted intrastate branching.

“We began to acquire a lot of banks outside of Jackson,” Collier said, noting First National changed its name to Trustmark in 1985.

With federal interstate banking restrictions lifted, Trustmark made its first venture out of state in 2002, moving into the Texas Panhandle. Today, the $12.4 billion Trustmark is in five states and has more than 200 offices.

With replacement of the Depression era Glass-Steagall Act with 1999’s Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act giving banks a green light to move beyond traditional banking, Trustmark set up an insurance sales operation and began offering wealth management services.

More recently, Collier and thousands of other banking lawyers have busied themselves guiding their banks’ compliance with the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

First came limits on interchange fees, or swipe card fees, credit card companies and banks with assets of $1 billion and above can charge retailers. Next came revamps of mortgage rules, including more stringent requirements for residential mortgage loans to receive legal protections. “They clamped down very hard on mortgages,” Collier said, and noted the new rules required all mortgage originators to gain mortgage broker certification.

In October, Dodd-Frank brought new disclosure rules on residential mortgage in the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The complexities of the rule have required Trustmark and other banks to limit outside legal help in mortgage closings to attorneys with certification in the new integrated disclosure rules, according to Collier.

Trustmark has also done extensive retraining of employees in its mortgage division, he noted.
Dodd-Frank also directs the Consumer Financial Protection Agency to perform regulatory examinations of Trustmark and other banks with assets of $10 billion or above. The examinations will focus on steps the institutions have taken to comply with the new consumer protections. “We are preparing for that,” Collier said.

A lot of the effort has been exhausting, but Collier said he thinks the U.S. banking sector is “pretty much there” on Dodd-Frank compliance. But the work will continue, he said, predicting new rules on bank secrecy and anti-terrorism measures are ahead.

On the horizon is Basel III and its new bank capitalization regulations, including new rules on what qualifies as bank capital. The definition the international regulatory body behind Basel III puts on bank capital, “might be different from what Wall Street or a hometown bank like us think it is,” Collier said.

Collier said he has no immediate plans for his retirement other than having “a lot of books to read” and doing some traveling, especially visits to see his grandchildren in Phoenix. He and his wife plan to remain in the Jackson area.

“I’ll be doing some other things I like to do,” he said. “I look forward to volunteer work.”

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