Bank Watch

WSJ: Ex-Bank of America lawyer lost job over relationship with Fannie CEO

Tim Mayopoulos testifies on Capitol Hill in 2009. Last month, Fifth Third Bancorp fired its general counsel because she was having a romantic relationship Mayopoulos, the chief executive of Fannie Mae, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Fifth Third’s general counsel, Heather Russell, and Mayopoulos both worked in Charlotte for Bank of America at earlier points in their careers.
Tim Mayopoulos testifies on Capitol Hill in 2009. Last month, Fifth Third Bancorp fired its general counsel because she was having a romantic relationship Mayopoulos, the chief executive of Fannie Mae, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Fifth Third’s general counsel, Heather Russell, and Mayopoulos both worked in Charlotte for Bank of America at earlier points in their careers. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fifth Third Bancorp last month fired its general counsel, a former lawyer for Bank of America, because she was having a romantic relationship with the CEO of mortgage giant Fannie Mae, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The relationship was with Tim Mayopoulos, himself a former general counsel for Charlotte-based Bank of America who was named Fannie’s CEO in 2012.

Last month, Fifth Third confirmed Heather Russell was no longer with the bank, which she joined in September, because of a “personal matter.” At the time, Fifth Third said the matter represented a conflict of interest but declined to elaborate.

On Wednesday, Russell provided The Wall Street Journal a statement that said she “proactively informed Fifth Third’s senior management about my personal relationship with Tim Mayopoulos, and they terminated me as a result of it,” the Journal reported.

“During my time at Fifth Third, I never had any interactions or dealings with Fannie Mae in any regard, and there was never any conflict of interest,” the statement said, according to the Journal.

On Thursday, a Fannie Mae spokesman provided the Observer with this statement:

“Mr. Mayopoulos previously disclosed the relationship to Fannie Mae’s Office of Compliance and Ethics. The Office of Compliance and Ethics provided appropriate direction to Mr. Mayopoulos, and he followed it.”

“Further, Mr. Mayopoulos has no involvement in Fannie Mae’s relationship with Fifth Third Bank,” the statement says. “Quite simply, there is no conflict of interest under Fannie Mae’s corporate policies.”

Russell, 45, who previously went by the last name Russell Koenig, is separated from her husband, the Journal reported.

According to her LinkedIn page, she worked from 2006 to 2011 at Bank of America, where she was in the company’s headquarters city. At Bank of America, she served as lead counsel for a variety of divisions, including global risk, supervisory and regulatory relations, deposit and debit products and electronic banking, Fifth Third said in announcing her hiring last year.

Mayopoulos, 57, was named Bank of America's general counsel in 2004 but was fired in 2008 and replaced with Brian Moynihan, who became CEO in 2010.

That change came as Bank of America was downsizing during its Merrill Lynch acquisition, and it allowed the company to retain Moynihan as a top executive. Mayopoulos became general counsel at Fannie a few months after leaving Bank of America before rising to CEO at the mortgage company. He still has a home in Charlotte, according to property records.

Mayopoulos, who is separated from his wife, disclosed the relationship to Fannie Mae’s compliance and ethics office in March, according to people familiar with the matter, the Journal reported. The mortgage giant said no further action was required so long as business decisions with Fifth Third didn’t come before Mayopoulos, the people said, according to the Journal.

Observer staff writer Rick Rothacker contributed.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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