Lawyer, key aide to Paul Vol­cker cur­tailed risky lend­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - MICHAEL BRADFIELD, 83 BY BART BARNES new­so­bits@wash­

Michael Bradfield, an international lawyer who helped bring the U.S. dol­lar off the gold stan­dard, cur­tailed the lend­ing prac­tices of big banks fol­low­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and re­stored to their de­scen­dants the Swiss bank ac­counts of Jews who per­ished in the Holo­caust, died July 26 at a hos­pi­tal in New York City. He was 83.

The cause was acute leukemia, said a son, An­drew Bradfield.

Mr. Bradfield held sev­eral high posts in fed­eral agen­cies — in­clud­ing gen­eral coun­sel to the Fed­eral Re­serve Board and the Fed­eral De­posit In­sur­ance Corp. — and he was a part­ner in pri­vate law firms, in­clud­ing Jones Day as well as Cole, Corette & Bradfield. He was widely known in the up­per ech­e­lons of law and fi­nance, but he did most of his work out of the public spot­light.

In gov­ern­ment ser­vice and the pri­vate sec­tor, Mr. Bradfield was an of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial pro­tege of Paul A. Vol­cker, a top U.S. econ­o­mist who was chair­man of the Fed­eral Re­serve Board from 1979 to 1987.

In 1982 and 1983, Vol­cker said, Mr. Bradfield helped avert a Latin Amer­i­can debt cri­sis, mainly through talks and diplo­macy with bankers. He per­suaded Latin Amer­i­can banks to be more strin­gent in their lend­ing prac­tices. In turn he per­suaded the cred­i­tor banks of those overex­tended banks to be more for­giv­ing of pay­back on out­stand­ing loans.

In 1996, when Vol­cker be­came head of the com­mit­tee to in­ves­ti­gate dor­mant Swiss bank ac­counts of Jews who died in the Holo­caust, Mr. Bradfield — then a se­nior part­ner at Jones Day — joined him. “He was Vol­cker’s right-hand man,” said U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ed­ward R. Kor­man, who presided over a law­suit in­volv­ing the dor­mant ac­counts. “The Swiss had de­stroyed many of the records,” he said. Mr. Bradfield “was per­sis­tent in lo­cat­ing the ac­counts.”

In 1998, the law­suit was set­tled for $1.25 bil­lion. That sum in­cluded com­pen­sa­tion for looted prop­erty and slave la­bor dur­ing World War II.

As gen­eral coun­sel to the FDIC in 2009 and 2010, Mr. Bradfield was “crit­i­cal in over­see­ing work on reg­u­la­tory mat­ters” in the pe­riod of fi­nan­cial jit­ters fol­low­ing the near col­lapse of the fi­nan­cial sys­tem, said FDIC Chair­man Martin J. Gru­en­berg. He was also crit­i­cal in sup­port­ing the Dodd-Frank leg­is­la­tion’s “Vol­cker Rule,” which pro­hib­ited bank hold­ing com­pa­nies from en­gag­ing in risky trad­ing. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed the leg­is­la­tion in 2010 in re­sponse to the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of two years ear­lier.

Michael Bradfield was born in New York City on July 24, 1934, and grad­u­ated in 1956 from Union Col­lege in Sch­enec­tady, N.Y. He re­ceived a law de­gree and a mas­ter’s de­gree in international af­fairs from Columbia Univer­sity, both in 1960.

He joined the Trea­sury Depart­ment in 1962 and in 1968 be­came as­sis­tant gen­eral coun­sel for international af­fairs. He was serv­ing in that ca­pac­ity in the sum­mer of 1971 when he got a call from the Se­cret Ser­vice. Pres­i­dent Richard M. Nixon and top fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers wanted him at Camp David, the pres­i­den­tial re­treat in Mary­land. A car would be by mo­men­tar­ily to pick him up at home.

From that meet­ing — over the week­end of Aug. 13 to 15, 1971 — came a se­ries of eco­nomic mea­sures, in­clud­ing the can­cel­la­tion of the con­vert­ibil­ity of the U.S. dol­lar to gold. Mr. Bradfield’s re­spon­si­bil­ity was to work out the le­gal de­tails of this pol­icy, which also in­cluded a freeze on wages and prices, and a 10 per­cent sur­charge on im­ports, to curb in­fla­tion and pre­vent a run on the dol­lar.

Since 2013, Mr. Bradfield had been gen­eral coun­sel and a board mem­ber of the Vol­cker Al­liance, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­port­ing an im­prove­ment in gov­ern­ment ef­fec­tive­ness.

In 1961, he mar­ried Inai Yuh. Be­sides his wife, of Bethesda, Md., sur­vivors in­clude two sons, An­drew Bradfield and An­thony Bradfield, both of New York City; and four grand­chil­dren.

Be­sides his home in Bethesda, he also had a res­i­dence in Mercers­burg, Pa., where he was a small-time cat­tle farmer.

He had been a se­nior part­ner at Jones Day for 20 years be­fore leav­ing in 2009 to serve as FDIC gen­eral coun­sel. His Jones Day years had over­lapped with his work on the search for Swiss bank ac­counts of Holo­caust vic­tims.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the Swiss bankers did not ex­tend him a warm wel­come.

Back at Jones Day, his part­ners pre­sented him with a com­mem­o­ra­tive T-shirt that read “Wanted in Switzer­land!”


Michael Bradfield, an international lawyer who helped steer the U.S. econ­omy through a se­ries of fi­nan­cial crises while work­ing at the Fed­eral Re­serve and else­where in the Dis­trict, did most of his work out of the public spot­light.

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