TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (8/13/09)--A man who served 25 years as general counsel to the Florida Bankers Association has been appointed Florida's commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation, which oversees credit unions and other financial institutions. J. Thomas Cardwell was appointed Tuesday by the Financial Services Commission, comprised of Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet. He will succeed Linda Charity, who was acting commissioner since May 27 (Jacksonville Business Journal Aug. 11). Cardwell also served as CEO of Akerman Senterfiit, one of the state's largest firms. He chaired the law firm's financial institutions practice. In March, he was named to the Florida Supreme Court's Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force, which will make recommendations about court dealings with the mortgage foreclosure crisis in Florida (Tallahassee.com Aug. 12. According to Amy Jowers, vice president of communications in the Tallahassee office of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, the league has no history involving Cardwell since 2002 when she joined the Florida Credit Union League. "Mr. Cardwell has stated that he intends to enforce the laws fairly," Jowers told News Now. "We expect nothing less since the purpose of his position and OFR is to ensure the protection of Florida's consumers against financial fraud with the consumers' best interests in mind." Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Tuesday she expects Cardwell to "bring a strong enforcement mentality and responsible approach to" the office (The Miami Herald Aug. 12). Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando) who serves on the Finance and Tax Council, questioned whether a banking industry advocate could act on behalf of consumers, noting that the banking industry has been an opponent to some of the most basic consumer-protection reforms. The position became vacant 11 months ago when Don Saxon was forced to resign. A series in The Miami Herald revealed that the agency had failed to perform required background checks for mortgage brokers and allowed criminals--including bank robbers, embezzlers and convicted racketeers--to work as mortgage brokers and fleece consumers during the mortgage boom. Cardwell said his only priority for now is to ensure the office operates competently and fairly.