OBA Ethics Counsel
Ethics Opinion No. 231
Adopted June 19, 1965
In the periodic statement of condition published by some of the savings and loan associations in Oklahoma there customarily appears the name of a firm of attorneys or that of a single attorney identified as "counsel." If such attorney or firm of attorneys is also engaged in the general practice of law, is such a listing proper?
This question has been asked of the Committee on several occasions. Because of the long-standing practice and cogent argument to the effect that there is a distinction between counsel for savings and loan asssociations [sic] and counsel for business corporations or even banks, based upon the restrictions placed upon counsel for savings and loan associations by law and the similarity between the "statement of condition" published by the building and loan association and a prospectus submitted to investors pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission, there has been such a division within the Ethics Committee of the Association (based also upon the awareness by members of the Committee of the high ethical standards of the members of the Bar who support such practice) that no opinion has been possible heretofore.
Fortuitously for the Committee, the exact question has been submitted to the Standing Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association; and in a recent opinion, designated Informal Decision No. 645, a digest of which appears in the July issue of the American Bar Association Journal at page 686, the ABA Committee held without equivocation that the publication of the name of the general counsel of a savings and loan association in a newspaper advertisement or statement of condition is prohibited as a violation of Canon 27 of the Canons of Legal Ethics.
It is, therefore, our opinion that if the name of the general counsel of a corporation or banking or savings and loan association appears in any newspaper advertisement or letterhead, or in any publication that may reach the general public, it is a violation of Canon 35 and of Canon 27; and, therefore, is prohibited.
This opinion should not be construed as being critical of the practice of identifying an attorney-director of a corporation as such in published lists of directors of any corporation where the occupation of all of the directors is so indicated. Such listing should not, however, identify such attorney as "Counsel for the Company" unless he is a full-time employee of the corporation.