When I hung up the phone after talking to Barefoot Bankhead, one of our longtime Trustees, a few weeks ago, I thought, “Wow. He might be the nicest guy I’ve never met.” I asked Wendy McCormack, our Associate Executive Director, Operations, whether he was as nice in person as he seemed, and she replied, “YES. To the core.” Barefoot recently announced his plan to retire from Deloitte and to step down from the NITA Board next May—and so, the time is nigh for us to get to know him better by putting him through a quick round of “Asked and Answered.” Though his departure is still about a year off, we already know we’ll miss Barefoot’s contribution to and support of NITA, and, of course, his endless good cheer.
You are retiring from Deloitte at the end of May 2017. What do you think you’ll do your first day of retirement?
After reading the local paper and Wall Street Journal over breakfast on the patio, go play golf. I can’t ever remember actually reading the paper and having breakfast outside on the patio before going to work.
With the word “bank” in your name, it’s almost as if you were fated to work in accounting. What’s the earliest you remember realizing you had a head for figures and that you could to put it to good use in your career?
I got into accounting strictly by accident since I entered college planning to become a lawyer. My counselor advised me the best undergraduate majors would be either business or political science. Since business did not require any foreign language classes (I had taken Spanish classes since the seventh grade), I chose business. Business majors had to take accounting classes. That is how I was introduced to accounting. It came easy for me, and I enjoyed it. After four years of college, I decided against three more years of school and joined a public accounting firm.
While we’re on the subject of your name, let’s get the inevitable question out of the way. What’s the story behind Barefoot?
I was named after Judge Barefoot Sanders. He and my dad were classmates at the University of Texas. It is Judge Sanders’s middle name, and it is my middle name. It is a family name in Judge Sanders’s family, as he was a junior. It was his grandmother’s maiden name.
And what’s the W. stand for?
Wallace. That was my mother’s boss’s name.
The first thing I noticed about your CV is that you aren’t a lawyer at all. You’re a CPA and a partner at Deloitte in Dallas. How did you end up hanging out with so many trial lawyers? Just lucky?
A friend at Navigant Consulting encouraged me to get into litigation consulting about twenty years ago, at the height of the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s. I had spent several years auditing financial institutions, two years in an accounting fellowship, then nine years working in banking. Navigant was working with the Department of Justice defending the Winstar cases, and my friend thought that my background and resumé would be a good fit for the work Navigant was doing with DOJ. After nine years with Navigant, I joined Deloitte in 2007.
And what brought you to NITA in particular?
I was referred to Mike Ginsberg by Anthony Jackson, one of my partners at Deloitte whose dad, Tom Jackson, is a partner in the Dallas office of Jones Day. At the time, NITA wanted to add a second non-attorney to the board, and Anthony thought I would have some interest considering the work I did in litigation support. After a few calls with Mike, I was nominated and elected to the Board.
You’ve served as an expert witness in cases involving professional malpractice, lending practices, and subprime mortgage loans, to name a few. Can you describe a case that has stood out in your memory as being really chewy and interesting to you, perhaps because of its intellectual complexity, the creativity (lawful or no) of one of its parties, or the presence of some other such aspect that intrigued you?
One of the first cases in which I testified was one of the Winstar cases against the United States and is one of the most interesting and satisfying simply because of the parties involved. I was at Navigant at the time and we were working with the Department of Justice. Me notwithstanding, the case included an impressive witness list for both the plaintiff and the defendant. Witnesses for the plaintiff included an individual who is generally credited with creating the mortgage-backed securities market and a finance professor at MIT who co-authored a textbook on corporate finance that is used in many of the major graduate schools of business across the country. Witnesses for the defense included a former Nobel Prize winner in economics and a DOJ attorney who would move on to eventually serve as Attorney General of New Jersey.
I understand that travel looms large in your future. Where are you going, and what do you plan to do while you’re there?
The plan is for my wife and me to fly to a location in the Pacific Northwest (exact location to be determined), rent a small RV, and begin a two-month tour of the northwestern United States and southwestern Canada. Must-stops along the way will be Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Mt. Rainier, Lake Louise, the Calgary Stampede, Jackson Hole/Yellowstone, Sun Valley, Coeur d’Alene, and Great Falls. We will not be on a set schedule. We will stay as long in one place as we want, and I’m sure visit many places we don’t even know about yet. There is no way I could get my wife to spend two months in an RV. But I want to be in a small RV so we can stay overnight somewhere we want to be the next morning and accommodations are not available or convenient.
How did you select your itinerary?
Places I have been briefly such as Yellowstone or Lake Tahoe but didn’t have enough time to enjoy, and places I have only read about or seen pictures but know I want to see such as Lake Louise and the Calgary Stampede. Also, we will visit many places along the way just to see the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
What else do you look forward to in retirement?
Once back from our trip to the Northwest, I intend to see how many days in a row golf can be played without getting bored or frustrated. But I am most excited about our plan to build a second home on a lot we own near Park City, Utah. We will spend three to four months and several holidays each year in the mountains. I also look forward to reading more books. I don’t take much time now to read for pleasure since there is so much to read to keep up professionally.
What is one thing that most improves your daily life?
Exercising. One of my best habits has been a regular exercise routine for most of my life. There is no better feeling than finishing an early morning workout knowing that is behind me and feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?
To play the piano. My mom tried to get me to take piano lessons when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t do it. It is a decision I regret. Listening to music that includes a piano is enjoyable to me and a great way to unwind.
What makes you nostalgic?
The times my wife and I got to spend with our kids when they were younger. My two sons are now 27 and 24 and though they both live in Dallas, they are both working, and the time we all get to spend together as family is too infrequent. I miss coaching baseball games, walking golf tournaments, or vacationing with the kids and skiing or playing golf.
Enjoy this interview? Find more of our “Asked and Answered” interview posts with NITA personalities here on The Legal Advocate.