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Title: Executive Vice President and General Counsel Location: Houston Age: 48 Mike the Mechanic Michael C. Balog says he’s a mechanic: He sees a problem and he fixes it. “You find the cow in the ditch, the first thing you do is get the cow out of the ditch, then you figure out how to keep the cow from getting in the ditch again,” he quotes from an old parable. When Aegis Mortgage Corp. CEO Rick Thompson expanded the company and raised capital in 1999, he knew he needed an in-house lawyer to help him solve problems and move forward. Balog was the first person he considered, Thompson says. “I was looking for somebody that was smart and strong and that I liked and felt we could grow with. Mike has gone beyond my expectations for sure,” Thompson says. Balog had plenty of banking experience, from years with Bank of America and First Gibraltar Bank, and plenty of experience juggling. He attended night school at the University of Houston while working full-time as credit manager at the Steel Corporation of Texas. Both experiences served him well at the legal helm of Aegis, a rapidly growing lender. When he joined the company in 1999, Aegis had 150 employees in nine locations. The lender now has 3,200 employees in 150 locations. Balog has expanded the legal department by adding three other lawyers. “Our company will make over 100,000 loans this year. That generates a ton of legal work of all varieties,” Thompson says. Increasing the workforce to 3,200 so quickly was no small feat, either. At one point, the company bought a distressed mortgage-lending operation with 1,100 employees and, four months later, acquired another with 400 employees. Balog has had to grow his expertise just as quickly. When he was at Bank of America, he says, “There was an expert on pretty much everything you needed to know. Here, there aren’t any experts. You can go outside if you want to, but sometimes it’s neither time [nor] cost efficient. You have to develop a broad knowledge of issues,” Balog says. One area he happily will avoid is litigation, because he says there are too many variables. “It is far too reactive a practice, because you can go in on Monday morning having your day planned, and somebody throws some piece of paper at you and you have to spend half your day or all of your day working on that,” he says. Balog says he sees the benefit of having some courtroom experience under a lawyer’s belt, but adds: “We never want to go to court.” Instead, Balog says, he takes care of things on the front end. Thompson concurs: “What makes Mike special as an in-house counsel is that he really is able to blend the legal aspect of his job with the business side of things.” Balog is one of four top advisers who Thompson trusts to make decisions on his behalf. Notes Thompson, “You only have a very few people that you feel that you can delegate things to and know that they have such strong shoulders. I personally don’t have to worry about them.”

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