In 1982, Cawley and a small team started what was then called the Maryland Bank National Association, spun off from Maryland National bank and operating out of a converted A&P supermarket in Ogletown, Delaware. The next year, Cawley began upon the concept of affinity credit cards when he persuaded the Georgetown University alumni association to sponsor a credit card for its members.
MBNA went public in January 1991. Cawley focused on the operations side of the company while Alfred Lerner, the chairman and CEO, managed the company's finances. In 1997, the company hired Kroll, Inc. as an outside investigator to investigate work paid for by the company at two of Cawley's homes, which included the construction of a 16-car garage to showcase some of his classic cars, but ultimately reported no wrongdoing.
Friction started a board of directors' meeting in January 2002, when the board, aware of the recent corporate scandals over executive compensation, rejected Cawley's suggestions regarding compensation. That October, Cawley was promoted to chief executive following Lerner's death, but by November, Cawley was so frustrated with the board's rejection of his demands that he decided to retire.
Cawley was honored with a Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Maine for his efforts in establishing the Northeast Regional Marketing Center[clarification needed] in Camden, Maine in the early 1990s. This marked a tie to Cawley's past, as his grandfather had once operated dress factories in Camden and nearby Belfast, and Cawley was familiar with the Camden area because he had spent summers nearby at his family's Lincolnville Beach estate.[dead link]
Cawley currently resides in Florida.
- "MBNA founder Charles Cawley delivers inaugural UD Presidential Lecture". UDaily. University of Delaware. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
- Bergman, Lowell; McGeehan, Patrick (2004-03-07). "Expired: How a Credit King Was Cut Off; Co-Founder of MBNA Meets an Anxious Board, And Loses". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
- "Charles Cawley honored with Doctor of Humane Letters degree". Hutchinson Center. University of Maine. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
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