Charles Cawley

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Charles M. Cawley
Born(1940-08-15)August 15, 1940
DiedNovember 18, 2015(2015-11-18) (aged 75)
EducationSaint Benedict's Preparatory School
Alma materGeorgetown University
OccupationFinancial services executive
Years active1963–2003
Known forFounder of MBNA
Spouse(s)Julie Murphy

Charles Michael Cawley (August 15, 1940 – November 18, 2015) was a businessman and founding member of the bank MBNA.[1][2] Born in Massachusetts, he was raised in New Jersey, was educated at Saint Benedict's Preparatory School and was a graduate of Georgetown University. He created MBNA in 1982, and it was acquired by Bank of America in 2006.


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.[3] 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.[3]

MBNA went public in January 1991.[3] Cawley focused on the operations side of the company while Alfred Lerner, the chairman and CEO, managed the company's finances.[3] 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.[3]

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.[3] 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.[3]


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. Cawley was also familiar with the Camden area because he had spent summers nearby at his family's Lincolnville Beach estate.[4]

Cawley was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2005.[citation needed] He died at his home in Camden, Maine on November 18, 2015 at the age of 75.[1]


Cawley made political donations to Joe Biden, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.[5]


Cawley is mentioned in The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace as a significant donor to Cawley's alma mater, Saint Benedict's Preparatory School. He was so taken by Peace at an awards dinner during Peace's senior year at the school that Cawley paid for Peace's tuition to Yale, where Peace had been accepted.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Markell: Cawley was a 'pioneer'". delawareonline. 18 November 2015.
  2. ^ "MBNA founder Charles Cawley delivers inaugural UD Presidential Lecture". UDaily. University of Delaware. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  4. ^ "Charles Cawley honored with Doctor of Humane Letters degree". Hutchinson Center. University of Maine. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Charles Cawley". The Economist. 12 December 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  6. ^ Hobbs, Jeff. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. First Scribner hardcover edition. Scribner, 2014.