L-R: Nicole Kupupika, Sigourney Norman, Valerie Hammel, and Enri Cela
The snowstorm that walloped the East Coast in early March was no match for students from the Law School’s Securities Arbitration Clinic, who braved the elements and navigated transportation snarls to make it to a meeting of the Investor Advisory Committee (IAC) at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington, D.C.
The student group, which included, Brendan Gibson '19, Nicole Kupupika '18, and Sigourney Norman '19, observed as the IAC focused its discussion on preventing retail investor fraud and combating the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. It also discussed funding sources for law school clinics, and made recommendations that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the SEC, and the state securities regulators consider providing this crucial support.
“We attended the IAC meeting with clinic students from other law schools,” Gibson says, “and we were asked to stand up in turn so the IAC members could acknowledge us. That really brought home that the work we do as student clinicians is far reaching. At the same time, the IAC’s discussion of investor fraud linked the real world matters we help clients navigate at the clinic with the political workings of the SEC. I got an excellent sense of where regulatory efforts are heading, knowledge I will use as I continue my education at St. John’s Law and move into the profession.”
The St. John’s students also met with SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and SEC Commissioners Kara M. Stein, Hester M. Peirce, and Michael S. Piwowar, who complimented their work in the clinic. “I felt so honored to represent St. John’s Law in this way,” says Norman. “I had the chance to speak directly with Commissioner Peirce about the invaluable opportunity the clinic affords students. We gain hands-on experience and internalize complex securities laws while helping people in a material way.”
The next day, Enri Cela '18 and Valerie Hammel '19 joined Kupupika and Norman in D.C. for the annual Hill Day sponsored by the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA). They accompanied PIABA members to meetings with congressional staffers and spoke about issues concerning retail investors.
“Our students made a great impression on the practicing attorneys, and represented St. John’s Law well,” says Professor Christine Lazaro, director of the Securities Arbitration Clinic. “The experience on Capitol Hill, and the entire two days, made their work in the clinic so much more meaningful because they were able to identify their place in the broader community of those concerned with investor protection. It took the work outside of the Law School, and reinforced that what we do in the clinic matters.”