L to R: Alberto Arevalo, Associate Director, Office of International Affairs; Richard Humes, Associate General Counsel; and Eun Ah Choi, Associate Director, Division of Investment Management. (Photo courtesy of the SEC)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hosted more than 25 LCLD Fellows for a day-long Learning Experience on November 5, 2015, at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. Fifteen agency employees, including Commissioner Kara Stein, briefed the Fellows on the SEC’s approach to public service, leadership, and the diversity of its workforce.
“At the SEC, we wear a lot of hats related to the financial industry,” said Stephen Cohen (pictured at right, below), Associate Director of the Division of Enforcement, which regulates capital markets and promotes transparency both domestically and overseas. “Having people with diverse backgrounds is, quite frankly, the only way we can solve problems for American investors.”
The agency also works cooperatively with the FBI, the Department of Justice, and regulatory agencies in other countries to bring white-collar criminals to justice.
Commissioner Kara Stein (pictured below), who also serves as Chair of the SEC Diversity Council, described regulatory reforms enacted after the Great Recession of 2008. These reforms included the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which Stein helped to draft and which created oversight bodies designed to facilitate the prevention of future financial crises and make the financial system more resilient.
The Fellows also heard from Andrew Ceresney, Director of the Division of Enforcement, who expects his employees to be leaders in their own right. “They have a lot of power, as their job is to recommend which decisions need to be made,” Ceresney said. “So I hire people who are intelligent, and exhibit high energy and excellent judgment.”
Other speakers reflected on the qualities they admire in leaders, including the ability to motivate others, a willingness to help the people they lead, and teaching how to reach goals instead of merely setting them.
With just 4,200 employees, the SEC is tiny compared to other federal agencies. Yet, as the day’s panelists emphasized, the SEC places a premium on a diverse workforce.
“In the investigative process, we talk to a lot of witnesses and build trust with them,” said Jeremiah Williams, Senior Counsel of the Division of Enforcement. To defeat pyramid schemes in court, for example, SEC counsel must overcome everything from language barriers to a general distrust of the federal government—and diversity helps to build rapport.
“In soliciting comments on SEC rules, we rely on having perspectives of people from different backgrounds,” added Leila Bham, Senior Special Counsel of the Office of the General Counsel.
The Fellows also heard from Rick Fleming, the SEC’s Investor Advocate—a new position created as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act.
“Only half of U.S. households have any kind of long-term financial security, including 401(k)s, and only 25 percent of those households have $10,000 or more in their accounts,” Fleming said. As the Investor Advocate, he serves as a “watchdog” for middle-class investors—pension planners, pooled-account entities, and individuals who just want to save for retirement.
Other SEC attorneys cited this commitment to public service as a motivator for working at the agency. “Any time I spend away from my kids has to be meaningful,” said Eun Ah Choi, Associate Director of the Division of Investment Management. “That’s why I work for the SEC.”
“I’m impressed and pleasantly surprised by how many people work at the SEC because they are committed to public service,” said 2015 Fellow Lillian Tsu, a Partner at Hogan Lovells US LLP.
“The SEC Learning Experience provided a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of the SEC,” added 2015 Fellow Mahsa Parangi (pictured left in photo at right), who serves as Vice President & Corporate Counsel at Prudential Financial, Inc. “I was impressed by the depth of knowledge and diverse backgrounds of the SEC speakers. Also, it was great to spend the day with LCLD colleagues working in the securities and asset management industries.”
LCLD extends a special thanks to the SEC’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion for organizing this exceptional event, including Director Pamela Gibbs, Laura Stomski, Evelyn Williams-White, and Enforcement Attorney Rami Sibay. We also thank all of the speakers for sharing their time and insights with the Fellows.
Please see the "2015 SEC Learning Experience Agenda" link below for the event program. This program is an example of the type of programming LCLD offers its Fellows.
Photography courtesy of the SEC.