My Clinic Story: Alexandra Hughes

By: Alexandra Hughes, Fall 2015 Student Intern

I joined the Investor Advocacy Clinic with little background in securities law and absolutely no idea of what FINRA Arbitration even entailed. Today, I am leaving with a firm understanding of customer disputes in FINRA Arbitration, experience in working directly with real clients, and the capability to draft legal documents. Undoubtedly, Clinic is a steep learning curve.

The Investor Advocacy Clinic has proven a truly unique experience in the otherwise conventional law school curriculum. The Clinic is a safe space to hone legal skills and allows students to essentially throw themselves in the “deep end” of a client case and see what they can do. The Clinic allows students to work in real life firms and gives them much discretion in deciding which direction to push a case. Of course, such discretion does come with responsibility for deadlines and being flexible to meet the needs of clients and opposing counsel, but these skills are invaluable to preparation for the real legal world.

What I enjoyed most about the Clinic was the opportunity to work with real clients. From conducting an interview with a potential client to easing a client’s worries about a contentious answer, I garnered advocacy skills, counseling skills, and intrapersonal skills. Although working with clients can sometimes be difficult, the Clinic provided continuous and varying opportunities for honing these skills.

The Investor Advocacy Clinic has invariably facilitated my transition from law student to future practitioner. The Clinic has helped me develop my analytical skills, legal writing skills, and advocacy skills. Although I will not be practicing securities law after graduation, I know the skills I have learned in Clinic will help prepare me for my entrance into civil defense litigation. For anyone who is considering whether or not to take the Investor Advocacy Clinic, or any other clinic, I would 100% recommend getting involved in the clinical experience. It is a decision you will not regret.

Fraud Case Studies: SEC Innovating in Investor Education

By Christopher Pugh, Fall 2015 Intern

The folks at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have been busy innovating by developing new ways to educate investors on how to spot the red flags of investment fraud. The SEC’s Investor.gov website now has links to Fraud Case Studies that show the scam artists in action. Each case study is a fact pattern that illustrates how a different type of securities fraud scam works.

Currently, there are three case studies that use fictional characters to demonstrate some of the tactics used to scam investors using affinity fraud, Ponzi schemes, and pump and dump schemes. Too Good to Miss, Golden Opportunity, and Inside Scoop each set up the players and then reveals what the potential investor was told by the scam artist before investing in the scam. Finally, each case study ends with a recap of the lessons learned from each hypothetical victim’s ordeal. The Fraud Case Studies are an innovative way to educate the investing public about spotting investment fraud through hypotheticals, which can make difficult concepts more understandable.

For more information on preventing investment fraud, visit the SEC’s Investor.gov website and the SEC’s website at sec.gov.

Beware of Random Lottery Winnings

By Darius Wood, Fall 2015 Student Intern

Today investors are being scammed by phone, email, or mail solicitations informing them that they have won cash, prizes, or other lottery winnings. Usually these scams are contingent on you taking some further action. For example, they may claim “all you have to do” to secure your winnings is to send a small amount of money as some type of processing fee.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal organization that monitors these types of schemes and they will pursue action against persons defrauding individuals. Recently, the FTC shut down a sweepstakes scam targeting seniors, where the fraudsters told them they have won 2 million or more and asked them to send $20-$30 by cash, check, or money order. FINRA has also recently launched a Securities Helpline for Seniors – HELPS to call in and report possible fraudulent incidents. These scams are nothing new and have been occurring for years, but the helpline has shown just how popular these scams are and how many seniors are being affected.

The best way to protect yourself from these types of scams is to decline to participate in them. Individuals should ignore these offers and never send any money for any of these offers to claim some prize or lottery winning that you just won – even if it is small amount.

FINRA Orders Firms to Pay $18 Million in Restitution to Charities and Retirement Accounts

By: Jason Robinson, 2015 Student Intern

On October 27, 2015, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it had ordered five firms to pay restitution payments totaling $18 million. The sanctioned firms and their respective fines were: Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P. – $13.5 million; Stifel Nicolaus & Company, Inc. – $2.9 million; Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC – $1.2 million; AXA Advisors, LLC – $600,000; and Stephens Inc. – $150,000. The fines stem from the firms’ failure to waive mutual fund sales charges for eligible charitable organizations and retirement accounts. To read FINRA’s news release about these sanctions click here. Continue reading