Helping Harmed Investors

By Brook Ptacek, Fall 2018 IAC Student Intern

My clinic story is a year-long project in the making and fortunately for me, it is not over. My story here will continue on until next semester up until the point when I graduate from law school, but it is interesting to look back and see how this all started. I first joined the investor advocacy program unsure of exactly what it was. It was my first year of law school and I wanted to get involved but did not know how. For those of you who are non-lawyers, the first year of law school is essentially taking in a lot of information thrown at you from seasoned professionals and trying to decide, based on the information you heard, which of the paths you most want to follow. For me, I loved everything I heard. I wanted to learn it all, but, practically speaking, I needed to tailor my focus. Coincidentally, at the time I was looking into joining a clinic, my sister was working in finance at a large, well-known bank. I was just fascinated in what she did and the world she lived in and wanted to learn more. Little did I know after signing up for the Investor Advocacy Clinic a whole new world would open up to me.

Before starting in the clinic, I had to complete a pre-requisite course called the Business Arbitration Practicum. This course is where I got my first taste in truly understanding the financial industry and my first time learning of FINRA and mandatory arbitration. Many people know that where there is money, there usually are also some unscrupulous characters. What the Business Arbitration Practicum made clear to me was the pervasiveness of predatory practices that take place in the financial industry. Bottom line: I got mad. How could these people take advantage of hard-working Americans just trying to save up for their retirements? How could these people sleep at night as they emptied investors’ life savings? These are of course some extreme examples, but, nonetheless indicative of the kind of world I had just been exposed to.

A year after that course, this semester, I got to start working on my first cases with the clinic. Now, the stories of fraud and unsuitable investments were no longer stories. These were real people, with real lives, real families, and real hopes and aspirations for their futures. I could put a face to the names of affected parties and I knew it was my calling to do something about it. Maybe it is in my nature as an oldest sibling, but I wanted to help these people, shield them from further harm, and that is exactly what the Investor Advocacy Clinic allowed me, indeed, encouraged me to do. No client too small or case too hard. The point of the Investor Advocacy Clinic is to help those people who could not otherwise afford representation and we let it be known through the entire industry that is what we are here to do.

I decided to stay on with the Investor Advocacy Clinic because of this drive to help those people who have been wronged. It is an environment that encourages candor and integrity. All we have is time on our hands to pour over your case, your facts, your situation. And you better believe we will go after you like a hound with a scent if something does not sit right. This clinic has taught me to be an advocate, to be relentless, and to see the broader implications of wrongful acts on an entire industry. It has been quite a journey serving with this clinic and I am thrilled to have this story of mine continue into Spring 2019.