As part of the Georgia State Law Investor Advocacy Clinic’s efforts to represent the interests of retail investors, the Clinic regularly participates in events that highlight the experiences retail investors face in the securities industry. On April 4, 2019, student interns Brook Ptacek, Kevin Mathis, Caitlyn Scofield, Caleb Swiney, and Esmat Hanano, along with Associate Clinical Professor Nicole G. Iannarone, participated in the inaugural U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Investor Advocacy Clinic Summit. The SEC invited the Georgia State Clinic, along with other investor advocacy clinics from all over the country, to SEC headquarters in Washington D.C. The Summit brought together students who routinely work with retail investors to share their experiences with the SEC.
The Summit opened with welcome remarks from Rick Fleming, SEC Investor Advocate, and Tracey McNeil, SEC Ombudsman.
Gerri Walsh, President of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation, also welcomed the clinics and thanked them for the work that they do for retail investors.
Next, the students heard from SEC Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr. about how important the clinics’ work is and shared lessons he learned on his journey to becoming an SEC Commissioner.
Following Commissioner Jackson’s remarks, the clinics participated in breakout discussion sessions focused on three main topics: 1) private placements and the accredited investor definition, 2) fund retail investor experience and variable annuities, and 3) combating retail investor fraud.
Georgia State took part in the breakout session on fund retail investor experience and variable annuities. The students met with Marc Sharma, Chief Counsel of the SEC Office of the Investor Advocate, and Michael Kosoff, Rachel Loko, and Michael Pawluk from the SEC Division of Investment Management. During the breakout session, the students offered their thoughts on different tools that the SEC could implement to improve disclosure procedures for retail investors. After the breakout sessions, the clinics came together to share the highlights of their sessions with the group and continue the conversation on how better to protect retail investors. Esmat Hanano represented GSU during the group session.
Over lunch, the clinics heard remarks from SEC Commissioner Elad L. Roisman. Commissioner Roisman shared his three keys to success as a young lawyer starting out on his or her career. He shared his views on some of the biggest challenges facing the SEC today and remarked on the necessity of clinics in giving voice to retail investor concerns. In the afternoon, the clinics heard from Charu Chandrasekhar, Assistant Regional Director of the SEC Division of Enforcement in New York, and Rick Berry, Director of FINRA Dispute Resolution. Director Chandrasekhar remarked on the types of cases the SEC was seeing in New York and how clinics can help with the mission of the SEC Division of Enforcement. Director Berry spoke on the role of clinics during FINRA Dispute Resolution and how they can continue helping retail investors navigate arbitration proceedings with institutional actors and broker-dealers.
Lastly, the clinics each gave presentations on a number of topics. The clinics were asked to give a PowerPoint presentation in a Pecha Kucha format—20 PowerPoint slides with 20 seconds for each slide. Georgia State ended the day with a presentation on empowering investors to speak up about their experiences with securities industry. The students proposed starting a social media campaign to destigmatize the conversation around money to create a community of investors sharing their experiences with each other. The views expressed during the presentations were the presenters’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission, individual Commissioners or members of the Commission staff. The Georgia State law presentation can be found here.
The Clinic thanks the SEC for inviting us to such an important event and allowing us to give voice to the experiences that retail investors have when dealing with the securities industry.