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Securities Law Clinic Students Attend SEC Investor Advocacy Clinic Summit
From left: Jade Lee ’24, Jianing Zhao ’24, Adjunct Professor Robert Banks, Zachary Hunt ’24, and Nicholas Hietpas ’24

A group of four students from Cornell Law School’s Securities Law Clinic recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s 2024 Investor Advocacy Clinic Summit. Led by Robert Banks, adjunct professor of law, students Nicholas Hietpas ’24, Zachary Hunt ’24, Jade Lee ’24, and Jianing Zhao ’24 joined members of the SEC’s staff in a live panel discussion about the far-reaching impact of law school clinics that offer free legal services to underrepresented investors.

During the summit, which took place on March 1, students from nine different law school clinics took turns sharing their experiences, highlighting the impact of their work on their clients, their respective communities, and on the students themselves.

“Participating in the Investor Advocacy Clinic Summit was an eye-opening and rewarding opportunity,” said Zhao, who answered questions from the panel’s moderator about her experiences interacting with prospective clients. “Sharing insights about our clinic’s work, hearing various panels’ presentations, and exchanging thoughts with fellow law students and SEC representatives was incredibly fulfilling.”

The students were also given the opportunity to ask questions of SEC Commissioners Jaime Lizárraga and Hester Peirce, who each delivered remarks at the summit. During Commissioner Peirce’s Q&A segment, she responded to a question from Hietpas about promoting financial literacy among retail investors, which Commissioner Peirce had previously identified as an important factor in preventing investment fraud. “It was great to have the opportunity to ask questions directly to the commissioners, and I’m sure they enjoyed seeing so many students passionate about helping underrepresented investors,” said Hietpas, who worked with Professor Banks to develop thought-provoking questions for the commissioners ahead of the summit.

While Cornell’s Securities Law Clinic is one of only eleven investor advocacy clinics currently operating across the country, these clinics have collectively recovered millions of dollars on behalf of their clients, and they are an increasingly important resource for the elderly and retirees, who are often deliberately targeted for investment fraud.

“Investors who cannot afford private counsel are significantly disadvantaged in arbitration or litigation with their financial professionals,” observed SEC Ombuds Stacy Puente, emphasizing the need for similar clinics in states where low-cost legal services for investors are scarce. “The clinics help level that playing field, advocating for the personal interests of these investors.”

Fortunately, the annual Investor Advocacy Clinic Summit has helped to create strong bonds among these clinics, providing students and faculty with a unique opportunity to share their experiences and best practices with one another.

“The summit was a fantastic opportunity to connect with students from other clinics who are also committed to serving underrepresented investors,” said student Lee. “Learning about their projects and client representation experiences was very inspiring, and it gave me valuable insights on how to further my investor advocacy work.”

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