The last minute need for extra tables was an unmistakable sign of the ever-growing popularity of the Columbus School of Law’s Annual Securities Practice Group Alumni Luncheon, held this year on Nov. 7 at its usual location at the Army Navy Club in downtown Washington, D.C.
Closing in on its third decade (the luncheon will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2014), the event provides a forum for the law school’s sizeable group of area alumni from all class years to reunite, reconnect, and hear from a distinguished speaker about a current hot topic in the securities industry.
This year’s presentation was offered by Andrew Ceresney, co-director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, who discussed “The SEC’s revised policy on Consent Decrees…How does it work?” before the overflowing crowd.
A consent decree permits an individual or company accused of legal or financial malfeasance to pay a settlement without officially admitting guilt or culpability. From a strict legal standpoint, for the record, they are not guilty of anything.
When appropriate, the SEC has long favored consent decrees in civil actions as a quicker and more efficient alternative to costly, resource-draining investigations and litigation.
However, the tactic has its downsides. Recently, a few courts have been reluctant to approve consent decrees since they are not fully informed about the nature of the defendant’s misdeeds. Others argue that the public’s confidence in justice erodes when deals are reached out of sight.
Ceresney explained that the SEC is moving away from its reliance on consent decrees in a limited number of cases, and is ready, willing and able to litigate cases the usual way, seeking an ultimate admission of culpability from the defendant.
A small surprise was sprung prior to Ceresney’s remarks, when two current students in the law school’s Securities Law Program were presented with scholarships that they had not been informed of in advance.
Professor David A. Lipton, founder and director of the program, presented checks in the amount of $3,000 each to Chris Bellacicco (3L, left), and Kramer Ortman (2L, right). Ortman is currently working on a student comment which will hopefully be published in the Catholic University Law Review, and Bellacicco is a second time member of the Securities Law National Moot Court Team. Many in the room had contributed to the newly augmented securities law student scholarship fund.
Lipton also used the occasion to announce the addition of two adjunct instructors to the securities faculty. Tom Sporkin of Buckley Sandler will join long term instructor Greg Faragasso in teaching the enforcement course. And George Borden, senior litigator of Williams & Connolly, will initiate a new course on civil securities litigation.
The robust crowd, the dynamic speaker, and the presentation of scholarships to the two grateful students added up to an unforgettable experience for Professor Lipton, who has hosted all of the luncheons in the past.
“This is a special one. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like this,” he said.