“Linda Quinn – how could you not be inspired by someone like that? She was the big picture woman. She was absolutely amazing at stepping back and saying, ‘This is the important thing. This is how this pattern of law works.’ So incredibly bright.”
“Linda [Quinn] was a force of nature: very strong persona, and intellectually, one of the most creative, impressive, forward-looking people I have ever worked with in my whole life.”
When Linda Quinn died in 2003, she was remembered as “the most important regulator and authority on securities regulation in the last 25 years,” and as “my most trusted advisor” by former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt. She served as Chief of Staff to SEC Chairman John Shad, and for a decade as Director of the Division of Corporation Finance. While she was the first woman to head Corporation Finance, nowhere in her obituary was she cited for her gender.29
While heading a division within the agency was a powerful sign to those within and working with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for the public, the visible “top” woman in securities regulation was the sole female SEC Commissioner. After Roberta Karmel stepped down in 1980, her seat was filled by equally bright and capable women - Barbara Thomas (later Lady Judge), Aulana Peters, Mary Schapiro and Laura Unger – but only one woman served on the Commission at a time during these decades.
“I remembered when [Roberta Karmel] was appointed [SEC Commissioner]; I remembered thinking, ‘What a lucky girl. That would be a great job.’ And that her credentials weren’t all that different from mine.”
“Aulana Peters was one of the Commissioners, so she was a very interesting role model to watch. She was energetic, passionate about securities law and regulation and what she did, and she had a sense of humor.”
“I was raised to anticipate people not always being in my corner because of my race or my gender, and I certainly worked hard to be sure that my performance left no doubt in anyone’s mind that I was highly qualified, maybe super-qualified.”
“The SEC had a vacancy, and here were the criteria. They wanted a woman, because there’d always been a woman – or at least there had been three other women at the SEC – never more than one at a time. They wanted a woman to replace Aulana Peters, who was leaving. There were already three Republicans on the Commission at the time, so they had to have, because of the requirements that no more than three of the same political party populate the Commission, somebody who was not a Republican. I’m an Independent. And they wanted somebody with a derivatives background. So, if those were the three criteria, there probably weren’t a whole lot of people in the world who were women, non-Republican – and preferably not a Democrat, with a background in derivatives. So I fit the bill for the White House.”
When Barbara Thomas retired in 1983, she wrote to President Reagan, recommending “capable people to fill the vacancy on the Commission,” noting that “each of these individuals has distinctive talents and experience that I believe would be of great value.” All of her candidates were women; none were selected, but her list highlighted the advances that women had made in securities regulation.30
At the NASD, Ruth Block, of The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, joined the NASD Board of Governors in 1981, followed in 1985 by Judith Shepard (later Belash) of Goldman, Sachs & Co. In 1989, while the Board of Governors no longer had a woman member, Cynthia Orcutt, Sun Investment Services Company, served as chairman of the District 13 Committee and as a member of the national Variable Contracts Committee.31 NASD made history in 1996 when Mary Alice Brophy, director of compliance at Dain Bosworth in Minneapolis, became the first woman to chair the Board of Governors, having served on the Board since 1993.32
“Mary Schapiro was brought on to head up the regulatory organization. I still remember to this day her coming and speaking to us in our Rockville offices and she was new to the organization. She was a woman, she was a leader and she was also pregnant, and that was very influential for a young woman who was starting her career in the industry.”
“I owe a lot of my career to Mary Schapiro because she supported me through everything that I did. But Mary was the type of person who was supportive of all her employees, whether you were a man or a woman.”
In the same year as Brophy’s appointment, NASD Regulation, Inc. was established and former SEC Commissioner Mary Schapiro was named as President. Women now occupied the top two positions in the self-regulatory organization. The NASD Regulation leadership team also included Elisse Walter as Chief Executive Officer, Linda Fienberg as Executive Vice President, and Deborah Masucci as Vice President of the Office of Dispute Resolution. Barbara Sweeney soon was appointed head of NASD’s Central Registration Depository.33
Women professionals were important in serving as mentors for both new male and female staff in securities regulation:
“I give great credit to Joan McKown for making sure that the regions felt that they were important and that their cases were important. Joan was a chief counsel for the Division of Enforcement for many of the years that I was at the SEC, and her attention to the regional office cases and her feedback was great.”
“It was my good fortune to be assigned to one of the best of the branches [in the Division of Corporation Finance]. It was headed by Ernestine Zipoy, an accountant by training who combined a sharp intellect with a peppery ‘can do’ personality. Unlike many Branch Chiefs, Ernestine believed in assigning meaningful work to the new members of her branch from the outset.”
At whatever staff level, women faced issues in the workplace that men most likely did not experience, such as the practical issue of juggling work and family obligations:
“We had jobs and we had babies and we did not have a lot of time to be having lunch and discussing what it was like to try to get balance in our lives. There was no balance in our lives, and that was just a given.”
“There were no supports for our dealing with the very real need of looking after our families. I had to leave at 5:30 every day. That had an impact on selection for assignments. I was always keeping my head down when something was going to be out of town for a while. I didn’t want to do that. I think that there was more of an issue than ‘Oh, she’s a woman, she can’t do the work.’ I never got that.”
“Many a time I would come in on my day off. If something needs to be done, it has to get done and it has always been important to me to never let part-time status get in the way of getting a job done right and on time. But when you’re part-time, you’ve got to accept the fact that there will be certain promotions you either won’t be able to take or won’t be offered to you, and that’s unfortunately a fact of life.”
But there were workplace challenges beyond balancing work and family life. Being a woman in a financial regulatory agency – either as a professional or as support staff - meant that, at times, one might experience not being taken seriously, not considered for a work assignment, or even unprofessional harassment:
“I remember going to a [NASD] member firm, a small broker-dealer. When I asked for his bank statements and bank reconciliations, the response I got was, ‘My wife doesn’t see this information, so why should I show it to you?’ I’m pretty certain if it was a male examiner on the other side of the table, it would have been a very different dialogue.”
“We had a training program at the SEC, and I would always stop and say, ‘Here’s a message for the women in the audience. There are men who are not going to take you that seriously and who are going to think you don’t get what they’re talking about. Go with it, because at the end of the day it’s whether you win or lose that counts here.’ I used an example of a man who was saying something to me, and I said ‘I don’t understand,’ and he said, ‘That’s because you don’t understand business.’ I said, ‘Okay, you may be right, please explain it to me,’ and he basically admitted to a violation to the securities law.”
“There was concern and reluctance to send women out with men to investigate cases into remote rural parts of the country. I remember that in the Atlanta Regional Office, they were reluctant to hire female securities investigators and financial analysts because there were several investment advisors who were sole proprietors – one-person shops who did business out of the bedroom of their homes. The Commission did not want to have to send a woman into the bedroom of someone’s home to look at his or her books and records. It was not a matter of prejudice, as much as a matter of being protective, that more women were not hired at the outset.”
“I was administrative aide at that time in Enforcement. There were times that [the Division Director] was very demanding, very intimidating. He wanted me to go into the Xerox room and get on my hands and knees and pick up staples out of the carpet, and I said, ‘There’s no way.’ I told him, ‘I’m not getting on my hands and knees or crawling around looking for staples. I will call Facilities; they’ll send someone up and they will pick them up and clean it up.’ ‘I want it done right now,’ he said. Well, I told him, ‘I’m sorry, I am not going to do it.’ I left, and the next thing I knew the administrative officer was in there on her hands and knees picking them up.”
In 1988, the SEC faced one of its biggest challenges to equality in the workplace. Catherine Broderick, a staff attorney in the SEC’s Washington Regional Office, filed suit alleging a sexually hostile work environment at the office and retaliation from her supervisors when she protested. The court found that, in this particular case, a work environment consisting of pervasive sexual conduct in the office existed and affected “the motivation and work performance of those who found such conduct repugnant and offensive.”34 It further found that Broderick established a case of unlawful retaliation for her complaints, as evidenced by adverse performance evaluations and threats of employment termination. She was awarded a raise in pay grade and a transfer to the Office of General Counsel.35 In the aftermath of the case, the SEC conducted an internal review of its policies and practices.36
The 20th century ended with women now in leadership and senior positions in securities regulation, and gaining authority and stature in the fields of law, finance and accounting. The first decade of the 21st century would see women rise to the top, achieving leadership positions that had heretofore been exclusively male.
(34) Broderick v. Ruder, 685 F.Supp. 1269, 1278 (D.D.C 1988).
(35) In 2002, Catherine Broderick brought an action claiming retaliation for her original lawsuit and alleging that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was in contempt of the 1988 court order. Her main complaint was that she was not hired for a supervisory position as senior litigation counsel and represented a retaliation for her previous lawsuit against the SEC. She demonstrated that she had received high performance appraisals and was qualified for the supervisory positions. The District Court found that she had not shown a prima facie case of retaliation, and the denial of supervisor positions related to non-discriminatory factors. Broderick v. Donaldson, 338 F.Supp.2d30, 48 (D.D.C. 2004).
(36) The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 required financial regulatory agencies to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. The SEC established its office in 2011, with responsibility for all matters related to diversity in management, employment and business activities.
(Courtesy of FINRA)
(Courtesy of Morton Koeppel)
Meredith Cross served two stints at the SEC during times of remarkable change. During her tenure from 1990 – 1998, Ms. Cross dealt with one of the most significant challenges during that period -- bringing the agency into the internet age. The internet presented great new opportunities for businesses to share information with investors, but at the same time provided a vast new frontier for fraudsters, and the securities laws were not written with the internet in mind. With an intervening stint at WilmerHale from 1998 to 2009, Ms. Cross returned to the agency from 2009 - 2013 as Director of the Division of Corporation Finance after the financial crisis, and led the division through the challenges that came with the Madoff scandal and Dodd-Frank and JOBS Acts.
From 1988 to 1993, Mary Schapiro served as SEC Commissioner. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Schapiro Acting Chairman of the SEC, then appointed her Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1994. In 1996 she joined the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) as the president of NASD Regulation. In 2006 she became NASD's Chairman and CEO. In January 2009 she became the SEC's 29th SEC Chairman. After leaving the SEC, Schapiro joined Promontory Financial Group in 2013 as Advisory Board Vice Chairman. She was one of the founding Trustees of the SEC Historical Society.
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