Investor Protection Center
They've lost everything they own to a disreputable broker and most lawyers will not take on their cases. Where can indigent, elderly, or smaller-claims investors turn for legal help? To the Investor Protection Center, one of Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic offerings.
Originally funded by a grant from the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) Investor Education Foundation, the Center is one of fewer than 15 to provide this service in the country, and the first and only among law schools in the Midwest. The Center provides investors who have limited resources with legal assistance to resolve securities disputes with broker dealers and investment advisors. Additionally, the Center provides screening services for regulators, including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), state regulators, and brokerage houses, helping to identify legitimate claims.
The Center receives a substantial number of inquiries each year. Each inquiry is screened, and many are taken on as cases by Investor Protection students. Because it reviews so many potential cases, the Center also plays an advocacy role, providing information to regulators when patterns of scams or disputes emerge.
"The Center was established in 2005. Here in the Midwest, there was nowhere investors who lost less than $250,000 could go for legal help," says Center Director Sam Tenenbaum. "Our Center began as a model for others, and we've developed a guidebook on how to start programs like ours. What's more, we wanted to expand our civil offerings, realizing that a securities-related clinical experience would be a benefit to students."
Northwestern Law and Kellogg MBA students gain valuable opportunities to work directly with clients on sophisticated legal and business issues, gaining experience interviewing and counseling clients, explaining arbitration and mediation processes, and investigating and selecting potential arbitrators. They also conduct discovery, negotiate settlements, and actively participate in arbitration and mediation. In addition to practical experience, students are mentored by some of the top legal and financial experts in the country.
Information for Clients
Requests for assistance from the Investor Protection Center will be considered on an individual basis. Certain eligibility standards must be met for legal representation to be considered. These eligibility standards include:
- Client's household annual income generally cannot exceed $100,000
- Client's claim generally cannot exceed $200,000
Investors living in the United States may seek help from Northwestern Law's Investor Protection Center, however, the Center is limited in the help it can provide to investors residing outside of Illinois.Investors who meet these eligibility requirements should contact the Center to determine if the case is suitable for student representation.