Helane Morrison: The Iron Lady Who Took Down The Financial Fraudulence

Helane Morrison, the former Regional Director of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), is known for her bold steps that cleaned up the financial irregularities during her tenure. We must admit that now there is a level of untrust across the stock markets in the country considering the malpractices that led to 2008 financial crisis. It is a fact that when we can’t trust the companies and its executives to be truthful to the investors, we always look for the regulator to see if there is anyone whom we can trust. To me, the period of Helane at SEC was a period of transparency and authoritativeness.

She joined the SEC as the head of regional enforcement activities in 1996 and worked for San Francisco District Office. In 1999, she was promoted to the Regional Director of the San Francisco office and took care of examination programs and enforcement in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana. The significant enforcement actions during her period include financial fraud charges against the former executives of Cutter & Buck, Inc., NextCard, Inc., and HBO & Co. and incorrect financial reporting cases against Google, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Hawaiian Airlines. I think that only very few people would have the mettle to take action against the tech giants.

Morrison also initiated action against former Apple, Inc., executives on stock options backdating cases that included cases against Brocade Communications Systems. A case against the General Council of Google that was for the violation of registration code and false reports with SEC was widely discussed during those times. Another case that raised the eyebrows is against auditors including a former Ernst & Young partner for destroying the audit papers. The story does not end there and many more actions against insider trading, fraudulent transactions, and other malpractices initiated against major tech firms and financial houses. I still remember that before her era, the cases were stipulated to some unknown firms but during her period most of the major firms caught under the law.

She left SEC in 2007 and joined Hall Capital Partners LLC as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer. Before joining SEC, she worked with Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin as Partner and Title Associate. Before starting the career, she completed her graduation in Journalism from the Northwestern University and did her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley – School of Law.

We are missing her though she left the office of SEC 10 years back. We can expect that someone with similar tenacity in SEC may resume her efforts in future.