Better Markets is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month. To mark the event, Better Markets is publishing a series of blog posts profiling members of its staff and highlighting the work they do as lawyers, regulatory and legislative specialists, researchers, administrators, and fundraisers as they fight for the economic security, opportunity and prosperity of all Americans, particularly those who are disenfranchised.
Spotlight: Steve Hall, one of the first employees of Better Markets.
Steve is legal director and securities specialist at Better Markets. In this role, he oversees Better Markets’ legal work. His small but highly accomplished team is responsible for filing amicus or “friend of the court” briefs in the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court; initiating litigation or intervening in cases; and issuing special reports on specific topics surrounding the law and financial regulation. The legal team also devotes a significant amount of time to regulatory analysis, preparing comment letters in the areas of banking and consumer protection at the CFPB. And his team supports the work of other staff members at Better Markets as they fight for the public interest before the regulatory agencies.
Steve is one of Better Markets’ most prolific authors, having written or co-written more than 100 comment letters, reports and legal briefs in his nearly decade-long fight for the public interest at the organization. Listen to Steve discuss Better Markets and his work and read more about his background and the experience he brings to Better Markets.
When Better Markets launched in late 2010, you were one of its first employees. How has Better Markets changed over the years?
The breadth of our advocacy has expanded in a very positive and logical way over time. Initially, we were laser-focused on fighting for robust implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act through the rulemaking process. Our overriding goal in the early years was to help prevent another financial crisis and near economic collapse. While we have always maintained our core focus on financial stability, we also steadily increased our advocacy on consumer and investor protection. And now, we are engaged in the fight to address economic injustice and to make Wall Street serve the financial needs of all Americans, not just the already wealthy and privileged. Throughout the past decade, however, what hasn’t changed are the hallmarks of Better Markets as an organization—strong leadership and a team of top-notch and hard-working experts and support staff who are also wonderful people.
What is a typical day for you at Better Markets?
The days can be long and intense but they are also very absorbing and immensely satisfying. Each day, we’re all engaged in a variety of activities involving a variety of topics, and that’s one reason the work at Better Markets never gets boring. We constantly monitor developments in our areas of expertise and often react with real-time advocacy. In addition, we are constantly pursuing larger-scale and longer-term projects—from briefs, comment letters and reports to public events—that require in-depth research, analysis, planning and writing. That’s certainly true in the legal department where the courts—especially now—are full of interesting cases that will have an enormous impact on the ability of the regulatory agencies to do their jobs, the way financial laws and regulations are interpreted, and the remedies that defrauded consumers and investors will have at their disposal. Those cases in turn will ultimately affect the financial well-being of every American—at least anyone with a bank account, mortgage, credit card or payday loan.
What are you most proud of regarding your work at Better Markets?
The outcomes that make our work so satisfying really fall into three categories. First, there are the concrete and demonstrable successes. For example, in a number of court cases, our actions and briefs clearly influenced the courts and led them to winning decisions. The same is true of our comment letters, which have persuaded agencies in many instances to improve upon their rule proposals or stave off industry’s clamor for weaker provisions. Second, our advocacy has helped re-shape the debate over financial reform, giving the public interest more weight in the minds of policy makers at the agencies and on the Hill when it comes to financial regulation. We know that’s true in part because they tell us that this is the impact we’re having. Finally, an enduring source of pride is just being engaged in the fight for the public interest. Put it this way: I never have to wake up in the morning with any doubts or regrets about the way I’m spending my days and the causes that I’m fighting for—trying to improve the financial lives of all Americans.
What has made Better Markets so successful over the years?
The recipe has included a number of key ingredients. Dennis Kelleher, our President and CEO, has provided tireless leadership since the day we opened. We have received generous and critical financial support from our co-founder Mike Masters and many others in the philanthropic world. And we’ve been able to attract an extraordinary group of passionate professionals who turn out an incredible volume of high-quality work that has a real impact. In addition, of course, a host of external players have been instrumental in our success. They range from the other advocacy organizations with whom we often partner to the policymakers who share our vision and help advance our goals. And there’s the media: Simply put, Dennis has done a terrific job putting us on the “media map” and opening up that essential channel for our advocacy.