I’m not one for having ‘heroes’, but Brooksley Born is an exception. We were delighted to have her serve as a member of the George J. Mitchell Scholarship selection committee over the last couple of days.
Brooksley has always been a trailblazer. In the early 1960’s, she was one of only a few women at Stanford Law School. She then became the first woman president of Stanford Law Review and graduated top of her class in 1964. Her impressive career includes co-founding of the National Women’s Law Center.
In the late ‘90s, she argued that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, of which she was Commissioner, should have oversight of over-the-counter derivatives. Her clarion calls for regulating derivatives, unfortunately, went unheeded. She was opposed by the formidable Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Arthur Levitt, and Larry Summers.
Had she been listened to, we might not be in the mess we’re in. But she wasn’t part of the old boys club and she didn’t ‘play the game’. They wanted her to shut up and go away. She was called ‘difficult’ ‘unreasonable’ and ‘abrasive’ – i.e. she spoke truth to power and power doesn’t always like that. She didn’t back down. She stood up for what she believed was right, and was hammered for it. A great example for Mitchell Scholars, for everyone. She deserved the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage award she received although she would rather have been listened to then, than honored now. Don’t we all.
I hope she’ll write the book.
To learn more:
watch this great Frontline piece on her:
read this Washington Post story:
watch the documentary Inside Job which is available on Netflix