The summer before I obtained by Bachelor’s degree, I spent my summer interning at a well-known brokerage firm in NYC. It was such an incredible opportunity to work for this Fortune 500 company—or so I thought.
I decided to take an internship to gain experience and network. I never really planned on working as a stockbroker or financial advisor, but I knew that if I was going to make it as an attorney, professional connections like these would be great for my career.
For the most part, I got everything I hoped for out of the experience interning, and I highly recommend that other soon-to-be law students consider an internship in a similar field of work prior to heading to law school. Crazily enough though, I also got far more than I bargained when I uncovered that my supervisor had been ripping off his investors.
The stockbroker I was working for had developed quite the Ponzi scheme, in which he would convince investors to invest their money in computer software that was supposedly developed by Apple. The problem was, Apple didn’t develop this software, and the software didn’t even exist.
He would tell investors they could expect a 50 percent return in just three months, something virtually unheard of in the securities industry. Then, he would use the funds from new investors to pay off the old ones to keep his scheme afloat.
Remember, I was just an intern, so if I picked up on this, how did the brokerage firm not know what was going on? I wasn’t sure how to approach this situation. Should I have kept my mouth shut and my head down, report to the company, or consult with an SEC whistleblower lawyer?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what I should do. If I reported the fraud internally, would I be fired? Maybe the firm knew what was going on and I just needed to mind my own business. I never ended up having to make this difficult decision, however.
On one humid afternoon in the office, my supervisor suddenly suffered a heart attack and died. I later heard through gossip at the office that his scheme was uncovered by the SEC and shut down. Although I never had to actually act in this situation, I am often reminded of how it felt to be in that position, and it has prepared me for what to expect as I headed into the workforce as a licensed attorney.