Betsy (Colleen) Popken

Senior Associate

San Francisco

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Betsy draws upon a decade of legal and policy experience to help the firm's clients.  She represents high-profile Silicon Valley and global clients in high-stakes, sensitive investigations and litigation.  Betsy also advises clients on unique, cutting-edge human rights challenges.  She is regularly called upon to serve as a legal expert in track I and track II international peace negotiation processes.

Betsy provides legal assistance to the Syrian opposition in United Nations-mediated peace negotiations through the Public International Law & Policy Group.  She was based out of Geneva, Switzerland and Istanbul, Turkey during the Geneva II peace negotiations in 2014 and the Geneva III peace negotiations in 2015-2016, during which time she founded PILPG’s Istanbul office.  Previously, Betsy worked with PILPG on the UN-mediated Darfur peace negotiations and provided legal and policy assistance to the Libyan National Transitional Council.  Betsy also serves as an expert advisor to The Shaikh Group's track 2 Northeast Syria dialogue, and works with TSG on its efforts to revolutionize peacebuilding.

Betsy is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Ambassador Council member of the International Crisis Group. 

During Spring 2019, Betsy is coaching the Advanced International Negotiations class at Stanford Law School.  She has previously guest lectured at Stanford Law School, UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center, and the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Posts by: Betsy Popken

FINRA Enforcement Head Explains Why Enforcement “Isn’t Rocket Science”

In a speech at the SIFMA AML Conference last week, FINRA Head of Enforcement Susan Schroeder openly explained the “straightforward framework” that Enforcement uses when making decisions about enforcement actions. The context for Schroeder’s speech was FINRA’s merger of two separate enforcement departments, resulting from FINRA head Robert Cook’s “listening tour” and FINRA’s recent self-evaluation, but Schroeder’s explanation appeared to be more of a response to broader industry complaints about FINRA Enforcement’s lack of consistency and transparency in its charging and sanctions decisions.

If that was Schroeder’s mission, she was successful. She identified the goals of enforcement actions, and justified FINRA’s use of its enforcement tool based upon harms to investors and perceived market risks. Overarching Schroeder’s speech was the principle that firms should know “what to expect from their regulator” so they know “how to shape their behavior in order to comply with the rules.” In this spirit of transparency, Schroeder identified the various principles or factors that FINRA Enforcement considers when evaluating enforcement actions and sanctions. Those principles should provide a vocabulary for firms and their counsel to assess and question FINRA’s enforcement activities.

Here are the principles in Schroeder’s own words:

Is this enforcement action appropriate? According to Schroeder, enforcement actions should be brought to “fix something that is broken or to prevent future misconduct, either by the same respondent or by another individual or firm.” Enforcement is not the only means FINRA has to fix something, and it is not always the “right tool” to use. To determine whether enforcement action is the appropriate regulatory response, FINRA will ask: READ MORE

No Direct Cause, No Restitution

A recent federal appellate decision shows there are limits to the ability of a regulator to claim monetary sanctions for statutory violations. Last week the 11th Circuit held that investors whose losses were solely associated with registration violations by their fraudster traders were not entitled to a restitution award – because such losses had not been proximately caused by the registration violations.

In an enforcement action brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the 11th Circuit affirmed a Florida district court’s findings that two companies and their CEO committed fraud by falsely representing to some investors that they had purchased physical metals on their behalf (when they had actually purchased futures), and violated the registration requirements of the Commodities Exchange Act (CEA) by trading in futures without registering as futures commission merchants. The district court had awarded restitution for losses arising from both of these violations. While the 11th Circuit upheld the restitution award of approximately $1.5 million based on the fraudulent misrepresentation, it vacated the award of approximately $560,000 based on the failure to register, holding that this violation did not proximately cause the investors’ losses. READ MORE