Betsy Popken

Sustainability & Human Rights Counsel

San Francisco


Read full biography at www.orrick.com

As Sustainability & Human Rights Counsel, Co-Founder of Orrick’s Business & Human Rights practice, and a leader of Orrick's ESG initiatives, Betsy advises clients on sustainability and human rights related risks and opportunities.  A thought leader in this space, with expertise in international human rights law, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance), responsible tech and innovation, and corporate social responsibility more broadly, Betsy works with clients to develop an approach that considers peer benchmarking but is tailored to their individual needs. While her practice spans sectors, Betsy has a particular passion for helping clients tackle human rights issues raised by emerging technologies.

Betsy is Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum's Responsible Use of Technology Education and Learning Initiative, and has been published on issues at the intersection of tech and human rights, including "'Human Rights By Design' Approach Can Guide Companies Developing Digital Contact Tracing Tech" in Corporate Counsel, and "Tech and Black Lives--Firms Can Mitigate Discrimination in Tech" in Bloomberg Law.  Betsy's client work and writing addresses other emerging human rights trends for businesses, as demonstrated in her articles on "Mitigating Supply Chain Risks Related to Uighur Forced Labor" in Law360 and "Human Rights and Renewable Energy" in Project Finance International.  Betsy serves as an expert speaker and moderator on issues ranging from AI and human rights to ESG and private equity. 

Betsy first honed her ability to balance high-stakes and complex legal and ethical challenges while advising parties involved in international peace negotiations in Darfur and Syria through the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), founding PILPG’s Istanbul office during the Geneva III peace talks. Today, she supports ceasefire negotiation efforts in Yemen and provides strategic direction by co-leading PILPG’s Peace Negotiation Initiative and serving as Peacebuilding League Advisor to The Shaikh Group.  Betsy trains the next generation of negotiators as a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School, and maintains a strong foreign policy network as a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Prior to joining Orrick, Betsy worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Pacific Council on International Policy, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.


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