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Voice for the Public

Alumnus advocates for the average investor with the SEC

From The Ichabod - Winter 2021

When the financial crisis in 2008 left many around the country concerned Wall Street had a little too much of a say on the rules of investing, Congress went to work. A package of legislation was passed with the aim to improve financial regulatory structure. In it – the creation of a role with one thing in mind: to look out for the average investor.

Enter Rick Fleming.

Rick FlemingFleming, bba ’90, was named the Securities and Exchange Commission’s first investor advocate in February 2014. In this role, Fleming is tasked with being a voice for the public as changes to investing policies are being considered by the commission.

As Fleming explained, when changes are proposed to regulation, the proposed change is put out for public comment, but it’s usually the entities in the industry that comment and engage on the change with regulatory agencies – not the average person.

“My office provides a way for someone within the SEC to remind people of the needs of average investors. Average people usually don't even know what the Securities and Exchange Commission does, much less follow changes to the securities regulations,” Fleming said. “We make sure retail investors can be represented in the process.”

Fleming and his team of 15 make reports to Congress twice per year where they provide suggestions for legislation based on what they are seeing in the industry. While that level of responsibility may make one question their credentials, Fleming said the quality of education he received at Washburn prepared him well for his career.

“I’m dealing with the very top leadership in the financial services industry, and I constantly interface with industry leaders as well as policymakers,” Fleming said. “From this experience, I can attest that the education I received at Washburn was on par with anything I could have received anywhere else in the nation.”

Fleming didn’t necessarily set out aiming to work for the SEC, but his career put him in line as the prime candidate for the job. After graduating from Washburn with a dual major in finance and economics, he obtained a law degree from Wake Forest University. He returned to Topeka and
worked as an aide to Gov. Bill Graves, for whom

he had previously worked while Graves was secretary of state. He then took an attorney position with Kansas Securities Commissioner David Brant, bba '81, jd '83, and found that he really enjoyed that niche part of the law.

Fleming moved to Washington, D.C., in 2011 to serve as the deputy general counsel for the North American Securities Administrators Association, where he advocated for investors and represented the organization of state securities regulators before Congress and federal agencies, including the SEC. When this role with the SEC was created in 2014, he was a perfect fit.

Fleming and his wife, Michelle, bs ’91, reside in northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C. They are the proud parents of six children – Bethany, Cassidy, Natalie, Melody, Lydia and Eric.

The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

View past editions


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