Brooksley Born

Chaired U.S. CFTC. Co-founder of National Women’s Law Center. SCLAID member. Chaired ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.

Person details

Where most active professionally: National
Law type: Civil
Lists: ABA Leader and SCLAID Board/Staff
Source: CNEJL


Brooksley E. Born graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School (San Francisco, California) at the age of 16. She then attended Stanford University, where she majored in English and was graduated with the class of 1961. She then attended Stanford Law School, one of only seven women in her class. She was the first female student ever to be named president of the Stanford Law Review. She received the “Outstanding Senior” award and graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1964. Immediately after law school Born was selected as a law clerk to judge Henry Edgerton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Following her clerkship, she became an associate at the Washington, D.C.-based international law firm of Arnold & Porter. Born’s early career at Arnold & Porter focused on international trade law, in which she represented a number of Swiss industries and the government of Switzerland. She developed a practice representing clients in numerous complex litigation and arbitration cases involving financial market transactions. Among her high-profile cases was the matter of the Hunt Brothers attempt to corner the market in silver in the 1970s. She made partner at Arnold & Porter and eventually rose to be the head of the firm’s derivatives practice. Born was among the first female attorneys to systematically address inequities regarding how the laws treated women. Born and another female lawyer, Marna Tucker, taught what is considered to have been the first “Women and the Law” course at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. The class exclusively concerned prejudicial treatment of women under the laws of the United States, past and present. Born is also one of the co-founders of the National Women’s Law Center. During her long legal career, and into her retirement, Born did much pro bono and other types of volunteer work. She was active in the American Bar Association, the largest professional organization of lawyers in the United States. Initially Born was named a member of the governing council of the ABA’s Individual Rights Section, eventually becoming Chairperson. Born and Tucker founded the ABA Women’s Caucus, the first organization of female lawyers in the ABA. She held several other senior positions in the ABA, including being named the first woman member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Born provided testimony and opinion on persons nominated for federal judgeships. In 1980 she was named Chair of the committee. As Chair of the committee, Born was invited to address the U.S. Congress regarding the nomination of Judge Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Born was appointed to the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission on April 15, 1994 by President Bill Clinton. Born and her team at the CFTC sought comments on the regulation of over-the-counter derivatives, a first step in the process of writing CFTC regulations to supplement the existing regulations of the Federal Reserve System, the Options Clearing Corporation, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Born was particularly concerned about swaps, financial instruments that are traded over the counter between banks, insurance companies or other funds or companies, and thus have no transparency except to the two counterparties and the counterparties’ regulators, if any. In 2009 Born, along with Sheila Bair of the FDIC, was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award in recognition of the “political courage she demonstrated in sounding early warnings about conditions that contributed to the current global financial crisis”.

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