In Memory of Stanley Sporkin (1932 - 2020)

The American legal community has lost a giant

A personal note from Dan Mogin

I read today that Stanley Sporkin recently passed away. The American legal community has lost a giant and all law-related flags should be at half-mast in his honor. His obituaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post do an excellent job of summing up his magnificent career as head of SEC enforcement, General Counsel to the CIA and as a federal district court Judge in D.C.

I didn’t know Judge Sporkin personally, but he was a big influence from afar on my career; an aspirational figure. Those of you who know me will see the connection as my career advanced into securities litigation, including the Keating S&L case filed before Judge Sporkin’s rulings. Later, as I shifted to antitrust, I was involved in the Microsoft class action case in California. In the particular Microsoft matter before him, Judge Sporkin attempted to put teeth into judicial review of antitrust settlements with federal enforcers under the Tunney Act, as I believe was originally intended. There is even a slight CIA connection; my parents met while both were working at the OSS, predecessor to the CIA, and my father worked with Agency personnel in his various national security jobs, many family friends and neighbors worked there, too.

SEC enforcement head, driving force behind the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Keating trial, CIA GC, federal judge, Tunney Act reformer - a breathtaking career dedicated to public service and pursuing justice. These quotes, included in his obituaries, sum up two important lessons that particularly resonate for me in my work and for many of my colleagues on all sides of the bar: “capitalism is the greatest thing going, but unchecked, it’s its own undoing;” and “I want to take the hypocrisy out of our society … We’ve got to treat everybody equally, not kick the hell out of the little guy.”


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