WILLIAM JACOBSON: My name is William Jacobson. I'm a Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. I'm also the director of the Securities Law Clinic, which is a program at the law school that is both a class and also a clinic. So what I do is that I run the clinic.
We do a variety of things, including representing individual investors who have lost money in the stock market. We also do public presentations on how to avoid becoming a victim of investment fraud. And we also run various competitions within our own program to give the students practical skills.
It's hard to compare this to any specific earlier event. Certainly a lot of comparisons are being made to 9/11, but 9/11 was a shock to the system. And in terms of the terrorist event of 9/11, it was over in a day. Of course, the repercussions lasted for a while, but this, I think, is much more systemic.
It really goes to things such as our food supply, our supply of other things, our ability to travel. I went to a conference where I spoke a few months ago in Los Angeles. And one of the things that I thought about a lot is almost every single person I met on that trip, from the Uber driver to get to the airport or the people who worked in the airport, the people who ran the airline, the people at the car rental on the other end, the hotel on the other end, essentially every single person I met along that trip is now unemployed, and that's really shocking. The travel and the entertainment and the hotel industry has been completely collapsed and devastated.
I've been through a lot of market ups and downs. I started after graduating law school, my first big foray into the legal world and the stock market was the 1987 crash. And that is something which wasn't as precipitous, say, as 9/11, but it did take everybody by surprise.
That was in October, 1987. By the end of the year, the market was back to where it started. Things were over.
Then there was the tech wreck crash in the late '90s into the early 2000s. And then there was the financial credit crisis in 2008, so the market goes through cycles. I do believe that two, three, six years from now, we're going to look back upon this, and we will have gone through it and gotten through it quite well.
That doesn't make it easier now because this is not going to be a one-day or one-week hit. It's going to be an ongoing process. My perspective on it is, having gone through many of these crashes in the stock market, these economic crises, is that we just need to keep that longer term perspective. We need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
But what, of course, makes this different is people were not dying in the 1987 crash and those other crashes, whereas this is a health crisis not an economic crisis. And, therefore, it's going to take a little bit more perseverance, and it's going to be a little bit more of a longer-term reaction than a purely economic crisis. So I think it's tough. It's tough.
I've been remote now for a couple of months. It's a strange experience to have to teach remotely. But it's something that I think everybody is going through, and I think we'll get through OK. I hope I've been able to add at least one perspective to this discussion, and hoping everybody stays well and works through this together.
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William A. Jacobson, a Cornell University expert in securities arbitration, says it’s tough to compare the current economic downturn to earlier ones, due to its health-related roots and its wide-ranging scope. Unlike other stock market downturns, such as those related to 9/11 or the financial crisis of 2008, this one will require a longer-term perspective. “We need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint,” he says.
Jacobson is clinical professor of law and director of the Securities Law Clinic at Cornell Law School. His areas of expertise include civil litigation and arbitration, concentrating on investment, employment and business disputes in the securities industry.