Former Securities and Exchange
lawyer teaching at B&E

May 30, 2012

A former senior counsel for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is teaching legal ethics at the College of Business and Economics.

Jena Martin Amerson, now an associate professor of law at the WVU College of Law, began teaching in the business school's EMBA program in 2010. She is now teaching online courses.

Amerson is a 2006 graduate of Howard University, where she earned her law degree, and of Texas Law School, where she specialized in international law. She earned an undergraduate degree at McGill University.

She began teaching at the law school in 2009. She teaches securities regulation, corporations and business associations law, public international law and human rights.

Before joining the faculty at WVU, Amerson was a legal writing instructor at Howard University. After practicing for a number of years at the litigation firm of Ross, Dixon and Bell, she joined the United States Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement. There, she was part of the investigation and enforcement teams for a number of the commission's high-profile matters, including the case against "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap (former CEO of Sunbeam Corp.) and the multi-million dollar fraud of AremisSoft Corp., a former NASDAQ listed company.

Her current scholarship focuses on corporate accountability for human rights issues, and she has written and published on international adoption.

"What I love most about the law is how it can be used as a tool for everyone and everything to further the issues that you care about," she said. "For me, the thing I care about most are the role of business in our society and how the law can help business achieve its ends. I do that in two ways. On one side I research the intersection between business, ethics and human rights. On the other hand, I spend a lot of time helping small businesses navigate through the legal and regulatory maze to achieve their goals of economic independence. My husband is a small business owner, so I care about these issues a lot."

Amerson said she plans to change her B&E law class this fall.

"There are two big changes I am in the process of making," she said. "First, I want to make the class more interactive. So, there are a lot more simulations and decision making exercises than my previous class — which was mainly lectures and discussion boards."

Amerson also plans to tailor the class to business situations. "I am trying to target the class more toward future business leaders instead of future lawyers," she said. "I plan to have every class center around a legal or ethical dilemma that the students must work through. That way, they have a concrete point of reference that may make it easier to grasp than some of the legal abstractions I had been teaching them before."

Amerson just returned from a summer course for students in Guanajuato, Mexico, the sister city of Morgantown, W.Va. She commented on her blog that she was enjoying the experience and that her students have benefitted.

"As a professor, I am keenly aware that the success of any study abroad program hinges heavily on the students themselves," she wrote on her blog. "We professors work hard to create an interesting and informative program, and we try to set the right tone for the trip (balancing work and play, behaving responsibly, etc.). But at the end of the day, the students are the linchpin. So far, we've had great class discussions, and there have been great impromptu out of class discussions."