Rosalind Tyson

Rosalind Tyson (foreground) listens as SEC Enforcmeent Director Robert Khuzami announces
charges agains former Country Wide CEO Angelo Mozilo, June 4, 2009.

“I grew up in the era when, really, the major choices for a woman
were to be a nurse, a teacher, or an executive secretary…”

—Rosalind Tyson

By Justin Nalos

Rosalind Ramsey Tyson, former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Los Angeles Regional Office, retired in February 2012 after 30 years of SEC service. As director of the 155-member office since 2008, she was responsible for protecting investors from financial and investment fraud while enforcing examination functions for the regions of Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii. 

Born in Iowa and raised in New Jersey, Tyson first attended Georgetown University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in French (1970). Tyson was inducted to the Phi Beta Kappa Society and graduated first in her class at the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics. Afterward, she earned a master’s degree in French from the University of Hawaii (1972).

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Tyson reflected on her childhood, “I grew up in the era when, really, the major choices for a woman were to be a nurse, a teacher or an executive secretary…” Neither a career in nursing nor secretaryship appealed to her, but Tyson eventually earned a job teaching French at a Catholic girls’ school in Monterey, California, after earning her master’s. At the advice of her brother, Tyson decided to enter law school, earning her Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1978.

According to her profile for the SEC, Tyson’s career there began in 1982. She began as an enforcement staff attorney before becoming Branch Chief of the Branch of Full Disclosure, which reviewed initial public offering registrations of small business issuers. In 1988, she was named an Assistant Regional Director of the Los Angeles office, and became an Associate Regional Director in 1993. She earned her titled as Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office in 2008. Tyson was named one of the Top Women Lawyers in 2011 by the Daily Journal.

One of Tyson’s hallmark cases as director of the Los Angeles Regional Office involved CEO of Countrywide Financial Angelo Mozilo during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. TIME magazine named Mozilo one of 25 people to blame for the financial crisis. Countrywide Financial was considered to be one of the largest lenders in the United States before being absorbed by Bank of America. Under the leadership of Rosalind Tyson, the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office was able to bring enforcement actions against Mozilo and two other executives for misleading investors; Mozilo eventually settled for a $22.5 million penalty and disbarment as an officer and director. 

Despite growing up in an era where women were confined to few careers, Tyson has demonstrated the power of passion for finding her calling as a public servant and has spoken highly of the SEC’s track record with women. “It has always been an environment where women were treated equally and where if did a good job, you got promoted without any feeling there was a glass ceiling,” she said in an interview with the Orange County Register. Rosalind Tyson’s legacy is defined by her passion and diligence.

By breaking the mold of gendered careers, Rosalind Tyson demonstrates that passion and diligence are the keys to success. In the end, her message resonates with Phi Beta Kappa and its mission to advance excellence, inside and outside academia.

Justin Nalos is a senior at Howard University majoring in English. Howard University is home to the Gamma of the District of Columbia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.