UNC School of Law professor Saule Omarova had a busy year. First she published an article, “The Merchants of Wall Street: Banking, Commerce and Commodities” (Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 98, 2013), pointing out questionable commodity trading practices of several large national financial institutions. Then, Omarova was asked to testify before the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection. Her research fueled a national debate, resulting in media coverage from the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, along with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Omarova’s work has frequently put her at the center of debate on federal regulation of financial institutions and markets, a volatile subject on which she an expert.
Omarova came to Carolina in 2007 from Washington, D.C., after working at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Prior to the Treasury she was as a bank regulatory lawyer in New York, where she became interested in the intricacies of U.S. banking law and how it was connected to other areas of financial regulation. The more she learned, the more she began asking broader theoretical questions, which led her to pursue academic research about the nature of the financial system, its social functions and its public role.
“I think it’s my duty to use my knowledge of this very technical and specialized field to make finance more public-minded and efficient as a tool of the broader and sustainable societal progress,” says Omarova. “What happens in financial markets affects all of us, and so we should all have a say in how they are governed. That’s what drives my work and keeps me excited about it.”
Originally from Kazakhstan, Omarova was educated in Moscow before coming to the United States in 1991 on a student exchange program in the Political Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, she stayed in Madison and became a Ph.D. student in the same department. She then pursued a law degree at Northwestern University.
Omarova notes that with her background, she may be considered an unlikely financial regulation expert. Yet, she adds, “I love my field and think it is incredibly important, not only as an economic matter but as a matter of building a strong, truly democratic America.”
Her passion for her field of interest is matched by her enthusiasm for Carolina students, she says. “Carolina students are truly our best asset, and their dedication to defending and furthering the public interest is contagious and inspiring,” Omarova says. “Working with our students is the best part of being a Carolina law professor.”