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LL.M. Grad Marissa LaBelle - Protecting the Future of Finance and CPAs

Marissa LaBelle

By Darian Quinn

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Marissa LaBelle, a 2024 LL.M. graduate from Albany Law School, has always been passionate about the intersection of law and finance. Completing her degree in Financial Compliance and Risk Management, her thesis took a deep dive on a crucial proposal impacting the future of CPAs and the accounting profession.

LaBelle's thesis focused on the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) and its rulemaking, specifically a proposed rule governing contributory liability. "My thesis analyzed whether the proposed rule is within the PCAOB's constitutionally delegated authority under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and whether those revisions are consistent with existing statutes, regulations, and common law principles of secondary liability," LaBelle explained. This rule aims to expand the PCAOB’s enforcement authority and hold individuals liable for contributing to a firm's primary violation of PCAOB rules, professional standards, or securities laws, rather than knowingly or recklessly contributing to that primary violation.

Her choice of topic was rooted in her professional background. "I worked as an auditor for over seven years before transitioning to in-house counsel. In my role now, I primarily defend the audit practice, and I've seen firsthand how regulatory changes can impact individuals and firms," LaBelle shared. She emphasized the shift in regulatory focus from only firms to both firms and individual auditors, which she believes could significantly disincentivize professionals from taking on essential roles in the profession.

LaBelle's concern is clear: "This rule could hold people liable for decisions made in good faith that are later deemed incorrect using the benefit of hindsight. It could lead to a significant increase in administrative actions against individuals, which would not only impact their careers but also deter talented people from entering the profession." Her thesis serves as a call to action for more balanced regulatory measures that protect both public interests and the professionals serving those interests.

Reflecting on her time at Albany Law School, LaBelle praised the program's flexibility and relevance. "The online graduate program was ideal for me as a working professional. It allowed me to balance my job and studies effectively," she noted. LaBelle found the mix of legal and non-legal perspectives in her classes enriching. "I wouldn't have known who was a lawyer and who wasn't if they hadn't introduced themselves. The discussions were always insightful, regardless of one's background."

When asked about her favorite courses, LaBelle had a hard time choosing. "Every class offered something unique. The cryptocurrency class was tough but rewarding because it gave me a baseline understanding of a complex topic," she recalled. She also appreciated the practical nature of the courses, which differed from her previous academic experiences.

LaBelle's journey through the LL.M. program at Albany Law School underscores the value of a practical, flexible, and relevant education that enhances a JD. Her work is a testament to how advanced legal studies can impact real-world issues across professional fields.

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Marissa Labelle