Law professor Henry Hu will be the second person to receive a Massey Prize for Research in Law, Innovation, and Capital Markets from the School of Law for his scholarly work in the capital market and corporate governance..
The Massey Prize, established in 2009, was created through a gift from alumni John and Elizabeth Massey. The prize is awarded to an individual who has completed innovative research in the field of law.
Hu said the prize has given him new inspiration to revolutionize the way the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approaches certain economic dilemmas. After joining the University faculty in 1987, Hu was hired by the SEC’s Division of Risk, Strategy, and Financial Innovation to head the division of economic and risk analysis, a job which he held from 2009-2011.
According to Hu, a pressing issue in the field of economics is the complexity of the circumstances required to be explained to investors by corporations before investments are made. He believes a solution to this problem is to simplify the process by giving the necessary information to investors, allowing them to analyze the information themselves.
“What I’m calling for involves a rethinking of the basic approach to information that’s been used by the SEC since the Great Depression,” Hu said. “New approaches to information are essential.”
Hu said this proposed solution, along with a number of other ideas and terms that he has coined, comes from his combined knowledge of science, law and economics.
“You need a very eclectic approach to deal with today’s very complex problems and transactions — knowing just the legal rules is not enough,” Hu said. “The exercise of genuine judgment and the bringing together of different fields in creative ways can be critical.”
Upon graduating from Yale Law School, Hu worked as a clerk for Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Higginbotham said the award is an honor not only for Hu, but for the rest of the law school faculty. He said Hu impressed him early in his career when he first started working with Hu.
“He was an extraordinary, bright young man, and some of his greatest characteristics include quickness in mind, coupled with powerful self-discipline,” Higginbotham said. “I’ve known him to be very hardworking, and when you put together a brilliant mind and hard work, what you get is a productive scholar.”
A symposium celebrating Hu’s award will be held Sept. 26. The keynote speaker at the symposium will be Robert Charles Clark, Harvard University distinguished professor and former dean of Harvard Law School. Ward Farnsworth, law professor and dean of the UT law school, said the event will be a fitting tribute to Hu’s work.
“It’s a ‘who’s-who’ of the leading thinkers in the country at the intersection of law and finance,” Farnsworth said. “It will be a day of great conversations and a day to celebrate one of UT’s wonderful faculty members.”
Hu said success has always been hard for him to define, regardless of his passion and interest in the field.
“I relished opportunities to work on complex and fascinating financial innovation related matters,” Hu said. “Whatever ‘success’ might mean, you can never anticipate it.”