Rick Small ’80 has no easy task. Managing a team of 350 people globally, he is responsible for establishing and maintaining the anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and sanctions programs for American Express, as well as overall compliance in all of American Express’ international markets.
While keeping up-to-date with changing regulations and monitoring global consumer transactions may be tedious at times, the job can also be extremely rewarding and provides an opportunity to interact with different law enforcement agencies. Small has helped identify cases of money laundering linked to drug operations and has assisted the FBI in uncovering major terrorist funding activities.
After graduating in 1980, Small enjoyed a 22-year career working in several government positions, including deputy associate director of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, before transitioning to the private sector. Before joining American Express, he held positions with General Electric Capital Corp. and Citigroup Inc.
How did Hofstra Law prepare you for your legal career?
Law school changed the way I think. Hofstra Law gave me perspective on how to analyze and understand complex situations. The analytical framework that I learned at Hofstra Law has served me throughout my career.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra Law?
Through a student mentor, I was advised to apply to the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark. She had interned there the previous summer under alumna Maryanne Trump Barry ’74, who was in charge of appellate section. The internship was a great experience and helped me land my first job with the Justice Department in the antitrust division’s honors program.
What was it like working at the Federal Reserve?
I worked at the Federal Reserve for 12 years and found it to be a phenomenal experience. I started as an enforcement attorney with the task of identifying financial institutions that weren’t following the laws and regulations, and brought actions against them. My focus was on anti-money laundering laws. I spent many years investigating the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which at the time was the biggest Ponzi scheme that existed in banking.
How has the anti-money laundering field changed since you started working?
When I started working at the Federal Reserve, my boss told me that he wanted me to do anti-money laundering, but he didn’t think it would last. He viewed it as a part-time job and something that would not be talked about in five years. He really wanted me for my lawyering experience. Today, I wouldn’t even call anti-money laundering a cottage industry; it really is a profession.
What advice would you give to current Hofstra Law students?
Network. It’s up to you to ultimately sell yourself, but it is important to take advantage of any opportunities that you have. I was fortunate to find job opportunities through the relationships I developed with people in government. Also, I think government jobs are a great way to start a career. I truly enjoyed my time working for the government.