Makens Secure In Job Decision
But at Little Mexico Restaurant on
Born and bred in the U.P., Makens has become known below the bridge and across the nation for his four decades of expertise in securities law and his leadership posts in that area, including a recent stint on a dispute-solving body at NASDAQ.
As a lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s
An intellectually curious man of many interests, Makens, 68, remembers to this day the names of professors who influenced his life’s direction. He grew up in Houghton, where his father led the chemistry department at Michigan College of Mining and Technology, which eventually became
Makens was uncertain about just which area of law would become his career until he took a securities law class in his last year at Northwestern.
“From that moment on, there was only one job I wanted, and there was only one place I wanted to work and one career I wanted, and that was securities: This is for me. Sometimes it just rings a bell.”
With help from a professor and against the odds, Makens landed his “dream job” at the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, that was put on hold for two years as he fulfilled his obligation, as a ROTC student, to serve in the U.S. Army. Makens served in a position mitigating disputes between the military and electronics contractors. He also volunteered to defend soldiers facing court martial, an opportunity that gave him trial experience.
At the SEC’s
In addition to the cancer drugs and securities being smuggled in from
At that point, Gov. Milliken tabbed Makens, who had a flawless record at the SEC, to lead the state department that regulates securities. Today that area is part of the Department of Labor and Economic Growth’s Office of Financial and Insurance Services.
“When I walked in, I looked at the table, about twice the size of this thing, stacked like this all the way around. And I said ‘What are those?’ And they said, ‘Those are letters from lawyers asking about the law and how it’s interpreted that haven’t been answered.’ I said, ‘Going back how far?’ ‘Three or four years.’ ‘Oh, OK.’
“So we were understaffed, overworked (and) undertrained, and I set out to tackle those things. I spent a lot of nights getting that table down so there was nothing left on it. We dramatically improved our caseload. We built up our staff dramatically. I added CPAs and accountants, over the objection of (former Attorney General) Frank Kelley. Frank thought all attorneys should work for him. But as long as they were qualified for other job descriptions, I could bring them on and I did. We brought ourselves up to where we had a reputation of being one of the very top securities organizations in the
Makens makes no bones about the fact that he thinks the state securities commissioner’s office has shrunk in scope and influence since he left after nearly six years in the post. “Gov. (
After more than five years and a stint as president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, Makens decided he preferred being a lawyer to being an administrator and joined Warner Norcross & Judd, where he is a partner today.
Nearly 29 years at the
Makens worked for Buffett as part of the Salomon Brothers Treasury auction scandal in the early 1990s. “He’s a dynamo,” Makens said. “He’s a consummate straight-shooter. Third, he’s incredibly decisive. He analyzes and moves to decision and implementation as fast as anyone I’ve seen, and comes up with a reasoned result; I mean, his experience is so vast.”
Makens recently completed a two-year term on the NASDAQ’s Market Operations Committee, resolving disputes between traders and writing new rules for how they interact with each other at the stock exchange. He’s also signed up as a trustee for the National Endowment for Financial Education, which provides programs for all ages, particularly teenagers and college students. He’s also been named to the editorial board for securities publications of LexisNexis, a research database widely used by lawyers and journalists.
An avid reader, trumpet player and canoeist, Makens is looking forward to more travel time with his wife, Georgia. They have two sons: Craig, who works in sales in Houghton, and Brett, who is in the foreign service and currently stationed in
“I’ve never looked back for a minute to say, ‘Was it the right decision?’ I’m doing things that I really like to do and I’m being continually intellectually challenged.”