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Alumni Spotlight - Essence Liburd

Keeping the Data Trackers on Track

Essence Liburd Helps Moody’s Regulate Its Worldwide Investigations Processes

Essence Liburd is a problem solver. In her role as vice president of global investigations at Moody’s Corp., she investigates any potential violations of law, regulation, policy or procedure by company employees. “Anytime there is an issue with one of our processes, we review what happened, what was supposed to happen and what we should do to prevent it in the future,” she explains.

She also conducts confidential investigations, advises on investigative strategy, and provides training, trend analysis and reports for senior management and regulators. Moody’s is a global risk assessment firm with 11,000 employees in more than 40 countries. “Moody’s rates everything, from municipalities to companies,” Liburd says. “I work with exceptionally smart people. Our goal is to make sure that everything we put out into the market is accurate and that we are protecting the data we are entrusted with.”

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Cornell University, Liburd says, “Law school was on my radar. I’ve always been interested in law and justice – I really like writing and research – and I thought that law would be a satisfying career with the potential for longevity – you could practice for 40 or 50 years. But before I committed, I took two years off from school and worked as a litigation paralegal.” She earned her J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Liburd began her legal career in BakerHostetler’s New York office in 2006, when it was much smaller. “I was able to get to know everyone there. It felt like I was getting in on the ground floor,” she says. “The firm’s presence in New York was small but growing organically, and I liked that there were so many attorneys with government experience – people who had chosen BakerHostetler. There wasn’t a strict ‘big firm’ hierarchy and you could get your hands wet right away. And back then you had to buy your own BlackBerry if you needed to be in touch outside the office. There was a feeling that you do the work and then go home and be a whole person.”

At BakerHostetler, she was a litigator working in white collar defense and investigations and representing clients in matters involving the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other state and federal regulatory agencies. After seven years, she left the firm to serve as an assistant attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York. “I was looking for more courtroom experience, and at the Attorney General’s Office I represented New York state in federal court when federal lawsuits were brought against the state. It was very appealing to me.”

Liburd joined Moody’s in 2015. “My group of three attorneys manages all investigations in all of Moody’s jurisdictions – Europe, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Australia and throughout Latin America. My biggest challenge is learning very complex systems and then being able to explain them in very simple ways. You need to be able to distill an issue to its essence in order to be clear when you are speaking with senior management and regulators.”

Like nearly everyone, Liburd is coping with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m working from home and, in some ways, it’s actually easier because I can make calls [to] different time zones around the world at any time,” she says. “But I also typically do a lot of my interviews in person, and I’ve found that you lose something when you are connecting with people only by phone or Zoom. Plus, I have a 1-year-old son who takes up all my time when I’m not working – and sometimes even when I am!”

Another casualty of the pandemic is Liburd’s yearly vacation with her extended family. “Every year, my family goes to a different national park. My dad loves the outdoors, and this would have been our 15th year of visiting the parks. I also visit Martha’s Vineyard every year.” She also has been a serious runner (“pre-baby,” she notes), completing the New York Marathon in 2014.