Homer Kripke Award - 2009 Recipient, William Burke

On April 18, 2009, William Burke was the recipient of the College’s Homer Kripke award.

Bill could not be with us that day to receive the award because he was in the process of climbing Mt. Everest. He made the summit. Here is his account of that adventure. 

Maury Poscover presented the award and his remarks follow. When Bill was told he was going to receive the award, he sent an email to Kenny Greene, College President, that follows Maury’s remarks.

April 18, 2009: Presentation of Homer Kripke Award to William Burke by Maury Poscover
It is a great honor for the College and for me to present the Homer Kripke Award for lifetime achievement in the field of commercial finance law to William M. Burke. There are many, many in the room who could make this presentation and do so with great insight. Bill has been climbing mountains, literally and professionally for his entire life.

Mt. McKinley – Alaska 
After moving from DC to California at age 5, Bill, the Californian, graduated from California State Northridge with a degree in business and economics in 1964 and Stanford Law School in 1967 where he was at the top of his class and a member of the Stanford Law Review.

Aconcagua – Cerro Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain outside Asia. It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Argentine province of Mendoza. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres.
From 1967-1986 – he was a partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton where George Richter was a mentor and model. 
From 1986-2002 climbed the mountain to Shearman & Sterling in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo

Mt. Kilimanjaro – Tanzania, the highest peak in Africa
Bill chaired the Business Law Section UCC Committee when it was limited to 50 including most, if not all, of the drafters of the UCC including Homer Kripke. He was the first chair and creator of Commercial Finance Services Committee in 1983, a member of the Council of Business Law Section, the President of Board of Governors of the Financial Lawyers Conference of California and a founding member of our College.

Mt. Elbrus – a volcano located in the western Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, Russia, near the border of Georgia, in the northern Iranian plateau. A stratovolcano that has lain dormant for about 2,000 years, it is the highest mountain in the Caucasus. It is the highest mountain in Europe; it is also the highest point of Russia.
Bill made his mark on the substance of statutory laws in his field in many ways. He took a leadership role in the American Law Institute and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law and served 18 years as California commissioner on the Permanent Editorial Board of the Uniform Commercial Code. Beginning in 1990, he chaired the study committee on issues relating to the modernization of Article 9 and then chaired the ALI/NCCUSL drafting committee on Article 9 concluded in 2001. He led the two and a half year effort to secure passage in all states of the US of the highly complex revisions to Article 9.

Vinson Massif – the highest mountain of Antarctica, located about 600 miles from the South Pole.
Bill led the effort to secure passage by the California legislature of all of the major commercial law projects of NCCUSL including Articles 2A, 3, 4, 4A, 5, 6, 8, and 9 and UFTA.

Mt. Kosciuszko – a mountain located in the Snowy Mountains in Kosciuszko National Park; it is the highest mountain in Australia.
Bill was a prolific writer in the fields of lender liability and Article 9. He authored three handbooks on securitization, cross-border securitization and cross-border securitizations in Japan, was the author of several articles published in the Business Lawyer, and law reviews on Article 9 and the then-evolving theories on the relationship between state usury laws and federals principles.

The Carstensz Pyramid – a mountain in the Sudirman Range, the western central highlands of Papua province, Indonesia. the highest mountain in Indonesia, the highest on the island of New Guinea (which comprises the Indonesian Papua provinces plus Papua New Guinea), the highest on the Australia-New Guinea continent and the highest in Oceania. It is also the highest point between the Himalayas and the Andes and the highest island peak in the world.

Bill has extensive practice experience including:

  • global transactional experience;
  • complex leveraged finance transactions;
  • structured finance transactions;
  • project development;
  • reorganization and bankruptcy for some of the largest financing organizations in the world;
  • massive public works projects in Asia;
  • argued successfully before the United States Supreme Court three times;
  • argued successfully cases before the Ninth Circuit, the California Supreme Court, and the California Court of Appeals in cases that were frequently seminal in their impact; and
  • is known for his meticulous preparation of comprehensive briefs.

South Summit of Mt. Everest (2007 – oldest American to climb that high and return alive)
Bill is supportive of the aspirations of scores of lawyers and organizations and has repeatedly taken time to reach out and nurture yet another idea, another organization, another group of people or another lawyer.

Mt. Everest – third attempt
If he makes the summit, he will be the oldest American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. That is where he is right now.

Personal Reflections

  • 1980 – lunch hosted by Committee on Personal Finance Law – sat next to Bill
  • led to being appointed in 1981 Young Lawyer to the UCC Committee he chaired
  • 1983 – made presentation to the Business Law Section Council for the creation of the Commercial Financial Services Committee and served as the first chair – asked me to chair Programs Committee
  • 1985 – took me to hear Tom Thomas talk leading to five incredibly successful National Institutes on Emerging Theories of Lender Liability as well as many more programs
  • 1988 – recommended me to be chair of CFS
  • always there to provide advice and counsel
  • a mentor and shaper of my career for which I will be forever grateful


  • 45 years married to Sharon
  • four children and three sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law
  • 14 grandchildren

Most importantly- a really, really nice guy!

His website: eightsummits.com

Email from William Burke to Kenneth Greene, College President
Remarks for the Annual Meeting of the American College of Commercial Finance Lawyers (April 18, 2009)

First, I want to apologize for the fact that I cannot offer these remarks in person. My wife, Sharon, and I would most surely be in attendance if it were not for my long-planned trip to Nepal to climb Mt. Everest.

I am deeply honored that the College would choose to bestow upon me the Homer Kripke Lifetime Achievement Award.

This award has special significance to me for two very important reasons. First, I was close friends with both Homer and Anne Kripke. There are precious few legal scholars that can match the pure talent and generosity of Homer Kripke. I can recall that, even when Homer spoke extemporaneously, the sentences came out in perfect form and with perfect clarity, suitable for transcription and ready for publication as a law review article. As a young lawyer, just settling into a commercial law practice, I would send Homer manuscripts of my own articles, and he would always take the time to write back with detailed and helpful comments.

Homer was also a fierce defender of the Uniform Commercial Code. When the Article 9 review effort began in 1993, the Permanent Editorial Board for the UCC appointed an Article 9 Study Committee and appointed me as its Chair. I selected Steve Harris and Chuck Mooney as the Reporters. I also appointed Homer as one of the members of the Study Committee. The first task I asked the Reporters to perform was to put together a list of issues that the Study Committee could address at its first meeting. They canvassed the members of the Study Committee, and other practitioners, academics and scholars, and came up with a lengthy list that we circulated to the Committee. I will never forget Homer coming to me at the restaurant in the hotel where we were meeting, clutching the list in a trembling hand, and asking “Bill, have you seen this list?” I, of course, said yes. He spent the next hour at breakfast admonishing me to keep the process under control so his beloved Article 9 would not be destroyed by unnecessary detail and complexity. Although the Code is now definitely more complex, I believe we were faithful to his concerns. Sadly, we will never know because he passed away in 1995 before we completed our work.

The second reason I am honored by this award is because I hold the College and its members in such high esteem. As I look back over the past 40-plus years of my practice, some of my fondest memories are the times I shared with members of the College in lectures, committee meetings, article writing, law reform and other legal endeavors. I could easily draw out my remarks with humorous and fun stories of the times we shared together (like the time we sent E-III into a meeting room in Boston to clear out some poachers so we could have the organizational meeting of the Committee on Commercial Financial Services and they unceremoniously tossed him out of the room). I will spare you the misery of having to listen to these ruminations of an old warhorse.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this generous award. I will cherish it forever.

God bless all of you.
Bill Burke