Friday, February 24, 2017

CALL FOR PAPERS: THIRD BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS SCHOLARS CONFERENCE (2017)

The following comes to us from Professor Stephen Diamond, Santa Clara University School of Law.

The Santa Clara University School of Law, the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, the University of Washington School of Law, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, the Rutgers Center for Corporate Law and Governance and the Business and Human Rights Journal announce the Third Business and Human Rights Scholars Conference, to be held September 15-16, 2017 at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. Conference participants will present and discuss scholarship at the intersection of business and human rights issues. Upon request, participants’ papers may be considered for publication in the Business and Human Rights Journal (BHRJ), published by Cambridge University Press.

The Conference is interdisciplinary: scholars from all disciplines are invited to apply, including law, business, human rights, and global affairs. The papers must be unpublished at the time of presentation. Each participant will present his/her own paper and be asked to comment on at least one other paper during the workshop. Participants will be expected to have read other papers and to participate actively in discussion and analysis of the various works in progress.

To apply, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to bhrconf@gmail.com with the subject line “Business & Human Rights Conference Proposal.” Please include your name, affiliation, contact information, and curriculum vitae. The deadline for submission is March 15, 2017. We will begin reviewing submissions on a rolling basis on March 1, 2017. Scholars whose submissions are selected for the symposium will be notified no later than April 15, 2017. Final papers will be due August 25, 2017.

February 24, 2017 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Human Rights, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Financing Benefit Corporations - Data.world raises $18.7 million

One of the many questions surrounding benefit corporations is whether their choice of legal entity form will scare away investors.

As previously reported, we now have our first publicly traded benefit corporation. And in this week's news certified B corp and benefit corporation Data.world announced a 18.7 million dollar raise. This raise ranks in the top-ten largest raises by a benefit corporation, according to the information I have seen on benefit corporations. I compiled the publicly available information I was able to uncover on social enterprise raises (including by benefit corporations) in a forthcoming symposium article for the Seattle University Law Review. It is quite possible that there are raises that have been kept quiet and that I have not seen. This Data.world news was announced days after final edits and will not be in my article.

As is often the case in social enterprise news, this news could be seen as encouraging or discouraging for supporters of the benefit corporation form.

On one hand, this is a fairly sizeable raise and a bit of evidence that not all serious investors are scared away by a legal form that mandates a general public benefit purpose.

On the other hand, the mere fact that a raise of under $20 million dollars is big news in the benefit corporation world (commanding its own announcement e-mail from benefit corporation proponent organization B Lab) shows that the benefit corporation form has yet to go mainstream. A raise under $20 million dollars hardly qualifies as news in the traditional financial world. And, as mentioned, to date, there have only been a handful of raises of this size for companies using the social enterprise forms.

Still, I think it is fair to say that benefit corporations have already come further than harsh critics originally thought was possible. The benefit corporation form still needs to evolve significantly, in my opinion, but the form is still growing and the positive news for the form has not yet stopped.  

February 24, 2017 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Haskell Murray, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Buying American Make America Great Again?

A few weeks ago I blogged about the spate of boycotts and buycotts responding to President Trump’s travel ban. Since that time, the #grabyourwallet campaign has taken credit for a number of stores dropping Ivanka Trump’s merchandise. In response, celebrities and others flocked to Nordstrom after criticism by the President’s surrogates about the retailer’s decision to drop the products, even though Nordstrom cited falling sales. Within days, news outlets reported that her perfume was a top seller on Amazon, and that many reviewers indicated that they had bought the product to show support for the President. 

Yesterday, NPR reported that the United Auto Workers will revive its 1980s Buy American campaign, which will not only promote American-made products but will also encourage the boycott of cars made by American companies overseas. I’ve argued in the past that boycotts don’t work, and the NPR story provided some support from a professor who noted, “these campaigns, even with catchy song lyrics, almost never work. For instance, garment work essentially left the U.S. almost completely a few years after [the look for the union label ad] ran, and after the last UAW campaign, the American car companies continued to lose market share.” The New York Times has also examined whether these boycotts have long term effect.

The back and forth between boycotts and buycotts related to the President’s family may prove conventional wisdom wrong. It may be time for an empirical study (not by me) of when and how the boycott/boycott movement can sustain itself.

February 24, 2017 in Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Marcia Narine Weldon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bruner on "Center-Left Politics and Corporate Governance: What Is the 'Progressive' Agenda?"

Christopher Bruner has posted Center-Left Politics and Corporate Governance: What Is the 'Progressive' Agenda? on SSRN. You can download the paper here.  Here is the abstract:

For as long as corporations have existed, debates have persisted among scholars, judges, and policymakers regarding how best to describe their form and function as a positive matter, and how best to organize relations among their various stakeholders as a normative matter. This is hardly surprising given the economic and political stakes involved with control over vast and growing "corporate" resources, and it has become commonplace to speak of various approaches to corporate law in decidedly political terms. In particular, on the fundamental normative issue of the aims to which corporate decision-making ought to be directed, shareholder-centric conceptions of the corporation have long been described as politically right-leaning while stakeholder-oriented conceptions have conversely been described as politically left-leaning. When the frame of reference for this normative debate shifts away from state corporate law, however, a curious reversal occurs. Notably, when the debate shifts to federal political and judicial contexts, one often finds actors associated with the political left championing expansion of shareholders' corporate governance powers, and those associated with the political right advancing more stakeholder-centric conceptions of the corporation.

The aim of this article is to explain this disconnect and explore its implications for the development of U.S. corporate governance, with particular reference to the varied and evolving corporate governance views of the political left - the side of the spectrum where, I argue, the more dramatic and illuminating shifts have occurred over recent decades, and where the state/federal divide is more difficult to explain. A widespread and fundamental reorientation of the Democratic Party toward decidedly centrist national politics fundamentally altered the role of corporate governance and related issues in the project of assembling a competitive coalition capable of appealing to working- and middle-class voters. Grappling with the legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks - as well as the economic and cultural trends - that conditioned and incentivized this shift will prove critical to understanding the state/federal divide regarding what the "progressive" corporate governance agenda ought to be and how the situation might change as the Democratic Party formulates responses to the November 2016 election.

I begin with a brief terminological discussion, examining how various labels associated with the political left tend to be employed in relevant contexts, as well as varying ways of defining the field of "corporate governance" itself. I then provide an overview of "progressive" thinking about corporate governance in the context of state corporate law, contrasting those views with the very different perspectives associated with center-left political actors at the federal level.

Based on this descriptive account, I then examine various legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks, as well as important economic and cultural trends, that have played consequential roles in prompting and/or exacerbating the state/federal divide. These include fundamental distinctions between state corporate law and federal securities regulation; the differing postures of lawmakers in Delaware and Washington, DC; the rise of institutional investors; the evolution of organized labor interests; certain unintended consequences of extra-corporate regulation; and the Democratic Party's sharp rightward shift since the late 1980s. The article closes with a brief discussion of the prospects for state/federal convergence, concluding that the U.S. corporate governance system will likely remain theoretically incoherent for the foreseeable future due to the extraordinary range of relevant actors and the fundamentally divergent forces at work in the very different legal and political settings they inhabit.

February 23, 2017 in Corporate Governance, Securities Regulation, Shareholders, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Business Headlines

Here is a rundown of recent business news headlines:

The Yahoo/Verizon deal takes a $350M haircut to compensate for Yahoo data security breaches in 2013 and 2014.

The Snapchat parent company, SNAP, scheduled blockbuster IPO ($20-23B) is plagued with news that it lost  $514.6 million in 2016, there are questions about the sustainability of its user base, and, for the governance folks out there, there is NO VOTING STOCK being offered.

In what is being called a "whopper" of a deal, Restaurant Brands, the owner of Burger King and Tim Hortons, announced earlier this week a deal to acquire Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, the fried chicken restaurant chain, for $1.8 billion in cash. 

Kraft withdrew its $143B takeover offer for Unilever less than 48 hours after the announcement amid political concerns over the merger.  While Unilever evaluates its next steps, Kraft is perhaps feeling the effects of its controversial takeover of Britain's beloved Cadbury

A final item to note, for me personally, is that today is my last regular contribution to the Business Law Professor Blog. I will remain as a contributing editor, but will miss the ritual of a weekly post--a habit now nearly 4 years in the making.  Thanks to all of the readers and other editors who gave me great incentive to learn new information each week, think critically, connect with teaching, and generally feel a part of a vibrant and smart community of folks with similar interests. 

With gratitude,

Anne Tucker

February 22, 2017 in Anne Tucker, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, M&A | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Finally -- Moot Court Meets Transactional Law

Later this week, I will be on the road to Los Angeles to take one of our teams to a LawMeet Transactional competition.  The competition is described as follows: 

The National Transactional LawMeet is the premier “moot court” experience for students interested in a transactional practice. The National Transactional LawMeet is a part of the LawMeet family of live, interactive, educational competitions designed to give law students a hands-on experience in developing and honing transactional lawyering skills.

I worked with a team last year that made it to the finals in New York City (their work and talent got them there, to be clear), and it was a great experience. They did the regional on their own last year, so I am hoping I don't get in their way this time around.  

I have worked with moot court teams for years, including taking teams to the Evans Moot Court Competition at the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Mardi Gras Moot Court Competition at Tulane Law School, and they were good experiences, I think, for the students. And I have helped with our West Virginia University College of LawNational Energy & Sustainability Moot Court Competition, which I think is both unique and well done (I am not unbiased, I admit, but I am confident I am right.)

Still, it was great to go to a transactional competition. The LawMeet competition was impressive. It's hard to isolate a deal simulation, but the organizers did well. And after their negotiation sessions, the students got reviewed by some incredibly talented people. One of the reviewers was a very big deal M&A partner at a very big deal New York firm. And he was kind, thoughtful, while providing an incisive critique. I disagreed with him on one tactic (I kept my mouth shut), because I was exposed to a different viewpoint for a very big deal partner at a very big deal New York firm some years ago.  It wasn't a big point, but it was actually great opportunity to talk about philosophy and tactics with my students (later) using a deal setting as the basis for discussion.  

Anyway, I am happy this opportunity is out there for students aren't seeking to litigate, but want to go live (or close to it).  Go Business Law!  

February 21, 2017 in Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, M&A, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Balancing the Regulatory Budget: Another Analogy for Consideration

Two weeks ago, I posted on the POTUS's "one in, two out" executive order on executive branch agency regulations.  In that post, I used critiques of a clothing maintenance/closet cleaning system working off the same principle.  Interestingly, a CATO report was released January 31, unbeknownst to me at the time I wrote and published my post, that makes some of the same points.  Since that time, I have wondered whether there is a more wise, effective  way to simply address bloated federal agency regulations.  Here is an idea that currently holds my interest.

In a leadership training program a few years ago, I remember hearing about a technique used in institutional budgeting processes.  A unit leader who is required to submit a proposed budget to a superior or to a central budgeting office is asked to submit with the budget a proposal on what the unit would cut if the budget was cut by 5% (or another desired number) and what the unit would spend on if its budget was increased by 5% (or another desired number).  It struck me that a similar system could be employed to true up federal agency regulations.

Specifically, each agency could be required to establish reasonable, evidence-based objectives for its operations for the forthcoming fiscal year, consistent with the agency's overall mandate. Then, the agency could be compelled to report to the President (or a designee) on the ways in which the agency's current body of regulations succeeds or fails to achieve those objectives and that mandate. Finally, as part of its budget submission, the agency could be asked to (1) suggest which regulations it would eliminate if it had to cut a specific percentage of its existing body of regulations and (2) identify and recommend new regulations for adoption if it had the opportunity to introduce new regulation, in each case with the goal of better achieving the agency's objectives and mandate.

Could a system like this work in curing over-regulation?  Is it too simplistic?  Leave your responses and comments below.

February 20, 2017 in Current Affairs, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

ICYMI: Tweets From the Week (Feb. 19, 2017)

February 19, 2017 in Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

What if they had a securities fraud lawsuit and nobody came?

In 1995, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act revamped the procedures applicable to class action lawsuits alleging claims under the federal securities laws.

Concerned about frivolous, attorney-driven litigation, Congress mandated that once a class action complaint is filed, the court must appoint a “lead plaintiff” to take control of the case.  This, it was believed, would be preferable to the old tradition of simply giving control of the case to the first plaintiff to file a complaint.  The lead plaintiff would be selected based on factors similar, but not quite identical, to those involved in selecting a class representative, using a more preliminary, less searching inquiry than might be expected for class certification.  See 15 U.S.C. §78u-4; Topping v. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA, 95 F. Supp. 3d 607 (S.D.N.Y. 2015).

In enacting the scheme, Congress left a number of questions unanswered.  Like, what is the relationship between the lead plaintiff and the class rep?  Does the lead plaintiff position disappear once class reps are appointed?  It’s not an issue that comes up often, since most lead plaintiffs seek class rep status, and those that don’t tend to cooperate with any class reps who are eventually appointed. 

Another unanswered question was, what if there’s no suitable lead?  See In re Cavanaugh, 306 F.3d 726, 731 n.7 (9th Cir. 2002) (raising the possibility).  You might say, then the case can’t proceed as a class action, but class certification is supposed to be a different process; it’s one thing to use the lead plaintiff selection process to find – as the statute puts it – the “most adequate plaintiff”; it’s quite another to use the process to deny class certification without so much as a Rule 23 hearing.

Which brings me to the curious case of Finocchiaro et al v. NQ Mobile, Inc. et al, Docket No. 1:15-cv-06385 (S.D.N.Y.).   The original class action complaint identified several named plaintiffs – all individuals, rather than institutional investors – but only one person sought lead plaintiff status.  That applicant was rejected by the court, on the grounds that he had previously sent obscene and threatening letters to the defendants.  The same attorneys sought, and received, an extension of time to find a second lead plaintiff, and recently filed a new motion seeking lead plaintiff status for another one of the individuals named in the complaint.  That motion is (unsurprisingly) opposed by the defendants, who argue that the substitute lead is also unsuitable.

I have no idea how the court will come out on that argument; possibly the court will accept the new lead and all awkward questions will be averted.  But it does beg the question: if no suitable lead plaintiff can be found, what happens to the case?

February 18, 2017 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Racing Dopers and Endorsement Contract Performance Bonuses

Last week Runner’s World reported:

Mariya Savinova-Farnosova, a Russian middle distance runner, was given a four-year ban for doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday. She will also be stripped of two gold medals she won at the 2011 world outdoor championships and 2012 London Olympics, as well as a 2013 world silver medal, all in the 800 meters.

As a result, U.S. athlete Brenda Martinez will likely soon be upgraded to a silver medal for her performance in the 800 meters at the 2013 world championships and American Alysia Montaño will receive bronze medals for her races at the 2011 and 2013 world championships. Officials will first need to verify the new results.

In this post, I’ll examine how the presumably clean athletes—like Brenda Martinez and Alysia Montaño in this case—should be treated with regards to their endorsement contracts. The main question is:

  • Should the clean athletes be awarded their endorsement contract performance bonuses based on world rankings than have been revised to exclude doping athletes?

Respected law firm Reed Smith has some helpful contract interpretation materials available here, which is relevant to the discussion. All of the following is merely an academic exercise and not legal advice.

Contract Drafting and the Text of the Contract.

As with any contractual issue, we should start with the text of the contracts. Since few of these endorsement contracts are publicly available, I will use the language in Nike’s endorsement contract that was filed in the Nike v. Berian case last year.

A great many contract disputes could be avoided with clear drafting. If an endorsement contract stated that performance bonuses would be paid based on any revised rankings that remove doping athletes, then I imagine that language would control and the clean athletes would promptly get paid the difference between their old and new ranking. Doping has been uncovered frequently enough in sports like cycling and track & field (aka “athletics”) that such a contractual clarification might be helpful to include on the front end of the drafting process.

The proposed Nike contract in the Berian case does contain promised performance bonuses, based on world rankings, with additional bonuses for Olympic and World Championship Medals (pg. 14), but I did not see any guidance regarding world rankings that are revised due to doping. The potential bonuses in the Berian case were fairly significant, with the top bonus of $150,000 exceeding the proposed annual base pay of $125,000. The contract does allow Nike to terminate the contract due to any sponsored athlete’s doping offense (pg. 9), but, again, I don’t see anything about doping by the athlete’s competitors.

Contract Interpretation.

As the Reed Smith contract interpretation flowchart correctly states, judges attempt to construe contracts in accordance with the parties’ intent. We first look at the text of the contract, and can only look at the contract language if the wording in unambiguous. If the contract language is ambiguous (reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation) then the court may be able to look beyond the contract (parol evidence) to determine the intent of the parties.

Here, I think the parties' intent might be interpreted either way. On one hand, the athlete could argue that the intent was to award bonuses based on the fair world rankings, which would exclude drug cheats. On the other hand, the sponsor could argue that they were paying for publicity, and that the revised rankings publicity is typically significantly less than the publicity surrounding achievement during the actual Olympics or World Championships.

As a practical matter, like most legal disputes, it probably  makes sense for the athlete and the sponsoring company to settle the matter outside of court. An example of a principled negotiation could involve the sponsor paying the difference in the performance bonuses, and the athlete promising to do an anti-doping ad for the sponsor or a few extra appearances related to the new rankings.

Additional Topics.

It future posts, I may write about the appropriate punishment for athletes who use performance enhancing drugs. For example, is jail time appropriate? I may also post on ways to further compensate the clean athletes for their lost earnings, publicity, and recognition.

February 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Lawyering, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The President and Responsible Business Conduct

     This post does not concern President Trump’s own business empire. Rather, this post will be the first of a few to look at how the President retains, repeals, or replaces some of the work that President Obama put in place in December 2016 as part of the National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct. Many EU nations established their NAPS year ago, but the U.S. government engaged in two years of stakeholder consultations and coordinated with several federal agencies before releasing its NAP.

     Secretary of State Tillerson will play a large role in enforcing or revising many of the provisions of the NAP because the State Department promotes the Plan on its page addressing corporate social responsibility. Unlike many federal government pages, this page has not changed (yet) with the new administration. As the State Department explained in December, “the NAP reflects the government's commitment to promoting human rights and fighting corruption through partnerships with domestic and international stakeholders. An important part of this commitment includes encouraging companies to embrace high standards for responsible business conduct.” Over a dozen federal agencies worked to develop the NAP.

     We now have a new Treasury Secretary and will soon have a new Secretary of Labor, presumably FIU Law Dean and former US Attorney Alex Acosta, a new SEC Chair, presumably Jay Clayton, and a new Secretary of Commerce, presumably Wilbur Ross. These men, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Tillerson will lead the key agencies enforcing or perhaps revising the country’s commitment to responsible business conduct.

    The following list of priorities and initiatives comes directly from the Fact Sheet:

Strengthening laws preventing the import of goods produced by forced labor to ensure products made under exploitative conditions do not gain U.S. market access.

Updating social and environmental standards criteria for financing through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, to promote high standards through U.S.-supported private investment.

Creating guidance on social safeguards for USAID’s development programs.

Funding efforts to promote awareness and implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Publishing, for the first time, an annual report by the U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines.

Identifying means through trade agreements to encourage companies to engage in RBC.

Enhancing information sharing with sub-national governments on public procurement best practices, to ensure that governments at all levels promote RBC through purchasing.

Collaboration with Stakeholders

In order to achieve shared RBC goals, it is essential for governments to work with the private sector, as well as with civil society, labor, and other stakeholders, to leverage each other’s resources and strengths.  The USG’s measures to collaborate with such stakeholders include:

Establishing a formal mechanism for increased government participation in “multi-stakeholder initiatives” that promote RBC in various sectors and regions.

Convening stakeholders to develop and promote effective metrics for measuring and managing labor rights impacts in supply chains.

Facilitating a dialogue with stakeholders on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Promoting worker voice and empowerment in global supply chains via new tools that allow workers in national supply chains to directly report potential labor abuses and workplace safety violations, as well as leveraging public-private partnerships to more fully incorporate the perspectives of workers.

Facilitating RBC by Companies

The USG encourages companies to follow the best domestic and international practices and is supportive of company efforts to voluntarily report on certain aspects of their operations.  The USG produces a number of reports that can be useful for companies as they seek to uphold high standards, sometimes in challenging environments.  The NAP sets forth an illustrative list of USG initiatives to further that work, including the following commitments:

Creating an online database containing government reports on issues such as human rights, human trafficking including forced labor, child labor, and investment climates so that companies can more effectively make investment decisions and mitigate risk.

Providing new and increased training for USG officers and officials, including those who serve abroad, on RBC issues so that government officials are well-equipped to advise companies on considerations such as the status of labor rights, human rights and transparency, in a particular operating environment.

Training for USG officials on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related issues.

Updating country-level public land governance profiles that explain land laws, land use patterns, gender concerns, land administration, and land markets within a given country.  These profiles are an important tool for businesses making responsible land-based investments in a given country.

Recognizing Positive Performance

U.S. companies make tremendous contributions to communities around the world by generating economic growth, creating jobs, spurring innovation, and providing solutions to pressing challenges such as access to clean energy, healthcare, and technology.  The USG recognizes and highlights when companies achieve high standards with meaningful results for workers and communities. Such items include...

Developing an online mechanism to identify, document, and publicize lessons learned and best practices related to corporate actions that promote and respect human rights. 

Providing Access to Remedy

Even when governments and companies seek to act responsibly, challenges can arise.  Both governments and companies should have mechanisms in place by which affected parties can raise concerns, report problems, and seek remedies, as appropriate.  Through the NAP, the USG is furthering its commitment to this objective by:

Improving the performance of the U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, including by announcing a fall 2017 peer review, organizing workshops to promote RBC, and publishing an outreach plan.

Hosting a forum for dialogue with stakeholders on opportunities and challenges regarding issues of remedy, as well as how the USG can best support effective remedy processes.

    I will continue to follow up on this issue as well as how corporate compliance and governance may change under the Trump Administration.

February 16, 2017 in Compliance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Human Rights, International Law, Marcia Narine Weldon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Position Opening: Akron School of Law Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law & Technology

Responsibilities

The University of Akron's School of Law invites applications and nominations for the position of Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law & Technology, a tenure-track or tenured faculty position, with an anticipated start date of August 2017.

The Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law and Technology is responsible for developing, articulating, and implementing a long-term vision for the Center that will achieve greater distinction for the University of Akron's School of Law. The Director, in coordination with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, is responsible for implementing the IP curriculum within the School of Law. The Director also manages and supervises the law schools' special IP degree and certificate programs, and may help propose and create additional new programs in intellectual property for attorneys and other professionals as appropriate. The Director is responsible for the management and coordination of all law school programming in the area of intellectual property law, including programs for both attorneys and academics.

The Director fosters and advances external relationships, including the law schools' ongoing international relationships with other universities, where those relate to intellectual property and technology. The Director also works with the law schools' Intellectual Property Advisory Council in advancing the intellectual property program. The Director serves as a faculty advisor to the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Association, a law student organization, oversees the advising related to the annual issue of the Akron Law Review devoted to intellectual property law, and also oversees the law schools' participation in intellectual property-related moot court competitions.

As a member of the law school faculty, the Director will engage in relevant scholarship, teach in the area of intellectual property law, and serve on administrative committees.

For complete details and to apply visit: http://www.uakron.edu/jobs Job ID # 10009

 

February 16, 2017 in Jobs, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Assistant Professor of Business Law Position at Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

New job posting here; information below.

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How to Apply

A cover letter is required for consideration for this position and should be attached as the first page of your resume. The cover letter should address your specific interest in the position and outline skills and experience that directly relate to this position.

Applicants are required to submit their applications electronically by visiting the website: http://www.bus.umich.edu/FacultyRecruiting and uploading the following:1. Evidence of teaching experience and competence (if any)2. A curriculum vitae that includes three references

Please contact Jen Mason, Area Administrator, via email with questions at masonlj@umich.edu

Job Summary

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is a diverse learning community grounded in the principle that business can be an extraordinary vehicle for positive change in today's dynamic global economy. The Ross School of Business mission is to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. Through thought and action, members of the Ross community drive change and innovation that improves business and society.Ross is consistently ranked among the world's leading business schools. Academic degree programs include the BBA, MBA, Part-time MBA (Evening and Weekend formats), Executive MBA, Global MBA, Master of Accounting, Master of Supply Chain Management, Master of Management, and PhD. In addition, the school delivers open-enrollment and custom executive education programs targeting general management, leadership development, and strategic human resource management.

Responsibilities*

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has a tenure-track position at the assistant professor level available in Business Law starting in the Fall, 2018 term.  The successful candidate will have a research and teaching focus in the area of the regulation of financial and banking organizations. Strong preference will be given to candidates with demonstrated experience and expertise in this area; ideally, this would include expertise on the definition of systemically important financial institutions, international financial standards such as Basel III, and legal standards as applied to mergers and acquisitions of banks and other financial institutions.

Required Qualifications*

Qualified candidates must have an earned J.D. in from an ABA accredited law school with an excellent academic record and must demonstrate interest and ability in conducting high-quality, scholarly research. A qualified candidate must demonstrate excellence in university teaching or the potential to be an outstanding teacher in business law. Preference will be given to candidates with significant professional experience as a lawyer and/or evidence of prior excellence in teaching. 

Additional Information

For more detailed descriptions of the Business Law Area, Ross School of Business, and the University of Michigan, Please consult our websites:

Background Screening

The University of Michigan conducts background checks on all job candidates upon acceptance of a contingent offer and may use a third party administrator to conduct background checks. Background checks will be performed in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Application Deadline

The review of applications will begin immediately.  Job openings are posted for a minimum of seven calendar days.  This job may be removed from posting boards and filled anytime after the minimum posting period has ended.

U-M EEO/AA Statement

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

February 16, 2017 in Business Associations, Business School, Haskell Murray, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Business Law on Valentine's Day

I hope this Valentine's Day is a good one for you, dear readers.  Mine started with a random (minor) dog bite on my morning run, followed by some time with some very nice health care professionals and quite a few less pleasant needles. 

A friend alerted me to the law-related Twitter hashtag #AppellateValentines. Some of them are quite funny.  See, e.g.,

There is also a #BusinessValentines hashtag, which is less creative, but has its moments.  Of course, there was no #BusinessLawValentines, but there should be and there is now. I went first. Join in, if you're so inclined.  

And, of course, I could not resist:

February 14, 2017 in Corporations, Current Affairs, Joshua P. Fershee, Partnership, Unincorporated Entities, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

National Business Law Scholars - Last Chance!

Just a quick note and final reminder about the call for papers for the National Business Law Scholars Conference.  The deadline for submissions is Friday!  The conference will be held on Thursday and Friday, June 8-9, 2017, at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.

February 14, 2017 in Conferences, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Got Tax Literacy?

News on TaxJazz: The Tax Literacy Project from Tulane Law colleague Marjorie Kornhauser:

TaxJazz provides individuals with non-partisan, non-technical, accessible tax information to help people participate in discussions about tax policy and problems facing the nation. TaxJazz already addresses basic tax questions, such as: Why do we have taxes? Are there any legal constraints on taxation? What can be taxed? How do we decide what is a fair tax? It plans to add material on particular tax issues and provisions.

The readings, worksheets, dialogues and other materials are suitable for use by individuals or by groups in a variety of situations. They have already been used 7 times in different settings including high schools, a city recreation department’s after-school program, and a community senior center. They have already been used by over 350 people between the ages of 12 and 80.

For more information, please Contact Us.

Looks like I may need to spend some time over there at TaxJazz.  I certainly do not consider myself tax literate! Maybe this will help.  A quick pass over the materials on the site reveals catchy graphics and coverage of salient issues about taxing authority and tax policy.  I know a few legislators who need to better understand the tradeoffs as among different types of taxation . . . .  Maybe I can convince them that learning about taxation can be fun?!

In addition, I wonder if we "firm governance folks" could increase literacy in our field with a project like this.  Hmm.  Food for thought.

February 13, 2017 in Joan Heminway, Teaching, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

ICYMI: Tweets From the Week (Feb. 12, 2017)

February 12, 2017 in Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ratings Agency Reform - A Clever Idea

I'm teaching a seminar on the Financial Crisis this semester, and so I was intrigued when I saw this article about a new paper that proposes a simple reform to improve credit ratings.

As most readers probably know, one of the problems that led to the crisis was a gradual deterioration in the quality of the credit ratings issued by agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's.  The basic charge has been that the agencies, paid by the issuers, had an incentive to issue inflated ratings.  If they did not, the issuer would simply turn to another agency.  The competition for business among agencies was destructive and corrupted the integrity of the rating.

There have been lots of proposals to reform the process - everything from greater disclosure to disgorgement of profits - but Howard Esaki and Lawrence J. White have a simpler idea.  They would simply create a rule that if the issuer goes to more than one ratings agency, the issuer is required to drop (or not pay for) the most lenient rating.  

They have a couple of variations, but the basic idea is the same - ratings agencies won't compete to give the most lenient rating if the most lenient rating is never used or paid for.  They focus specifically on securitizations, and the amount of subordination each agency requires for the top ratings, because (in their view) this is the aspect of the process that needs the most intervention.

I gotta admit, it sounds like this would be a pretty elegant and effective solution.

February 11, 2017 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Mid-Atlantic Junior Faculty Forum: Call for Papers

The University of Richmond School of Law invites submissions for the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Junior Faculty Forum. This workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia.

Overview

This new workshop will bring together junior law scholars to present their scholarship in an informal collegial atmosphere.  The workshop is timed to allow participants to incorporate feedback on early ideas or projects before the summer.  Papers and works-in-progress are welcome at any stage of completion.  To maximize discussion and feedback, the author will provide a brief introduction to the paper, but the majority of the individual sessions will be devoted to collective discussion of the papers. 

Richmond Law will provide all lunches and dinners for those attending the workshop, but attendees will cover their own travel and lodging costs.

Eligibility

All untenured law faculty at Mid-Atlantic law schools who have been teaching for ten years or less are eligible to participate.   Those who do not currently hold a permanent or visiting faculty appointment, but expect to do so beginning in fall 2017 are also welcome. 

Submission Procedure

If you would like to participate, please send an abstract of the paper you would like to present to Jessica Erickson at jerickso@richmond.edu no later than Friday, March 17, 2017.  Please include your name, current position, and contact information in the accompanying e-mail. 

Questions

Any questions concerning the workshop should be directed to Professor Jessica Erickson (jerickso@richmond.edu).

February 10, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Patents to Non-Human Inventors?

The Constitution tells us that patents can be given to “inventors,” and the Patent Act states that protection is available to “[w]hoever invents or discovers” an invention.  These are not generally controversial propositions, but like so many legal regimes, technology is forcing these analog laws to deal with digital phenomena. The culprits here are artificial intelligence and software capable of inventing new technologies. Can patents be given to digital “inventors,” and if not, does any human have the right to patent such an invention?

Obvious comparisons can be drawn to whether non-humans can be “authors”—as required by the Constitution—for copyright purposes. For instance, can a digital composer of music be given copyright protection for its work? The academic consensus is that technology is not an author (for Constitutional purposes), but the agreement dissolves from there. Some have argued that programmers should be given ownership rights—a reasonable proposition—but this sentiment is far from universal.

With little guidance from copyright law, parties have looked elsewhere for ideas in the patent sphere.  It has been posited that—if a non-human cannot be an inventor—current patent laws require the first person to “discover” the value of the non-human invention to be the inventor. This may be correct, but one must consider if that policy creates maximum incentives to further the progress of technology. Perhaps an amendment to the Patent Act is appropriate.

There are several potential avenues to address this issue. Ownership could be allocated to the programmer, the company owning the hardware, or to no one at all. Granting ownership to any party incentivizes creation of more inventing software and artificial intelligence. This benefit, however, comes at the price of granting 20-year patent monopolies at a relatively small marginal cost to the patentee (after software is accounted for). Does this encouragement to create and use of inventing software/computers come at too high of a cost to society?

Denying any patent protection enriches the public domain by including all non-human inventions—a social positive. That policy, however, potentially discourages the creation of inventing machines (as it decreases their market value) and incentives fraud before the Patent Office.  Should a party identify a valuable invention created by a non-human, it might falsely claim that a human was the inventor to secure a patent. This would benefit dishonest firms at the expense of honest companies and society at large. 

Lastly, there is an interesting potential distinction to be drawn between inventing algorithms or software (e.g., genetic algorithms) versus artificial intelligence. Non-human corporations continue to obtain greater rights under the Constitution (see Citizens United). Might artificial intelligence (e.g., something that could pass the Turing Test?) be recognized as an inventor at some point, while a “mere” algorithm or software might not? The question is probably premature, and as presented, is likely not sufficiently nuanced.  However, the topic may eventually be raised.

At this time, no one has the answers to the above legal and policy questions, though I’m sure many commentators (myself included) will chime in.  I invite readers to voice their opinion in the comments.

February 10, 2017 in Intellectual Property | Permalink | Comments (2)