Saturday, August 1, 2015

Halliburton – have we learned nothing?

The Halliburton district court finally issued its decision (.pdf) on the plaintiffs’ renewed motion for class certification – and I’m afraid it’s exactly as incoherent as the most pessimistic predictions might have anticipated.

The district court recognized that, after Halliburton I, it was prohibited from making loss causation determinations as part of the class certification inquiry.  However the district court did hold that if there is no price movement in response to an alleged disclosure (and there is also no price movement when the misstatement is first made), that fact establishes there was no artificial inflation originally. 

In other words, the court believed that the absence of affirmative evidence of price inflation is evidence of absence, and sufficient to carry the defendants’ burden to prove that any misstatements had no effect on prices.  (To be fair, from the opinion, it appears the plaintiffs themselves urged this position).

The court went on to find that the Halliburton defendants had shown there was no price movement on almost all of the alleged corrective disclosure dates – and so class certification would be denied as to those dates.  However, because there was price movement for one disclosure date – December 7, 2001, the last day of the proposed class period – class certification would be granted as to that date.

The problem is, the plaintiffs were seeking class certification for all persons who purchased Halliburton stock from the start of the fraud until the end of the fraud.  The court’s ultimate determination – that one disclosure date was sufficient and others were not – tells the reader nothing about what class can be certified, as though the court had forgotten the entire purpose of the exercise.  I suppose we’ll find out the class definition if an order follows, but for now, the opinion sheds almost no light on that subject.

[More under the jump]

Continue reading

August 1, 2015 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Khan, Serafeim, & Yoon on Corporate Sustainability and Materiality

Mozaffar Khan, George Serafeim, and Aaron Yoon of Harvard Business School have posted an interesting working paper entitled Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality. The abstract follows:

An increasing number of companies make sustainability investments, and an increasing number of investors integrate sustainability performance data in their capital allocation decisions. To date however, the prior academic literature has not distinguished between investments in material versus immaterial sustainability issues. We develop a novel dataset by hand-mapping data on sustainability investments classified as material for each industry into firm-specific performance data on a variety of sustainability investments. This allows us to present new evidence on the value implications of sustainability investments. Using calendar-time portfolio stock return regressions we find that firms with good performance on material sustainability issues significantly outperform firms with poor performance on these issues, suggesting that investments in sustainability issues are shareholder-value enhancing. Further, firms with good performance on sustainability issues not classified as material do not underperform firms with poor performance on these same issues, suggesting investments in sustainability issues are at a minimum not value-destroying. Finally, firms with good performance on material issues and concurrently poor performance on immaterial issues perform the best. These results speak to the efficiency of firms’ sustainability investments, and also have implications for asset managers who have committed to the integration of sustainability factors in their capital allocation decisions.

The authors' materiality determination is based on industry-specific guidance from the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). I have been following SASB’s work for some time now, but would still like to learn more about the organization if any of our readers have more detail than is available online. 

July 31, 2015 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Funding Tips from Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists

Last week I attended a panel discussion with angel investors and venture capitalists hosted by Refresh Miami. Almost two hundred entrepreneurs and tech professionals attended the summer startup series to learn the inside scoop on fundraising from panelists Ed Boland, Principal Scout Ventures; Stony Baptiste, Co-Founder & Principal, Urban.Us, Venture Fund; Brad Liff, Founder & CEO, Fitting Room Social, Private Equity Expert; and (the smartest person under 30 I have ever met) Herwig Konings, Co-Founder & CEO of Accredify, Crowd Funding Expert. Because I was typing so fast on my iPhone, I didn’t have time to attribute my notes to the speakers. Therefore, in no particular order, here are the nuggets I managed to glean from the panel.

1) In the seed stage, it’s more than an idea but less than a business. If it’s before true market validation you are in the seed round. At the early stage, there has been some form of validation, but the business is not yet sustainable. Everything else beyond that is the growth stage.

2) The friend and family round is typically the first $50-75,000. Angels come in the early stage and typically invest up to $500,000.

3) The seed rounds often overlap with angels and businesses can raise from $500,000 to $1,000,000. If you have a validated part of a business model but are not self funding then you are at Series A investment stage.  You still need outside capital despite validation. The Series A round often nets between $3-5 million and then there are subsequent rounds for growth until the liquidity event which is either the IPO or acquisition.

4) Venture capitalists are investing their LPs' money and often the LP will co-invest with the VC. Their ultimate goal is for the company to get acquired or go public.

5) At the early stages some VCs will show a deal to other investors if it looks good. Later stage VCs will become more competitive and will keep the information and good deals to themselves.

6) It’s important to find a lead investor or lead angel to champion your idea.

7) Not all funding is helpful. Some panelists discussed the concepts of “fallen angels” or “devils,” which were once helpful but now are not providing value but still take up time and energy that could be better spent focusing on building the business. “False angels” are those who could never have been helpful in the first place.

8) You don’t want to be the first or the last check the angel is writing. You want to get references on the angel investor and see where they have invested and what their plan is for you.

9) There is smart money and dumb money. Smart money gives money and additional resources or value. Dumb money just gives money and nothing else. It’s passive and doesn’t jump into the business (note the panelists disagreed as to whether this was a good or bad thing). Another panelist noted the distinction between helpful and harmful money. Harmful people think they are helpful and give advice when they don’t have a lot to add but take up a lot of time. Sometimes helpful money just gives a check and then gets out of the way. It’s the people in between that can cause the problems.

10) VCs and angels invest in teams as well as ideas. They look for the right fit and a mix of veteran entrepreneurs, a team/product fit, a mix of technical and nontechnical people, professionals whose reputations and resumes can be verified. They want to know whether the people they are investing in have been in a competitive environment and have learned from success or failure.

11) Crowdfunding can be complicated because investors don’t meet the entrepreneurs. They see everything on the web so the reputation and the need for a good team is even more important.

12) Convertible notes are the “gold standard” according to one speaker and it’s the workhorse for funding. There was some discussion of safe notes, but most panelists didn't have a lot of experience with them and that was echoed this week by attorney David Salmon, who advises small businesses and holds his own monthly meetups. One panelist said that the sole purpose of safe notes was to avoid landmines that can blow up the company. Another panelist indicated that from an investor standpoint it’s like a blackhole because it’s so new and people don’t know what happens if something goes wrong.

13) The panelists indicated that businesses need to watch out for: the maturity date for their debt (how long is the runway); when can the investors call the note and possibly bankrupt the company; how will quirky covenants affect the next round of financing and where later investors will fall in line; and covenants that are easy to violate.

14) There was very little discussion of Regulation A+ but it did raise some interest and the possibility to raise even more funds from non-accredited investors. Only 3% of the eight million who can invest through crowdfunding actually do, so Reg A+ may help with that.

16) All of the panelists agreed that entities may start out as LLCs but they will have to convert to a C Corp to get any VC funding.

There was a lot more discussion but this post is already too long. Because I've never been an angel nor sought such funding, I don’t plan to provide any analysis on what I’ve typed above. My goal in attending this and the other monthly events like this was to learn from the questions that entrepreneurs ask and how the investors answer. Admittedly, most of my students won’t be dealing with these kind of issues, but I still introduce them to these concepts so they are at least familiar with the parlance if not all of the nuances.

July 30, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets, International Business, Law School, Legislation, LLCs, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Comparative Corporate Law - Important New Teaching Text

My friend and corporate law colleague Marco Ventoruzzo (Penn State Law and Bocconi University) recently let me know that he and several others--Pierre-Henri Conac, Gen Goto, Sebastian Mock, Mario Notari, and Arad Reisberg--have published a coauthored teaching text entitled (and focused on) Comparative Corporate Law.  As someone who has taught that subject (as well as comparative and cross-border mergers and acquisitions) in the past, I have been very interested in taking a look at the book--the first of its kind, as far as I know.  Luckily, I was able to grab a review copy from the publisher, West Academic Publishing (American Casebook Series), at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) conference, which I am attending this week.  This post shares a bit about the book (based on a relatively quick examination--peeking more closely into some chapters than others) and my ideas for teaching from it.  

I recommend the book and would use it in a course I would teach on the subject matter.  The content is really wonderful.  Nearly everything I need as a foundation for a course in comparative or cross-border corporate law is included.  However, I have a few general criticisms, primarily based on my personal teaching perspective, that I will note in this post.

Continue reading

July 29, 2015 in Books, Business Associations, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Activist Shareholder and Law Prof: Robin Hood or Charles Pillsbury?

A lawyer representing Fordham Law School Professor (and Riverbed Technology shareholder) Sean Griffith argued in Delaware court that a class action settlement related to Riverbed Technology's  $3.6 billion sale to private equity firm Thoma Bravo was bad for shareholders and good for the lawyers involved, Reuters reports.  

Prof. Griffith told Reuters that "he has been buying stock of companies that have announced merger deals and intends to object to settlements if he feels the litigation is not serving stockholders." He asserts that the shareholders' attorneys "are in cahoots" to reach a settlement, without regard to value.  

This raises some interesting questions of law and policy with regard to the Professor's role here.  As a shareholder, Griffith has the right to object (assuming his time of ownership satisfies the applicable statute).  But how should a court assess the objection of a shareholder who has admitted that he bought stock for the purpose of objecting to settlements not in the interests of shareholders, when that shareholder has expressed ideological concern about the value of all disclosure-only settlements? 

Is Prof. Griffith's desire to protect shareholders a desire to enhance short- or long-term wealth of the entity from greedy lawyers and bad managers? Or is it a desire to punish those who abuse class action lawsuits to their own ends? Both would be reasonable motivations (though, for now, I reserve judgment on whether either assessment is accurate), but it seems that the law might view such motivations differently. 

Take, for example, Pillsbury v. Honeywell, Inc., 191 N.W.2d 406 (1971), which strikes me as similar in concept, if not law.  In that case, the court rejected Charles Pillsbury's request to access the company shareholder list and review books and records of Honeywell.  The request was expressly related to Pillsbury's anti-war efforts, and Pillsbury made clear that he sought the records because he thought Honeywell's activities in weapons were immoral.  The court denied access stating that 

petitioner had already formed strong opinions on the immorality and the social and economic wastefulness of war long before he bought stock in Honeywell. His sole motivation was to change Honeywell's course of business because that course was incompatible with his political views. If unsuccessful, petitioner indicated that he would sell the Honeywell stock.

We do not mean to imply that a shareholder with a bona fide investment interest could not bring this suit if motivated by concern with the long- or short-term economic effects on Honeywell resulting from the production of war munitions. Similarly, this suit might be appropriate when a shareholder has a bona fide concern about the adverse effects of abstention from profitable war contracts on his investment in Honeywell.

If Prof. Griffith is looking to protect the long-term interests of all companies by protecting merging companies from harmful class action settlements, and his mechanism is buying shares in companies that he has reason to believe will merge, then perhaps his Robin Hood-like actions (in that the actions seek to return funds to the rightful owners) have value for shareholder wealth maximization and entity wealth maximization. The fact that he holds out the possibility that he won't object to settlements where the litigation serves the purposes of the shareholder suggests he might be in this camp.  

But what if he will object to all settlement proposals? Or perhaps all disclosure-only settlement proposals, even where such settlements are allowable under the law?  Does this convert his actions to more of a Charles Pillsbury-like feel in that his actions are about opposing class actions settlements, regardless of whether settlement is in the best interest of the parties? 

Of course, his motivations don't necessarily matter under current law in this area, but I can't help but think the motivations will influence how a court views (and eventually decides upon) Prof. Griffith's objections. And I think they should.  If, in any given case, Prof. Griffith is right that the settlement is not in the best interest of the shareholders, the court should uphold his objections. But, under current law, it's possible that a disclosure-only settlement might still be the most efficient outcome.  It's the court's job to assess that in each case.

July 28, 2015 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Delaware, Joshua P. Fershee, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monestier on Foreign Corporation Registration Statutes and Personal Jurisdiction

As the summer progresses, I have been slowly catching up on all the giant electronic reading pile I slowly built up during the school year. I recently read a very interesting article on personal jurisdiction, of all things. It’s Tanya J. Monestier, Registration Statutes, General Jurisdiction, and the Fallacy of Consent, 36 Cardozo L. Rev. 1343 (2015), available on SSRN here. It's definitely worth reading, whether you're a corporate litigator or just interested in corporate law.

Here’s the abstract, which explains the article much better than I could:

In early 2014, the Supreme Court issued a game-changing decision that will likely put corporate registration as a basis for personal jurisdiction center stage in the years to come. In Daimler AG v. Bauman, the Court dramatically reined in general jurisdiction for corporations. The Court in Daimler held that a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction only in situations where it has continuous and systematic general business contacts with the forum such that it is “at home” there. Except in rare circumstances, a corporation is “at home” only in its state of incorporation and the state of its principal place of business. Plaintiffs who are foreclosed by Daimler from arguing continuous and systematic contacts with the forum as a basis for jurisdiction will now look to registration statutes to provide the relevant hook to ground personal jurisdiction over corporations.
 
Each of the fifty states has a registration statute that requires a corporation doing business in the state to register with the state and appoint an agent for service of process. A considerable number of states interpret their registration statutes as conferring general, or all-purpose, jurisdiction over any corporation that has registered to do business under the state statute. Those states that regard registration as permitting the exercise of general jurisdiction usually justify the assertion of jurisdiction on the basis of consent. That is, by knowingly and voluntarily registering to do business in a state, a corporation has consented to the exercise of all-purpose jurisdiction over it.
 
Registration to do business as a basis for general jurisdiction, however, rests on dubious constitutional footing. Commentators have approached the analysis from a variety of perspectives over the years. The analysis tends to focus on how courts have misread historical precedent and failed to account for the modernization of jurisdictional theory post-International Shoe Co. v. Washington. Largely unexplored, however, is the premise underlying registration-based general jurisdiction: that registration equals consent. In this Article, I argue that general jurisdiction based on registration to do business violates the Due Process Clause because such registration does not actually amount to “consent” as that term is understood in personal jurisdiction jurisprudence. I comprehensively explore why it is that registration cannot fairly be regarded as express (or even implied) consent to personal jurisdiction. First, I look at other forms of consent in the jurisdictional context — forum selection clauses and submission — and analyze the salient differences between these and registration. Second, I examine the nature of the consent that is said to form the basis for general jurisdiction and argue that it is essentially coercive or extorted. Coerced consent, an oxymoron, cannot legitimately form the basis for the assertion of general jurisdiction over a corporation. From there, I situate registration statutes in a larger conversation about general jurisdiction. I maintain that registration-based jurisdiction does not fit well into the landscape of general jurisdiction: it could eliminate the need for minimum contacts altogether; it results in universal and exorbitant jurisdiction; it is conceptually misaligned with doing business as a ground for jurisdiction; and it promotes forum shopping.

The subject is not one that I would be naturally attracted to. I don’t teach civil procedure and I don’t spend a lot of my professional time focusing on litigation issues. But I found Professor Monestier’s article very interesting and enjoyable. Even if you, like me, aren't a civil procedure junkie, it's worth checking out.

July 27, 2015 in Business Associations, C. Steven Bradford, Corporations, Litigation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

ICYMI: Tweets From the Week (July 26, 2015)

July 26, 2015 in Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sauce for the goose ... ?

Caribbean Cruise Line recently won an interesting victory when Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal held that it could pursue an unfair trade practices claim against the Better Business Bureau for awarding it an “F” rating.  See Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc. v. Better Bus. Bureau of Palm Beach County, Inc., 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 8497 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. June 3, 2015).

This was an unusual holding, because BBB ratings are usually treated as protected “opinion” speech under the First Amendment.  Caribbean Cruise Lines got around that, however, by claiming it was not attacking the rating itself, but BBB’s allegedly false representations regarding its methodology for generating the rating.  The court accepted that BBB’s statements about its methodology were factual and, if false, could be the subject of a lawsuit.

If that sounds familiar, it should – it’s exactly the argument that plaintiffs have used in litigation involving mortgage-backed securities.  Numerous plaintiffs have successfully argued that statements regarding appraisals and LTV ratios were false not because the appraisers’ opinions were false, but because the securitizers falsely described the methodology used to reach those opinions. 

Considering the complaints that have been lodged against the BBB, I suppose a decision like this was only a matter of time.  Still, I have to wonder how much this decision will be used to challenge local cartels, versus how much it will be used to flyspeck unfavorable reviewers.

July 25, 2015 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Professors: Take a Survey of Your Use of Popular Culture in Teaching

Cynthia Bond, a professor at John Marshall Law School, is surveying law professors on their use of popular culture in teaching. Here's Professor Bond's call for participants:

Greetings Law Teacher Colleagues:

I am working on an article this summer on uses of popular culture in the law school classroom.  I am defining popular culture broadly to include mass culture texts like movies, TV shows, popular music, images which circulate on the internet, etc, and also any current events that you may reference in the classroom which are not purely legal in nature (i.e. not simply a recent court decision).

To support this article, I am doing a rather unscientific survey to get a sense of what law professors are doing in this area.  If you are a law professor and you use popular culture in your class, I would be most grateful if you could answer this quick, anonymous survey I have put together:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QH3GBZK

Thanks in advance for your time and have a wonderful rest of summer!

Cynthia Bond
The John Marshall Law School
Chicago, Il

The survey only takes a few minutes, so, if you're a law professor, it won't take much time to support a colleague's research.

July 24, 2015 in C. Steven Bradford, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Summer Reading: Excellent Sheep

For a university discussion group this summer, I read William Deresiewicz's book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (2014).

Deresiewicz, a former Yale English professor, caused quite a stir in higher education circles with his Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League article in the New Republic (and other articles in various outlets), which promoted Excellent Sheep pre-publication.

Deresiewicz's attack on the ivy league can be summarized as follows:

  • Encourages a system that leads to resume-padding instead of authentic learning and service
  • Too much focus on future financial success and not enough focus on life's big questions
  • Not enough socioeconomic diversity
  • Faculty preoccupied with research and do not spend enough time on teaching/service
  • Risk-taking is not encouraged; error for margin for students is too small
  • Coursework not rigorous enough
  • Students are kept doing busy-work rather than allowed to explore
  • Encourages a system that can lead to depression, isolation, etc. 

Deresiewicz taught at Yale for 10 years and was supposedly denied tenure in 2008. When I found out that Deresiewicz's was denied tenure, I was tempted to write off his book as sour grapes, but I think it best to evaluate his claims on their own merit.

In my view, Deresiewicz doesn't bring much new to the conversation, and a number of his challenges to the ivy league could be brought against many colleges and universities. His proposed solution is for students to consider attending a small liberal arts college (where teaching is still a priority) or a state school (where there is much more true diversity). Deresiewicz, however, seems to underestimate the value of connections, brand, resources, and opportunities at ivy league schools. 

Deresiewicz also laments the dwindling interest in the liberal arts and the increasing focus on majors that are more directly profession-focused (like economics and finance). While Deresiewicz seems to realize the risk in turning down an ivy league education and also choosing a major like History or English, he does not seem to fully realize how some students simply cannot afford those risks. While return on investment should certainly not be the only focus in choosing a school and a major, it is rightfully important to many.

Personally, I don't think the entire 242-page book was worth the read. There simply was not much new, aside from a few glimpses behind the curtain at Yale. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have just stuck with Deresiewicz's article and the responses (e.g., here and here).

July 24, 2015 in Books, Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Faculty Openings at Texas A & M

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks to expand its academic program and its strong commitment to scholarship by hiring multiple exceptional faculty candidates for tenure-track or tenured positions, with rank dependent on qualifications and experience.  Candidates must have a J.D. degree or its equivalent.  Preference will be given to those with demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement and strong classroom teaching skills.  Successful candidates will be expected to teach and engage in research and service.  While the law school welcomes applications in all subject areas, it particularly invites applications from:

1)    Candidates who are interested in building synergies with Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, with an emphasis on scholars engaged in international business law who focus on cross-border transactions, trade, and economic law (finance, investments, dispute resolution, etc.);

2)    Candidates who are interested in building synergies with the broad mission of Texas A&M University’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, which include but are not limited to scholars engaged in agricultural law (including regulatory issues surrounding agriculture), rural law, community development law, food law, ecosystem sciences, and forensic evidence; and

3)    Visionary leaders in experiential education interested in guiding our existing Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic (with concentrations in both trademarks and patents), Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, Family Law and Benefits Clinic, Employment Mediation Clinic, Wills & Estates Clinic, Innocence Clinic, Externship Program, Equal Justice/Pro Bono Program, and Advocacy Program, with a particular emphasis on candidates who may have an interest in participating in our Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic or developing an Immigration Law Clinic.

Texas A&M University is a tier one research institution and American Association of Universities member.  The university consists of 16 colleges and schools that collectively rank among the top 20 higher education institutions nationwide in terms of research and development expenditures.  As part of its commitment to continue building on its tradition of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and public service, Texas A&M acquired the law school from Texas Wesleyan University in August of 2013.  Since that time, the law school has embarked on a program of investment that increased its entering class credentials and financial aid budgets, while shrinking the class size; hired eleven new faculty members, including nine prominent lateral hires; improved its physical facility; and substantially increased its career services, admissions, and student services staff. 

Texas A&M School of Law is located in the heart of downtown Fort Worth, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country.  The Fort Worth/Dallas area, with a total population in excess of six million people, offers a low cost of living, a strong economy, and access to world-class museums, restaurants, entertainment, and outdoor activities.

As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Texas A&M welcomes applications from a broad spectrum of qualified individuals who will enhance the rich diversity of the university’s academic community. Applicants should email a résumé and cover letter indicating research and teaching interests to Professor Timothy Mulvaney, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at appointments@law.tamu.edu.  Alternatively, résumés can be mailed to Professor Mulvaney at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102-6509.

July 23, 2015 in Jobs, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Emory University School of Law: Health Law and Business Law Positions

The following comes to us from Dorothy Brown, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs & Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law:

We are conducting searches in two areas: health law and business law. We are looking for a senior health law scholar with a national reputation in health care regulation who is interested in helping to build a multidisciplinary health law, policy & management center, in cooperation with other Emory divisions including our School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and the nearby Center for Disease Control. In addition, we are looking for a junior (no more than 2-3 years of teaching experience) in Business law. Please feel free to contact me [at dorothy.brown@emory.edu] if you are interested or know of others who might be interested in being considered.

 

July 22, 2015 in Jobs, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Powers and Perils of Using Group Oral Midterm Examinations in Business Associations

For a number of years now, I have been using group (3-person teams) oral midterm examinations in my Business Associations course.  I have found these examinations to be an effective and rewarding assessment tool based on my teaching and learning objectives for this course.  At the invitation of the Saint Louis University Law Journal, as part of a featured edition of the journal on teaching business associations law, I prepared a short article giving folks the "why, how, and what" of my experience in taking this approach to midterm assessment.  The article was recently published, and I have posted it to SSRN.  The abstract reads as follows:

I focus in this Article on a particular way to assess student learning in a Business Associations course. Those of us involved in legal education for the past few years know that “assessment” has been a buzzword . . . or a bugaboo . . . or both. The American Bar Association (ABA) has focused law schools on assessment (institutional and pedagogical), and that focus is not, in my view, misplaced. Until relatively recently, much of student assessment in law school doctrinal courses was rote behavior, seemingly driven by heuristics and resulting in something constituting (or at least resembling) information cascades or other herding behaviors.

In the fall of 2011, I began offering an oral midterm examination to students in my Business Associations course as an additional assessment tool. This Article explains why I started (and have continued) down that path, how I designed that examination, and what I have learned by using this assessment method for three years. Although some (probably most) will not want to do in their Business Associations courses exactly what I have done in mine (as to the midterm examination or any other aspects of the course described in this Article), I am providing this information to give readers ideas for, or courage to make positive changes in, their own teaching (for a course on business associations or anything else).

You may think I am crazy (even--or especially--after reading this article).  Regardless, I do hope the article sparks something positive in you regarding your teaching in Business Associations or some other course.  Since I am working on finishing a long-overdue book on teaching business associations for Aspen this summer, I would welcome your honest reactions to the article and your additional thoughts on assessment or other aspects of teaching Business Associations.

July 22, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, LLCs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is Veil Piercing (State) Constitutional?

The West Virginia Constitution provides for corporations in Article XI, and states the traditional understanding related to liability: 

11-2.  Corporate liability for indebtedness.

      The stockholders of all corporations and joint-stock companies, except banks and banking institutions, created by laws of this state, shall be liable for the indebtedness of such corporations to the amount of their stock subscribed and unpaid, and no more. 

So, suppose that one seeks to pierce the corporate veil.  Does this provision allow for that? Typically, common law allowed veil piercing and constitutions often provide that something that existed in common law remains (which appears to be the case here).  I guess, then, veil piercing is okay, though I think one could argue that a constitutional basis for limited liability should be stronger than a statutory one. 

The better argument, I think, is that veil piercing disregards the entity.  Thus, the constitutional protection does not connect, because there is no corporation.  If we thought of things this way, we'd probably be more reluctant to veil pierce, because it would be a judicial statement that the corporation that was purportedly formed does not exist because of the failures of those in charge of the entity.

Where the shareholders truly don't intend to have an entity, I am okay with this, but that's really the rarity.  Where there is fraud, prove fraud. Where there is a constitutional protection for limited liability, the respect for the entity should be exceedingly strong.  Stronger than the common law standard.

I am not arguing that a constitutional right to limited liability is a good idea -- I'm currently agnostic on that.  I'm questioning whether constitutional corporate status changing the veil piercing calculation.  I am thinking yes, but I am not sure to what degree.   I plan to give this some more thought, but I welcome comments on how constitutional limited liability status (once it exists) should change veil piercing analysis.   

 

July 21, 2015 in Corporate Personality, Corporations, Joshua P. Fershee | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Fair Use App: Copyright Law for Those Who Can't Afford a Lawyer

The people at New Media Rights, a non-profit affiliated with the California Western School of Law,   have developed an interesting new legal app called The Fair Use App.  It is designed to help filmmakers and video editors understand the fair use doctrine in U.S. copyright law. The app runs users through a series of questions about their use of others’ content and explains how their answers to each question affect the availability of the fair use doctrine. In effect, it’s a digital flowchart.

Fair use is a complicated, multi-factor analysis, so there is no final yes-no answer. But this app would be a good start for a filmmaker trying to understand the law.

The app’s not perfect. For example, at one point, it asks if the content being used is in the public domain, with no explanation of what that means. I doubt most lay people would know exactly what that means. And I’m not a copyright expert, so I can’t say whether it’s substantively correct on all points. But, assuming it is, it’s a good tool. Consulting with an experienced copyright lawyer would be better, but most of the people using this app wouldn’t consult a lawyer anyway because they can’t afford a lawyer. This app is better than their alternative—no help at all.

I think there should be more tools like this, aimed at people who can’t afford lawyers. For some time, I have been thinking about developing something similar to explain the Securities Act registration requirements and exemptions to startup entrepreneurs raising capital. Many of those people start raising funds without consulting a securities lawyer, and many of them inadvertently violate the law (one reason I think there should be an unconditional de minimis exemption for offerings below a certain amount). An app like this could at least warn them of the dangers.
Legislators and regulators often forget that there is a tier of regulated people out there who can’t afford counsel and won’t understand the regulations. Thanks to people like New Media Rights for doing something to serve those people.

It doesn't take long to run through the app. If you're interested, it's available here.

July 20, 2015 in C. Steven Bradford, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

University of Georgia, Terry College of Business - Legal Studies Lecturer Position

UGA

The University of Georgia's Terry College of Business has posted information about a legal studies lecturer position they are seeking to fill this fall.

I know UGA's legal studies faculty, and they have a bright, collegial group. Also, UGA's current president, Jere Morehead, previously taught legal studies courses in UGA's Terry College of Business.

More information about the position, provided by UGA, is available after the break.

Continue reading

July 20, 2015 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

ICYMI: Tweets From the Week (July 19, 2015)

July 19, 2015 in Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

All Your Stock Are Belong to DTC

A few days ago, Vice Chancellor Laster issued an interesting opinion in In re Appraisal of Dell.  He held that Delaware’s “continuous holder” requirement for appraisal litigation applies at the record holder level – that is, the level of DTC.  Because in this case, due to a technical error, DTC transferred the ownership of the shares to the beneficial owners’ brokers’ names – the street names – the beneficial owners could not maintain their appraisal petition. 

[More under the jump]

Continue reading

July 18, 2015 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Social Responsibility: Metrics or Narrative?

Aspen

Earlier this week, I listened to The Aspen Institute's Does Maximizing Shareholder Value Endanger America’s Great Companies, featuring Lynn Stout (Cornell Law), Tom Donaldson (Penn-Wharton), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), and Shelly Lazarus (director of Merck & GE).

The panel discussion is over a year old, but still relevant. Among other things, I found the exchange between a Georgetown professor in the audience and Howard Schultz of Starbucks to be interesting (starting at 46 minutes).

Georgetown Professor: [Asks a roughly 2-minute long question about creating and choosing appropriate metrics for measuring social responsibility.]

Howard Schultz: "I certainly understand that you are a professor and you want a metric, but this is not the real world. We don't sit in a room and measure metrics. Let me tell you a very brief story...[tells a story about Starbucks' company meeting of parents of employees in China]...you can't put a metric on that; there is no metric....it is a narrative..." 

Personally, I think Schultz was a bit too quick to dismiss the need for social metrics, and, in practice, I am sure Starbucks has some social metrics that it uses. Without any social metrics, however, even the best intentioned management can deceive itself and the stakeholders. That said, Schultz's basic point is a fair one. Social responsibility is notoriously difficult to measure, and stories are likely needed to give a full sense of the impact. Also, carefully measuring and disclosing social impact can be costly. Using social metrics may even be counter-productive, if the measuring takes focus off of high-impact practices that are more difficult to measure, and moves the focus to other, lower-impact (but easily quantifiable) practices. 

One of my summer projects centers around benefit corporation reporting, so I am thinking about social reporting a good bit and welcome any thoughts. Currently, while I fully recognize the limitations and dangers of social metrics, I don't think abandoning metrics altogether is wise due to the possibility of self-deceit and stakeholder-deceit.

In short, with social responsibility, I don't think it is metrics or narrative; I think it is metrics and narrative. Deciding the balance, and the appropriate metrics, however, is quite difficult.  

July 17, 2015 in Corporations, CSR, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Has President Obama helped or hurt American business? Ten questions

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that President Obama has had an impact on this country. Tomorrow, I will be a panelist on the local public affairs show for the PBS affiliate to talk about the President’s accomplishments and/or failings. The producer asked the panelists to consider this article as a jumping off point. One of the panelists worked for the Obama campaign and another worked for Jeb Bush. Both are practicing lawyers. The other panelist is an educator and sustainability expert. And then there’s me.

I’ve been struggling all week with how to articulate my views because there’s a lot to discuss about this “lame duck” president. Full disclosure—I went to law school with Barack Obama. I was class of ’92 and he was class of ’91 but we weren’t close friends. I was too busy doing sit-ins outside of the dean’s house as a radical protester railing against the lack of women and minority faculty members. Barack Obama did his part for the movement to support departing Professor Derrick Bell by speaking (at minute 6:31) at one of the protests. I remember thinking then and during other times when Barack spoke publicly that he would run for higher office. At the time a black man being elected to the president of the Harvard Law Review actually made national news. I, like many students of all races, really respected that accomplishment particularly in light of the significant racial tensions on campus during our tenure.

During my stint in corporate America, I was responsible for our company’s political action committee. I still get more literature from Republican candidates than from any other due to my attendance at so many fundraisers. I met with members of Congress and the SEC on more than one occasion to discuss how a given piece of legislation could affect my company and our thousands of business customers. My background gives me what I hope will be a more balanced set of talking points than some of the other panelists. In addition to my thoughts about civil rights, gay marriage, gun control, immigration reform, Guantanamo, etc., I will be thinking of the following business-related points for tomorrow’s show: 

1) Was the trade deal good or bad for American workers, businesses and/or those in the affected countries? A number of people have had concerns about human rights and IP issues that weren’t widely discussed in the popular press.

2) Dodd-Frank turns five next week. What did it accomplish? Did it go too far in some ways and not far enough in others? Lawmakers announced today that they are working on some fixes. Meanwhile, much of the bill hasn’t even been implemented yet. Will we face another financial crisis before the ink is dried on the final piece of implementing legislation? Should more people have gone to jail as a result of the last two financial crises?

3) Did the President waste his political capital by starting off with health care reform instead of focusing on jobs and infrastructure?

4) Did the President’s early rhetoric against the business community make it more difficult for him to get things done?

5) How will the changes in minimum wage for federal contractors and the proposed changes to the white collar exemptions under the FLSA affect job growth? Will relief in income inequality mean more consumers for the housing, auto and consumer goods markets? Or has too little been done?

6) Has the President done enough or too much as it relates to climate change? The business groups and environmentalists have very differing views on scope and constitutionality.

7) What will the lifting of sanctions on Cuba and Iran mean for business? Both countries were sworn mortal enemies and may now become trading partners unless Congress stands in the way.

8) Do we have the right people looking after the financial system? Is there too much  regulatory capture? Has the President tried to change it or has he perpetuated the status quo?

9) What kind of Supreme Court nominee will he pick if he has the chance? The Roberts court has been helpful to him thus far. If he gets a pick it could affect business cases for a generation.

10) Although many complain that he has overused his executive order authority, is there more that he should do? 

I don’t know if I will have answers to these questions by tomorrow but I certainly have a lot to think about before I go on air. If you have any thoughts before 8:30 am, please post below or feel free to email me privately at mnarine@stu.edu.

July 16, 2015 in Constitutional Law, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, International Business, Marcia Narine, Securities Regulation, Television, White Collar Crime | Permalink | Comments (0)