Friday, April 29, 2016

B Lab and HB2

Earlier this month, B Lab, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that oversees the certification of B corps, announced that it will move its October 2016 retreat from North Carolina because of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 (“HB2”).

In an April 12 e-mail to “Friends of the B Corp Community,” the B Lab team wrote:

Standing for inclusion, the global B Corp community has decided to relocate the 2016 B Corp Champions Retreat and related events from North Carolina in light of the newly-enacted State law HB2 which limits anti-discrimination protections, particularly for members of the LGBT community.

Immediately, B Lab will work with the North Carolina B Corp community and others to get HB2 off the books and make North Carolina more inclusive and business-friendly.

B Lab also linked to this longer statement in that e-mail.

The Model Benefit Corporation Legislation and the laws following the Model require that a third-party standard be used by benefit corporations to measure their social and environmental impact. B Lab’s standard is currently the most popular standard, but it is not required or even mentioned by the benefit corporation statutes. Allowing for various third-party standards helps prevent the benefit corporation law from being overly political. I do wonder, however, if B Lab’s public stand on this issue will make the benefit corporation laws harder to pass in more conservative states, because of B Lab’s large role in cultivating both the certified B corp and benefit corporation communities.

Further, this situation leads to a question I asked in 2012 --- would B Lab exercise their veto power and deny certification to Chick-fil-A, if Chick-fil-A applied for certification and managed the required social score? As I wrote in 2012, I don’t see anything in the benefit corporation laws that would prevent Chick-fil-A from becoming a benefit corporation, but I am less sure if Chick-fil-A would be successful in obtaining certification from B Lab. B Corp certification is separate from the entity formation process, and the certification is under the control of B Lab rather than the government. 

Also, I am not a nonprofit expert, but I wonder whether B Lab is flirting with the lobbying restrictions for 501(c)(3)s, especially when it promises to “work with the North Carolina B Corp community and others to get HB2 off the books.” They also seem to be involved in the attempts to pass benefit corporation laws in states across the country. (Thoughts from nonprofit lawyers or professors welcomed in the comments or by e-mail...I am told that 501(c)(3)s are allowed to do an "insubstantial" amount of lobbying).

In any event, in seems that non-profits, social enterprises, and traditional for-profits are becoming more and more active in social and political debates. And these organizations are often powerful, influential players. 

April 29, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Current Affairs, Ethics, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reflecting on the MALSB Conference

Last week I attended the Midwest Academy of Legal Studies (MALSB) Conference in Chicago, IL. MALSB is one of the 12 regional associations of legal studies professors in business schools that has an annual conference. The Academy of Legal Studies of Business (ALSB) is the national association and the annual national conference is similar to AALS.

Given that I started my academic career at a law school, and still attend some law school professor conferences, I notice differences between law school and business school legal studies professor conferences. While there are plenty of similarities between the conferences, I note some of the differences below.

Pedagogy Presentations. While law school professor conferences do usually address pedagogy in a few panels, the business school legal studies conferences I have attended seem to have a much stronger emphasis. For example, I think the regional and national ALSB conferences tend to have 30%+ of the presentations dedicated to pedagogy. Many of the business school legal studies conferences have master teacher competitions as well, where finalists present their teaching ideas or cases to the audience and a winner is chosen by vote. I think some of this focus on pedagogy is because a fair number of business school legal studies professors are full-time, non-tenure track instructors without research responsibilities. In any case, I generally find the pedagogy presentations quite useful and think law school professor conferences could increase their focus on the area.

Relative Lack of Subject Area Silos. Maybe the biggest difference I have noticed between law school professor conferences and business school legal studies conferences is the relative lack of subject area silos at the legal studies conferences. At most law school professor conferences I attend, I can and do spend the entire time listening to only business law (narrowly defined) presentations. I leave small and big law school conferences only having heard about business associations, corporate governance, M&A, and securities law. At MALSB I heard those presentations, but also heard talks on employment, constitutional, contract, tax, and white collar criminal law. The conference organizers try to keep the panels in generally the same subject area, but the panels bleed into other areas and there is almost never enough pure business presentations to keep you fully occupied at a legal studies conference. The relative lack of subject area silos is good and bad. It is good because the exposure to other areas can lead to new insights about your own areas, but I still attend some law school professor conferences for more focus and depth.   

Associated Journals. Most of the regional and national legal studies associations run blind, peer-reviewed law journals. In my opinion, these journals are excellent for our field and offer a nice alternative to law reviews. I've stuck with the national journals to date because a number of the regional journals do not have WestLaw or Lexis contracts yet. As I have said before, I think there is room for even more traditional peer-reviewed law journals, perhaps run by law schools or by law school associations.

Enjoyed my time at MALSB. The people and the presentations were definitely worth the trip.   

April 22, 2016 in Business School, Conferences, Haskell Murray, Law School | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Krug on Mutual Fund Governance

I'm at the MALSB Conference in Chicago, but saw Anita Krug's recently posted book chapter entitled Toward Better Mutual Fund Governance. Worth reading. Abstract below.

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This chapter evaluates the implications of an emerging model of mutual fund governance for effective oversight and regulation. As in the traditional model, in which a board of directors or trustees serves as the board of multiple discrete funds managed by a single investment adviser, this alternative model similarly contemplates the creation of multiple funds, but it eschews a single investment adviser charged with managing each fund’s assets. Rather, there are numerous advisers, each managing one or a small number of funds within the group. Although the new model may portend an improvement over the traditional model in some respects, questions arise as to whether it introduces concerns of its own and whether those concerns are more or less manageable than those to which the traditional model gives rise. The chapter contends that, although the new model produces risks not associated with the traditional model, there are reasons to believe, at least preliminarily, that it is at least as effective as the traditional model.

April 15, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Negotiation and Law Jobs

Recently, I have been talking to a few of our law students about jobs, and I have also discussed job negotiations in my MBA negotiations course. 

Here are a few thoughts for law students negotiating their first job. First, take the time to sit and think about what you want in a job. I know this seems simple, but far too many students simply follow their classmates in chasing the most prestigious firms without fully understanding why; those firms may or may not be a good fit, depending on your goals. Talk to a number of people who have worked in jobs you are considering, and interview them about positives and negatives. Second, you have to understand your BATNA (your best alternative to a negotiated agreement). If you only have one offer, and thus no good alternatives to that job, you will be in a very weak negotiating position. As such, it is best to uncover a good, or at least decent, second option, even if it is a job outside law, before negotiating . Third, try to find out, from faculty members or recent graduates, what items may be negotiable at the organization. At larger firms and many government agencies, it seems that salary and benefits are almost always unmovable for entry level lawyers. That said, there are still some items - like practice group and start date - which might be negotiable. Start date can actually be really important. An early start date, if it is allowed (some organizations start all their first years at once), can give you a head start and more individualized senior associate/partner attention before the rest of the class arrives. At smaller firms, salary and benefits may be negotiable. Fourth, and perhaps more important, in all your discussions be respectful. You don't want to get a reputation of being entitled before you even start with the firm, and again, you need to be realistic about your other options; this is still a buyers' market. If you fortunate enough to have multiple good offers, you can, respectfully, ask for offer improvement, but if it is your only legitimate offer, asking may not be worth the risk of them pulling the offer. Fifth, once you are in the job, I would focus on making yourself valuable, to the senior associates, partners, and eventually the clients, so that you will be in a powerful negotiating position down the road.

For more general thoughts, watch Deepak Malholtra's (Harvard Business School) talk on negotiating your job offer.

April 8, 2016 in Haskell Murray, Law School, Negotiation | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Means & Seiner on Navigating the Uber Economy

Benjamin Means and Joseph Seiner, both of University of South Carolina School of Law, have an interesting article out entitled Navigating the Uber Economy. Work is changing quickly, and the employment/independent contractor line is becoming more difficult to draw. The abstract is reproduced below and the article is available here. Last July, Anne Tucker authored a blog post related to this issue, available here

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In litigation against ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, former drivers have alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors and denied employment benefits. The companies have countered that they do not employ drivers and merely license access to a platform that matches those who need rides with nearby available drivers. At stake are the prospects, not only for Uber and Lyft, but for a nascent, multi-billion dollar "on-demand" economy.

Unfortunately, existing laws fail to provide adequate guidance regarding the distinction between independent contractors and employees, especially when applied to the hybrid working arrangements characteristic of a modern economy. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act and analogous state laws, courts consider several factors to assess the "economic reality" of a worker's alleged employment status; yet, there is no objective basis for prioritizing those factors.

This Essay argues that the classification of workers as independent contractors or employees should be shaped by an overarching inquiry: how much flexibility does the individual have in the working relationship? Those who can choose the time, place and manner of the work they perform are more independent than those who must accommodate themselves to a business owner's schedule. Our approach is novel and would provide an objective basis for adjudicating classification disputes, especially those that arise in the context of the on-demand economy. By reducing legal uncertainty, we would ensure both that workers receive appropriate protections under existing law and that businesses are able to innovate without fear of unknown liabilities.

April 1, 2016 in Business Associations, Employment Law, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Managing Director, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at Georgia Tech

Some readers may be interested in the position listed below. Georgia Institute of Technology, Scheller College of Business has a strong faculty and is a recognized leader in the sustainability area.

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Managing Director, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business

(Professor of the Practice or Academic Professional)

The Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia seeks applications or nominations for an academic appointment as the Managing Director, Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business (ACSB). The Center is part of the Scheller College of Business, which was ranked #1 in the US and #8 globally in the 2015 Corporate Knights Better World MBA Rankings. The College is a dynamic environment with a commitment to sustainability embedded in its strategic plan and faculty members across many disciplines who have sustainable business interests. The Managing Director will have the opportunity to shape and steer the growth of the Center’s activities and impact, as the Center recently received a long-term gift doubling its operational budget from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. The Managing Director will also have the opportunity to partner with the Georgia Tech Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain (CSLS), an institute-wide undergraduate education initiative that is developing learning and co-curricular opportunities designed to help our students combine their academic and career interests with their desire to create sustainable communities.

More information follows after the break.

Continue reading

March 30, 2016 in Business School, CSR, Entrepreneurship, Haskell Murray, Jobs, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Olympics, Rule 40, Law, and Social Media

I usually look forward to the Olympics for months, if not years, before they start.

This year, however, all of the doping news, and buzz around Rule 40 has left me less enthusiastic.

For now, I am going to leave the doping news to one side, and focus on Rule 40.

From July 27 to August 24, 2016, Rule 40, prohibits Non-Olympic Commercial Partners from using the word "Olympics" and (depending on context) "Olympic-related terms," including:

  • 2016
  • Rio/Rio de Janeiro
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Medal
  • Effort
  • Performance
  • Challenge
  • Summer
  • Games
  • Sponsors
  • Victory
  • Olympian

Now, I understand why the International Olympic Committee ("IOC") and the U.S. Olympic Committee ("USOC") might want these restrictions (given the large sums of money official sponsors pay), and from what I understand from experts in this specific area, the IOC & USOC may have a defensible legal stance.

This, however, seems one of the many areas where (1) the law has not kept up with advances in technology, namely social media, and (2) even if the IOC & USOC are right on the law, they may lose in the court of public opinion. Here, it seems, there is a good bit of difference between a company running a detailed TV-ad noting that it sponsors an Olympian and simply wishing an athlete "Good luck in Rio" on Twitter. Also, even if the law treats social media the same as other forms of advertising, I could see the public (including me) judging the IOC & USOC harshly if it punishes brands and/or their athletes for minor violations. Outside of the most popular Olympic athletes, significant sponsorships are difficult to secure and outlawing short displays of appreciation on social media seems like overreaching. Adding to the problem, I think, is that this rule makes the IOC & USOC look like single bottom line, money-hungry organizations, when most of us would like to associate the Olympics with a broader, higher purpose.      

March 25, 2016 in Business Associations, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Microfinance and Crowdfunding

Jet lag prevented me from posting this yesterday.  (Yes, I am scheduled to be the BLPB every-Monday blogger going forward.)  But at least I am awake enough now to post a bit more on the 7th International Conference on Innovative Trends Emerging in Microfinance (ITEM 7 Conference) I attended last week in Shanghai, China.  My initial post on Wednesday provided some information on Chinese microfinance and the initial day of the conference.  This week, my post focuses on definitional questions that I have been pondering relating to my participation in this series of conferences.  Specifically, I have been sorting through the relationship between microfinance and crowdfunding.  My understanding continues to evolve as I become more familiar with the literature on and practice of microfinance internationally.

At the conference, one of the participants noted that while microfinance and crowdfunding appear to be mutually reinforcing, they still do not enjoy comfortable relations in scholarship and practice.  After weighing that statement for a moment, I had to agree.  I actually have been personally struggling with the nature of the relationship between the two for a few years now.  (I often wonder whether folks like co-blogger Haskell Murray who commonly work in the social enterprise space have this issue in talking about the relationship between social enterprise and corporate social responsibility . . . .)

Two years ago at the ITEM 5 Conference, I posited that crowdfunding could be a vehicle for microfinance.  The establishment of this point required defining both microfinance and crowdfunding--in each case, no small task.  To enable the audience to understand my observation, I used a broad definition of microfinance that focuses on financial inclusion (like the one found here).  I believed after my presentation that I had made the point well enough.

Yet, something still niggled at me after the presentation and conference were long gone.  I kept feeling as if I had inserted a square peg into a round hole.  Something was just a bit off.  Part of the issue is, no doubt, the fact that my observation was incomplete.  Microfinance is bigger than crowdfunding, and not all crowdfunding is microfinance, even under a broad definition.  So, picture a venn diagram like the one below.

VennDiagram

The red point of intersection illustrates crowdfunding's place as a means of conducting microfinance.  This leaves part of microfinance to be handled through other types of financing (e.g., microcredit).  It also leaves part of crowdfunding to other capital-raising uses.  This conception of the relatonship between microfinance and crowdfunding is undoubtedly more complete.

The importance to microfinance of the non-microfinance part of crowdfunding was confirmed at our microfinance site visit last week in Shanghai.  Our host for the visit explained, in response to my question about the relationship of microfinance to crowdfunding in China, that crowdfunding typically is seen as an alternative to, rather than a means of, microfinance in China.  He noted that equity crowdfunding is uncommon (although growing) in Chinese small business finance overall because the number of shareholders of Chinese limited liability companies is statutorily capped.    Specifically, Article 20 of the Companies Law of the People's Republic of China provides that "[a] limited liability company shall be jointly invested in and incorporated by not less than two and not more than fifty shareholders."  I made a mental "note to files" that crowdfunding might get crowded out of microfinance or other types of financing--intentionally or unintentionally--by positive regulation.

I invite any readers who are more familiar with world-wide microfinance than I to comment further on its relationship to crowdfunding.  Do I have the principal story right, in your view, based on your experience?  Can you provide examples from your work or life that help me to see new aspects of the relationship between the two?  I invite any related thoughts.

March 22, 2016 in Conferences, Corporate Finance, Crowdfunding, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Health and Law School

Law school can and should be an enriching intellectual experience. For many, however, the three years of law school can also be extremely unhealthy.

What responsibility, if any, do we have as legal academics to encourage healthy behavior by our students? How do we do so?

Many law students have horrendous sleep, exercise, and eating habits. Many of these habits carry over into practice, and probably play at least some role in the numerous, documented health and addiction issues facing law students and lawyers. For undergraduate students, many schools mandate physical education and/or nutrition courses. Should these courses be offered to or mandatory for law students?

Are there things that we are doing as legal educators that encourage unhealthy habits? For example, is testing only once a semester part of the problem or is it simply preparing them for stressful, important events like the bar exam or a big trial?

Just opening this topic for discussion; I don't think I have good answers yet. Feel free to respond in the comments or send me thoughts via e-mail. I think I lean toward letting law students make their own decisions in this area, especially because some students are older, second-career types. But, given all the problems law students and lawyers face, I wonder if it would be valuable to require something like a one-credit, ungraded course of health and nutrition, which include some exercise time and general health instruction.

March 18, 2016 in Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sharapova, Sponsors, and Morals Clauses

If you follow sports related news, you know that tennis star Maria Sharapova recently tested positive for a banned performance enhancing drug called Meldonium. Details here and here and here.  According to one source, over 60 athletes have tested positive for Meldonium this year; the drug was just recently added the banned substances list. Sharapova claims she was unaware that she was taking a banned substance. 

A number of Sharapova's biggest sponsors have suspended or ended their relationship with her and/or delayed planned events. These sponsors include, Nike, Porsche, and TAG Heuer. Head and Evian appear to be sticking with her. Head chairman Johan Eliasch claimed that Sharapova simply made an "honest mistake."

The companies that have cut ties with Sharapova have likely been able to do so through what is often called a morals clause or a morality clause in the endorsement contract. Some background on morals clauses can be found here and here and here. And here is an interesting contract law question from Eric Goldman that involves morals clauses

March 11, 2016 in Business Associations, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Elson, Ferrere, and Goossen on Volkswagen

For those of you who talk about the recent problems at Volkswagen in your classes, this recently posted article may be useful. I connected with Charles Elson briefly when I lived in Delaware, and he is certainly an authority on corporate governance. The article is available here and the abstract is posted below. 

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Although the primary cause of the emissions scandal at Volkswagen appears to have been misfeasance and malfeasance on a corporate-wide scale, we argue that such a problematic culture existed at Volkswagen because of the composition of the board itself in combination with the unique governance structure known as “co-determination,” that defines many German companies, including VW. There are three major problems from a corporate governance standpoint with the Volkswagen board. First, is the interest-conflicting nature of the dual-class stock held by the dominant shareholding Porsche and Piech families. Second, is the presence of a government as a major shareholder. And third is the organization of its characteristically German “two-tier” board around the principle of co-determination, which mandated significant labor representation. We argue that each of these elements of the VW ownership and governance structure contributed in varying degrees to the board failure of oversight that led to the management decision to evade emissions regulations.

March 4, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Ethics, Haskell Murray, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spring Break Reading: Bruner on The Corporation's Intrinsic Attributes

Christopher Bruner recently posted a book chapter entitled The Corporation's Intrinsic Attributes. I try to read everything Christopher writes, including his excellent Cambridge University Press book, Corporate Governance in the Common Law World, and I am looking forward to reading this new book chapter over spring break next week. The book chapter's abstract is reproduced below for interested readers:

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Numerous treatises, casebooks, and other resources commonly present concise lists of attributes said to be intrinsic to the modern corporation and/or essential to its economic utility. Such descriptions of the corporate form often constitute introductory matter, conditioning how students, professionals, and public officials alike approach corporate law by presenting a straightforward framework to distinguish the corporate form from other types of business entities. There are two significant problems with such frameworks, however, from a pedagogic perspective. First, these frameworks describe the corporation by reference to purportedly fixed intrinsic attributes, conflicting sharply with the flux and dynamism that have in fact characterized the history of corporate law. Second, these frameworks differ markedly from each other in how they characterize the corporation's attributes, each embodying a contestable perspective on the nature of the corporate form.

The diversity of perspectives that such inquiry reveals calls into question the degree to which we can validly deduce a single correct or optimal division of power between boards and shareholders, degree of regard for shareholder interests, and/or degree of liability exposure for boards and shareholders, based exclusively on premises purportedly intrinsic to corporate law itself - that is, without express appeal to external policy considerations and related regulatory fields. These matters map onto three core issues of corporate law and governance - power, purpose, and risk-taking, respectively - and the inability to resolve them by reference to the corporation's purportedly intrinsic features suggests that re-conceptualizing the corporate form might facilitate more effective assessment of its capabilities.

This chapter undertakes that project. Section I begins with an historical discussion of the corporation's emergence and early deployment for business in the United Kingdom and the United States. Section II turns to various contemporary descriptions of the corporation's intrinsic attributes presented in modern reference materials, exploring their commonalities, differences, and theoretical implications. Section III explores the impossibility of resolving core issues of power, purpose, and risk-taking by reference to such conceptions of the corporate form, providing three US examples that map onto these respective issues - the scope of shareholders' bylaw authority, the degree of board discretion to consider non-shareholder interests in hostile takeovers, and the regulation of financial risk-taking following the recent crisis. Each illustrates the necessity of resort to political discourse - a reality underscored through comparison with the United Kingdom, which reveals substantial divergence on such issues notwithstanding broad similarities between the US and UK corporate governance regimes.

The chapter concludes, in Section IV, by proposing that we refrain from describing the corporate form by reference to purportedly fixed intrinsic attributes. I argue that it would pay to re-conceptualize the modern corporation by reference to the tools it offers, and how those tools can be deployed - a series of governance "levers," I suggest, that can be adjusted and calibrated in various ways to pursue a broad range of governance-related goals.    

March 4, 2016 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Haskell Murray, International Law, Management, Shareholders | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bruckner on Bankrupting Higher Education

Matthew Bruckner (Howard) recently posted an interesting article on bankruptcy reorganization and universities. Given the challenges facing many schools, his article should be one that attracts attention. The article can be downloaded here and the abstract is below.

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Many colleges and universities are in financial distress but lack an essential tool for responding to financial distress used by for-profit businesses: bankruptcy reorganization. This Article makes two primary contributions to the nascent literature on college bankruptcies by, first, unpacking the differences among the three primary governance structures of institutions of higher education, and, second, by considering the implications of those differences for determining whether and under what circumstances institutions of higher education should be allowed to reorganize in bankruptcy. This Article concludes that bankruptcy reorganization is the most necessary for for-profit colleges and least necessary for public colleges, but ultimately concludes that all colleges be allowed to reorganize in chapter 11.

February 26, 2016 in Bankruptcy/Reorganizations, Business Associations, Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Nonprofits, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mandatory Attendance at Campus Talks?

Anne_Anderson_(cropped)

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon talk by Anne Anderson, Ireland's Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Anderson covered a range of topics, including Ireland's place in and commitment to the EU, the financial and political situation in the EU, and Ireland's success in attracting international businesses. 

At Belmont, we require our undergraduate students to attend 60 hours worth of campus talks/presentations/workshops over their four years. When I first heard about this requirement, I must admit that I thought it a bit paternalistic. But looking back on my college experience, I do wish I would have been nudged (or even required) to attend more of the wonderful talks that took place on campus. To be clear, our students get to choose which talks they attend and there are many options. 

While I have come around on these requirements for undergraduates, I am not sure if I would require campus talk attendance of law students -- to my knowledge we don't. Given that graduate students are, or should be, more mature, I don't think I would require them to attend campus talks, but I might give them some sort of certificate if they attended a certain number.

Somewhat similarly, when I was in law school, my school started a pro bono recognition program. Basically, you received one of three levels of "pro bono recognition" depending on the number of pro bono hours you worked for external public interest organizations. The results of this small recognition program were impressive; only 1 of my 10-15 closest friends was doing pro bono work before the program, but about 80% of us were doing pro bono work afterward. This is admittedly a small sample, but the program seemed to impact the entire school. 

That said, maybe by graduate school we should try to teach students to do things for their own sake, and not merely for recognition.  

February 26, 2016 in Business School, Clinical Education, Haskell Murray, Law School | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Walch on Bitcoin Blockchain as Financial Market Infrastructure

I was fortunate to hear Angela Walch (St. Mary's) present on this paper at SEALS last summer. Her article, The Bitcoin Blockchain as Financial Market Infrastructure: A Consideration of Operational Risk, has now been published in the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy and is available on SSRN. The abstract is reproduced below:

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“Blockchain” is the word on the street these days, with every significant financial institution, from Goldman Sachs to Nasdaq, experimenting with this new technology. Many say that this remarkable innovation could radically transform our financial system, eliminating the costs and inefficiencies that plague our existing financial infrastructures, such as payment, settlement, and clearing systems. Venture capital investments are pouring into blockchain startups, which are scrambling to disrupt the “quadrillion” dollar markets represented by existing financial market infrastructures. A debate rages over whether public, “permissionless” blockchains (like Bitcoin’s) or private, “permissioned” blockchains (like those being designed at many large banks) are more desirable.

Amidst this flurry of innovation and investment, this paper enquires into the suitability of the Bitcoin blockchain to serve as the backbone of financial market infrastructure, and evaluates whether it is robust enough to serve as the foundation of major payment, settlement, clearing, or trading systems.

Positing a scenario in which the Bitcoin blockchain does serve as the technology enabling significant financial market infrastructures, this paper highlights the vital importance of functioning financial market infrastructure to global financial stability, and describes relevant principles that global financial regulators have adopted to help maintain this stability, focusing particularly on governance, risk management, and operational risk.

The paper then moves to explicate the operational risks generated by the most fundamental features of Bitcoin: its status as decentralized, open-source software. Illuminating the inevitable operational risks of software, such as its vulnerability to bugs and hacking (as well as Bitcoin’s unique 51% Attack vulnerability), uneven adoption of new releases, and its opaque nature to all except coders, the paper argues that these technology risks are exacerbated by the governance risks generated by Bitcoin’s ambiguous governance structure. The paper then teases out the operational risks spawned by decentralized, open-source governance, including that no one is responsible for resolving a crisis with the software; no one can legitimately serve as “the voice” of the software; code maintenance and repair may be delayed or imperfect because not enough time is devoted to the code by volunteer software developers (or, if the coders are paid by private companies, the code development may be influenced by conflicts of interest); consensus on important changes to the code may be difficult or impossible to achieve, leading to splits in the blockchain; and the software developers who “run” the Bitcoin blockchain seem to have backgrounds in software coding rather than in policy-making or risk-management for financial market infrastructure.

The paper concludes that these operational risks, generated by Bitcoin’s most fundamental, presumably inalterable, structures, significantly undermine the Bitcoin blockchain’s suitability to serve as financial market infrastructure.

February 22, 2016 in Business Associations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Haskell Murray, Private Equity, Venture Capital | Permalink | Comments (0)

Exam Drafting Tips from Professor Steve Bainbridge

Some good exam drafting tips from Professor Steve Bainbridge (UCLA) available here.

February 22, 2016 in Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

University of Cincinnati College of Law │ The 29th Annual Corporate Law Center Symposium │Corporate Social Responsibility and the Modern Enterprise │ Cincinnati, OH │ March 18, 2016

I am looking forward to presenting at this conference next month. Looks like a great group of academics and practitioners.

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University of Cincinnati College of Law

The 29th Annual Corporate Law Center Symposium - Corporate Social Responsibility and the Modern Enterprise

March 18, 2016

8:45 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Hilton Netherland Plaza

Pavilion Ballroom

 

This event is free. CLE: 5.0 hours, pending approval.

Presented by the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Corporate Law Center and Law Review.

Symposium materials will be available on March 14 at: law.uc.edu/corporate-law-center/2016-symposium

Please register by contacting Lori Strait: email Lori.Stait@uc.edu; fax 513-556-1236; or phone 513-556-0117

 

Introduction, 8:45 a.m.

Keynote, 9:00 a.m.

Clare Iery, The Procter & Gamble Company

Social Enterprises and Changing Legal Forms, 9:30 a.m.

Mark Loewenstein, University of Colorado Law School

William H. Clark, Jr., Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Haskell Murray, Belmont University College of Business

Russell Menyhart, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP

Sourcing Dilemmas in a Globalized World, 11:00 a.m.

Steve Slezak, University of Cincinnati College of Business

Marsha A. Dickson, University of Delaware Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies

Tianlong Hu, Renmin University of China Law School

Anita Ramasastry, University of Washington School of Law

CSR and the Closely Held Company, 1:15 p.m.

Eric Chaffee, The University of Toledo College of Law

Michael Petrucci, FirstGroup America, Inc.

Lisa Wintersheimer Michel, Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL

Sourcing From the Enterprise Perspective, 2:30 p.m.

Christopher Bedell, The David J. Joseph Company

Walter Spiegel, Standard Textile Co. Inc.

Martha Cutright Sarra, The Kroger Co.

Conclusion, 3:30 p.m.

February 22, 2016 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Ethics, Haskell Murray, Human Rights, Law School, Research/Scholarhip, Shareholders, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free Web Seminar: The Opportunities and Pitfalls of Cybersecurity and Data Privacy in Mergers and Acquisitions

One of my two former firms, King & Spalding, is hosting a free interactive web seminar on cybersecurity and M&A on February 25 at 12:30 p.m. Thought the web seminar might be of interest to some of our readers. The description is reproduced below.

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An Interactive Web Seminar

The Opportunities and Pitfalls of Cybersecurity and Data Privacy in Mergers and Acquisitions

February 25, 2016

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Over the last several years, company after company has been rocked by cybersecurity incidents. Moreover, obligations relating to cybersecurity and data privacy are rapidly evolving, imposing on corporations a complex and challenging legal and regulatory environment. Cybersecurity and data privacy deficiencies, therefore, might pose potentially significant business, legal, and regulatory risks to an acquiring company. For this reason, cybersecurity and data privacy are becoming integral pre-transaction due diligence items.

This e-Learn will analyze the (1) special cybersecurity and data privacy dangers that come with corporate transactions; (2) strategies to mitigate those dangers; and (3) benefits of incorporating cybersecurity and data privacy into due diligence. The panel will zero in on these issues from the vantage point of practitioners in the deal trenches, and from the perspective of a former computer crime prosecutor and a former FBI agent who have dealt with a broad range of cyber risks to public and private corporations.  This e-Learn is for managers and attorneys at all levels who are involved at any stage of the M&A process and at any stage of cyber literacy, from the beginner who is just starting to appreciate the complex nature of cyber risks to the expert who has addressed them for years.  The discussion will leave you with a better understanding of this critical topic and concrete, practical suggestions to bring back to your M&A team.

Program Speakers

Robert Leclerc, King & Spalding’s Corporate Practice Group and experienced deal counsel; Nick Oldham, King & Spalding, and Former Counsel for Cyber Investigations, DOJ's National Security Division; John Hauser, Ernst & Young, and former FBI Special Agent specializing in cyber investigations.             

Click Here to Register.

February 22, 2016 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Haskell Murray, Intellectual Property, M&A, Management, Technology, Web/Tech, White Collar Crime | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Strine as Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States?

Strine

I haven't seen his name on any of the short lists to replace Justice Scalia, but I would love to see the current Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, Leo Strine, get the nomination.

The benefits of nominating Chief Justice Strine include:

  • Promise of an entertaining nomination process. With all that he has said and written, there would be a lot of fodder, but he would be sure to hold his own. 
  • A nominee whose wit and writing style could rival Justice Scalia's.
  • Diversity. Chief Justice Strine went to Penn for law school, not Harvard or Yale. (Granted, he does teach at Harvard).
  • Serious corporate law knowledge, and, at least on this blog, we know the Supreme Court of the United States needs help in this area.
  • Extremely bright, curious, and widely read. He likely has knowledge of and an opinion on most areas of law, well outside of just corporate law.

Anyway, I am sure President Obama will go with a more conventional pick, but I do hope to see a Supreme Court justice with corporate law expertise on the court eventually.

February 19, 2016 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Current Affairs, Delaware, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Running, The Olympic Trials for the Marathon, and the Practice of Law

Even though I have never participated in a single Yoga class, I enjoyed my co-editor Joan Heminway’s Yoga Analogy Post from a couple weeks ago. Her post inspired this analogy post about running and the law.

While I am not the most consistent runner among the BLPB editors---that title goes to Josh Fershee---I have been running 3+ times a week consistently for the last 6 months or so, following a few very inconsistent years.

Below the break, I discuss some parallels between running (particular long-distance running) and the practice of law. Due to these parallels, as a hiring partner, I believe I would look favorably on an applicant who was a distance runner.

Also about distance running, is anyone else really excited about watching the Olympic Trials for the Marathon on NBC tomorrow? Not a great spectator sport, to be sure, but I love that so many people with normal jobs are running. Nashville-area elementary school teacher Scott Wietecha qualified for the Trials (though he has chosen not to run, due, at least in part, the some health issues). Scott has details and predictions here; after reading his long post, I can quickly see that he is even much more excited about watching the race than I am. 

Continue reading

February 12, 2016 in Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Lawyering | Permalink | Comments (2)