Monday, March 2, 2015

Darian Ibrahim on Equity Crowdfunding: A Market for Lemons?

As many of you know, both I and my co-blogger Joan Heminway have written several articles on crowdfunding. My articles are available here and Joan’s are available here. I think that a properly structured crowdfunding exemption (unfortunately, not the exemption Congress authorized in Title III of the JOBS Act) could revolutionize the finance of very small businesses. 

Professor Darian M. Ibrahim, of William & Mary Law School, has posted an interesting and important new paper on crowdfunding, Equity Crowdfunding: A Market for Lemons? It’s available here.

Professor Ibrahim discusses two types of “crowdfunding” approved by the JOBS Act: (1) sales to accredited investors pursuant to SEC Rule 506(c), adopted pursuant to Title II of the JOBS Act; and (2) sales to any investors pursuant to the crowdfunding exemption authorized by Title III of the JOBS Act, but not yet implemented by the SEC. I don’t think the former should be called crowdfunding, but many people call it that, so I’ll excuse Professor Ibrahim.

Title II “Crowdfunding”

Professor Ibrahim points out that traditional investing by venture capitalists and angel investors is characterized by contractual controls and direct personal attention to the business by the investors. This allows the investors to monitor the investment and control misbehavior, and the investors’ participation and advice also provides a benefit to the business.

Ibrahim argues that Title II (506(c)) “crowdfunding” has been successful because it mimics what angel investors have been doing all along. It’s not really revolutionary, just making the existing model of angel investing more efficient by moving it to the Internet.

Title III Crowdfunding

Title III crowdfunding, on the other hand, is revolutionary; it doesn’t resemble anything that currently exists in the United States. If the SEC ever adopts the required rules, issuers will be selling to unaccredited investors who lack the knowledge and sophistication of venture capitalists and angel investors. It’s less obvious how they will judge among the various offerings and protect themselves from misbehavior by the entrepreneur.

Some have argued that the new crowdfunding exemption will appeal only to those companies that are too low quality to obtain traditional VC or angel funding, leaving unaccredited investors with the bottom of the barrel. Ibrahim disagrees, arguing that Title III crowdfunding will appeal to some high-quality entrepreneurs—those who need less cash for their businesses or are unwilling to share control with VCs or angel investors.

But how are we to avoid a “lemons” problem if the unsophisticated investors likely to participate in crowdfunding cannot distinguish good companies from bad? Ibrahim poses two possible answers. The first is the “wisdom of crowds,” the idea that the collective decision-making of a large crowd can approximate or even exceed expert judgments. Possibly, although I’m not completely sure. Collective judgments by non-experts can equal or surpass the judgments of experts, but I'm still unsure that the necessary conditions for that to happen are met on crowdfunding platforms. At best, I think the wisdom of the crowd is only a partial answer.

Ibrahim’s second answer is for the funding portals who host crowdfunding offers to curate the offerings—investigate the quality of the offerings and either provide ratings or limit their sites to higher-quality offerings. I think this is a good idea, but, unfortunately, the SEC’s proposed regulations would prohibit funding portals from doing this. Funding portals required to check for fraud, but that’s all they can do. Any attempt to exclude entrepreneurs for reasons other thanfraud or to provide ratings would go beyond what the proposed regulations allow and subject the portals to regulation under the Investment Advisers Act. Ibrahim has the right solution, but it’s going to require congressional action to get there.

Abstract of the Paper

Here’s the full abstract of Professor Ibrahim’s article:

Angel investors and venture capitalists (VCs) have funded Google, Facebook, and virtually every technological success of the last thirty years. These investors operate in tight geographic networks which mitigates uncertainty, information asymmetry, and agency costs both pre- and post-investment. It follows, then, that a major concern with equity crowdfunding is that the very thing touted about it – the democratization of investing through the Internet – also eliminates the tight knit geographic communities that have made angels and VCs successful.
Despite this foundational concern, entrepreneurial finance’s move to cyberspace is inevitable. This Article examines online investing both descriptively and normatively by tackling Titles II and III of the JOBS Act of 2012 in turn. Title II allows startups to generally solicit accredited investors for the first time; Title III will allow for full-blown equity crowdfunding to unaccredited investors when implemented.

I first show that Title II is proving successful because it more closely resembles traditional angel investing than some new paradigm of entrepreneurial finance. Title II platforms are simply taking advantage of the Internet to reduce the transaction costs of traditional angel operations and add passive angels to their networks at a low cost.

Title III, on the other hand, will represent a true equity crowdfunding situation and thus a paradigm shift in entrepreneurial finance. Despite initial concerns that only low-quality startups and investors will use Title III, I argue that there are good reasons why Title III could attract high-quality participants as well. The key question will be whether high-quality startups can signal themselves as such to avoid the classic “lemons” problem. I contend that harnessing the wisdom of crowds and redefining Title III”s “funding portals” to serve as reputational intermediaries are two ways to avoid the lemons problem.

It’s definitely worth reading.

Andrew Schwartz at the University of Colorado is also working on a paper that addresses the problems of uncertainty, information asymmetry, and agency costs in Title III crowdfunding. I have read the draft and it’s also very good, but it’s not yet publicly available. I will let you know when it is.

March 2, 2015 in C. Steven Bradford, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Benefit Corporations: What am I Missing--Seriously?

I serve on the Tennessee Bar Association Business Entity Study Committee (BESC) and Business Law Section Executive Committee (mouthfuls, but accurately descriptive).  The BESC was originated to vet proposed changes to business entity statutes in Tennessee.  It was initially populated by members of the Business Law Section and the Tax Law Section, although it's evolved to mostly include members of the former with help from the latter.  The Executive Committee of the Business Law Section reviews the work of the BESC before Tennessee Bar Association leadership takes action.

Just about every legislative session of late, these committees of the Tennessee Bar Association have been asked to review proposed legislation on benefit corporations (termed variously depending on the sponsors).  A review request for a bill proposed for adoption for this session recently came in.  Since I serve on both committees, I get to see these proposed bills all the time.  So far, the proposals have pretty much tracked the B Lab model from a substantive perspective, as tailored to Tennessee law.  To date, we have advised the Tennessee Bar Association that we do not favor this proposed legislation.  Set forth below is a summary of the rationale I usually give.

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February 23, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (16)

Monday, February 16, 2015

So . . . You Think You Want a Business Law Job . . . .

It may just be my students, but it seems there is a renewed interest in business law careers among law students.  Several of my students this year who had originally started down a path toward a career in another area of law have happily and passionately settled, somewhat late in the game, on being business lawyers.  Somehow, after taking Business Associations and other foundational business law courses, they've been bit by the business law bug.  And they are incredibly talented students--high up in their class in terms of rank and well worthy of employment in a firm or business or government.  One is my research assistant.

We have been working together and with the folks in our Career Center to identify relevant geographical and employer markets.  But I am seemingly engaged in a continuous struggle to help each of them (a) to enhance his resume to reflect his new-found business law passion (given that each already had accepted a second summer job somewhat or totally outside the business law area when he refocused on business law as a career path) and (b) to make the new connections that he needs to make in order to successfully pursue his revised career path.  How can a middle-aged academic almost 15 years out of practice help a 3L business law job-seeker to make his resume more relevant, his contact list deeper, and his interviews more effective?

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February 16, 2015 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Jobs, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

“We Just Can’t Get Enough of Business Associations”

My seventy business associations students work in law firms on group projects. Law students, unlike business students, don’t particularly like group work at first, even though it requires them to use the skills they will need most as lawyers—the abilities to negotiate, influence, listen, and compromise. Today, as they were doing their group work on buy-sell agreements for an LLC, I started drafting today’s blog post in which I intended to comment on co-blogger Joan Heminway’s post earlier this week about our presentation at Emory on teaching transactional law.

While I was drafting the post, I saw, ironically, an article featuring Professor Michelle Harner, the author of the very exercise that my students were working on. The article discussed various law school programs that were attempting to instill business skills in today’s law students. Most of the schools were training “practice ready” lawyers for big law firms and corporations. I have a different goal. My students will be like most US law school graduates and will work in firms of ten lawyers or less. If they do transactional work, it will likely be for small businesses.  Accordingly, despite my BigLaw and in-house background, I try to focus a lot of the class discussion and group work on what they will see in their real world.

I realized midway through the time allotted in today’s class that the students were spending so much time parsing through the Delaware LLC statute and arguing about proposed changes to the operating agreement in the exercise that they would never finish in time. I announced to the class that they could leave 10 minutes early because they would need to spend at least another hour over the next day finishing their work. Instead most of the class stayed well past the end of class time arguing about provisions, thinking about negotiation tactics with the various members of the LLC, and figuring out which rules were mandatory and which were default. When I told them that they actually needed to vacate the room so another class could enter, a student said, “we just can’t get enough of business associations.” While this comment was meant to be a joke, I couldn’t help but be gratified by the passion that the students displayed while doing this in-class project.  I have always believed that students learn best by doing something related to the statutes rather than reading the dry words crafted by legislators.  My civil procedure students have told me that they feel “advanced” now that they have drafted complaints, answers, and client memos about Rule 15 amendments.

I am certainly no expert on how to engage law students, but I do recommend reading the article that Joan posted, and indeed the whole journal (15 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 547 (2014). Finally, please share any ideas you have on keeping students interested in the classroom and prepared for the clients that await them. 

 

February 12, 2015 in Business Associations, Business School, Conferences, Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway, Law School, LLCs, Marcia Narine, Negotiation, Teaching, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hot Off the Press: Heminway and Narine on Teaching Business Law!

With Marcia's blessing, I am promoting a recently published transcript of a conference panel on which she and I presented last spring.  The title of the published transcript?  "Representing Entities: The Value of Teaching Students How to Draft Board Resolutions and Other Similar Documentation."  Here's the top line from the SSRN abstract:

This edited transcript comprises a panel presentation and related Q&A at "Educating the Transactional Lawyer of Tomorrow," Emory University School of Law's biennial transactional law conference held June 6-7, 2014. The transcript includes Professor Heminway's talk and a separate presentation by Professor Marcia Narine on "How to Make Transactional Law Less Terrifying and a Bit More Interesting." The panel, "Transactional Drafting: Beyond Contracts," features approaches to teaching transactional business law courses. 

Enjoy!

February 9, 2015 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Marcia Narine | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Importance of Communication - Student-Initiated Intrastate "Crowdfunding" Legislation

On December 22 and again on January 9, I posted the first two installments of a three-part series featuring the wit and wisdom of my former student, Brandon Whiteley, who successfully organized a student group to draft, propose, and instigate passage of Invest Tennessee, a state crowdfunding bill in Tennessee.  The first post featured Brandon's observations on the legislative process, and the second post addressed key influences on the bill-that-became-law.  This post, as earlier promised, includes Brandon's description of the important role that communication played in the Invest Tennessee endeavor.  Here's what he related to me in that regard (as before, slightly edited for republication here).

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February 2, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway, Law School, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

In Memory of Meowth (1998-2015): Choice of Entity for Veterinary Medical Practices

As some of you know, my beloved cat, Meowth (yes, named after the Pokemon character) has been battling squamous cell carcinoma.  Today, he went on to the everlasting life beyond this Earth.  This post is dedicated to his memory.  Here he is, meowing with me and my daughter a bit over a week ago.

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One of the things that we have been blessed with over the years--in Massachusetts and here in Knoxville--is great veterinary medical care.  Since The University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine (CoVM) is located on the West (agricultural) campus in Knoxville, it is a stone's throw from the College of Law, where I teach.  We have been assisted in various ways, including with Meowth, by veterinarians and veterinary technicians from the CoVM.   The CoVM also boast a veterinary social work program, and we were helped in Meowth's end-of-life care by one of the veterinary social workers in the CoVM program.  Many of the local veterinarians were trained at our CoVM.  We have worked with several private practice groups in Knoxville.

All this interaction with veterinarians has made me wonder how private veterinary medical practice groups are organized, from a legal entity point of view.  (Yeah, I know.  I am a true law nerd.  I admit that.)  My impression (although many practice groups are not very transparent about their form of legal organization) is that many of these practice groups are professional corporations (PCs) or professional limited liability companies (PLLCs).  I suppose this makes sense to me.  

But it reminds me of a question commonly asked by astute Business Associations students: "Why do professionals form professional business entities, given that the owners of limited liability entities already enjoy protection from liability for the obligations of the entity?"  I am sure many of you have been asked this same question.  If not, you soon may be.

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January 26, 2015 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reflecting on MLK and Legal Education

Today, unlike most Mondays during the school year, I will not be in the classroom.  The University of Tennessee is closed in celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., our nation's iconic non-violent civil rights leader.  Today also is the day that my daughter is in transit back to her college in New York for her last semester as an undergraduate.  It seemed only fitting, honoring both occasions, to go out on Friday night with my daughter and my husband to see the movie Selma.

Despite its historical inaccuracies (which have been played out in the public media, e.g., here), the movie is a successful one.  Among other things, it spoke to me of the amazing amount that one man can accomplish in a mere 39 years with focus, action, and perseverance.  I admittedly felt a bit lazy and ineffectual by comparison.

Selma also reminded me, however, of the near daily opportunities that King had to speak out on matters of public importance.  I wondered if there was anything in his teachings that would speak directly to me today.  Specifically, I wondered if I could find something he'd said that helped to guide me as a business law professor in the current business law or legal education environment.

Of course, King spoke out against  Jim Crow laws, which provided for legal segregation of the races in both businesses and education.  But I was looking for something a bit more personal.  Then, I found this quotation:  "The function of education . . . is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. . . .  Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education."  

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January 19, 2015 in Joan Heminway, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Female Directors and Crowd Theory

I recently was afforded the opportunity to draft a short article for the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law that combines my research on crowd theory (from the crowdfunding space) and my research on women and corporate governance.  The opportunity arose out of a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the journal, for which I had been a published author in the past.  (The journal published my article on women as investors in the context of securities fraud, Female Investors and Securities Fraud: Is the Reasonable Investor a Woman?, back in 2009.)

I just posted the recently released final version of the 20th anniversary article, entitled Women in the Crowd of Corporate Directors: Following, Walking Alone, and Meaningfully Contributing, to the Social Sciences Research Network.  My application of crowd theory to the gender composition of corporate boards of directors in this article does not provide significant new insights on the decision making of female corporate directors.  However, it does result in the observation that women on corporate boards may foster the establishment of new board structures and policies that have the potential to favorably impact board decision making.  The bottom line?  More--and more novel--research still is needed on the presence and contribution of women on corporate boards of directors.

My article represents a brief exploration, but I may well continue my work in this general area.  Accordingly, I would be interested in knowing about others doing similar or related research.  Let me know in the comments or by email message if you would like to alert me to your relevant research and writing.

January 12, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Key Influences on Invest Tennessee - Student-Initiated Intrastate "Crowdfunding" Legislation

A few weeks ago, I described to you a really special extracurricular project undertaken by one of my students, Brandon Whiteley, now an alum, this past year.  The project?  Proposing and securing legislative passage of Invest Tennessee, a Tennessee state securities law exemption for intrastate offerings that incorporates key features of crowdfunding.  The legislation became effective on January 1.

In that first post, I described the project and Brandon's observations on the legislative process.  This post highlights his description of the influences on the bill that became law.  Here they are, with a few slight edits (and hyperlink inserts) from me.

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January 9, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway, Law School, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Animal Law Is (Or At Least Can Be) Business Law

I just left the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting this morning.  I came back to a flat tire at the airport, but let's not dwell on that . . . .  The conference was a good one, as these zoo-like mega conferences go.  

I presented at the conference as part of a panel that focused on teaching courses and topics at the intersection of animals and the law.  (Thanks for the plug, Stefan!)  Yes, although it is a little known fact, I do teach courses involving animals and the law.  Regrettably, it is a somewhat rare thing for me, since I always have to teach these courses as an overload.  However, I also am the faculty advisor to our campus chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and UT Pro Bono's Animal Law Project (which compiled and annually updates a Tennessee statutory resource used by animal control and other law enforcement officers, as well as other animal-focused professionals, in the State of Tennessee).  In addition, I coach our National Animal Law Competitions team.  These non-classroom activities  give me ample time to teach in different ways . . . .

I will not rehash all of my remarks from the panel presentation here.  In fact, I want to make a very limited point in this post.  While my calling to legal issues involving non-human animals is rooted in large part in being the "animal mom" of a rescue dog and rescue cat, I also participate in educational efforts in this area because I see it as my professional responsibility as a lawyer--and in particular, as a business lawyer.

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January 5, 2015 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporations, Ethics, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Last-Minute AALS Planning

To the extent you will be attending the Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting in DC, here are a couple of panel recommendations that come with the added benefit of meeting a BLPB blogger in person:

1. Keeping it Current: Animal Law Examples Across the Curriculum (01/03/2015, 5:15-6:30 pm)

Moderator: Katherine M. Hessler, Lewis and Clark
Speaker: Susan J. Hankin, Maryland
Speaker: Joan M. Heminway, Tennessee
Speaker: Courtney G. Lee, McGeorge
Speaker: Kristen A. Stilt, Harvard

2. The Role of Corporate Personality Theory in Regulating Corporations (1/5/2015, 2:00-3:00 pm)

Moderator: Stefan Padfield, Akron
Speaker: Margaret Blair, Vanderbilt
Speaker: Elizabeth Pollman, Loyola
Speaker: Lisa Fairfax, George Washington
Speaker: David Yosifon, Santa Clara

PS--For more information on the day-long program of the AALS Section on Socio-Economics on Monday, Jan. 5, as well as the day-long Annual Meeting of the Society of Socio-Economists on Tuesday, Jan. 6, go here.

January 2, 2015 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Interview Season (Again) (Still). What Should Female Candidates for Law Jobs Wear?

Grades are in--a few hours late, but in nevertheless.  It must be almost time for New Year's Eve, syllabus and first-assignment posting, the AALS conferenece, the first day of classes, . . .  and more job searching for our students!

I was reminded in an email from a student this morning that the hunt for summer and permanent law jobs is revving back up again after the holiday doldrums.  The student, a 1L mentee seeking summer employment, was asking a few questions about my cover letter post, to which I eaerlier had referred him.  I expect to start getting more of these communications from students about their job searches over the next few weeks.

Our brother bloggers over at the Law Skills Prof Blog have already struck while the iron is hot on this issue.  Specifically, Lou Sirico posted a quip on dressing for job interviews the other day.  The quoted advice?  "The interviewer should remember what you said and not what you were wearing."  

Hmm.  Yeah.  I guess so.  Well, maybe not.

Certainly, that's the advice I was given by NYU Law's fabulous placement folks in "the day."  Then, that meant wearing: a black, navy or midnight blue, or gray skirt suit; a neutral (white, ivory, gray, black) collared shirt or jewel-neck blouse; skin-tone hose; dark, solid-colored, medium-heeled pumps or really lovely flats; and either Barbara Bush pearls (the double strand) or a silk floppy bow tie (like an Hermes twilly, only not as fashion-forward).  Bo-ring.

I am proud (but call me lucky) to have gotten my job wearing (to the initial interview) a deep pink--almost fuchsia--silk-blend skirt suit (midi-length skirt, hip-length jacket), with a white collared blouse, neutral hose, black flats, and a patterned (pink, blue, etc.) floppy silk bow tie.  (This is where the folks in the UT Law Career Center lose faith that they are sending students to the right place when they refer them to me for career advice!)  I was confident and radiant in that suit (although I am not sure I realized that fully at the time), and I am convinced that made a big difference in the reception that I got from people when I wore it.  However, it's true that I  was interviewed by a woman (a female senior associate in a multicolored silk dress with straight blond hair down to her derrière) and I was seeking employment at an entrepreneurial, individualistic firm--Skadden.  

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December 29, 2014 in Joan Heminway, Jobs, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Invest Tennessee - Student-Initiated Intrastate "Crowdfunding" Legislation

Effective as of January 1. 2015, Tennessee will allow Tennessee corporations to engage in intrastate offerings of securities to Tennessee residents over the internet without registration.  The new law, adopted earlier this year, is the direct result of a law-student-led movement.  The key student leader was one of my students, and he kept me informed about the effort as it moved along.  (I was called upon for advice and commentary from time to time, but the bill is all their work.)

In my experience, this kind of effort--a student-initiated, non-credit, extracurricular engagement in business law reform--is almost unheard of.  I was intrigued by the enterprise and impressed by its success.  As a result, I asked the student leader, Brandon Whiteley, now an alumnus, to send me some of his perceptions about drafting and proposing the bill and getting it passed.  

This is the first in a series of three posts that feature Brandon's observations on the legislative process, the key influences on the bill, and the importance of communication.  This post highlights his commentary on the legislative process (which I have edited minimally with his consent).  I think you'll agree that his wisdom and humor both shine through in this first installment (as well as the others).  His organizational capabilities also are evident throughout.

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December 22, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway, Law School, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 15, 2014

For Those of You Who Love the Dodge v. Ford Motor Company Case . . .

 . . . here's a relatively new Dodge Challenger commercial (part of a series) that you may find amusing.  I saw it during Saturday Night Live the other night and just had to go find it on YouTube.  It, together with the other commercials in the series, commemorate the Dodge brand's 100-year anniversary.  "They believed in more than the assembly line . . . ."  Indeed!

You also may enjoy (but may already have read) this engaging and useful essay written by Todd Henderson on the case.  The essay provides significant background information about and commentary on the court's opinion.  It is a great example of how an informed observer can use the facts of and underlying a transactional business case to help others better understand the law of the case and see broader connections to transactional business law generally.  Great stuff.

December 15, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 8, 2014

More on Executive Health and Disclosure . . .

Many of you may have seen this already, but this past week's news brought with it an update to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's health situation--positive news on his cancer treatment results, for which we all can be grateful. I posted here about Dimon's earlier public disclosure that he was undergoing treatment for this cancer.  Based on publicly available information, I give Dimon my (very unofficial) "Power T for Transparency" cheer for 2014.  (The "Power T" is The University of Tennessee's key--and now almost exclusive--branding symbol.  See my earlier posts on UT's related branding decisions regarding the Lady Volunteers here and here.) 

As many of you know, I have written about  securities  law and corporate law disclosure issues relating to private facts about key executives (which include questions relating to the physical health of these important corporate officers).  I do not plan to rehash all that here. But I will note that I think friend and Glom blogger David Zaring gets it just right in his brief report on the recent Dimon announcement (with one small typo corrected and a hyperlink omitted):

Not to pile on, but there's the slightly unsettling trend of CEOs talking, or not, about their health.  Surely material information a real investor would want to know about when deciding whether to buy or sell a stock in these days of the imperial CEO.  But deeply unprivate. . . . The stock is up 2% on the day.  It will be interesting to see whether this email makes its way into a securities filing.

Love that post.  Thanks, David.

Sadly, as I was drafting this post, I learned that Kansas City Chiefs safety and former Tennessee Volunteer football standout Eric Berry has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.  This obviously is not a matter of public company business disclosure regulation (given that the Kansas City Chiefs franchise, while incorporated, apparently is privately held).  But I know I join many in and outside Vol Country in wishing Eric the same success in his cancer treatment that Dimon appears to have had to date with his.

December 8, 2014 in Business Associations, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Splitting Business Associations into Two Courses (3 + 2)

In the comments to my post last week on teaching fiduciary duty in Business Associations, Steve Diamond asked whether I had blogged about why we changed our four-credit-hour Business Associations course at The University of Tennessee College of Law to a three-credit-hour offering.  In response, I suggested I might blog about that this week.  So, here we are . . . .

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December 8, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Law School, M&A, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (10)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Teaching Corporate Fiduciary Duties in a Basic Business Associations Course [heavy sigh]

Well, here we are at the end of another semester.  I just finished teaching my last class in our new, three-credit-hour, basic Business Associations offering.  (Next semester, I take my first shot at teaching a two-credit-hour advanced version of Business Associations.  More to come on that at a later date.)  The basic Business Associations course is intended to be an introduction to the doctrine and norms of business associations law--it is broad-based and designed to provide a foundation for practice (of whatever kind).  I hope I didn't make hash out of everything in cutting back the material covered from the predecessor four-credit-hour version of Business Associations . . . .

I find teaching fiduciary duty in the corporations part of the basic Business Associations course more than a bit humbling.  There is a lot there to offer, and one can only cover so much (whether in a three-credit-hour or four-credit-hour course format).  Every year, I steel myself for the inevitable questions--in class, on the class website (TWEN), and in the post-term review session (scheduled for today at 5 PM)--about the law of fiduciary duty as it applies to directors.  This past weekend, I received a question in that category on the course website.  In pertinent part, it read as follows (as edited for fluency in some places):

I am having problems with understanding the duty of loyalty for directors.

First, . . . I don't think I know which transactions are breaches of loyalty. Do they include interested director transactions, competition, officer's compensation, and not acting in good faith? Second, do care, good faith, and loyalty all require that the directors be grossly negligent? I think I am just confused on the standard to determine whether a director has breached the duty of loyalty and/or care.  

Also, I have in my notes "use the entire fairness test" . . . .
 
You get the picture.  It's hard to resist the temptation to re-teach the entire part of the course on corporate fiduciary duties when one gets a question/series of questions like this.  I did, in fact, resist.  I will spare you the entire substance of my response (unpacking the ways to think through the question presented using the material we covered in the course), but here are the key, process-oriented paragraphs:
 
 . . . It is somewhat meaningless, except by example, to focus on "transactions" that breach the duty of loyalty.  Among other things, not all breaches of duty occur in the context of transactions.  Fiduciary duty is an obligation that the board carries with it in conducting its activities in managing the business and affairs of the corporation.
 
 . . .
 
That's a long answer to your question, but I sensed that you needed to slow down and remember (1) what fiduciary duty is and (2) where it comes from before you started to think about (3) circumstances in which litigants have claimed breaches of those duties (not all transactions) and (4) ways in which courts have treated those claims.  Separate out these four things and review the cases (and sparse related statutory law) we have covered to ensure that you "see" all this.  You may decide I have over-simplified here (and I have).  But it should help get you back on a productive path.
 
How do you answer questions like this when they are posed to you at the end of the semester?  I am always looking to get better at what I do in and outside the classroom, and since I know I will get these kinds of questions every time I teach the course (varying somewhat in content from year to year and student to student), I am interested in learning how others approach this type of question.  I am all ears, so fill them with ideas . . . .

December 1, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks for Motivated and Motivating Students

Turkey_0

Happy Thanksgiving you all!  With my co-blogger colleagues here on the BLPB writing various Thanksgiving posts on retail-related and other holiday-oriented business law issues (here and here), I find myself in a Thanksgiving-kind-of-mood.  I honestly have so much to be thankful for, it's hard to know where to start . . . .  But apropos of the business law focus of this blog, I am choosing today to be thankful for my students.  They make my job really special.

This semester, I have been teaching Business Associations in a new three-credit-hour format (challenging and stressful, but I have wanted to teach Business Associations in this format for fifteen years) and Corporate Finance (which I teach as a planning and drafting seminar).  I have 69 students in Business Associations and ten in Corporate Finance.  I have two class meetings left in each course.

The 69 students in Business Associations have been among the most intellectually and doctrinally curious folks to which I have taught this material.  I have talked to a lot of them after class about the law and its application in specific contexts.  Two stayed after class the other day to discuss statutory interpretation rules with me in the context of some problems I gave them.  This large group also includes a number of students who have great senses of humor, offering us some real fun on occasion in class meetings and on the class TWEN site.  They are not always as prepared as I would like (and, in fact, some of the students have expressed to me their disappointment in their colleagues' lack of preparedness and participation), but they pick up after each other when one of them leaves a mess in his or her wake (volunteering to be "co-counsel" for a colleague--a concept I introduce in class early in the semester).  I enjoy getting up on Monday mornings to teach them at 9:00 am.

Corporate Finance includes a more narrow self-selected group.  Almost all of these students have or are actively seeking a job in transactional or advocacy-oriented business law.  They handed in their principal planning and drafting projects a bit over a week ago, projects that they spend much of the semester working on.  (These substantial written projects are described further in this transcribed presentation.)  Now, each student is reviewing and commenting on a project drafted by a fellow student.  Both the project and the review are constructed in a circumscribed format that I define.  I am excited to read their work on these projects, given the great conversations I have had with a number of them over the course of the semester as they puzzled through financial covenants, indemnification provisions, antidilution adjustments, and the like.  Great stuff.  I teach this class from 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm two days a week--a time in the day when I generally am most sleepy/least enthusiastic to teach.  But these folks ask good questions and seem to genuinely enjoy talking about corporate finance instruments and transactions, making the experience much more worthwhile.

So, I am very thankful for each and all of these 79 students.  I may not feel that way after I finish all the grading I have to do, but for now, I am both grateful and content.  And I didn't consume a single calorie getting there (which is more than I will be able to say Thursday night . . .).  Just looking at the picture at the top of this post makes my stomach feel full and me feel heavier.  Ugh.

November 24, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Call for Papers - Fourth European Research Conference on Microfinance

CALL FOR PAPERS

Fourth European Research Conference on Microfinance

1-3 June 2015

Geneva School of Economics and Management, University of Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland

Access to suitable and affordable finance is a precondition for meeting basic human needs in incomes and employment, health, education, work, housing, energy, water and transport. Microfinance – and more broadly, financial inclusion – will continue to be on the research and policy agenda. 2015 will be a special occasion to question received notions about the link between access to finance and welfare. In 2015 the Millennium Development Goals will make place for the Sustainable Development Goals. A broad debate and exchange on micro, macro and policy topics in financial inclusion will advance our knowledge and ultimately improve institutional performance and policy. This applies in particular to issues of financial market organization, but also patterns, diversity and trade-offs in institutional performance, scope for fiscal instruments, impact of technology on efficiency and outreach etc.

The European Research Conference on Microfinance is a unique platform of exchange for academics involved in microfinance research. The three former conferences organized by the Centre for European Research in Microfinance (CERMI) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2009, by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 2011 and the University of Agder in Norway in 2013 brought together  several hundred researchers, as well as practitioners interested in applied research. The upcoming Fourth Conference is organized by the University of Geneva, in cooperation with the European Microfinance Platform (www.e-mfp.eu) and in association with the University of Zurich and the Graduate Institute of Geneva. 

To provide cutting-edge insights into current research work on microfinance and financial inclusion and to enrich the conference agenda we invite papers on the following topics:

  • Client-related issues: consumer behavior, client protection, financial education, household-enterprises and entrepreneurship
  • Financial products: credit, insurance, deposits, domestic and cross-border payments
  • Non-financial services
  • Microfinance adjacencies: Millennium Development Goals
  • Institutional issues: management, governance, legal form, transformation, growth, mission drift
  • Market: monopolies, competition, alliances and cooperation, mergers and acquisitions, crowding-in and crowding-out issues
  • Funding: subsidies (smart and other), investments (public and private) in microfinance institutions
  • Policy and regulatory issues
  • Impact
  • International governance

Papers will be selected for presentation at the conference by the Scientific Committee, based on criteria of academic quality.

Members of the Scientific Committee include, amongst others: Arvind Ashta (Burgundy School of Business), Bernd Balkenhol (U Geneva), Georges Gloukoviezoff (U Bordeaux and U College Dublin), Isabelle Guerin (IRD, Cessma), Begona Gutierrez-Nieto (U Zaragoza), Malcom Harper (Cranfield School of Management), Valentina Hartarska (U Auburn, USA), Marek Hudon and Ariane Szafarz (CERMI and Solvay School of Business Brussels), Susan Johnson (U Bath), Annette Krauss (U Zürich), Marc Labie (CERMI and University of Mons), Roy Mersland (U Agder), Christoph Pausch (European Microfinance Platform Luxembourg), Trond Randoy (U Agder), Daniel Rozas (European Microfinance Platform Luxembourg), Jean Michel Servet (Graduate Institute Geneva) and Adalbert Winkler (Frankfurt School of Finance and Management), Hans Dieter Seibel (U of Cologne).

Authors are invited to submit an abstract of their paper (not exceeding 2 pages) to bernd.balkenhol@unige.ch by December 20, 2014.  

The full paper needs to be sent in by March 31, 2015.

November 22, 2014 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, International Business, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)