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 . . . .

Continue reading

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)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lady Volunteers: What's in a Name?

In my post yesterday on intellectual property law and The University of Tennessee's rebranding exercise, I noted my opposition to the abandonment of the Lady Volunteer brand.  Some have questioned my stand on this issue as (although not using these words) old fashioned, anti-feminist, etc.  Even my husband questioned me on the matter, asking: "How would you have felt if, in playing field hockey at Brown, the team was referred to as the Lady Bears?"  Of course, some team names are not meant to "go with" the moniker "Lady," in any event . . . .  :>)

Some do see this as a simple issue of shedding the "separate and unequal" status of women's athletics at The University of Tennessee.  I can see how an outsider might see things that way.  But the merger of the Knoxville men's and women's athletic departments two years ago (I will spare you the details) was accomplished in a way that is seen by some as sweeping inequality under the rug through homogenization that falsely signals equality to the outside world.  Suffice it to say, I am not persuaded that the issue is this simple.

Others have contacted me on Facebook and in private communications to point out additional aspects of the rebranding matter that relate to the word "Lady" in the women's athletics branding at The University of Tennessee.  On Sunday, Jack McElroy, the editor-in-chief of our local paper (whose son played soccer with my son back in the day) wrote an editorial [ed. note: this link is firewall protected and may only be available to subscribers] on this element of the branding controversy.  In the editorial, he traces the history of the word "lady" in reference to women--from a 25-year-old study finding its use demeaning to female athletes to its resurgence as "a comfortable term by which 21st-century women can address themselves" (citing to feminist writer Ann Friedman).  Today, I received an email noting this post by Bryan Garner, perhaps most well known to many of us as the editor of Black's Law Dictionary, on the "increasingly problematic" nature of the word "lady."  (Hat tip to Bryan Cave partner Scott Killingsworth for that reference.) These writings also do not point to a simple resolution of issues relating to the continued usage or abandonment of the Lady Volunteer moniker or brand.

The branding issue is, in truth, complex, even in our post-Title IX world.  Some of the complexities involve legal issues or have legal ramifications (as noted in my post yesterday); some do not.  Among other things, branding involves psychological and emotional reactions that are contextual.  Business lawyers involved in branding efforts will be of the most use to their clients if they take this complexity and context into account in engaging legal analysis and offering advice.  How would you, for example, advise a firm like Airbnb about legal issues relating to its branding challenges? The possibility of legal claims emanating from the non-intellectual property aspects of branding is something I hadn't earlier considered but now see as real.  I guess advising business clients on branding involves a lot more than trademark law . . . .

November 18, 2014 in Current Affairs, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

[Not] Abandoning the Lady Vols . . . ?

LadyVolsLogo

Readers who know me well understand that I am a die-hard fan of The University of Tennessee's athletics teams.  As a former college athlete and continuing college sports fan, I embraced the Tennessee Volunteers and Lady Volunteers as if they were my own when I moved to Knoxville in 2000.  I first became a Lady Volunteer basketball ticket holder.  Then, I donated to the university and got myself in the queue for football tickets.  Men's basketball followed once I began service as a member of the campus's athletics board.

A week ago, the campus administration announced that the university would be dropping the Lady Volunteer brand for all sports except women's basketball.  The press release is not a model of good communication to the multiple interested constituencies that could be expected to read it.  It manages to muddle the rationale for the change (citing to a campus rebranding effort, brand audits, and the campus's new allegiance with Nike), send mixed messages (citing a perceived need for consolidation, but leaving the women's basketball team out of the consolidation), and ignore the value of the Lady Volunteer brand to female athletes not playing on the basketball team (asserting that "[t]he Lady Vol logo . . . has long been the monogram of excellence and a tradition among our loyal basketball fans." (emphasis added))--somewhat denigrating those non-basketball Lady Volunteer athletes and their fans in the process.  As my Facebook friends know, I am not happy about this change.  I believe that university is effectively (but admittedly not totally) giving the shaft to a valuable brand--a brand that has taken many years to build--one that is distinctive and meaningful because of its association with empowered, successful female athletes in many sports.

Apart from my disagreement with the change, however, I wondered whether legal counsel had--or could or should have had--any involvement in this "brand transition."  I suspect so.  Among other things, I would expect that best practices would dictate that all press releases receive review from one of the university's lawyers in the General Counsel's office.

This realization led me to consider the possible role of trademark abandonment in the university's decision to keep the Lady Volunteer brand for the women's basketball team.  The university concedes in its press release that the Lady Volunteer brand, which includes its trademarked logo (reproduced above) has value--although it limits that contention to women's basketball.  Under the Lanham Act, if the university had determined to discontinue use of the Lady Volunteer logo without having an intent to resume its use, the logo would have become available for use by others after three years.  By continuing use of the trademark for women's basketball, the university may (in part) be endeavoring to protect the logo from expropriation by an opportunistic entrepreneur.

But maybe I am giving the university and its legal counsel too much credit . . . ?

For another (perhaps more interesting?) take on intellectual property law issues stemming from the university's Power T rebranding campaign, see this post from one of our UT Law alums, Kevin Hartley (who practices at Stites & Harbison in Nashville).

November 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nightmare in Law Review Land . . . .

As some of you know, I have been a defender (although perhaps not a staunch one) of student-edited law reviews as a good learning experience for students.  I have worked with students in ways that I really have enjoyed over the years.  I also have had some lousy experiences.  But even I admit that between the overwhelmingly negative blog commentary  (to which I now add), including posts here and here by Steve Bradford here on the BLPB, and the experiences I relate here, I am having trouble sustaining my support for student-edited journals . . . .

Continue reading

November 10, 2014 in C. Steven Bradford, Joan Heminway, Law School | Permalink | Comments (10)

Call for Crowdfunding Papers - Pisa, Italy - June 23-26, 2015

Received Saturday (edited slightly for publication here):

Dear Colleague,

Please consider submitting your work to the Track "Crowdfunding: a democratic way for financing innovative projects" @ the RnD Management Conference 2015.

The RnD Management Conference 2015 will be held in June 23-26 at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa.

You can find more information on the Conference Track and on the submission process at the following link: http://www.rnd2015.sssup.it/.

I warmly apologize for cross-posting.

Best regards,

Cristina Rossi Lamastra, PhD

Associate Professor at Politecnico di Milano School of Management

Phone: 0039 0223993972

Fax: 0039 0323992710

Skype: crossi73

Web page: http://www.dig.polimi.it/index.php?id=308&tx_wfqbe_pi1[id]=52

November 10, 2014 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Preventative Lawyering and Succession Planning

On Monday, The University of Tennessee (UT) College of Law hosted Larry Cunningham to talk about his book, Berkshire Beyond Buffett: The Enduring Value of Values, which he previewed with us here on the BLPB a few months ago in a series of posts (here, here, and here).  As you may recall, the book focuses on corporate culture and succession planning at Berkshire Hathaway.  Joining Larry at the book session was UT College of Law alumnus James L. (Jim) Clayton, Chairman and principal shareholder of Clayton Bank and the founder of Clayton Homes, one of the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries featured in the book.  The impromptu conversation between Larry and Jim was an incredible part of the event (although Larry's prepared presentation on the book also was great).

As part of the event, Larry and Jim answered a variety of  audience questions.  Included among them was a question from UT College of Law Dean Doug Blaze on the role of lawyers in management,  transactions, and entrepreneurialism.  As part of Jim Clayton's response, he noted the value of preventative lawyering--advising businesses to keep them out of trouble.  I was so glad, as a business law advisor, to hear him say that! 

Following on that, given that (a) Larry's book focuses on the factors influencing succession planning,  (b) I am teaching the Disney case to my Business Associations students this week, and (c) the Disney case is about . . . well . . . failed succession and executive compensation, I asked about management compensation in the context of succession planning at Berkshire Hathaway.  Both Larry and Jim (whose son Kevin is President and Chief Executive Officer of Clayton Homes) were clear that Warren Buffett is an exacting manager, but that he believes in paying his portfolio company managers well.  Of course, the precise nature of the compensation arrangements of those portfolio firm executives (unlike Michael Ovitz's compensation arrangements at issue in the Disney case) are not a matter of public record.  But given the markedly different contexts, I assume the arrangements are very different . . . .

As I approach discussing the Disney case once again in the classroom, I am (as always) looking for new angles, new insights to share with the class (in addition to the core fiduciary duty doctrine).  One I will share this year is Jim Clayton's advice about preventative lawyering.  What could lawyers have done to reduce the likelihood of controversy and litigation?  I have some thoughts and will develop others in the next 24 hours.  Leave your thoughts here, if you have any . . . .

November 3, 2014 in Business Associations, Books, Compensation, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Delaware, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wrestling with Securities Regulation Policy and Morrison

On Friday, I participated in the 2014 Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation sponsored by the University of Richmond School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law and held on the University of Richmond's campus.  Thanks to Jessica Erickson and Verity Winship for hosting an amazing group of scholars presenting impressive, interesting papers.  I attended the workshop to test an idea for a paper tentatively entitled: "Policy and International Securities Fraud Actions: A Matter of Investor and (or) Market Protection?"

The paper would address an important issue in U.S. federal securities law: the extraterritorial reach of the general anti-fraud protections in Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and Rule 10b-5 adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under Section 10(b). In a world where securities transactions often cross borders—sometimes in non-transparent ways—securities regulators, issuers, investors, and intermediaries, as well as legal counsel and the judiciary, all need clarity on this matter in order to plan and engage in transactions, advocacy, and dispute resolution. Until four years ago, the rules in this area (fashioned more as a matter of  jurisdiction than extraterritorial reach) were clear, but their use often generated unpredictable results.

In Morrison v. Nat’l Austl. Bank Ltd., 130 S. Ct. 2869 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court held that “Section 10(b) reaches the use of a manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance only in connection with the purchase or sale of a security listed on an American stock exchange, and the purchase or sale of any other security in the United States.” This was a non-obvious analytical result (at least to me) that has generated significant criticism, debate, and discussion. The Court's struggle—and that of those who disagree with the holding or the Court's reasoning or both—has been to determine the purpose(s) of Section 10(b) as a federal securities law liability statute and assess the extraterritorial reach of Section 10(b) in light of that purpose or those purposes. This project extends my earlier work (originally written for and published as part of a French colloquium in 2012) and involves the engagement of a deep analysis of long-standing, albeit imperfectly articulated, federal securities regulation policy in the context of cross-border fraud and misstatement liability.

This will be a big undertaking, if I commit to a comprehensive approach.  I got a lot of good feedback on my overall concept for the project--enough that I am rethinking the project in significant ways.  One possible idea is to approach the underlying general policy articulation first, as a separate project, before undertaking the formidable task of rationalizing that policy at the intersection of the academic literature on class action litigation, Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5, and cross-border markets and cross-listings.  The two-stage approach has significant appeal to me.  I start from the notion that investor protection and the maintenance of market integrity under federal securities regulation both serve the foundational goal of promoting capital formation.  But that is contestable . . . .

What are your thoughts regarding the most coherent articulation of the policies underlying Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 multinational securities regulation and the appropriateness of the Morrison test for extraterritoriality in light of that articulation?

October 27, 2014 in Financial Markets, International Business, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Convertibles, Exchangeables, and Derivatives . . . . Oh My!

I typically teach Corporate Finance as a planning and drafting course to 3L law students in the fall semester each academic year.  (See my part of this transcription for some details.)  This year is no different in that regard.  I really like my Corporate Finance class this fall.  The students all seem pretty motivated (although not in every class meeting) and are asking relevant "how to" questions in class.

I am in the midst of teaching my unit on convertible, exchangeable, and derivative instruments at the moment.  This semester, I am teaching that unit in three 75-minute parts (after teaching one 75-minute class on hybrid instruments).  The first part is an introduction to the instruments themselves.  What are they and how do they operate?  Where are the provisions authorizing them in state corporate law statutes?  What do they look like and what are the key components of the operative (conversion, exchange, or exercise) provisions?  The second part is a dive into the poison pill as an intriguing example.  The third part is a look at common litigation issues affecting parties' rights under these kinds of instruments (focusing on things like the characterization of transactions not expressly provided for in determining the applicability and effect of antidilution adjustment provisions and interactions between conversion and redemption provisions). 

I really enjoy teaching this part of the course, but I keep feeling like I am missing something.  Do any of you teach planning and drafting in a corporate finance context?  Do you focus on these instruments?  If so, what topics do you teach and hone in on?  I am writing a casebook for use in this kind of course and would love to make it relevant to as many folks as possible.  Please respond in the comments here or in an email message.  I would appreciate your feedback and guidance.

While you are at it (or even if you're not), I also would be grateful if folks would weigh in on whether hybrid instruments should be taught separately from or together with convertibles, exchangeables, and derivatives.  Do you/would you teach convertibles, exchangeables, and derivatives as a type of hybrid instrument? Or would you call an instrument "hybrid" only if it, e.g., combines core elements of debt and equity at the same time?  I look forward to reading what you have to say on any of this.

October 20, 2014 in Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, October 13, 2014

More from the Student Comment Archives . . . . Swiss Vereins?!

OK.  I cannot compete with the brevity or humor of the student comment Steve Bradford posted earlier today.  [sigh]  But my post today does relate to a student comment/question--one from my Business Associations course earlier this semester.  Specifically, a student posted the following on our class discussion board under the title "Swiss Vereins and piercing the veil":

I was curious about Swiss Vereins and how that works when trying to pierce the veil since a Swiss Verein consists of independent offices that have limited liability amongst them. Would it have been beneficial for Westin [referring to the Gardemal v. Westin Hotel Co. case] to have used such a structure instead of having Westin Mexico be a subsidiary? It seems that most Swiss Vereins are large law firms, such as DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie or accounting firms, such as Deloitte. 

This is the first time a student has asked me about the Swiss verein structure in my almost fifteen years of teaching.  My familiarity with Swiss vereins comes solely from what I have read and heard over the years.  I never advised a firm in setting one up (or deciding not to).  Here is the core substance of my response:

Thanks for asking about this.  Swiss vereins . . . are non-entity structures, blessed under the laws of Switzerland, for conducting business through a formal association of multiple firms.  The firms collectively agree to a set of bylaws that govern their joint management/operations through a management board.  In this way, a Swiss verein functions like a corporate group without a separate entity (parent/holding company) owning all of the businesses at the top. So, you can see how it might be an advantage when it comes to veil piercing--although there have been cases in which judges have blessed what I think of as sideways veil piercing in the United States, in which a sister firm is held liable for the obligations of her brother, so to speak.  Bottom line?  The Swiss verein provides a flexible framework for doing business jointly among many firms.
 
Why not use this structure in lieu of creating a corporate family?  I have spent some time thinking about it.  I am no expert on this way of doing business.
 
I suppose the main reasons are the flip side of the coin form the advantages of the Swiss verein.  Corporate structures provide off-the-shelf rules for management and control and cost-sharing and all that.  In a Swiss verein, all of that needs to be scripted out in significant detail in the verein's bylaws, since there is no statutory default rule to fall back on.  So, they are expensive to set up and maintain.  Also, this often means that participants in the verein are more loosely tied together in terms of the norms of their joint operations.  Each firm in the verein is more siloed--autonomously managed and its own profit center.  This can have advantages and disadvantages, but may be less desirable in businesses that desire uniform operations and good employee morale as among all of the constituent firms (which may be harder to achieve in a verein).  Also, the perceptions of outsiders may be an issue, based on what I have read.  People are just not as familiar with the verein structure, and they don't understand it, which may make them more hesitant to do business with it.  And finally, there is no guarantee that the veil of limited liability available under Swiss law in the verein structure, which generally is deemed to be strong, will not be pierced in a judicial proceeding.
 
I am sure some of you are more familiar with the actual operation of Swiss vereins in context and may have some valuable insights.  If so, have at it and share them here.  I just thought it was a provocative question and would love to get my student and her colleagues the best answer . . . .

October 13, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporations, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Update: Call for Papers - ITEM 6

Call for Papers

ITEM 6 – Lyon

Microfinance: Coaching, Counting, and Crowding


The Banque Populaire Chair in Microfinance of the Burgundy School of Business (France) organizes the 6th edition of the annual conference “Institutional and Technological Environments of Microfinance” (ITEM) in March 2015 (17, 18, 19) in Lyon, France. This conference was initially programmed in Tunis, Tunisia within the campus of l’École supérieure du commerce de Tunis.

The 6th edition brings together--but is not limited to--three major issues that are shaping the sector of microfinance:  Coaching, Counting, and Crowding.

Coaching in microfinance provides training in business and soft skills (attributes enhancing an individual's interactions and self-performance) that the poor micro-entrepreneurs rarely have. Increasingly, microfinance academics and practitioners consider building the human capital of micro-entrepreneurs as a critical ingredient of moving out of poverty.

Counting and tracking the microfinance clients and prospects with information technologies not only lessen information asymmetry, but also lower the transaction cost of financial intermediation. Corollary: information technologies can open ways for offering financial services to the poor as a normal way of doing and extending normal business and accelerate their social integration. 

Crowding, based on Web 2.0 technologies, enables direct interactions between millions of lending and borrowing people. Through crowdfunding, micro and small entrepreneurs can raise the crucial funds required for their projects by a large number of individuals via social networks on the Internet. It provides an unprecedented opportunity for alleviating poverty in both developed and developing countries.

In addition to the above topics, other microfinance-related topics (such as impact measures, social governance, innovation, and sustainable development) are welcomed.

The ITEM conference provides a forum for both researchers and practitioners to discuss and exchange on financial inclusion. The conference in March 2015 seeks quantitative, qualitative, and experience-based papers from industry and academia. Case studies and Ph.D. research-in-progress are also welcomed. It encourages reflections on the potential and use of technology in microfinance in developed and developing countries.

Publication opportunity

Papers presented at the conference will also be considered for publication in partnering journals.

Submission procedure

Proposals: All contribution types require a proposal in the first instance, including: a short abstract between 300 and 500 words; up to five keywords; the full names (first name and surname, not initials) and email addresses of all authors; and a postal address and telephone number for at least one contact author.

Submission period for the proposals: Up to November 10, 2014.

Acceptance of proposals: By November 30, 2014. As abstract selection notifications will be sent out to relevant authors, please indicate clearly if the contact author is not the lead author.

Full paper: Only required after acceptance of abstract. Papers should not to be more than 5000 words including abstract, keywords and references.

Submission period for the full papers: Up to February 16, 2015.

Contacts:

Web site: http://item6.weebly.com

Fees: Author registration and payment must be completed by February 27, 2015.

There are special discounts available for early-bird registration, students and group bookings (3 registrations). Details will be available on the ITEM 6 website.

October 8, 2014 in Call for Papers, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Georgetown University Law Center - Transactional Clinic

Georgetown University Law Center invites applicants interested in establishing and teaching in a transactional clinic.  This position is tenure track. The successful applicant will begin on July 1, 2015.  Georgetown seeks to add to its spectrum of business related clinics. Currently we offer clinics that teach business formation in the field of social entrepreneurship, community development and strategic planning, and that assist low income residents in the acquisition, renovation, and operation of their buildings as long-term affordable housing.

At Georgetown Law, professors dedicated to clinical teaching are fully integrated into the faculty. Both entry level and lateral hires are urged to apply. The person selected for this position would join our large clinical community, develop the clinic, be assisted by a clinical fellow and teach the clinic each semester.

The successful applicant will have a strong commitment to promoting access to justice and a demonstrated interest in nurturing student development.  Candidates must demonstrate intellectual engagement including scholarly promise (for entry-level candidates) or be a proven scholar (for lateral candidates).  Successful applicants will also have subject-matter expertise and a positive reputation in the field, the communication, organizational and collaborative skills necessary to direct and manage a clinic and a commitment to teaching clinically over the long term. Georgetown values excellent teaching and a successful applicant will have pedagogical skills, creativity, and enthusiasm for the academic endeavor.  This law school is committed to diversity, and candidates of diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Please send a resume, including the names of references and a statement of interest to Hope Babcock, the Chair of the Clinical Subcommittee of the Appointments Committee. Her email is Babcock@law.georgetown.edu.

[Posted at the request of Haskell Murray, who is traveling today.]

October 7, 2014 in Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Jobs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cover Letters for Legal Job Applications

As on-campus interviews slow down, a lot of students now are coming to me looking for cover letter advice.  Since co-blogger Haskell Murray more-or-less asked me to write on this topic in response to a comment on his super post on resumes and interviews, I thought I would take the bait.  My principal thoughts on the subject are set forth below the fold.  Some of my observations and elements of my advice are conservative and anally compulsive, I know.  But consider the source:  I worked in Big Law for fifteen years before I started teaching law and served on a number of office hiring committees over that time. 

Thee are many good websites out there on cover letter drafting.  Most of the advice they give is good, but it is somewhat varied.  There are some things common and traditional in law job cover letters that may help students sift through the Internet prattle and settle on specific approaches.  That's the overlay I hope to offer here.

Continue reading

October 6, 2014 in Joan Heminway, Law School | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, September 29, 2014

More on LLCs as Non-Signatories of Operating Agreements . . .

In recent blog posts, two of my favorite bloggers, Keith Paul Bishop and Steve Bainbridge, have highlighted for our attention Delaware and California statutes providing (differently in each case) that an LLC and, at least in Delaware, its managers and members, are bound by the LLC's operating agreement even if they do not sign that agreement.  Bishop notes in his post that the California "RULLCA creates an odd situation in which LLCs are bound by contracts that they did not execute and to which they seemingly are not parties."  In his post Bainbridge cites to the Bishop post and another post by Francis Pileggi.  Certainly, they all have a point.  For students of contract law, the conclusion that a non-party is bound by a contract does not seem to be an obvious result . . . .

The flap in the blogosphere has its genesis in a recent Delaware Chancery Court decision, Seaport Village Ltd. v. Seaport Village Operating Company, LLC, et al. C.A. No. 8841-VCL.  The limited liability company defendant in that case raised as its only defense that it was not a party to the limited liability company agreement and therefore was not bound.  Unsurprisingly in light of applicable Delaware law, Chancellor Laster found the defense wanting as a matter of law.

This issue has more history than my brother bloggers point out, some of which is included in the brief Seaport Village opinion.  I probably don't have all the details, but set forth below is some additional background information that may be useful in thinking about the binding nature of LLC operating agreements.  Others may care to fill in any missing information by leaving comments to this post.

Continue reading

September 29, 2014 in Business Associations, Current Affairs, Delaware, Joan Heminway, LLCs, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Call for Crowdfunding Book Chapter Proposals

I am passing on the English translation of a call for book chapters issued by a friend and colleague in Dijon, France.  The book is international and has a broad business management focus.

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As the editor of a forthcoming book, it is my greatest pleasure to invite you to submit articles as chapters. The tentative title is: Strategic Managerial Approaches to Crowdfunding Online. The book will be published by IGI Global publishers in the USA, within the series “Advances in Business Strategy and Competitive Advantage (ABSCA).”

Please read carefully the following guidelines for submission:

The context

The emerging crowdfunding phenomenon is a collective effort by individuals who network and pool their money together, usually via the internet and without any specific conventional financial intermediation, in order to invest in and support for-profit, artistic, and cultural ventures initiative undertaken by other people or organizations. The spontaneous interactions and transactions between individuals allow relatively considerable fund raisings by drawing on small contributions from a relatively large number of individuals using the Internet, without standard financial intermediaries.

The advent of crowdfunding coincides with the democratization of information technologies that enable people to contact, interact, collaborate and exchange at lowest costs, if not for free. In fact, information technologies have allowed the drastic reduction of transaction costs and by the same the revival of ancient forms of transactions such as auctions, barter, tenders, recycling, and direct transactions between individuals.

Many platforms encourage crowdfunding such as Kiva, Babyloan, MyC4 in lending to the poor entrepreneurs, Prosper, Kapipal and Zopa in P2P social lending, Kickstarter, MyMajorCompany in entrepreneurial projects, SellaBand in music, etc.

Continue reading

September 19, 2014 in Books, Call for Papers, Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Papers - 6th International Conference on Institutional and Technological Environment for Microfinance (ITEM 6)

Call for Papers

ITEM 6 – Tunis, Tunisia

Microfinance: Coaching, Counting, and Crowding


The Banque Populaire Chair in Microfinance of the Burgundy School of Business (France) and l’École supérieure du commerce de Tunis jointly organize the 6th edition of the annual conference “Institutional and Technological Environment of Microfinance” (ITEM) in March 2015 (17, 18, 19) in Tunis, Tunisia.

The 6th edition brings together–but not limited to-three major issues, which are shaping the sector of microfinance: Coaching, Counting, and Crowding.

Coaching in microfinance provides training in business and soft skills (attributes enhancing an individual's interactions and self-performance) that the poor micro-entrepreneurs rarely have. Increasingly, microfinance academics and practitioners consider building the human capital of micro-entrepreneurs a critical ingredient of moving out of poverty.

Counting and tracking the microfinance clients and prospects with the information technologies not only lessen information asymmetry, but also lower the transaction cost of financial intermediation. Corollary: information technologies can open ways for offering financial services to the poor as a normal way of doing and extending normal business, and accelerate their social integration. 

Crowding, based on the Web 2.0 technologies, enables direct interactions between millions of lending and borrowing people. Through crowdfunding, micro and small entrepreneurs can raise the crucial funds required for their projects by a large number of individuals via social networks on the Internet. It provides an unprecedented opportunity for alleviating poverty in both developed and developing countries.

In addition to the above topics, other microfinance related topics such as impact measures, social governance, innovation, and sustainable development are welcomed.

The ITEM conference provides a forum for both researchers and practitioners to discuss and exchange on financial inclusion. The conference in March 2015 seeks quantitative, qualitative and experience-based papers from industry and academia. Case studies and PhD research-in-progress are also welcomed. It encourages reflections on the potential and use of technology in microfinance in developed and developing countries.

Publication opportunity

Papers presented at the conference will also be considered for publication in partnering journals.

Submission procedure

Proposals: All contribution types require a proposal in the first instance, including a short abstract between 300 and 500 words, up to five keywords, the full names (first name and surname, not initials), email addresses of all authors, and a postal address and telephone number for at least one contact author.

Submission period for the proposals: Up to November 10, 2014.

Acceptance of proposals: By November 30, 2014. As abstract selection notifications will be sent out to relevant authors, please indicate clearly if the contact author is not the lead author.

Full paper: Only required after acceptance of abstract. Papers should not to be more than 5000 words including abstract, keywords and references.

Submission period for the full papers: Up to February 16, 2015.

Contacts:

  • ITEM6@escdijon.eu
  • Djamchid ASSADI: Djamchid.Assadi@escdijon.eu
  • Maaouia BEN NASR: Maouia.Ben-Nasr@escdijon.eu

Web site: http://item6.weebly.com

Fees: Author registration and payment must be completed by February 27, 2015.

There are special discounts available for early-bird registration, students and group bookings (3 registrations). Details will be available on the ITEM 6 website.

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[Ed. Note:  I participated in ITEM 5 last year.  The conference was very worthwhile and attracted a diverse group of scholars and others (in industry) from a number of countries (not the usual suspects, in many cases).  We took a field trip to a local microfinance lender on the first day of the conference (as part of the event), which was incredibly enlightening.  I am looking at funding opportunities to enable me to attend the 2015 conference as well.]

September 19, 2014 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)