Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BA/Corporations -- New Media Teaching Resources

I had very limited time at AALS this year (unfortunately) but I still walked away with some great ideas (and a chance to say hello to a few, but not enough, friendly faces).  I am borrowing from many ideas shared in the panel cited below, as well as a few of my own.  As many of you prepare to teach BA/Corporations for the spring (or making notes on how to do it next time), here are a few fun new resources to help illustrate common concepts:

  • HBO's The Newsroom.  A hostile takeover, negotiations with a white knight-- all sorts of corporate drama unfolded on HBO's Season 3 of The Newsroom.   I couldn't find clips on youtube, but episode recaps (like this) are available and provide a good reference point/story line/hypo/exam problem for class.
  • This American Life-- Wake Up Now Act 2 (Dec. 26, 2014).  This brief radio segment/podcast tells the story of two investors trying to reduce the pay of a company CEO.  The segment discusses board of director elections, board duties, board functions and set up some large questions about whether or not shareholders are the owners of the corporation and their profit maximization is the ultimate goal for a company.  This could be followed with Lynn Stout's 2012 NYT Dealbook article proposing the opposite view.
  • HBO's Silicon Valley.  For all things tech, start up, entrepreneurship and basic corporate formation, clips (you will want to find something without all of the swears, I suspect) and episode recaps from this popular show illustrate concepts and connect with students.  Again, great for discussion, hypos, and exam fact patterns.
  • The Shark Tank!.  I have to thank Christyne Vachon at UD for this idea.  There are tons of clips on youtube and most offer the opportunity to talk about investors bringing different things to the table, how to apportion control, etc.  Here is an episode involving patent issues. I think that I am going to open my experiential Unincorporated/Drafting class with a Shark Tank clip on Monday.  
  • Start Up Podcasts.  These 30-minute episodes cover a wide range of topics. Here is one podcast on how to value a small business.   At a minimum, I will post some of these to my course website this spring.  (Thank you Andrew Haile at Elon for this recommendation.).
  • Planet Money.  The podcasts are a great resource, but what I love is the Planet Money Twitter page because it is a great way to digest daily news, current events and topical developments that may be incorporated into your class.
  • Wall Street Journal--TWEETS.  (that felt like an oxymoron to write). Aside from the obvious, I find the Twitter feed to be the most useful way to use/monitor the WSJ.  I will admit it, I don't "read" it every day, but this is my proxy.

Special thanks to the participants in the Agency, Partnership & the Law's panel on Bringing Numbers into Basic and Advanced Business Associations Courses: How and Why to Teach Accounting, Finance, and Tax

Moderator: Jeffrey M. Lipshaw, Suffolk University Law School
Speakers:
Lawrence A. Cunningham, The George Washington University Law School
Andrew J. Haile, Elon University School of Law
Usha R. Rodrigues, University of Georgia School of Law
Christyne Vachon, University of North Dakota School of Law
Eric C. Chaffee, University of Toledo College of Law
Franklin A. Gevurtz, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

And Happy New Year BLPB Readers!

-AT

January 7, 2015 in Business Associations, Anne Tucker, Corporations, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, LLCs, M&A, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Larry Ribstein Being Right Doesn't Make Anyone Else Wrong

Over at The Conglomerate, Usha Rodrigues says, "Larry Ribstein was wrong." Usha argues that she's right to teach LLCs at the end of the course, and Larry was of the mind that LLCs should play a more prominent role in the business entities course.  

For my teaching, I'm with Larry on this, though I am also of the mind that Usha (and other teachers) may have different goals, so taking another tack is not wrong.  I'm pretty sure we're all better teachers when we are true to ourselves and our thinking.  For me, anyway, I am, without a doubt, at my worst in the classroom (and probably out) when I try to mimic someone else. 

So here's how Usha explains her thinking:

I don't leave LLCs til the end of the semester because I think they're unimportant.  It's because the cases are so damn thin.  It's still such a new form, I just don't see much there there.  Most of them wind up being trial courts who read the statute in completely stupid ways.  Blech.

 

So I teach corporations and partnerships emphasizing fiduciary duty, default vs. mandatory rules, and the importance of the code.  In fact, one semester I confess that I would ask a question and then intone, "Look to the code!" so often I felt like a Tolkien refugee.  By the time I get to the LLCs cases, which are pretty basic, the class is ready for my message: the LLC is a new form.  When dealing with something new, judges look both to the organizational statutes and to the organizational forms they know as they shape the law.  Plus the LLC is such an interesting mix between the corporate and partnership form, it just makes sense to get through them both before diving in.

It's hard to argue with Usha's rationale.  Like Larry, she's smart, and this is a reasonable take.  For me, though, it doesn't work toward my goals, so I have a different point of view.  I think it's more in line with where Larry was coming from, though I admit I don't know.  

Here's why:  I want students (and lawyers and courts) to treat LLCs as unique entities.  Leaving them to the end of the course reinforces the idea that LLCs are hybrid entities the combine partnerships and corporations.  I just don't think that's the right way to think about LLCs.  

Certainly, it is true that LLCs share characteristics of partnerships and corporations.  But partnerships and corporations can have similarities, too. We can, for example, refer back to the partnership case of Meinhard v. Salmon when discussing corporate fiduciary duties and corporate opportunity.

In my experience, teaching LLCs at the end of the course seemed to frame the LLC as an entity that is just pulling from partnership or corporate law.  As such, it seemed the students were thinking that the real challenge for LLCs was figuring out whether to pull from partnership law or corporate law for an analogy.  Part of the reason for that, I think, is that so many of the LLCs cases seem to think so, too.  See, e.g., Flahive.  As Usha would say, "Blech."

The LLC is prominent enough in today's world that I think it warrants a more prominent role in the introductory business organizations course.  If we don't bring the LLCs more to the fore, we allow courts to continue to misconstrue the entity form, in part because we aren't giving students the tools they need to ensure courts understand the unique nature of the LLC. 

I figure Usha can get students where she needs to on this regardless of how she teaches business associations.  She is a lot smarter than I am.  Given my goals and how I think about the LLC, though, I'll keep starting my class with an introduction to LLC formation, and I'll keep teaching LLC cases and issues throughout the semester.  

January 6, 2015 in Business Associations, Corporations, Joshua P. Fershee, LLCs, Partnership, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

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 (0)

Best Non-Law Books I Read in 2014: Non-Fiction

Last week, I gave you a list of the best fiction books I read in 2014. Here’s a list of the best non-law, non-fiction I read in 2014. I hope you find something that interests you. I read much more non-fiction than fiction, so this list is a little longer. As with my list of fiction, they’re in no particular order.

1. Rose George, Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate. An extremely well-written look at the global shipping industry—not the FedEx and UPS type of shipping, but actual ships. The author traveled over 9,000 miles on a container ship. The book discusses that voyage, interlaced with a boatload of material (pun intended) about the history of shipping, the regulation of shipping, shipwrecks, piracy, and a number of other subjects.

2. Rich Cohen, Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football. I’m neither a Chicago Bears fan nor a Mike Ditka fan, but this was an interesting book. For those who are young and familiar with the current Bears, yes, the Bears actually won back in 1985. Cohen covers more than just that 1985 team. The book looks at the history of the team back to the early days of the NFL and also the aftermath of the 1985 championship—what happened to the team and the players afterwards.

3. Adam Minter, Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade. A look at trash and recycling. Recycling makes more sense economically than I thought; apparently, much of our recycled materials make their way to China for use in Chinese manufacturing. I never knew that trash could be so interesting.

4. William Easterly, The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. Easterly, an economist at N.Y.U., discusses anti-poverty programs and their effect on the third world. He argues that the technical solutions proposed by experts haven’t worked and that the real key to development is bottom-up: giving poor people economic freedom. I previously recommended this book here. My co-blogger Haskell Murray reviews it here.

5. Jang Jin-Sung, Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea. The author worked in the propaganda arm of the North Korean government and was honored by Kim Jong-Il for his epic poetry. This book is the story of his escape from North Korea, but also an account of life among the privileged in Pyongyang.

6. Louisa Lim, The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. An amazing account of how China has been able to recast, and even erase, from its history the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The scary part is how they have used nationalism to supplant the yearnings for freedom that prompted Tiananmen.

7. Mark Miodownik, Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World. An introduction to how materials are made and how they’re put together, down to the atomic level. He discusses for instance, why diamonds and graphite are so incredibly different, even though they’re both carbon-based. For those who have a heavy scientific background, there won’t be much new here, but he explains the science in ways that a non-scientist like me can understand.

8. Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. A hilarious autobiography of a Texas woman who now writes a blog at TheBloggess.com. Parts of it made my literally laugh at loud. I was constantly reading parts of the book to my wife.

9. Ben Macintyre, A Spy among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. The story of Kim Philby, perhaps the best-known Russian spy ever. An interesting look at the good-old-boys’ network that was British intelligence at the time and their unwillingness to believe that one of their own would actually betray them.

10. Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. I tend to be a grammar prescriptivist; Pinker is not. I’m a big fan of Strunk & White; Pinker is not. But I nevertheless enjoyed this guide to grammar, punctuation, and sentence and paragraph structure. Pinker’s suggestions are sensible. He also explains why things should be written as he suggests and why grammar and structure matter.

11. Hampton Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the U.S.S. Jeannette. An account of an attempt to sail to the North Pole from the Pacific Ocean and on to the Atlantic. At the time, many people thought that there was a great polar sea beyond the ice. The Jeannette was stuck in the ice for two years before it sank and the crew had to try to make their way through the ice and eventually overland through Russia.

12. Ian Leslie, Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It. I have already blogged about this one. See here.

13. Kim Zetter, Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon. The story of the Stuxnet computer worm which someone, apparently the U.S. government, used to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment program.  Zetter tells the story primarily from the viewpoint of the computer experts who discovered and then unraveled the virus. He also discusses the ethical and practical implications. Among other things, what’s the risk to “us” now that we’ve unleashed this weapon on someone else?

January 5, 2015 in Books, C. Steven Bradford | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

ICYMI: Tweets From the Week (Jan. 4, 2015)

January 4, 2015 in Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Second Circuit Holds that Class Certification Decisions Should Be Made on the Pleadings

Okay, fine, that’s not what the Second Circuit formally held, but to be honest, I can’t read this decision any other way.

I’ve blogged about this issue before here, here, and here.  Basically, the situation is this:  In the class action context, there is frequently an issue as to whether the named plaintiff’s own individual claims against the defendant are sufficiently similar to the claims of the rest of the class so as to allow the named plaintiff to sue in a representative capacity.  Historically, these issues have been resolved via Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which, among other things, requires a court to decide whether there is “commonality” among the class members, whether the common issues predominate over the individual ones, whether the named plaintiffs’ claims are typical of those of absent class members, and whether the named plaintiff will serve as an adequate representative for the absent class members.  Rule 23, of course, is only invoked after there has been substantial discovery, and certification determinations under Rule 23 frequently include expert analysis.

In the wake of the mortgage crisis, more and more courts began making these determinations on the pleadings, framing the question not in terms of class certification, but in terms of whether the named plaintiff has "standing" to bring claims on behalf of absent parties, as I discussed in more detail here.  The issue has basically been that if an investment bank underwrites multiple RMBS offerings, and I buy an RMBS issued by a particular trust backed by a particular pool of mortgages, how can a court be certain that my claims are similar enough to purchasers of different RMBS issued by a different trust, backed by different mortgages, such that I should be permitted to represent those purchasers in a securities class action against the underwriter? 

Courts have been unwilling to go the traditional route and wait until a class certification hearing to make this decision; instead, they have been seeking to limit a named plaintiff’s ability to represent absent RMBS purchasers.  They have been fundamentally troubled by the idea that a purchaser of one RMBS could represent all purchasers not only of that RMBS, but of multiple other RMBS, with face values totaling in the billions of dollars.  Courts have come up with a variety of bright-line rules limiting how the class can be defined, at the pleading stage - for example, some courts have held that plaintiffs may only represent purchasers of RMBS from the same trust; others have held that plaintiffs may only represent purchasers of RMBS from the same tranche within a trust.

That orientation has spread to other kinds of claims - similar disputes have arisen in the context of false advertising, for example, where a single misrepresentation is alleged to have been plastered across multiple similar products.  (Say, a false representation that ice cream flavors are "natural," appearing on chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry - is it necessary that the plaintiff have purchased neapolitan in order to represent absent purchasers of all three flavors?).

[More under the jump]

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January 3, 2015 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

E-mail Fasts

One of my new year's resolutions for 2015 is to fast from e-mail every Saturday. Now that I have posted this, my co-bloggers and readers can keep me accountable. Currently, I probably check my e-mail 20+ times a day, every day -- a habit formed during law firm life.  

I thought about fasting from the internet/electronics entirely on Saturdays, and I am still going to try to avoid the internet/electronics on Saturdays as much as possible, but I wanted to set a realistic goal. 

An acquaintance of mine in New York City, Paul Miller, went without the internet for an entire year (with less promising results than he had hoped). While I remember a time before the internet -- and a time when the internet was so slow it was almost useless -- it is hard for me to imagine going without the internet for a week, much less for a year.  That said, I think it healthy to loosen the electronic leash a bit every once in a while.  

I'd also like to cut back the number of times I check e-mail and the amount of time I spend responding to e-mails in general. If any readers, have suggestions on the appropriate amount of time on e-mail (for a professor), I would be interested. Obviously, it may vary a bit from week to week, but I am thinking about moving to checking e-mail twice a day during the week for 15 minutes each. I think this will allow me to continue being "responsive" to students and colleagues,  but will also free up a great deal of time. Most of the longer e-mails I write could probably be much shorter or would be better as conference calls or in-person meetings. 

What are your 2015 resolutions, or are you among the roughly 55% who do not set new year's resolutions?

Sadly, according to one study, only about 8% of people keep their new year's resolutions. For those of you who have set new year's resolutions, here is Professor Cass Sunstein with advice for keeping resolutions. Also, StickK.com (co-created by Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan) is a website where you can create commitment contracts, appoint a referee, and set the stakes for achieving or failing to reach your goals.    

January 2, 2015 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Live Tweeting from AALS

Happy New Year.

Starting Saturday morning (or maybe tomorrow night), I'll be live tweeting from the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) conference. Because I teach both civil procedure and business associations, my tweets will largely relate to those sessions as well as sessions for new law professors.

Next Thursday I will summarize the high points of the conference, at least from my perspective. 

My twitter handle is @mlnarine and the AALS hashtag is #AALS2015. If you're at the conference and a blog reader, please say hello.

January 1, 2015 in Business Associations, Conferences, Corporations, Law School, Marcia Narine, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Cost of Long-term Investing in Mutual Funds

We are all familiar with a distinguishing features of investing in operating companies and investing in mutual funds: sale of stock in operating companies and redemption at NAV (net asset value) in mutual funds.  An interesting article (Mutual Fund Liquidity and Fiduciary Conflicts of Interest)1 was recently brought to my attention which argues that the liquidity costs of the redemption model disadvantages long-term investors-- those investors who stay in the fund.  

Redemption of mutual fund shares requires the fund to maintain liquidity (uninvested assets) in order to supply the NAV to any departing investor.  The required liquidity extracts a small cost on the fund for each exit.  This cost, small when evaluated for a single trade, becomes significant in the aggregate.  Trading and liquidity cost estimates range from $10-17 billion annually, costs that are born exclusively by the investors who stay in the fund. This means that long-term investors, particularly those investors who are relatively locked into their mutual funds such as retirement investors (a group I refer to in my scholarship as Citizen Shareholders) are subsidizing the dominance of the exit strategy for other retail investors.  This has deep implications for the arguments advanced by John Morley and Curtis Quinn in their 2010 article Taking Exit Rights Seriously,2  where they argue that exit is the dominant strategy over voting and litigation in mutual funds.  If exit is the dominant strategy for mutual fund investors, and there is a cost associated with that exit, who should bear the cost?  I have an essay forthcoming this spring that further addresses question of exit rights as they pertain to Citizen Shareholders.

One novel solution advanced by Sacks Equalization Model, Inc., is a patented algorithm that assigns a small liquidity cost to all selling investors and to all new investors to push the transaction cost on those investors engaging in the transaction, not the stable, long-term investors.

-Anne Tucker

[1] Miles Livingston and David Rakowski, Mutual Fund Liquidity and Conflicts of Interest, Journal of Applied Finance, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp 95-103 (2013).

[2] John Morley & Quinn Curtis, Taking Exit Rights Seriously: Why Governance and Fee Litigation Don’t Work in Mutual Funds, 120 Yale L.J. 84 (2010).

 

December 31, 2014 in Anne Tucker, Business School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Courts and the LLC, End of the Year Edition

I continue to document how courts (and lawyers) continue to conflate (and thus confuse) LLCs and corporations, so I did a quick look at some recent cases to see if anything of interest was recently filed. Sure enough, there are more than few references to "limited liability corporations" (when the court meant "limited liability companies."  That's annoying, but not especially interesting at this point.  

One case did grab my eye, though, because because of the way the court lays out and resolves the plaintiffs' claim.  The case is McKee v. Whitman & Meyers, LLC, 13-CV-793-JTC, 2014 WL 7272748 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 18, 2014).  In McKee, theplaintiff filed a complaint claiming several violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act against defendants Whitman & Meyers, LLC and Joseph M. Goho, who failed to appear and defend this action, leading to a default judgment. After the default judgment was entered, defense counsel finally responded.  

This case has all sorts of good lessons.  Lesson 1: don't forget that all named parties matter.  Get this: 

Defense counsel admits that he was under the mistaken assumption that default was to be taken against the corporate entity only. See Item 17. However, default was entered as to both the corporate and individual defendants on July 3, 2014 (Item 9). Defense counsel did not move to vacate the default and in fact did not respond in any way until the default judgment was entered on September 17, 2014. Item 12. Even then, the defense motion was framed as one for an extension of time in which to file an answer (Item 14), rather than a motion to vacate the default or default judgment. Inexplicably, in his papers, defense counsel states that a default judgment has not been entered. See Item 17. Since good cause is to be construed generously and doubts resolved in favor of the defaulting party, see Enron Oil Corp., 10 F.3d at 96, the court will accept the explanation of defense counsel as evidence of a careless lack of attention to procedural detail rather than an egregious and willful default on the part of defendant Goho [the individual and apparent owner of the LLC].
McKee v. Whitman & Meyers, LLC, No. 13-CV-793-JTC, 2014 WL 7272748, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 18, 2014).  A link to a free version of the case is here.
 
Wow.  I concede there are some procedural details here, but this sure sounds substantive to me, as well.  
 
Lesson 2: if you name someone in the caption, you probably want to have some allegations about them as a defendant.  Fortunately for defense counsel, the plaintiff's counsel was not on the ball, either.  Though Goho was named in the caption, the complaint did not describe Goho as a party or contain allegations about Goho's individual liability for the FDCPA violations. The defendant's Prayer for Relief also only sought judgment from the Whitman & Myers, LLC. (The court conveniently skips the fact that court probably should have noticed these deficiencies the first time around, before entering default judgment against Goho.)  

Finally, the moment regular readers (see, e.g.,  here, hereherehere, and here) saw coming:
 
Lesson 3: You Can’t Pierce the Corporate Veil of an LLC Because It Doesn't Have One.  The plaintiff argued that "the court should pierce the corporate veil and hold defendant Goho personally liable." The court's response: "[T]here is nothing on the face of the complaint or in the record that would support individual liability for defendant Goho on the basis of corporate veil-piercing . . ."  
 
The court is, of course, correct. However, the sentence should be followed by one that says, "This is because there is no corporation named as a party to this case, so there is no corporate veil to pierce."  Obviously, the court could have gone on to note that even if the plaintiffs meant for the court to pierce the limited liability veil of the LLC, the allegations were insufficient for that, too.
 
As a side note, it would have been interesting to see how the court would have dealt with the argument that Goho and his LLC were so intertwined that they share legal counsel and that even his own counsel did not immediately recognize the individual and the entity as separate until after default judgment was entered.  (I don't see that as a winning argument, but it's better than what was argued.) 
 
Moving forward, I'd like to see courts tell plaintiffs that a request to "pierce the corporate veil" of an LLC amounts to a failure to state a claim.  The court should allow counsel to amend the complaint to get the language right. Until there is a consequence, even a minor one, for merging LLCs and corporations, attorneys and courts will continue to get it wrong.  
 
Thus, a New Year's Resolution for Courts:  "We will treat corporations and LLCs as separate entity types."  And, please, after making sure to always call LLCs "limited liability companies," move on to creating separate veil piercing language.  

December 30, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporations, Haskell Murray, Joshua P. Fershee, LLCs, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (2)

Entrepreneurship Books by Jason Gordon

This week I received the notice below from Professor Jason Gordon. Professor Gordon is a legal studies and management professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, School of Business. As explained below, he is offering copies of two entrepreneurship books that he thought might be useful to BLPB readers.  

Dear Colleagues,

 

I recently published two texts entitled Business Plans for Growth-Based Ventures and Understanding Business Entities for Entrepreneurs and Managers. These books are designed for use by clinical law professors and as a supplement in entrepreneurship courses. The second text concerns entity selection considerations, but includes entity funding and conversion considerations and specific considerations for startup ventures.

 

The texts also contain supplemental electronic material available for free at TheBusinessProfessor.com.

 

If any of you would like a free copy of either text in Amazon e-book format, please send me your email address at jgordon10 [at] ggc [dot] edu.

 

A preview of the Business Plans E-Book is available here.

 

A preview of the Business Entities E-Book is available here

 

December 30, 2014 in Business Associations, Books, Business School, Entrepreneurship, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | 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.  

Continue reading

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

Best Non-Law Books I Read in 2014: Fiction

Believe it or not, I and the other editors of the Business Law Prof Blog don't spend all of our time reading and thinking about business law. I assume none of you do, either, so I thought you might be interested in a list of the best non-law books I have run across this year.

I originally planned to put them all in a single post, but I read a number of very good books in 2014, so I decided to divide the list into two posts. Today, fiction. Next week, non-fiction.

I’m limiting both lists to books published relatively recently, so you don’t have to wade through a list of old science fiction or Thomas Hardy novels, no matter how excellent I thought they were when I reread them this year.

Except for the first book, they’re in no real order.

1. Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See. If you read only one book on this list, this should be it. This is the best new novel I have read in some time. It centers on a bright young German boy and a blind French girl in the period prior to and during World War II. It’s hard to explain the story in a few words, but I think it’s an absolutely brilliant book.

2. Chang-Rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea. The main character searches for the father of her unborn child in a dystopian future. The book has no real conclusion, and I usually don’t like that, but I’m willing to excuse that, given the excellent writing.

3. Rachel Joyce, Perfect. This brilliant novel has two alternating stories: one about a young boy who becomes obsessed when a friend tells him that two extra seconds will be added to clocks; the other about a disturbed 50-year-old supermarket worker. Keep reading: she eventually ties the two story lines together.

4. Andy Weir, The Martian. An astronaut is stranded on Mars without adequate supplies after his colleagues leave, thinking he’s dead. A solid piece of science fiction.

5. Karen Russell, Sleep Donation. A novella about a sickness that keeps people from sleeping. They use a machine to borrow sleep from sleep donors.

6. Joshua Ferris, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. I’m not a huge Joshua Ferris fan, but I liked this one. A dentist discovers that someone is posting online in his name about a lost Middle Eastern group and a religion whose primary belief is a doubt that God exists.

7. Jo Walton, My Real Children. I really enjoy Jo Walton’s science fiction, and this book was not an exception. It’s about a woman with Alzheimer’s who remembers two very distinct lives—diverging when she said either “yes” or “no” to a marriage proposal.

8. Matthew Thomas, We are Not Ourselves. A bittersweet first novel about a woman and her families—the family she grew up with and, later, her husband and son. A story of regret and uncertainty, it's sad and depressing, but extremely good.

9. Bill Roorbach, The Remedy for Love. A fascinating love(?) story involving a small-town lawyer stuck in a tiny, isolated cabin with a disturbed woman during a once-a-century blizzard. A charming story, expertly told.

December 29, 2014 in Books, C. Steven Bradford | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

ICYMI: Tweets From the Week (Dec. 28, 2014)

December 28, 2014 in Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Market inefficiency

That markets are less than perfectly efficient is hardly a controversial proposition; indeed, several examples of notable market efficiencies were presented to the Supreme Court this past Term when it considered the continuing vitality to the fraud-on-the-market challenge in Halliburton.  Many of those examples, however, are several years old - which is why it was so amusing for me to see two new instances of dramatic inefficiencies just in the last month.

First, the New York Times published a piece, How Our Taxi Article Happened to Undercut the Efficient Market Hypothesis, explaining how publication of an article on falling medallion prices sent the stock price of Medallion Financial - a company that issues loans secured by taxi medallions - tumbling.  This was surprising because information about taxi medallion prices is public, so the stock should not have been reacted to the news.  Josh Barro, author of both pieces, speculates that the price drop may have occurred because some of the information in his article may have been difficult for investors to obtain, particularly since false information regarding medallion prices had been (inadvertently) circulated by the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission.

(Which, by the way, suggests that courts are correct to be wary of the "truth on the market" hypothesis - the argument often advanced by securities fraud defendants that even if their statements were false, it was canceled out by publicly available truthful information.  In the case of Medallion Financial, the false information apparently dominated over truthful information, at least so long as the truthful information was piecemeal and required effort to gather.)

The second example of market inefficiencies occurred when President Obama announced that the U.S. would be resuming diplomatic ties with Cuba.  The news sent the price of the Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund soaring, because that fund invests in companies that stand to benefit from improved diplomatic relations.  It also, apparently, boosted the price of any company that even appeared to be associated with Cuba, including shares of Cuba Beverage, which makes energy drinks and has nothing whatsoever to do with Cuba, the country.  The Wall Street Journal article on the subject offers other examples of similar sorts of investor confusion.

 Also, here is a blue Christmas tree that has been decorated to look like the Cookie Monster:

Seven-inch-blue-christmas-tree

 (x)

Happy holidays!

December 27, 2014 in Ann Lipton | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Law Firm Alumni Networks

Over the past few months, I have received a number of e-mails from the alumni associations of each of my two former law firms.  

In theory, I think these alumni networks are good ideas. They could help us keep in touch and could introduce us to people with common ties to those law firms. They could also help the law firms maintain ties with alums who could become clients.  

In practice, however, I rarely use any of the alumni services offered.

One of the main reasons is that my former firms do not have offices where I currently live (in Nashville) and they rarely, if ever, have events here.  If I still lived in Atlanta or New York City, I would probably attend some of the offered alumni CLE events, but I am probably never going to travel for them. 

As to the online alumni networks on the law firms' websites, I think the contact information for alums probably stays relatively out of date (as people choose to update their information on major social networks, but may forget about the ones at the law firms).  LinkedIn law firm alumni groups are probably the most useful thing that the law firms do, but I find the content posted there is generally not that helpful and can be dominated by some desperate group member salesperson.  (I also think LinkedIn is the least user friendly of the major social networks, but that is a topic for another post). 

What law firm alumni network efforts have you seen be successful? Are they worth the effort that major law firms seem to be putting into them?

December 26, 2014 in Haskell Murray, Jobs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My shortest post

Merry Chistmas!

December 25, 2014 in Marcia Narine | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New York’s Fracking Failure

Environmental groups and other opponents of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) for oil and natural gas have roundly applauded Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban the process in the state of New York. The ban, which confirms New York’s more than five-year moratorium on the process, has been lauded as an environmental success and a model for other states.   The ban is neither. 

Oil and natural gas prices are at their lowest prices in years. Interest in expanding drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which is the geologic formation holding natural gas deposits under New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, is correspondingly low.  That makes the fracking ban an easy decision because there is relatively limited interest in drilling in state.

There are those with interest in drilling in New York, of course, but as long as prices are low and there are other places to drill (like Pennsylvania and West Virginia), that interest will remain modest.  The ban also raises the value of Pennsylvania and West Virginia mineral rights by reducing competition, so companies with interests in the entire region have little reason to weigh in forcefully.

In this environment, then, an outright ban was easier to put in place than real and stringent regulations to help ensure the fracking process is done with minimal risk and maximum gain. An outright ban is the easy road because it minimizes the potential fight. Companies engaging in hydraulic fracturing around the country would object to new regulations in New York, even if they don’t have interest in drilling in the state because they are afraid the states where they drill would follow New York’s lead.  But no one will fight about a ban in a state where they don’t want to drill. 

When natural gas prices rebound – and they will rebound – money will flow into the state to overturn the ban and allow access to the natural gas.  The economic pressure will be enormous and when the financial potential reaches the point that large and diverse groups in the state see the possibility of significant gain, it’s highly likely the ban will be reversed through legislative or other political action.  At that point, the debate will not be about the quality of regulations or enforcement – it will be about whether the state will allow fracking or not. 

Done properly, the risks of hydraulic fracturing are comparable to traditional oil and gas exploration and to other common extractive and industrial processes.  The better course of action now would have been to put in place stringent safeguards that would made New York the leader in environmental protection in hydraulic fracturing. Such rules could have banned the process in areas that could put New York City’s water supply at risk, and allowed in the southwestern part of the state, as was proposed in 2012 for Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties.  The rules could have required significant recycling and cradle-to-grave tracking of waste water created by the process, added the highest level well casing standards, and enacted stringent air and water quality standards.

Such a set of rules would be expensive for those seeking to drill in the state and would have served as a model for other states (and nations around the world) in how best to regulate hydraulic fracturing.  The rules would be expensive enough for exploration companies that few, if any, would start drilling in the state.  But when prices reach the level where the cost of compliance becomes economic, the state would have been ready with strong and enforceable rules.

Creating stringent rules would also have forced companies to seek to rollback specific environmental protections, which would mean discussing and explaining specific risks.   Instead, the governor has taken the easy path, and in doing so he pushed the real debate down the road.  Rather than talking about the risks inherent in this and any industrial process, and seeking to address those risks, the ban reduces the discourse to a simple “yes” or “no.” A “no” answer is easy when prices are low, but “yes” is likely to follow when prices are high. 

The governor had a chance to be a leader on this issue, and instead chose to score easy political points.  That’s his and his administration’s prerogative, but time will show that the outright ban was a mistake because it was a missed opportunity in New York and beyond. 

December 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Financial Markets, International Business, Joshua P. Fershee, Law and Economics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law and Entrepreneurship Association: CFP (from Usha Rodrigues)

March 21, 2015
University of Georgia School of Law, Athens GA

The ninth annual meeting of the Law and Entrepreneurship Association (LEA) will occur on March 21, 2015 in Athens, Georgia.  The LEA is a group of legal scholars interested in the topic of entrepreneurship—broadly construed.  Topics have ranged from crowdfunding to electronic contracting to issues of taxation in startups.

Our annual conference is an intimate gathering where each participant is expected to have read and actively engage with all of the pieces under discussion.  We call for papers and proposals relating to the general topic of entrepreneurship and the law.

Proposals should be comprehensive enough to allow the LEA board to evaluate the aims and likely content of papers they propose. Papers may be accepted for publication but must not be published prior to the meeting. Works in progress, even those at a relatively early stage, are welcome.  Junior scholars and those considering entering the legal academy are especially encouraged to participate. There is no registration fee, but participants must cover their own costs.

To submit a presentation, email Professor Usha Rodrigues at rodrig@uga.edu with a proposal or paper by February 1, 2015. Please title the email “LEA Submission – {Name}.”  For additional information, please email Professor Usha Rodrigues at rodrig@uga.edu.

LEA Board

Robert Bartlett (UC Berkeley School of Law)

Brian Broughman (Indiana University Maurer School of Law)

Victor Fleischer (San Diego University School of Law)

Michelle Harner (University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law)

Christine Hurt (BYU School of Law)

Darian Ibrahim (William & Mary School of Law)

Sean O’Connor (University of Washington School of Law)

Usha Rodrigues (University of Georgia School of Law) (President)

Gordon Smith (BYU School of Law)

December 23, 2014 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments (0)