Sunday, March 30, 2014

How would former Chief Justice Rehnquist have ruled on Hobby Lobby?

In my article, “The Silent Role of Corporate Theory in the Supreme Court’s Campaign Finance Cases,” 15 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 831, I criticized the Supreme Court justices for failing to acknowledge the role of competing conceptualizations of the corporation in their corporate political speech cases.  I noted, however, that former Chief Justice Rehnquist was arguably the lone modern justice to deserve at least some praise in this area.

Justice Rehnquist's stand-alone dissent in Bellotti provides arguably the sole example in these opinions of a Justice affirmatively adopting a theory of the corporation for purposes of determining the constitutional rights of corporations--though not via the express adoption of one of the traditionally recognized theories. Specifically, Justice Rehnquist relied on Justice Marshall's Dartmouth College opinion to conclude that: “Since it cannot be disputed that the mere creation of a corporation does not invest it with all the liberties enjoyed by natural persons . . . our inquiry must seek to determine which constitutional protections are ‘incidental to its very existence.”’ Thus, while it may be true that “a corporation's right of commercial speech . . . might be considered necessarily incidental to the business of a commercial corporation[, i]t cannot be so readily concluded that the right of political expression is equally necessary to carry out the functions of a corporation organized for commercial purposes.” I would argue that this is a formulation most aligned with concession theory because not only does Justice Rehnquist rely on Dartmouth College, but he also goes on to say: “I would think that any particular form of organization upon which the State confers special privileges or immunities different from those of natural persons would be subject to like regulation, whether the organization is a labor union, a partnership, a trade association, or a corporation.”  Stefan J. Padfield, The Silent Role of Corporate Theory in the Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Cases, 15 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 831, 853 (2013) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Bos. v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978)).

While this is only one data point, I think it suggests the former Chief Justice would have been hesitant to grant corporations any form of free exercise rights, since it is difficult to see how free exercise rights are more incidental to a corporation’s existence than political speech rights.  Cf. Kent Greenawalt, Religion and the Rehnquist Court, 99 Nw. U. L. Rev. 145, 146 (2004) (“With limited qualifications, the Rehnquist Court has abandoned the possibility of constitutionally-required free exercise exemptions.”).

For more on concession theory, I shamelessly suggest my more recent article, “Rehabilitating Concession Theory,” 66 Okla. L. Rev. 327 (2014) (“the reports of concession theory's demise have been greatly exaggerated”).  And if you find that of interest, you can check out my latest SSRN posting, “Corporate Social Responsibility & Concession Theory.”

March 30, 2014 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Religion, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Do consumer boycotts matter to companies?

I wonder how many people are boycotting Hobby Lobby because of the company’s stance on the Affordable Health Care Act and contraception. Perhaps more people than ever are shopping there in support. Co-blogger Anne Tucker recounted the Supreme Court’s oral argument here in the latest of her detailed posts on the case. The newspapers and blogosphere have followed the issue for months, often engaging in heated debate. But what does the person walking into a Hobby Lobby know and how much do they care?

I spoke to reporter Noam Cohen from the New York Times earlier today about an app called Buycott, which allows consumers to research certain products by scanning a barcode. If they oppose the Koch Brothers or companies that lobbied against labels for genetically modified food or if they support companies with certain environmental or human rights practices, the app will provide the information to them in seconds based on their predetermined settings and the kinds of “campaigns” they have joined. Neither Hobby Lobby nor Conestoga Woods is listed in the app yet. 

Cohen wanted to know whether apps like Buycott and GoodGuide (which rates products and companies on a scale of 1-10 for their health, environmental and social impact) are part of a trend in which consumers “vote” on political issues with their purchasing power. In essence, he asked, has the marketplace, aided by social media, become a proxy for politics? I explained that while I love the fact that the apps can raise consumer awareness, there are a number of limitations. The person who downloads these apps is the person who already feels strongly enough about an issue to change their buying habits. These are the people who won’t eat chocolate or drink coffee unless it’s certified fair trade, who won’t shop in Wal-Mart because of the anti-union stance, and who sign the numerous change.org petitions that seek action on a variety of social and political topics. 

I had a number of comments for Cohen that delved deeper than the efficacy of the apps. The educated consumer can make informed choices and feel good about them but how does this affect corporate behavior? Although the research is inconsistent in some areas, most research shows that companies care about their reputations but the extent to which a boycott is effective depends on the amount of national media attention it gets; how good the company’s reputation was before the boycott (many firms with excellent reputations feel that they can be buffered by previous pro-social behavior and messaging); whether the issue is one-sided (child labor) or polarizing (gay marriage, Obamacare, climate change); how passionate the boycotters are; how easy it is to participate (is the product or service unique); and how the message is communicated. 

Many activists have done an excellent job of messaging. The SEC Dodd-Frank conflict minerals regulation made it through Congress through the efforts of NGOs that had been trying for years to end a complex, geopolitical crisis that has killed over 5 million people. They got consumers, social media and Hollywood actors talking about “blood on the mobile” or companies being complicit in rape and child slavery in Congo because when they changed the messaging they elicited the appropriate level of moral outrage. The conflict minerals “name and shame” law depends on consumers learning about which products are sourced from the Congo and surrounding countries and making purchasing decisions based on that information. Congress believes that this will solve an intractable human rights crisis. The European Union, which has a much stronger corporate social responsibility mandate for its member states has taken a different view. Although it will also rely on consumers to make informed choices, its draft recommendations on dealing with conflict minerals makes reporting voluntary, which has exposed the EU to criticism. As I have written here, here, here here and here, relying on consumers to address a human rights crisis will only work if it leads to significant boycotts by corporations, investors or governments or if it leads to legislation, and that legislation cannot harm the people it is intended to help.

So what do I think of apps like GoodGuide, BuyCott and 2ndVote (for more conservative causes)? I own some of them. But I also send letters to companies, vote regularly, call people in Congress and write on issues that inspire me. How many of the apps’ users go farther than the click or the scan?  Some researchers have used the word “slacktivists” to describe those who participate in political discussions through social media, online petitions and apps. The act of pressing the button makes the user feel good but has no larger societal impact. 

What about the vast majority of consumers? The single mother shopping for her children in a big-box retailer or in the fast food restaurant that has been targeted for its labor practices may not have the time, luxury or inclination to buy more “ethically sourced” products.  Moreover, studies show that consumers often overreport on their ethical purchasing and that price, convenience and costs typically win out. The apps’ developers may have more modest intentions than what I ascribe to them. If they can raise consumer awareness- admittedly for the self-selected people who buy the app in the first place- then that’s a good thing.  If the petitions or media attention lead to well-crafted legislation, that’s even better.

 

 

 

March 27, 2014 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Ethics, Marcia L. Narine, Religion, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Last Minute Hobby Lobby Thoughts & Why Reverse Veil Piercing Isn’t the Answer

With oral arguments today in the Hobby Lobby case, I thought I’d pile on a few last thoughts:

(1) As I explained here, entities should be able to take on a racial, religious, or gender identity in discrimination claims.  I would add that I feel similarly about sexual orientation, but (though I think it should be) that is still not generally federally protected. To the extent the law otherwise provides a remedy, I’d extend it to the entity. 

(2) It is reasonable to inquire, why is discrimination different than religious practice?  For me, I just don’t think religious exercise by an entity is the same as extending discrimination protection to an entity.  There is something about the affirmative exercise of religion that I don’t think extends well to an entity.   That is, discrimination happens to a person or an entity. Religious practice is an affirmative act that is different.  Basically, reification of the entity to the point of religious practice crosses a line that I think is unnecessary and improper because discrimination protection should be sufficient.

As a follow up to that, I also think it's a reasonable question to ask: Why is religion different than speech? To me it is different because entities must speak, but entities don’t have to practice religion.  The entity needs speech to conduct business. A public entity speaks in its public filings.  Speech is not just something an entity could do. It is something it must do.  Religion, at the entity level is not necessary. 

(3) Reverse piercing is not as good a solution as it might appear.  Professor Bainbridge suggests that reverse veil piercing is one way in which the religion of the shareholders could be used to justify extending a religious identity to the Hobby Lobby entity, thus allowing the entity to object to certain provisions of the federal healthcare mandate.  His argument is, as usual, reasonable and plausible. Still, as explained above, I don't think this is necessary. 

More important, though, I don’t like expanding the use of any form of veil piercing. Veil piercing is supposed to be used (at least in my view) solely as a heightened level of fraud protection.  It is already used too often and too haphazardly, and further degradation of the line between the entity and others is a dangerous proposition, regardless of the purpose.  That is, as people (and courts) get more comfortable with disregarding the entity, they are more likely to disregard the entity.  As a general proposition, I think that’s a bad outcome. That alone is reason enough for me to hope the Court will pass on reverse veil piercing as a potential remedy. 

March 25, 2014 in Business Associations, Agency, Joshua P. Fershee, LLCs, Religion, Unincorporated Entities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beyond Hobby Lobby: Protecting Entities from Discrimination

Ed Whelan at National Review Online (h/t: Prof. Bainbridge) asks, in light of a recent Fourth Circuit opinion, “Will those who (wrongly) think that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion for purposes of RFRA object as vigorously to the concept that for-profit corporations can have a racial identity for purposes of Title VI? If not, why not?”

I have been following the Hobby Lobby case with interest, though I am just delving into its depths now.  After starting through the various amicus briefs, my initial reaction is that the law has not evolved to where it needs to be with respect to protecting those engaging in the widespread use of entities.  I, as is often the case, my intitial reaction is that the answer to Mr. Whelan’s question is somewhere in the middle: I think for-profit corporations are capable of exercising religion under RFRA, but in this case I don’t see the necessary substantial burden, at least when balanced with an individual’s right to make such decisions, to carry the day. (Reasonable minds can disagree on this, but that’s my take). 

Taking a broader look, though, view entities should be able to take on the race, gender, or religion of its primary shareholders (or members) in proper circumstances to protect against discrimination.  The Fourth Circuit opinion states:  “We hold that a corporation can acquire a racial identity and establish standing to seek a remedy for alleged race discrimination under Title VI.”  Seven other circuit courts “have concluded that corporations have standing to assert race discrimination claims.”  This seems proper, because a minority-owned company might be denied a contract or be treated differently in the execution of a contract because of the race of the primary shareholders.  It would be improper to deny protections for the shareholders/members just because they chose to avail themselves of entity protections to conduct their business.

The same should be true in cases of religion and gender.  Suppose, for example, an all-female construction company were denied a bid because the city seeking the project thinks construction is “man’s work to be done by men.”  Similarly, protections should be available if a Catholic-owned company were to lose a bid because the county seeking the bid was run by people who didn’t “trust Catholics to finish anything on time.”  (Disclosure: I was raised Catholic, and while I most certainly don’t speak for any other Catholics, my comfort level leads me to use Catholics in such examples.)

Thus, an entity should be able to take on the race, gender, or religion of the shareholders/members to fight cases where the same discrimination against an individual would stand. Obviously, then, having a member of a certain race, gender, or religion as a shareholder, member, director, or employee would not be sufficient to make the claim.  The entity would also have to demonstrate: (1) that the alleged discrimination was predicated on race, gender, or religion, and (2) the entity (and not just certain individuals) was identified with the group against whom the discrimination was targeted. 

In the Hobby Lobby case, then, under this rubric I think the claim would fail because the entity would not be able to demonstrate they have satisfied the first test.  Regardless of what one thinks of the healthcare law, the law was not designed to discriminate against certain religions (or race or gender).  The law also does not mandate any individual course of action, but merely requires that access be provided to certain healthcare options. (That is, it mandates access, not use.) 

This is not the current state of the law, of course.  Still, it seems to me that the proper way forward is to recognize that entities can often take on identities of those running them, but that protections should only be available where the entity’s identity was targeted for harm because of that identity, and not an arguable result of another non-identity-based decision. 

March 18, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Joshua P. Fershee, LLCs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More or Less?

As previously noted on this blog, 44 law professors filed an amicus brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., outlining several corporate law issues in the arts-and-craft store chain’s request for a religious exemption from complying with contraceptive requirements in the Affordable Care Act.  That brief prompted several responses and sparked a corporate law debate, which is being recapped and weighed in on at Business Law Prof Blog (see earlier thoughtful posts: here, here, and here by Stefan Padfield and Haskell Murray).   

So what is at stake in this case? Religious exemptions for corporations. The role of benefit corporations and other hybrid, triple bottom line entities.  The classic entity theory vs. aggregate theory debate of how do we treat the legal fiction of individuals acting through businesses and businesses acting, in part, on behalf of people.  The role and future of Corporate Social Responsibility generally. Corporate personhood.  Corporate constitutional rights. And existential questions like can corporations pray? You know, easy stuff. 

CSR. Our laws set the floor; they establish the minimum that social actors must do and that other members in our society can expect to receive.  Corporate social responsibility asks companies to do more than their minimum legal obligations and to do so for a host of reasons, some of which may be religious.  The owners of Hobby Lobby can elect a corporate board that will authorize the company to donate to religious charities, to reimburse employees for religious expenses, to provide paid leave for a mission trip, or to not operate on Sundays. (Who here hasn’t craved a chicken biscuit on a road trip only to realize that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sunday? Just us in the south?). Under what I will call the standard state corporate law regime, corporations can take actions like increasing their use of renewable energy sources, implementing diversity programs for women and minorities, refusing to support tobacco products and other actions that are in line with CSR.  Whether for religious or environmental or other conscience-driven reasons, a corporation may take these actions and the directors of the corporation (under whose governance the acts took place) are protected by the business judgment rule in the event that any shareholder challenges the program or expenditure as a form of waste or conflict of interest. 

Benefit Corporations & Hybrid Entities.  For companies incorporated in states with benefit corporate statutes or laws that recognize hybrid entities interested in seeking (but not always maximizing) profits and other goals, there is even greater protection.  These entities contain provisions in their charters identifying their “other” purpose, the shareholders are on notice of the dual pursuit and the corporate actions are protected by statutes recognizing this charter-based exception to profit maximization.  In the event a shareholder sues for waste or conflicts of interest, not only is the business judgment rule available to protect the corporate actors, but the validity of the corporate action is strengthened by the special legislation. [This in no way captures the full scope of benefit corporation and hybrid entity legislation, but this post is about religious exemptions for corporations, so please excuse the over simplification here.]

Hobby Lobby.  The owners of Hobby Lobby are not asking to do more, rather they are asking to do less.  Hobby Lobby want to provide less than the standards established in the Affordable Care Act, and less than their competitors will be required to provide.  Who would complain if Hobby Lobby failed to comply with the ACA?  The employees without access to contraceptive medicine, and the federal government.  This isn’t about the business judgment rule and whether owners, acting through boards of directors, can run companies in line with their view of religious or social or environmental consciousness.  This case asks can the religious beliefs of owners of a corporation entitle that corporation to do less under the law and as compared to their competitors.  On these grounds, deciding against a religious based exemption for Hobby Lobby does no harm to CSR or benefit corporations. 

The Hypothetical.  If the privately held religious belief of owners can change legal obligations for corporate actors, this could pose a threat to the stability, reliability and uniformity of the floor that the law sets. Poking a hole in the floor for religious exemptions based upon the owners’ religious beliefs may seem like a small concession in the Hobby Lobby case.  If religion is a means to opt-out of regulations and requirements, and if doing so could lower costs, shortcut compliance obligations and otherwise provide a competitive edge there will be robust incentives for businesses to claim such an exception in a likely wide array of issues. 

The Horrible.  The sacred ground of religion has long been an unhappy refuge for arguments in support of racial, gender, religious and sexual-orientation discrimination.  Every major social movement that I can think of has met resistance shrouded in religious beliefs.  The right for women to vote (and the continuing progress towards equality), desegregating schools, the Civil Rights Acts, and our most modern example:  gay rights.  Consider the law that the Arizona Legislature passed last week that would exempt businesses refusing to serve same-sex couples from civil liability on the grounds of a religious exemption.  Substantially similar legislation is pending in Georgia.

Religion, if we have it, should call us to do more and to be better.  As individuals, we may disagree about what “more” and “better” means.  I have no doubt that the owners of Hobby Lobby believe that their stance on birth control is consistent with their view of “more” and “better”.  As individuals, they can express that value in many ways.  As owners of a corporation they can express those values by electing directors that will govern the company and possibly pursue corporate donations to abstinence charities, promote natural family planning among employees via posters in the break room, and other avenues.  The individual values of the owners should not be used to excuse the corporation from compliance with the legal standard.  Individual religious views should not lower the minimum standards for corporate actions in this context, or others.

 

 -Anne Tucker

February 26, 2014 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Corporate Governance, Current Affairs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Professor Bainbridge Critiques the Law Professors' Brief in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood

Professor Bainbridge has posted:  Bainbridge, Stephen M., A Critique of the Corporate Law Professors’ Amicus Brief in Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood (February 21, 2014).

The abstract is posted below:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) effected numerous changes in the legal regime governing health care and health insurance. Among the ACA’s more controversial provisions is the so-called contraceptive mandate, which requires employer-provided health care insurance plans to provide coverage of all FDA approved contraceptive methods.

 

On March 25, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases, in which the shareholders of two for-profit family-owned corporations argue that requiring them to comply with the contraception mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

 

Forty-four law corporate law professors filed an amicus brief in these cases, arguing that the essence of a corporation is its “separateness” from its shareholders and that, on the facts of these cases, there is no reason to disregard the separateness between shareholders and the corporations they control. The Brief is replete with errors, overstated claims, or red herrings, and misdirection.

 

Contrary to the Brief’s arguments, basic corporate law principles strongly support the position of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. In particular, the doctrine known as reverse veil piercing provides a clear and practical vehicle for disregarding the legal separateness of those corporations from their shareholders and thus granting those shareholders standing to assert their free exercise rights.

February 24, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporations, Haskell Murray, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Separation of Church and For-Profit Corporations

My co-blogger Haskell Murray recently posted “Religion, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Hobby Lobby” and asked me to respond, which I am happy to do. I will admit that I am still developing my thoughts on the issues raised by Haskell’s post, so what follows is a bit jumbled but still gives a sense of why I currently oppose for-profit corporations being permitted to evade regulation by pleading religious freedom (if you have not read Haskell’s post, please do so before proceeding):

1. Corporate power threatens democracy. Corporations and other limited liability entities have been controversial since their creation because, among other things, the combination of limited liability, immortality, asset partitioning, etc., makes them incredible wealth and power accumulation devices. Of course, on the one hand, this is precisely why we have them – so that investors are willing to contribute capital they would never contribute if they risked being personally liable as partners, and thus unique economic growth is spurred, a rising tide then lifts all ships, and so on. On the other hand, because of their unique ability to consolidate power, corporations are aptly considered by many to be one of Madison’s feared factions that threaten to undermine the very democracy that supports their creation and growth:

Besides the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government, there is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles. The danger of silent accumulations and encroachments by ecclesiastical bodies has not sufficiently engaged attention in the U.S.

[More after the break.]

Continue reading

February 23, 2014 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Food and Drink, Haskell Murray, Religion, Social Enterprise, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Religion, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Hobby Lobby

Professor Stephen Bainbridge made me aware of Keith Paul Bishop's post entitled:

44 Law Professors Make A Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility

Bishop writes:

I was shocked because the [law professor] brief constitutes a frontal assault on corporate social responsibility.  For example, the law professors make the following apocalyptic claim: "If this Court were to agree that, as a matter of federal law, shareholders holding a control bloc of shares in a corporation may essentially transfer their [social responsibility] beliefs to the corporation, the results could be overwhelming."  Ok, I substituted “social responsibility” for “religious”.  However, if the transfer of stockholder religious beliefs to the corporation would be “overwhelming”, why wouldn’t the same be true of beliefs regarding climate change, the environment, or other beliefs animating the corporate social responsibility movement?

Two of my co-bloggers signed the law professor brief in the Hobby Lobby case that Bishop discusses, so they are probably better suited to respond, but I will provide a few thoughts. 

One distinction, between the Hobby Lobby case and CSR, that may be quickly raised is addressed in section II.C of the law professor brief.  Hobby Lobby is attempting to use religion to avoid legal obligations.  There may be situations where companies argue they should be able to avoid legal obligations because of  "beliefs regarding climate change, the environment, or other beliefs animating the corporate social responsibility movement" but none spring immediately to mind. 

While the parade of horribles in the second section of the law professor brief might prove compelling, the entire first section (over half of the argument) would be seriously damaged if Hobby Lobby's articles of incorporation were amended to express the religious stance of the company.  The first section of the brief focuses on treating the corporation as a separate entity, distinct from its owners.  It seems, however, that Hobby Lobby's owners could amend the corporation's articles to endow the corporation with its own, separate and distinct, religious views. 

As I have previously mentioned, Hobby Lobby could have helped its chances in this case by converting to some form of for-profit benefit corporation and being specific about its religious views in its articles of incorporation.  The Delaware Public Benefit Corporation ("PBC") statute makes the ability to maintain a religious purpose in a PBC explicit when it defines "public benefit" as "a positive effect (or reduction of negative effects) on 1 or more categories of persons, entities, communities or interests (other than stockholders in their capacities as stockholders) including, but not limited to, effects of an artistic, charitable, cultural, economic, educational, environmental, literary, medical, religious, scientific or technological nature." (emphasis added)  According to Delaware's PBC law, each PBC must include at least one "specific public benefit" within its statement of purpose. 

I am interested in any additional thoughts on this topic, and am eagerly awaiting Professor Bainbridge's promised full response to the law professor brief (and any responses to his response).

Update: Go here for Professors Bainbridge's response.  Also, two of my co-bloggers have joined the conversation: here (Stefan Padfield) and here (Anne Tucker).

February 21, 2014 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Religion, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What does a for-profit corporation believe and should it receive a religious exemption?

Professor Caroline Mala Corbin from University of Miami has written an interesting article on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialites Corp. cases before the Supreme Court. Her abstract is below:

Do for-profit corporations have a right to religious liberty? This question is front and center in two cases before the Supreme Court challenging the Affordable Care Act’s “contraception mandate.” Whether for-profit corporations are entitled to religious exemptions is a question of first impression. Most scholars writing on this issue argue that for-profit corporations do have the right to religious liberty, especially after the Supreme Court recognized that for-profit corporations have the right to free speech in Citizens United. 

This essay argues that for-profit corporations should not – and do not – have religious liberty rights. First, there is no principled basis for granting religious liberty exemptions to for-profit corporations. For-profit corporations do not possess the inherently human characteristics that justify religious exemptions for individuals. For-profit corporations also lack the unique qualities that justify exemptions for churches. Citizens United fails to provide a justification as its protection for corporate speech is based on the rights of audiences and not the rights of corporate speakers. Second, as a matter of current law, neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recognizes the religious rights of for-profit corporations. Finally, corporate religious liberty risks trampling on the employment rights and religious liberty of individual employees.

 

 

January 30, 2014 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Corporations, Current Affairs, Ethics, Marcia L. Narine, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Anniversary

Today marks the 4 year anniversary of the Citizens United decision and tomorrow marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Corporations, the First Amendment, and Reproductive choice/freedom may have seemed like odd bed-fellows, but all three issues come together in the upcoming Hobby Lobby case challenging the application of access to birth control required under the health care law to a corporation whose owners oppose the extension on the grounds of religious freedom. 

Consider this a teaser on the issues offered up in the Hobby Lobby case.    Law professors are filing amicus briefs on this case coming down on either side of the issue.  One group arguing that religious views of the owners should not protect the corporation from complying and another arguing that the religious views of the owners can be imputed to the corporation and thus exempt it from compliance.  This is set to be a fantastically interesting issue, and hopefully one that will generate some healthy debate on this blog.  There will be more to come from me on this issue, but for now...consider this a teaser (or a place holder).

And if you crave more substance and internet sleuthing this afternoon, let me refer you to a list of 7 charts that is making its rounds in the blogosphere today. These charts detail the consequences of Citizens United in the last four years.  The results are not surprising and include:increased outside spending, conservative spending outpacing liberal spending 2:1, more political ads and occurring earlier, and decreased disclosures.  You can see the version posted by the Washington Post here.

-Anne Tucker

January 22, 2014 in Business Associations, Anne Tucker, Constitutional Law, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Huhn on the Implications of Daimler AG for Hobby Lobby

My Akron colleague Will Huhn just posted “2013-2014 Supreme Court Term: Court's Decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, No. 11-965: Implications for the Birth Control Mandate Cases?” over at his blog wilsonhuhn.com.  Here is a brief excerpt, but you should go read the entire post:

On January 14, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its decision in favor of Daimler AG (the maker of Mercedes-Benz), ruling that the federal courts in California lacked personal jurisdiction over Daimler to adjudicate claims for human rights violations arising in Argentina. The ruling of the Court may have implications for the birth control mandate cases pending before the Court in Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties…. In those cases the owners of two private, for-profit business corporations contend that their individual rights to freedom of religion "pass through" to the corporation -- that the corporations are in effect the "agents" of the principal shareholders, and that this is why the corporations have the right to deny their employees health insurance coverage for birth control. In Daimler the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had held that MBUSA was the "agent" of Daimler AG, and that the substantial business presence of MBUSA in California could be imputed to Daimler AG. The Supreme Court was not persuaded by this agency analysis…. It would be anomalous for the Court to adhere to corporate identity for purposes of personal jurisdiction and liability for tort, and yet to ignore corporate identity to give effect to the personal religious choices of stockholders.

January 18, 2014 in Business Associations, Agency, Constitutional Law, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Religion, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Schragger & Schwartzman argue that “debates about the ontological status of group or corporate entities are largely irrelevant.”

Richard Schragger & Micah Schwartzman have posted “Some Realism about Corporate Rights” on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Can we meaningfully speak of a church’s right to conscience or a corporation’s right to religious liberty? One way to approach this question is by inquiring into the nature of churches and corporations, asking whether these are the kinds of entities that can or should have rights. We have recently seen this kind of reasoning in public debates over whether corporations have free speech rights, and, relatedly, in arguments about the religious free exercise rights of churches, non-profits, and for-profit corporations. Those in favor of such rights sometimes argue that corporations and churches are moral agents, capable of exercising rights separate and apart from the rights and interests of their members; whereas, those opposed tend to argue that churches, corporations or groups are mere aggregations of individuals, or else artificial persons created or recognized by the state to advance the interests of those who compose them.

In this paper, we argue that this form of argument is mistaken and that debates about the ontological status of group or corporate entities are largely irrelevant. One does not need a particular theory of a corporation, organization, or group’s metaphysical status in order to determine its legal rights. To defend this claim, we first consider and reject H.L.A. Hart's semantic critique of corporate personality theories. Instead we follow John Dewey's realist argument against corporate metaphysics. We develop that argument and apply it to current litigation over whether for-profit corporations can assert rights of religious free exercise against the requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraception.

December 8, 2013 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Corporations, Current Affairs, Religion, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

BLPB Links 12/1/13

The increase in institutional ownership of corporate stock has led to questions about the role of financial intermediaries in the corporate governance process. This post focuses on the issues associated with the so-called “separation of ownership from ownership,” arising from the growth of three types of institutional investors, pensions, mutual funds, and hedge funds.

Originally, the anti-takeover law passed its court challenges because the judges accepted faulty data that showed investors could acquire at least 85 percent of the target corporation and satisfy the Williams Act, Subramanian said. But none of the cases used to support the anti-takeover law actually allowed hostile suitors to acquire a controlling 85 percent of a target company, he said, and plaintiffs using research from new studies would be able to convince a judge that the statute is unconstitutionally restrictive.

For me, the financial crisis was an eye-opening moment. I’ve long believed in free market economics and believed that the Church would do a lot of good in the world if it embraced it. And I still believe those things. But what the financial crisis has laid bare is that the most conventional version of free market economics was actually dead wrong.

In many respects, the relentless drive to adopt corporate governance mandates seems to have reached a plateau: essentially all of the prescribed “best practices”—including say-on-pay, the dismantling of takeover defenses, majority voting in the election of directors and the declassification of board structures—have been codified in rules and regulations or voluntarily adopted by a majority of S&P 500 companies…. In other respects, however, the corporate governance landscape continues to evolve in meaningful ways.

December 1, 2013 in Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Financial Markets, Merger & Acquisitions, Religion, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Work-Life Balance: Meditation

A friend recently asked me to suggest some books that might help him improve his meditation practice.  Operating under the assumption that if the topic is appropriate for the Wall Street Journal ("Doctor's Orders: 20 Minutes Of Meditation Twice a Day"), then it's good enough for this blog, I thought I'd pass on my suggestions to interested readers.  The first 3 make up my personal list of "classics," and the last is a shameless plug for a book of edited dharma talks I wrote based on my year of studying under sensei Ji Sui Craig Horton of the Cleveland Buddhist Temple.  While my suggestions all focus on Buddhist/Zen meditation, there are certainly more "generic" approaches to learning about meditation -- for example, one might visit the website for the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, which seeks to transform higher education "by supporting and encouraging the use of contemplative/introspective practices and perspectives to create active learning and research environments that look deeply into experience and meaning for all in service of a more just and compassionate society" (I was made aware of this source while attending a panel discussion on "Engagement, Happiness, and Meaning in Legal Education and Practice").  Regardless, here is my promised recommended reading list:

September 28, 2013 in Books, Religion, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)