Sunday, November 10, 2019
I have a new(ish) essay that focuses on the concept of eliminating the fiduciary duty in an LLC, as permitted by Delaware law, and what that could mean for future parties. The paper can be found here (new link). When parties A and B get together to create an LLC, if they negotiate to eliminate their fiduciary agreements as to one another, I’m completely comfortable with that. They are negotiating for what they want; they are entering into that entity and operating agreement together of their own free will. So there may be differences in bargaining power—one may be wealthier than the other or have different kinds of power dynamics—but they are entering into this agreement fully aware of what the obligations are and what the options are for somebody in creating this entity.
My concern with eliminating fiduciary obligations comes down the road. That is, how do we make sure that if people are going to disclaim the fiduciary duty of loyalty, particularly, what happens if this change is made after formation? In such a case, I like to look at our traditional partnership law, which says there are certain kinds of decisions, at least absent an agreement to the contrary, that have to go to the entire group of entity participants. That is, a majority vote is not sufficient; there is essentially a minority veto.
I like the freedom of contract elimination of fiduciary duties provides, but I also am sensitive to the risks such eliminations can provide. Thus, I argue that Delaware (and other states allowing reduction or elimination of the duty of loyalty) should require an express statement about the fiduciary duties (when modified from the default) and an express statement of how those duties can be modified, whether expanding, restricting, or eliminating the duties. To protect against the predatory modification of fiduciary duties, I believe that states should include a statutory requirement that changes to fiduciary duties must be express. Here’s my proposal:
Any limited liability company agreement that provides for a modification of the default rules for what constitutes a breach of duties (including fiduciary duties) of a member, manager or other person to a limited liability company, whether to expand, restrict, or eliminate those duties, must expressly state if the modifications are intended to expand, restrict, or eliminate the duties. Any limited liability company agreement that allows the modification of fiduciary duties must state expressly how those modifications can be made and by whom. Absent such any such statement, fiduciary duties may only be modified by agreement of all the members.
Supporting freedom of contract has value, but I also think we need to account for the fact that we did not traditionally allow for the elimination of fiduciary duties. As such, we should make sure that those participating in LLCs should know both what they signed up for initially, and also if the entity has provided the opportunity for a majority to make a fundamental change to traditional duties. This balance, I think, is essential to protecting investor expectations while still allowing for entities to develop the model that best serves the members’ goals.
Monday, October 21, 2019
Given the number of corporate governance functions that can be conducted using blockchains, it seems appropriate to consider how business lawyers should respond to related challenges. Babson College's Adam Sulkowski and I undertook to begin to address this concern in an article we wrote for the Wayne Law Review's recent symposium, "The Emerging Blockchain and the Law." That article, Blockchains, Corporate Governance, and the Lawyer's Role, was recently released. An abstract follows.
Significant aspects of firm governance can (and, in coming years, likely will) be conducted on blockchains. This transition has already begun in some respects. The actions of early adopters illustrate that moving governance to blockchains will require legal adaptations. These adaptations are likely to be legislative, regulatory, and judicial. Firm management, policy-makers, and judges will turn to legal counsel for education and guidance.
This article describes blockchains and their potentially expansive use in several aspects of the governance of publicly traded corporations and outlines ways in which blockchain technology affects what business lawyers should know and do—now and in the future. Specifically, this article describes the nature of blockchain technology and ways in which the adoption of that technology may impact shareholder record keeping and voting, insider trading, and disclosure-related considerations. The article then reflects on implications for business lawyers and the practice of law in the context of corporate governance.
In the article, Adam and I do a fair amount of visioning. Based on the development of blockchain corporate governance we imagine, we conclude that business lawyers must both focus on understanding technology in the context of their clients' business operations and be proactive in providing legal advice relating to potential uses of the technology. We conclude that,
[i]n representing business clients, counsel have a critical role in thinking through all the implications of moving any governance function or process to a blockchain-based platform. It is especially important to help clients see, consider, and appreciate certain irrevocable consequences and legal risks, as well as potential opportunities. . . .
There is much for us all to learn in this area. A number of legal scholars are engaging in work that may be useful in better informing us. I, for one, try to attend as many of their presentations as possible as a means of better informing myself of what I need to know to teach corporate governance in the blockchain era. (We note in the article that blockchain corporate governance "impacts the job of legal educators and law schools.") I will continue to be on the lookout for additional work on blockchain corporate governance (and lawyering in an increasingly blockchain-driven world) and endeavor to highlight key things I find by posting about them here.
Monday, October 14, 2019
Congrats to MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer on their recent Nobel Prize in Economics.
A few years ago, I completed Professors Banerjee and Duflo's free online EdX course on "The Challenges of Global Poverty."
Evidently, they are doing a rerun of that course, starting February 4, 2020. You can sign up here.
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Back in April, I posted on a leadership conference focusing on lawyers and legal education, sponsored by and held at UT Law. I also posted earlier this summer on the second annual Women's Leadership in Legal Academia conference. I admit that I have developed a passion for leadership literature and practices through my prior leadership training and experiences in law practice and in the legal academy.
Because lawyers often become leaders in and through their practice (both at work and their other communities) and because leadership principles interact with firm governance, I want to make a pitch that we all, but especially all of us teaching business associations (or a similar course), focus some attention on leadership in our teaching. It is a nice adjunct to governance. For example, management and control issues, especially director/officer processes in corporations, are a logical place to discuss leadership. Who are the managers and the rank-and-file employees inspired by in managing and sustaining the firm? Who is able to persuade the board to take action? Is it because of that person's authority, or does that person hold a trust relationship with others that motivates them to follow? And speaking of trust, it is an element of both leadership and fiduciary duty . . . .
As you consider my teaching suggestion, I offer you my latest blog post on our Leading as Lawyers blog. It involves the importance of process to effective leadership. The bottom line?
One can have a promising vision and strategy that emanate from the best of all intentions and ideas. But without engaging a process that includes effectual communication and input from, candid interchanges with, expressions of appreciation for, and buy-in from the relevant affected populations, those worthy intentions may be misinterpreted and those good ideas may die on the vine or not be implemented effectively.
We have all seen this happen in business governance. Let's let our students in on the role that leadership plays in the practical application of business law. It is bound to inform both their law practice and their lives.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law seeks highly-qualified candidates for a tenured or tenure-track faculty appointment to begin in Fall 2020. The principal responsibility of this faculty member will be to teach business law related courses, including Business Associations, U.C.C. Survey, and Contracts. All faculty are also expected to teach our first-year Lawyering course on a rotating basis, and all faculty are expected to teach in both the day and evening programs on a rotating basis.
CUNY SCHOOL OF LAW: "LAW IN THE SERVICE OF HUMAN NEEDS"
CUNY School of Law is a national leader in progressive legal education: we are ranked first in the country for public interest law and third in the county for clinical programs, and we are one of the most diverse law schools in the nation.
Our mission at CUNY School of Law is two-fold: training public interest attorneys to practice law in the service of human needs; and providing access to the profession for members of historically underrepresented communities. The Law School advances that mission though an innovative curriculum that brings together the highest caliber of clinical training with traditional doctrinal legal education to train lawyers prepared to serve the public interest. The basic premise of the law school's program is that theory and abstract knowledge cannot be separated from practice, practical skill, professional experience and the social, cultural, and economic context of law. The curriculum therefore integrates practical experience, professional responsibility, and lawyering skills with doctrinal study at every level.
Successful candidates will have:
a) J.D., L.LB., or Ph.D in a law-related discipline;
b) admission to law practice;
c) social justice lawyering experience;
d) a demonstrated commitment to the mission of CUNY School of Law;
e) availability and willingness to teach in the day and evening programs on a rotating basis;
f) availability and willingness to teach the first-year Lawyering course on a rotating basis (experience teaching legal writing preferred);
g) commitment to scholarly engagement (established scholarly record preferred);
(a) a demonstrated commitment to excellent teaching (ability to teach in both a classroom and clinical setting preferred); and
(b) demonstrated success as a faculty member, including the ability to collaborate with others and share responsibility for committee and department assignments.
CUNY offers faculty a competitive compensation and benefits package covering health insurance, pension and retirement benefits, paid parental leave, and savings programs. We also provide mentoring and support for research, scholarship, and publication as part of our commitment to ongoing faculty professional development.
HOW TO APPLY
Interested candidates should apply at www.cuny.edu by accessing the employment page, logging in or creating a new user account, and searching for this vacancy using the Job ID (20886) or Title (Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor of Law) then selecting "Apply Now" and providing the requested information. (Link at :
The application requires a CV/resume and a cover letter, indicating the position to which you are applying.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
This is my fifth year compiling a list of open business law professor positions in law schools and other settings (mostly business schools).
See the 2018-19, 2017-18, 2016-17, 2015-16 (law schools; business schools), and 2014-15 (law schools, business schools) lists to get a sense of what the market for business law professors has looked like over the past few years.
I will likely update this list from time to time; feel free to e-mail me with additions. Updated 9/30/19.
Law School Professor Positions – Business Area Identified
- American University (business law program director)
- City University of New York (CUNY)
- Emory University
- Northeastern University
- Ohio State University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Samford University
- Southern Illinois University
- Suffolk University (transaction legal clinic)
- University of Akron
- University of California-Davis (transaction legal clinic)
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Dayton
- University of Kansas
- University of Kentucky
- University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth
- University of Memphis
- University of Nebraska
- University of Richmond
- University of Wisconsin
- Vanderbilt University
- Washington University (St. Louis)
- Wayne State University
Legal Studies Professor Positions (Mostly Business Schools)
- Boise State University
- California State University-Los Angeles (real estate law focus)
- California State University-Northridge
- Christopher Newport University
- Hagerstown Community College
- Indiana University (possibly multiple positions)
- Ithaca College (full-time, non-tenure track)
- Morgan State University
- Sam Houston State University (2 positions)
- Sierra College (Community College)
- St. Bonaventure University (spring 2020 start)
- Temple University
- Texas State University
- Tulane University (visiting lecturer, full-time, non-tenure track)
- University of Georgia
- University of North-Texas (full-time, non-tenure track)
- U.S. Air Force Academy (visiting professor)
- Wake Forest University (full-time, non-tenure track)
- Wenzhou-Kean University (China)
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business Assistant or Associate Professor of Legal Studies Department of ILSRE
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business Assistant or Associate Professor of Legal Studies Department of ILSRE
The Department of Insurance, Legal Studies and Real Estate in the Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia invites applications for a full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty position of Legal Studies at the assistant or associate professor level, beginning Fall 2020.
Candidates must hold a juris doctorate or equivalent degree. For appointment at the assistant professor rank, strong communication skills and demonstrated potential for excellent teaching and high quality research is preferred. For appointment as an associate professor, a research record commensurate with rank and demonstrated excellence in teaching legal studies at the graduate and/or undergraduate level also are required. For information regarding the requirements for each faculty rank, please see the University of Georgia Guidelines for Appointment, Promotion & Tenure (https://provost.uga.edu/_resources/documents/UGA_Guidelines_for_APT_4_2017_online.pdf) and the Promotion & Tenure guidelines for the Terry College of Business (https://provost.uga.edu/_resources/documents/Business_2015.pdf). To be eligible for tenure on appointment, candidates must be appointed as an associate professor, have been tenured at a prior institution, and bring a demonstrably national reputation to the institution. Candidates must be approved for tenure upon appointment before hire.
Participation in service activities appropriate to the rank is expected. Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications.
Applications received by September 20, 2019, are assured of consideration; however, applications will continue to be accepted until the position is filled. Interested candidates should upload a cover letter, a full vitae, and contact information for three references (including email addresses) to http://www.ugajobsearch.com/postings/106535. The department will reach out to your references at the appropriate time in the process. No additional materials will be considered. Applications submitted in other ways will not be considered.
The University of Georgia is located in Athens, Georgia. Georgia is well known for its quality of life with both outdoor and urban activities (www.georgia.gov). UGA is a land grant/sea grant institution located approximately 60 miles northeast of Atlanta (www.uga.edu).
The University of Georgia is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ethnicity, age, genetic information, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation or protected veteran status. Persons needing accommodations or assistance with the accessibility of materials related to this search are encouraged to contact Central HR (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please do not contact the department or search committee with such requests.
Monday, July 29, 2019
For last year's Business Law Prof Blog symposium at UT Law, I spoke on issues relating to the representation of business firms classified or classifiable as social enterprises. Last September, I wrote a bit about my presentation here. The resulting essay, Lawyering for Social Enterprise, was recently posted to SSRN. The SSRN abstract follows.
Social enterprise and the related concepts of social entrepreneurship and impact investing are neither well defined nor well understood. As a result, entrepreneurs, investors, intermediaries, and agents, as well as their respective advisors, may be operating under different impressions or assumptions about what social enterprise is and have different ideas about how to best build and manage a sustainable social enterprise business. Moreover, the law governing social enterprises also is unclear and unpredictable in respects. This essay identifies two principal areas of uncertainty and demonstrates their capacity to generate lawyering challenges and related transaction costs around both entity formation and ongoing internal governance questions in social enterprises. Core to the professionalism issues are the professional responsibilities implicated in an attorney’s representation of social enterprise businesses.
To illuminate legal and professional responsibility issues relevant to representing social enterprises, this essay proceeds in four parts. First, using as its touchstone a publicly available categorization system, the essay defines and describes types of social enterprises, outlining three distinct business models. Then, in its following two parts, the essay focuses in on two different aspects of the legal representation of social enterprise businesses: choice of entity and management decision making. Finally, reflecting on these two aspects of representing social enterprises, the essay concludes with some general observations about lawyering in this specialized business context, emphasizing the importance of: a sensitivity to the various business models and related facts; knowledge of a complex and novel set of laws; well-practiced, contextual legal reasoning skills; and judgment borne of a deep understanding of the nature of social enterprise and of clients and their representatives working in that space.
I hope that this essay is relatable and valuable to both academics and practicing lawyers. Feedback is welcomed. So are comments.
Also, I will no doubt be talking more about aspects of this topic at a SEALS discussion group later this week entitled "Benefit Corporation (or Not)? Establishing and Maintaining Social Impact Business Firms," which I proposed for inclusion in this year's conference and for which I will serve as a moderator. The description of the discussion group is as follows:
As the benefit corporation form nears the end of its first decade of "life" as a legally recognized form of business association, it seems important to reflect on whether it has fulfilled its promise as a matter of legislative intent and public responsibility and service. This discussion group is designed to take on the challenge of engaging in that reflective process. The participating scholars include doctrinal and clinical faculty members who both favor and tend to recommend the benefit corporation form for social enterprises and those who disfavor or hesitate to recommend it.
As you can see from the SEALS program for the meeting, the participants represent both academics (doctrinal and clinical) and practitioners who care about social enterprise and entity formation. If you are at SEALS, please come and join us!
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
A recent Tennessee court decision subtly notes that limited liability companies (LLCs) are not, in fact corporations. In a recent Tennessee federal court opinion, Judge Richardson twice notes the incorrect listing of an LLC as a "limited liability corporation."
First, the opinion states:
The [Second Amended Complaint] alleges that Defendant Evans is a resident of Tennessee, Defendant #AE20, LLC is a California limited liability company, and Defendant Gore Capital, LLC is a Delaware limited liability “corporation.”3
3 Gore Capital is in fact a limited liability company.
Judge Richardson later notes, in footnote 11:
Plaintiff states that he was sent documents that listed Gore’s (not #AE20’s) principal place of business as being in Chattanooga, Tennessee, although the SAC lists Gore as a “Delaware limited liability corporation (sic)[.]”
Friday, May 24, 2019
Currently, I am working on a project that looks at how social value is measured and reported. As I dig deeper, I am becoming even more convinced that measuring social value may be too difficult for us to do well.
Let’s take scooters as an example. How would you measure (and report) the social value of these scooter companies? How many points should a “third-party standard” assign for the jobs created, for the gasoline saved, for the affordable transportation provided, for the fun produced? How many points should you subtract for a death, for injuries, for obstructing sidewalks? In the language of the Model Benefit Corporation Legislation, how do you know if a scooter company is producing “[a] material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole”?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been diving into the B Impact Assessment, (which is the top third-party standard used by benefit corporations) and, frankly, the points assigned seem somewhat arbitrary and easy for companies to manipulate. In my opinion, almost any company, including a scooter company, could get the 80+ points needed to qualify as a certified B corp. if they learned and worked the system a bit (and, as most readers know, you don’t even have to be certified to become a benefit corporation under the state statutes.)
I know bright people who would emphatically argue that scooter companies create a “material positive impact,” and I know bright people who think scooter companies are socially destructive. Social reporting does not have to be totally useless; it would be interesting to have the data on scooter usage (how many people are using them for their commute, what is the injury rate relative to cars, etc?). But the total amount of social value is not easily reduced to numbers and social reports. Given the nuance of each decision, the various externalities, and the difficulty in quantifying the social impact, I have previously suggested giving stakeholder representatives certain governance rights (such as the ability to elect and sue the board of directors). This way, directors will be more likely to consider each stakeholder group when making decisions.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
It has been kind of a unique end of the semester, and I am working feverously to get through my Business Organizations exams. I'm getting there. So far, I have had zero exams reference a "limited liability corporation." If this holds, it will be at least three years in a row.
I have had a couple of folks refer to LLC veil piercing as piercing the "corporate" veil (another no-no), and I did have some other "corporate" references to LLCs (e.g., "an LLC's corporate formalities"), so we're not all the way there. But so far, I am seeing improvement, and I appreciate the effort.
Here's hoping for 48 of 48 describing the LLC (as an entity) correctly. I hope the rest of my colleagues are holding up well here in the home stretch. Good luck to all.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
A 2017 opinion related to successor liability just posted to Westlaw. The case is an EEOC claim "against the Hospital of St. Raphael School of Nurse Anesthesia (“HSR School”) and Anesthesia Associates of New Haven (“AANH”), alleging gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . ." The plaintiff was seeking to join Yale New Haven Hospital (“YNHH”). MARGARITE CONSOLMAGNO v. HOSPITAL OF ST. RAPHAEL SCHOOL OF NURSE ANESTHESIA and ANESTHESIA ASSOCIATES OF NEW HAVEN, P.C., 3:11CV109 (DJS), 2017 WL 10966446, at *1 (D. Conn. Mar. 27, 2017).
There is no evidence that the HSR School had an existence that was independent of AANH. In fact, the HSR School was going to cease operating due to the fact that AANH was going to cease operating. The HSR School was not a limited liability corporation (“LLC”), private corporation (“P.C.”), or other legal entity registered with the Connecticut Secretary of State. (Tr. 141-142). There is no evidence that the HSR School had its own assets, bank account, or tax identification number. There is no evidence that the HSR School itself (as opposed to AANH) ever paid anyone for rendering services to the HSR School. There is no evidence that anyone other than AANH had operated the HSR School. Consequently, the Court finds that the predecessor in interest, for the purpose of assessing successor liability, is AANH.
Friday, March 8, 2019
Received today from BLPB friends Beate Sjåfjell and María Jesús Muñoz Torres:
Happy International Women’s Day! We celebrate this day by issuing the call for papers for the 5th international workshop of Daughters of Themis: International Network of Female Business Scholars. The theme is Finance for Sustainability; a highly topical theme! The deadline is 26 March, and we hope that the brief window of opportunity will be large enough for all interested to respond.
We appreciate if you would circulate this call to any interested colleagues identifying as female business scholars, including junior scholars (PhD candidates) as well as colleagues in lower-income countries. Please note that we this year do have some, very limited, funds available so that we can contribute to the funding for one or two participants based on financial hardship.
Unfortunately, this workshop overlaps a bit with the Grunin Center's annual conference (which focuses in on "Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing"). But if you are a business finance/law person who focuses on sustainability, you should be at one event or another!
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Posted by request. Looks like a good event:
Law and Ethics of Big Data
Hosted and Sponsored by:
Washington and Lee University School of Law
Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University; The Virginia Tech Center for Business Intelligence Analytics; The
Department of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University Bloomington
Wednesday-Thursday, April 24-25, 2019
Abstract Submission Deadline: Friday, March 1, 2019
We are pleased to announce the annual research colloquium, “Law and Ethics of Big Data,” which will be held this
year at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia. This year’s colloquium is co-hosted
by Associate Professor Margaret Hu at Washington and Lee University School of Law and Kenan Visiting Professor
at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, Associate Professor Angie Raymond of Indiana University, and
Professor Janine Hiller of Virginia Tech.
Due to the success of this multi-year event that now is in its sixth year, the colloquium will be expanded and we seek broad participation from multiple disciplines. Please consider submitting research that is ready for the discussion stage. Each paper will receive detailed constructive critique. We are targeting cross-discipline opportunities for colloquium participants.
Examples of topics appropriate for the colloquium include: Ethical Principles for the Internet of Things, Intellectual Property and Data Intelligence, Bribery and Algorithms, Ethical Use of Big Data, Health Privacy and Mental Health, Employment and Surveillance, National Security, Civil Rights, and Data, Algorithmic Discrimination, Smart Cities and Privacy, Cybersecurity and Big Data, and Data Regulation. The organizers have a special interest in papers focused on the law and ethics of Artificial Intelligence. We seek a wide variety of topics that reflects the broad ecosystem created by ubiquitous data collection and use, as well as its impacts on society.
TENTATIVE Colloquium Details:
• The colloquium begins at 9:00 am with breakfast on April 24 and concludes at ~1:00 pm at the conclusion of lunch on April 25. The University will host a research colloquium dinner on April 24. Breakfast and lunch will be provided at Washington and Lee University on April 24-25.
• Approximately 40 minutes is allotted for discussion of each paper presentation; 5-10 minutes for an introductory presentation by the discussant, followed by 30-35 minutes of group discussion. Authors will not present their own papers to the group; rather, a paper discussant presents the work and leads the group dialogue that follows.
• Manuscripts will be circulated among participants only.
• Participants agree to read and be prepared to participate in the discussion of all papers. Each author may be asked to lead discussion of one other submitted paper.
• A limited number of participants will be provided with lodging, and all participants will be provided meals during the colloquium. Travel and all other expenses will be individually assumed by each participant.
Submissions: To be considered, please submit an abstract of 500-750 words to Margaret Hu at email@example.com no later than Friday, March 1, 2019. Abstracts will be evaluated based upon the quality of the abstract and the topic’s fit with the theme of the colloquium and other presentations. Questions may be directed to Margaret Hu (firstname.lastname@example.org), Angie Raymond (email@example.com), or Janine Hiller (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are interested in being a discussant, but do not have a paper to present, please send a statement of interest to the same.
Authors will be informed of the decision by Friday, March 8, 2019. If accepted, the author agrees to submit a discussion paper by Friday, April 12, 2019. While papers need not be in finished form, drafts must contain enough information and structure to facilitate a robust discussion of the topic and paper thesis. Formatting can be either APA or Bluebook. In the case of papers with multiple authors, only one author may present at the colloquium.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
In Business Organizations, I am in the early part of teaching agency and partnership. In my last class, we discussed Cargill, which is a fairly typical case to open agency discussions. I like Cargill, and I think it is a helpful teaching tool, but I think one needs to go beyond the case and facts to give a full picture of agency.
Of note, the case deals only with "actual agency" -- for whatever reason, the plaintiffs did not argue "apparent agency" or estoppel in the alternative. A. Gay Jenson Farms Co. v. Cargill, Inc., 309 N.W.2d 285, 290 n.6 (Minn. 1981) (“At trial, plaintiffs sought to establish actual agency by Cargill's course of dealing between 1973 and 1977 rather than 'apparent' agency or agency by estoppel, so that the only issue in this case is one of actual agency. ”). I think this explains a lot about how the case turns out. That is, the court recognized that to find for the farmer, there had to be an actual agency relationship.
I don't love this outcome because one of the hallmarks of an agency relationship is its reciprocal nature. That is, once we find an agency relationship, the principal is bound to the third party and the third party is bound to the principal. In contrast, in a case of estoppel, the principal may be bound (estopped from claiming there is not an agency relationship), but that finding only runs one way. The principal still cannot bind the third party.
This is a problem for me in Cargill. That is, I don't see a scenario where a court would bind the farmers to Cargill on similar facts. (I know I am not the first to make this observation, but it seemed worth exploring a bit.) As such, I don't think it can rightly be deemed an agency relationship.
Assume the facts from the case to show agency, but suppose instead Cargill was suing the farmers because the grain prices had increased dramatically and that the farmers had a contract with Warren (the purported agent) to deliver grain at $5/bushel. However, spot prices were now $15/bushel. Warren had not paid the farmers for a prior shipment and did not have the ability to pay now. If the contract is with Warren, the farmers should be able to now sell that grain in the market and take the extra $10/bushel for themselves. However, if Cargill were really the principal on that contract, Cargill would have a right to buy it at $5/bushel. I just don't see a court making such a ruling on these facts.
For what it's worth, I do think there is an estoppel argument here, and I think the Cargill court had ample facts to support finding Cargill a guarantor through other actions (promises to pay, name on checks, etc.), some of which might support an apparent authority argument, too. But because I don't see this relationship as an agency relationship as a two-way street, I don't think it can be an "actual agency" relationship.
Incidentally, I see this reciprocal nature test as proper for partnerships, too. That is, unless a court, on similar facts, would be willing to find a partnership where it works to the detriment of the plaintiffs, one cannot find a partnership. Think, for example, of another classic case, Martin v. Peyton, 246 N.Y. 213 (N.Y. 1927). There, creditors of the financial firm KNK sued KNK, as well as Peyton, Perkins, and Freeman (PPF) who had loaned KNK money. The claim was that PPF was not a mere lender, but had instead become partners of KNK because of the amount of control and profit sharing included in the loan arrangement. If PPF were deemed partners of KNK, of course, PPF would be liable to the KNK creditors. Here, the court determines that no partnership exists.
While a reasonably close call, I think this is right. I don't think, based on a similar set of facts, that a court would find for PPF if the dispute were such that finding a partnership between PPF and KNK would reduce the amount KNK would pay its investors. If it can't run both ways, the partnership cannot exist. I appreciate that in some cases, there simply is not a good analog to test the reciprocal nature of the relationship. But where it's possible, I think this is a good test to determine whether there really is an agency or partnership relationship or if, instead, what we really have is a sympathetic plaintiff.
Friday, December 7, 2018
In Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc. v. Huntsman Corp., 965 A.2d 715, 730 (Del. Ch. 2008) – a case I worked on as a judicial clerk – the court wrote, “[m]any commentators have noted that Delaware courts have never found a material adverse effect to have occurred in the context of a merger agreement.”
That statement is no longer true.
Today--in a 3 page opinion--the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the 240+ page opinion by Vice Chancellor Travis Laster in Akorn, Inc. v. Fresenius Kabi, AG, et al., which held that Akorn triggered the Material Adverse Effect ("MAE") clause of the merger agreement at issue.
As the Chancery Daily reports, and as is clear looking at the recent opinions, the Delaware Supreme Court opinion does not provide much reasoning for its decision to affirm, but the Court of Chancery opinion does provide plenty of guidance. In the first few pages, the Court of Chancery notes that Akorn experienced a "dramatic, unexpected, and company-specific downturn in...business that began in the quarter after signing." The Court of Chancery also notes the importance of whistleblower letters and issues with Akron and the FDA.
Also of interest, the court notes that this was an expedited case -- a real benefit of the Delaware Court of Chancery. The parties only had 11 weeks leading up to the trial. At the five day trial, there were 54 depositions transcripts lodged, 1,892 exhibits introduced into evidence, and 16 live witnesses (including 7 experts). Those poor lawyers -- and judicial clerks!
Friday, November 9, 2018
My fellow BLPB editor Joan Heminway and I both have chapters in the book, along with many others.
The introduction is posted on SSRN, for those who are interested. Also, editor Ben Means has many talents, as he did the cover artwork below as well.
Sunday, October 21, 2018
5th Conference of the French Academy of Legal Studies in Business (Association Française Droit et Management)
June 20 and 21, 2019 – emlyon - Paris Campus
CALL FOR PAPERS 2019 Social Issues in Firms
Social issues and fundamental rights occupy an increasingly important space in the governance of today’s companies. Private enterprises assume an increasingly active role not only in a given economy but also in society as a whole. Firms become themselves citizens. They recognize and support civic engagement by the men and women who work for them. Historically, the role of the modern firm that resulted from the Industrial Revolution has been torn between two opposing viewpoints.
[More information under the break.]
October 21, 2018 in Business Associations, Business School, Call for Papers, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Ethics, Haskell Murray, International Business, International Law, Management, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 8, 2018
BLPB reader Tom N. sent me a link to this article last week by email. The article covers Elon Musk's taunting of the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a post on Twitter. The post followed on the SEC's settlement with Musk and Tesla, Inc. of a legal action relating to a prior Twitter post. The title of Tom N.'s message? "Musk Pokes the Bear in the Eye." Exactly what I was thinking (and I told him so) when I had read the same article earlier that day! This post is dedicated to Tom N. (and the rest of you who have been following the Musk affair).
Last week, I wrote about scienter issues in the securities fraud allegations against Elon Musk, following on Ann Lipton's earlier post on materiality in the same context. This week, I want to focus on state corporate law--specifically, fiduciary duty law. The idea for this post arises from a quotation in the article Tom N. and I read last week. The quotation relates to an order from the judge in the SEC's action against Musk and Tesla, Alison Nathan, that the parties jointly explain and justify the fairness and reasonableness of their settlement and why the settlement would not hurt the public interest. Friend and Michigan Law colleague Adam Pritchard offered (as quoted in the article): “She may want to know why Tesla is paying a fine because the CEO doesn’t know when to shut up.” Yes, Adam. I agree.
What about that? According to the article, the SEC settlement with Musk and Tesla "prevents Musk from denying wrongdoing or suggesting that the regulator’s allegations were untrue." The taunting tweet does not exactly deny wrongdoing or suggest that the SEC's allegations against him were untrue. Yet, it comes close by mocking the SEC's enforcement activities against Musk and Tesla. Musk's action in tweeting negatively about the SEC is seemingly--in the eyes of a reasonable observer--an intentional action that may have the propensity to damage Tesla.
At the very least, the tweet appears to be contrary to the best interests of the firm. But is it a manifestation of bad faith that constitutes a breach of the duty of loyalty under Delaware law? As most of us well know,
[b]ad faith has been defined as authorizing a transaction "for some purpose other than a genuine attempt to advance corporate welfare or [when the transaction] is known to constitute a violation of applicable positive law." In other words, an action taken with the intent to harm the corporation is a disloyal act in bad faith. . . . [B]ad faith (or lack of good faith) is when a director acts in a manner "unrelated to a pursuit of the corporation's best interests." It makes no difference the reason why the director intentionally fails to pursue the best interests of the corporation.
Bad faith can be the result of "any emotion [that] may cause a director to [intentionally] place his own interests, preferences or appetites before the welfare of the corporation," including greed, "hatred, lust, envy, revenge, . . . shame or pride."
In Re Walt Disney Co. Derivative Litigation, 907 A.2d 693, 753-54 (Del. Ch. 2005). Of course, Musk was not authorizing a transaction--or even clearly acting for or on behalf of Tesla--in making his taunting tweet. But he is identified strongly with Tesla, and his tweet was intentional and inconsistent with the best interests of the firm. Did he intend to harm Tesla in posting his tweet? Perhaps not. Did he act in a manner "unrelated to a pursuit of the corporation's best interests?" Perhaps. The tweet is certainly an imprudent (and likely grossly negligent or reckless) action that appears to result from Musk intentionally placing his own hatred or revenge ahead of the interests of Tesla.
"To act in good faith, a director must act at all times with an honesty of purpose and in the best interests and welfare of the corporation." Id. at 755. Yet, it is unclear how far that goes in a Twitter-happy world in which the personal blends into the professional. Musk was (in all likelihood) not taking action as a director or officer of Tesla when he tweeted his taunt. Yet, he was undoubtedly cognizant that he occupied those roles and that his actions likely had an effect on the firm. Should his fiduciary duties extend to this type of conduct?
And what about the Tesla board's duty to monitor? Does it extend to monitoring Musk's personal tweeting? E.g., the argument made in the Chancery Court's opinion in Beam Ex Rel. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. v. Stewart. Even of not mandated by fiduciary duty law, the SEC clearly wants the board to have that monitoring responsibility. The settlement with the SEC reportedly provides for "Tesla’s board to implement procedures for reviewing Musk’s communications with investors, which include tweets." More for us all to think about when we think about Elon Musk and Tesla . . . . It's always best not to poke the bear.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
I may update this list from time to time; feel free to e-mail me with additions. Looks like a pretty strong hiring season for business law. Updated 12/04/18.
Law School Professor Positions – Business Specialty Sought
- Barry University
- Belmont University
- Campbell University
- Case Western University
- Duke University
- Drake University (Director of the Entrepreneurial/Transactional Law Clinic)
- Drake University (Assistant, Associate, or Professor of Law)
- Drexel University
- Emory University
- Florida A&M University
- Louisiana State University
- Mercer University
- Pennsylvania State University, University Park
- Saint John’s University
- Seton Hall University
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale (Professor of Practice) (9/17/18 deadline or until filled)
- University of Alabama
- University of Arizona (International Business Law Focus) (Review begins 9/28/18)
- University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
- University of Buffalo
- University of California, Berkeley (initial review 8/15/18; accepted through 3/1/19)
- University of California, Davis
- University of California, Irvine
- University of Connecticut
- University of Kentucky
- University of Louisville
- University of Miami
- University of Nebraska
- University of New Mexico (Oil & Gas Focus)
- University of North Texas at Dallas
- University of Oregon (Business Law Clinic)
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of Richmond
- University of Saint Thomas (Miami)
- University of South Carolina
- University of Wyoming
- Washington & Lee University
- Washington University (St. Louis)
- Willamette University
Legal Studies Professor Positions (Mostly Business Schools)
- Angelo State University
- California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (10/1/18 first consideration)
- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (9/17/18 review begins)
- College of Charleston
- Community College of Philadelphia
- Contra Costa Community College (1/24/19 review closes)
- Dutchess Community College
- James Madison University
- Kean University (Wenzhou, China) (posted 11/26/18)
- Indiana University, Bloomington (10/18/18 best consideration date) (and non-tenure track)
- Los Angeles Film School (Entertainment Business/Law Instructor)
- Mercy College (Director of Legal Studies)
- Morgan State University (opens 10/31/18 - closes 1/31/19)
- New Mexico University
- Prairie View A&M University
- Princeton University (Fellowships) (11/14/18 deadline)
- Quinnipiac University
- Saint Joseph's University (Visiting Instructor)
- Saint Joseph's University (Assistant Professor)
- Santa Monica College
- State University of New York at Oswego (Instructor) (11/1/18 review begins)
- SUNY-Oswego (Instructor)
- Tulane University (Lecturers) and (Professors of Practice)
- University of the Bahamas (PHD in Law required)
- University of Georgia
- University of Michigan (10/15/18 guaranteed consideration)
- University of South Florida (Instructor) (JD/LLM or JD/PHD only)
- Virginia Tech (Instructor)
- Western Carolina University (10/1/18 review begins)