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)
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Are corporations (and other business associations) political actors? Of course. Some of Marcia's posts here on the BLPB have raised, for example, questions about the use of boycotts as firm political activity. See, e.g., here. Marcia also pointed out here that National Football League teams (typically owned by and operated through some form of business association) have been caught up in political activity surrounding the players-kneeling-during-the-national-anthem controversy.
The Vanderbilt Law Review has recently published an essay on the political corporation written by a Dream Team of sorts--two friends who are married to each other--at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Susan Kuo and Ben Means. Susan teaches advocacy and dispute resolution courses (currently focusing on criminal law and procedure, conflicts, and social justice issues) and is the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion. Ben is likely known to many BLPB readers as a business law guy (with a special focus on small and family owned busnesses). He's been a member of the executive committee for the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Business Associations and is past chair of the AALS Section on Agency, Partnership, LLCs, and Unincorporated Business Associations. They bring their individual and collective talents to this essay, entitled The Political Economy of Corporate Exit. Here is the SSRN abstract.
Corporate political activity is understood to include financial contributions, lobbying efforts, participation in trade groups, and political advertising, all of which give corporations a “voice” in public decisionmaking. This Essay contends that the accepted definition of corporate political activity overlooks the importance of “exit.” Corporations do not need to spend money to exert political influence; when faced with objectionable laws, they can threaten to take their business elsewhere. From the “grab your wallet” campaign to the fight for LGBT rights in states such as Georgia, Indiana, and North Carolina, corporate exit has played a significant role in recent political controversies.
This Essay offers the first account of corporate exit as a form of political activity and identifies two basic rationales: (1) attaching economic consequences to public choices, and (2) avoiding complicity with laws that violate a corporation’s values. This Essay also shows how citizens can harness corporate economic power when conventional political channels are inaccessible. In an era of hashtag activism and boycotts sustained via social media, corporations cannot afford to ignore consumers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders.
I communicated with Ben about this piece a while back and was excited about it then. I am looking forward to getting into it in short order. Looks like a relevant, insightful read.
Assistant Professor of Business Law.
Ross School of Business, University of Michigan.
The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan seeks applicants for a tenure-track position at the assistant professor level in the Business Law Area starting in the Fall 2019 term. The selected candidate’s primary teaching responsibilities will be to teach business law in the undergraduate (BBA) program but may be required to teach in any of the school’s degree programs. The candidate will be expected to produce high-quality research published in leading law reviews and/or business journals.
Qualified candidates must have earned a J.D. from an ABA accredited law school. The candidate must have an excellent academic record and demonstrate a strong interest, and ability, in conducting high-quality, scholarly research in an area relevant to business. Examples of such fields include, but are not limited to, corporate law, contract law, employment law, financial regulation, securities law, intellectual property, and international trade. A qualified candidate must also demonstrate excellence in university teaching or the potential to be an outstanding teacher in business law.
The review of applications will begin immediately. All applications received before October 15, 2018, will receive full consideration. However, applications received after the deadline may be considered until the position is filled.
For additional information and a complete position announcement, please visit http://careers.umich.edu/job_detail/162128/assistant_professor_of_business_law
Please contact Jen Mason, Area Administrator, via email with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Applicants are required to submit their applications electronically by visiting the website: http://www.bus.umich.edu/FacultyRecruiting and uploading the following:
- A cover letter that includes a description of the candidate’s experience and interest in academic research and teaching.
- A curriculum vitae that includes three references
The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
The following comes to us from Sergio Alberto Gramitto Ricci, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law and Assistant Director, Clarke Program on Corporations & Society, Cornell Law School. I had the pleasure of listening to Sergio discuss this project at our recent SEALS discussion group on Masterpiece Cakeshop, and I found particularly interesting his conclusion that "Roman slaves could not own property, but ius naturale provided them with the right to exercise religion. To the contrary, Roman corporations could contract, own assets and bear liabilities, but they had no exercise rights as religion liberties were typical of personae—physically sound humans." The concept of robo-directors is also fascinating, and adds another layer to my ongoing dystopian (utopian?) novel plot wherein corporations are allowed to run for seats in Congress directly (as opposed to what some would argue is the current system wherein we get: "The Senator from [X], sponsored by Big Pharma Corp."). You can download the full draft via SSRN here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3232816.
In an era where legal persons hold wealth and power comparable to those of nation states, shedding light on the nature of the corporate form and on the rights of business corporations is crucial for defining the relations between the latter and humans. Recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, including Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., have called for a closer investigation of the role that corporate separateness plays in the business corporation formula. Moreover, legal personhood is a sophisticated legal technology, which employment can revolutionize the strategies to protect cultural heritage or natural features and can address emerging phenomena, including artificial intelligence and learning machines. This paper adopts archeology of corporate law to analyze three intertwining legal and organizational technologies based on legal personhood. Archeology of corporate law excavates ancient laws and language in order to solve salient issues in contemporary and future corporate debates. First, this paper sheds light on the origins and nature of legal personhood and on the rights of business corporations by analyzing laws and language that the Romans adopted when they invented the corporation. For example, excavating roman law shows how Roman slaves could not own property, but ius naturale provided them with the right to exercise religion. To the contrary, Roman corporations could contract, own assets and bear liabilities, but they had no exercise rights as religion liberties were typical of personae—physically sound humans. In sum, the Romans drew a line between the legal capacities of their corporations and the rights and liberties that persons possessed by virtue of being human. Second, this paper discusses the separation of ownership and control. It explains how the separation of ownership and control, together with legal personhood, constitutes the essential formula of the business corporation model. Last, this paper explores artificial intelligence in boardrooms to assist, integrate or replace human directors drawing a parallelism between robo-directors and Roman slaves appointed to run joint-enterprises. Barring the statutory restrictions that require for board directors to be natural persons and overcoming the moral concerns related to appointing robo-directors, the remaining issue that AI in boardrooms raises is that of accountability.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
On Tuesday, Elizabeth Warren penned an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled Companies Shouldn’t Be Accountable Only to Shareholders: My new bill would require corporations to answer to employees and other stakeholders as well.
The article announced and promoted her Accountable Capitalism Act. With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, Warren’s bill almost certainly doesn’t stand a chance of passing in the short-term.
Yet, because the bill draws on benefit corporation governance, a main scholarly interest of mine, and because it may foreshadow moves by a Democrat-controlled Congress in the future, I decided to read the 28-page bill and report here briefly.
Portions of the bill summarized:
- As has been widely reported, the bill only applies to companies with more than $1 billion in revenue.
- The bill seeks to establish an “Office of United States Corporations” within the Department of Commerce, which will review, grant, and rescind charters for the large companies covered by the bill.
- The bill takes language from benefit corporation law and requires that U.S. Corporations must have a purpose to serve a “general public benefit” – “a material positive impact on society resulting from the business and operations of a United States corporation, when taken as a whole.” This purpose is in addition to any purpose in the company’s state filing.
- The governance requirements are a mix of the Model Benefit Corporation Legislation and Delaware version of benefit corporation law – requiring both that directors balance the “pecuniary interests of shareholders” with the "best interests of persons that are materially affected by the conduct of the United States corporation” (drawn from Delaware) and that directors consider a litany of stakeholders in their decisions (including shareholders, employees, customers, community, local and global environment - drawn from the Model). Only shareholders with 2%+ of the shares can sue derivatively.
- Employees must elect 40%+ of the board of directors.
- 75%+ of shareholders and 75%+ of directors must approve political spending of over $10,000 on a single candidate.
My brief thoughts:
- This is a lot of press for benefit corporations.
- The press may not be good for benefit corporation proponents who have been largely able to pitch to both sides of the political aisle in their state bills. B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert has already written an article trying to promote what he sees as the bipartisan nature of benefit corporations: Elizabeth Warren, Republicans, CEOs & BlackRock's Fink Unite Around 'Accountable Capitalism'
- I have noted in my scholarly work how the state benefit corporation laws fail to align the purported “general public benefit” corporate purpose with effective accountability mechanisms. This bill, however, takes one step toward aligning company purpose and accountability by requiring that employees elect 40%+ of the board. Of course, that still leaves out many other stakeholders that directors are supposed to consider, and shareholders are still the only stakeholders with the ability to sue derivatively. A better solution is to have stakeholder representatives who elect the entire board and also possess, collectively, the right to sue derivatively. This stakeholder representative framework, articulated in my 2017 American Business Law Journal article, has the benefit of keeping the board united on a common goal – instead of fighting on behalf of the single stakeholder group who elected them – while also being held to account by representatives of all major stakeholder groups, collectively.
- Suggesting that benefit corporation law become mandatory will likely not be popular among many conservatives. See, e.g., this early response in the National Review: Elizabeth Warren’s Batty Plan to Nationalize . . . Everything. Currently, a fair response to conservative critics of state benefit corporation laws is "if businesses do not like the benefit corporation framework, they can just choose to be a traditional corporation." This bill attempts to remove that choice for large companies.
(My co-blogger Joshua Fershee may be horrified to learn that the bill purports to apply not only to corporations, but also to LLCs, even though they use the term "U.S. Corporations" throughout).
Friday, August 10, 2018
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Details on another excellent business law professor position are posted below.
Entry-Level or Experienced Faculty Position
The UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA COLLEGE OF LAW invites applications for entry-level and lateral candidates for two tenure-track or tenured faculty positions.
Our primary areas of interest are Civil Procedure, Business Associations, and other business law courses, including, but not limited to, Corporate Finance, Securities Regulation, Corporate Governance, Non-Profit Organizations, and Transactional Drafting.
Other needs include courses related to
- Health Care (g., Federal Regulation of Health Care Providers, Health Care Finance, Administrative Law, Medical Malpractice, Privacy Law, Law and Medicine, Public Health Law, Bioethics and the Law, and the Law of Provider and Patient);
- Litigation Skills and Related Courses (g., Trial Advocacy, Civil Rights Litigation, Conflicts of Law, Remedies, Pretrial Litigation, and other litigation skills courses);
- Criminal Law (g., Federal Criminal Law, White Collar Crime, PostConviction Remedies, and Criminal Sentencing);
- Environmental Law (g., Environmental Law, Water Law, and Natural Resources Law);
- Family Law; and
- Election Law.
Minimum required qualifications include a J.D. Degree or equivalent, superior academic record, and a demonstrated interest in relevant substantive areas. The title of Assistant or Associate Professor will be based on the qualifications of the applicant.
To be considered, please complete the Faculty/Academic Administrative information form and attach a letter of interest, current vita, and names and contact information for three professional references at http://employment.unl.edu/postings/59925. Review of applications will begin on August 24, 2018, and continue until the position is filled. Contact Associate Dean Eric Berger, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, NE 68583-0902, or send an email to email@example.com. General information about the Law College is available at http://law.unl.edu/.
As an EO/AA employer, qualified applicants are considered for employment without regard to race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, age, genetic information, veteran status, marital status, and/or political affiliation. See http://www.unl.edu/equity/notice-nondiscrimination.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Earlier today, I received this call for submissions from the American Business Law Journal ("ABLJ"). I published with the ABLJ in 2017 and had a fabulous experience. The manuscripts are blind/peer-reviewed, something we need more of in the legal academy, in my opinion. I found the substantive comments to be of a much higher quality than one gets from a typical law review, and, unlike the practice of some peer-reviewed journals, the ABLJ published my manuscript in a timely manner.
The American Business Law Journal is seeking submissions of manuscripts that advance the scholarly literature by comprehensively exploring and analyzing legal and ethical issues affecting businesses within the United States or the world. Manuscripts analyzing international business law topics are welcome but must include a comprehensive comparative analysis, especially with U.S. law.
As most of you know, the ABLJ is a triple-blind, peer-reviewed law journal published by the Academy. The ABLJ is available on Westlaw and Lexis, and ranks in the top 6% of all publications in the Washington & Lee Submissions and Ranking list by Impact Factor (2016) and in the top 1% of all peer-edited or refereed by Impact Factor (2016). The Washington & Lee list ranks the ABLJ as the Number One Refereed/peer-edited “Commercial Law” and “Corporations and Associations” journal.
Because of a physical page limit imposed by our publisher Wiley, we ask that manuscripts not exceed 18,000 – 20,000 words (including footnotes). Submissions in excess of 25,000 words (including footnotes) may be returned without review. We also require that manuscripts substantially comply with the Bluebook: A Uniform Method of Legal Citation, 20th ed. For more details, please review our Author Guidelines at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291744-1714/homepage/ForAuthors.html
Because the peer-review process takes from four to six weeks to complete, we strongly suggest that you submit to the ABLJat least a few weeks prior to submitting to other journals. The peer-review process is not conducive to expedite requests (though we will attempt to honor them if possible), so if you give us a head start we will more likely be able to complete the review process.
While we gladly accept submissions through ExpressO and Scholastica, save yourself the submission fee and submit directly to the ABLJ at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact the Managing Editor, Julie Manning Magid, at email@example.com.
Thank you and we look forward to reviewing your scholarly work.
Monday, May 7, 2018
I was fascinated by Ann Lipton's post on April 14. I started to type a comment, but it got too long. That's when I realized it was actually a responsive blog post.
Ann's post, which posits (among other things) that corporate chief executives might be required to comply with their fiduciary duties when they are acting in their capacity as private citizens, really made me think. I understand her concern. I do think it is different from the disclosure duty issues that I and others scope out in prior work. (Thanks for the shout-out on that, Ann.) Yet, I struggled to find a concise and effective response to Ann's post. Here is what I have come up with so far. It may be inadequate, but it's a start, at least.
Fiduciary duties are contextual. One can have fiduciary duties to more than one independent legal person at the same time, of course, proving this point. (Think of those overlapping directors, Arledge and Chitiea in Weinberger. They're a classic example!) What enables folks to know how to act in these situations is a proper identification of the circumstances in which the person is acting.
So, for example, an agent’s duty to a principal exists for actions taken within the scope of the agency relationship. The agency relationship is defined by the terms of the agreement between principal and agent as to the object of the agency. The principal controls the actions of the agent within those bounds based on that agreement.
Similarly, a director’s or officer's conduct is prescribed and proscribed within the four corners of the terms of their service to the corporation. They owe their duties to the corporation (and in Revlon-land or other direct-duty situations, also to the stockholders). The problem then becomes defining those terms of service. For directors, a quest for evidence of the parameters of their service should start with the statute and extend to any applicable provisions of the corporate charter, bylaws, and board policies and resolutions more generally. For officers, the statute typically doesn’t provide much content on the nature or extent of their services. The charter may not either. Typically, the bylaws and board policies and resolutions, as well as any employment or severance agreement (the validity of which is largely a matter outside the scope of corporate law), would define the scope of service of an officer.
I have trouble envisioning that the scope of service (and therefore, reach of fiduciary duties) for a typical director or officer would extend to, e.g., private ownership of other entities and decisions made in that capacity. Yet, even where there is no technical conflicting interest or breach of a duty of loyalty, there is a clear business interest in having corporate managers—especially highly visible ones—act in a manner that is consistent with corporate policy or values when they are not “on the job.” While voluntary corporate policy or private regulation may have a role in policing that kind of director or officer activity (through service qualifications or employment termination triggers, e.g.), I do not think it is or should be the job of corporate law—including fiduciary duty law—to take on that monitoring and enforcement role.
Nevertheless, I remain convinced that better (more accurate ad complete) disclosure of (at least) inherent conflicts of interest may be needed so investors and other stakeholders can evaluate the potential for undesirable conduct that may impact the nature or value of their investments in the firm. As Ann notes, significant privacy rights exist in this context, too. There's more work to be done here, imv.
Thanks for making me think, Ann. Perhaps you (or others) have a comment on this riposte? We shall see . . . .
Monday, April 30, 2018
My essay on the use of traditional for-profit corporations as a choice of entity for sustainable social enterprise firms was recently published in volume 86 of the UMKC Law Review. I spoke on this topic at The Bryan Cave/Edward A. Smith Symposium: The Green Economy held at the UMKC School of Law back in October. The essay is entitled "Let's Not Give Up on Traditional For-Profit Corporations for Sustainable Social Enterprise," and the SSRN abstract is included below:
The past ten years have witnessed the birth of (among other legal business forms) the low-profit limited liability company (commonly known as the L3C), the social purpose corporation, and the benefit corporation. The benefit corporation has become a legal form of entity in over 30 states. The significant number of state legislative adoptions of new social enterprise forms of entity indicates that policy makers believe these alternative forms of entity serve a purpose (whether legal or extra legal).
The rise of specialty forms of entity for social enterprise, however, calls into question, for many, the continuing role of the traditional for-profit corporation (for the sake of brevity and convenience, denominated “TFPC” in this essay) in social enterprises, including green economy ventures. This essay argues that TFPCs continue to be a viable—and in many cases desirable or advisable choice of entity for sustainable social enterprise firms. The arguments presented are founded in legal doctrine, theory, and policy and include both legal and practical elements.
Somehow, I managed to cite to four BLPB co-bloggers in this single essay: Josh, Haskell, Stefan, and Anne. Evidence of a business law Vulcan mind meld? You decide . . . .
Regardless, comments, as always, are welcomed as I continue to think and write about this area of law and practice.
April 30, 2018 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Joshua P. Fershee, Social Enterprise, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (2)
Monday, April 23, 2018
Call for Papers for the
Section on Business Associations Program on
Contractual Governance: the Role of Private Ordering
at the 2019 Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting
The AALS Section on Business Associations is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which up to two additional presenters will be selected for the section’s program to be held during the AALS 2019 Annual Meeting in New Orleans on Contractual Governance: the Role of Private Ordering. The program will explore the use of contracts to define and modify the governance structure of business entities, whether through corporate charters and bylaws, LLC operating agreements, or other private equity agreements. From venture capital preferred stock provisions, to shareholder involvement in approval procedures, to forum selection and arbitration, is the contract king in establishing the corporate governance contours of firms? In addition to paper presenters, the program will feature prominent panelists, including SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce and Professor Jill E. Fisch of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Our Section is proud to partner with the following co-sponsoring sections: Agency, Partnership, LLC's and Unincorporated Associations; Contracts; Securities Regulation; and Transactional Law & Skills.
Please submit an abstract or draft of an unpublished paper to Anne Tucker, firstname.lastname@example.org on or before August 1, 2018. Please remove the author’s name and identifying information from the submission. Please include the author’s name and contact information in the submission email.
Papers will be selected after review by members of the Executive Committee of the Section. Authors of selected papers will be notified by August 25, 2018. The Call for Papers presenters will be responsible for paying their registration fee, hotel, and travel expenses.
Any inquiries about the Call for Papers should be submitted to: Anne Tucker, Georgia State University College of Law, email@example.com or (404) 413.9179.
[Editorial note: As some may recall, the BLPB hosted a micro-symposium on aspects of this issue in the limited liability company context in anticipation of a program held at the 2016 AALS annual meeting. The initial post for that micro-symposium is here, and the wrap-up post is here. This area--especially as writ broadly in this proposal--remains a fascinating topic for study and commentary.]
April 23, 2018 in Anne Tucker, Business Associations, Call for Papers, Conferences, Contracts, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, LLCs, Nonprofits, Partnership | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, April 2, 2018
In recent weeks, the Tennessee General Assembly has been wrestling with a bill (house and senate versions here and here) that changes the governing board of The University of Tennessee (UT), where I teach. Non-controversially, the UT FOCUS Act, as it is commonly called (Focusing on Campus and University Success at UT), decreases the size of UT's board of trustees. Currently, the board of trustees comprises 27 members--five ex officio members and 22 appointed members. Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-9-202. Most would agree that 27--or even 22--is a relatively unmanageable number of board members, without good cause, for most governing boards. But the composition requirements for the board (with this newly reduced number of trustees) are where the rubber hits the road.
The Bill Summary for the measure, as reported on the Tennessee General Assembly website, succinctly describes the current board composition, which is established by statute. I include the relevant text from the Bill Summary here.
The ex officio members are: the governor, the commissioner of education, the commissioner of agriculture, and the president of the university, who are voting members; and the executive director of the Tennessee higher education commission (THEC), who is a nonvoting member. Of the 22 additional members: one must be appointed from each congressional district (presently there are nine congressional districts); two additional members each must reside in Knox and Shelby counties; one additional member each must reside in Weakley, Hamilton, and Davidson counties; one additional member must reside in Anderson, Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Lincoln, Moore or Warren County; one additional member is a non-Tennessee resident; two additional members, one voting and one non-voting, must be members of the faculty of the University of Tennessee who served as faculty senate president, or the equivalent, at a University of Tennessee institution during the academic year immediately preceding appointment as a trustee, appointed according to a sequence detailed in present law; and two additional members who are students at a UT institution, one voting and one nonvoting, appointed from the various institutions on a rotating basis pursuant to present law.
Present law requires that at least one third of the appointive members be members of the principal minority political party in the state and that at least one third of the appointive members must be alumni of the University of Tennessee. All appointive members are appointed by the governor subject to confirmation by the senate, but appointments are effective until adversely acted upon by the senate. In making appointments to the board of trustees, the governor must strive to ensure that at least one person appointed to serve on the board is 60 years of age or older, and that at least one person appointed to serve on the board is a member of a racial minority. Present law requires that the membership of the board reflect the percentage of females in the population generally. Appointive members serve terms of six years beginning June 1 of the year of appointment, and members are eligible to succeed themselves.
(emphasis added) Of particular importance for purposes of this post are the italicized portions of the description. The UT FOCUS Act calls for no faculty or students--no state employees altogether--on the board as voting or non-voting members. I am concerned about this aspect of the bill because of its effect on the expertise of UT's board. No amount of board orientation can imbue board members with the knowledge that faculty and students have.
The apparent tension here is between the value of that expertise--boots-on-the-ground knowledge of shared governance, curriculum design and execution, the role of co-curricular and extra-curricular programming, faculty/staff/student relations, and other matters unique to current participation in the university's campus communities--and a perceived conflict of interest (since faculty and students would be effectively governing themselves).
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) agree that university governing boards generally lack knowledge of faculty affairs. A 2017 publication of the AGB notes in this regard:
Participants in all three categories in our listening sessions (board members, presidents, and faculty) acknowledged—and indeed emphasized—that there is a huge information gap between boards and faculty. They noted that board members often have very little— if any—understanding of the nature of faculty work, of the nature of academic culture, of the real meaning of academic freedom, and of the history and importance of faculty self-governance and the faculty role in shared governance. . . .
The AAUP website features a report on a 2012 Cornell University study of faculty trustees that includes a related observation.
Discussions of “best practices” for governing boards consistently cite improved relationships with the faculty as one of the characteristics of highly effective boards. We are in an era of increasingly “activist” boards, leading to significant mutual distrust between boards and faculty members and creating an impetus for improving faculty-board relations.
As a former faculty senate president at UT Knoxville, I understand and appreciate all of this.
Monday, March 26, 2018
I am committed to introducing my business law students to business law doctrine and policy both domestically and internationally. The Business Associations text that I coauthored has comparative legal observations in most chapters. I have taught Cross-Border Mergers & Acquisitions with a group of colleagues and will soon be publishing a book we have coauthored. And I taught comparative business law courses for four years in study abroad programs in Brazil and the UK.
In the study abroad programs, I struggled in finding suitable texts, cobbling together several relatively small paperbacks and adding some web-available materials. The result was suboptimal. I yearned for a single suitable text. In my view, texts for study abroad courses should be paperback and cover all of the basics in the field in a succinct fashion, allowing for easy portability and both healthy discussion to fill gaps and customization, as needed, to suit the instructor's teaching and learning objectives.
And so it was with some excitement--but also some healthy natural skepticism--that I requested a review copy of Corporations: A Comparative Perspective (International Edition), coauthored by my long-time friend Marco Ventoruzzo (Bocconi and Penn State) and five others (all scholars from outside the United States), and published by West Academic Publishing. I am pleased to say that if/when I teach international and comparative corporate governance and finance (especially in Europe) in the future, I will/would assign this book. It is a paperback text that, despite its 530 pages, is both reasonably comprehensive and manageable.
The book is divided into ten chapters, starting with basic "building blocks" of comparative corporate law and ending (before some brief final thoughts) with unsolicited business combinations. U.S. law is, for the most part, the centerpiece of the chapters, which consist principally of original text, cases, statutes, law journal article excerpts, and (in certain circumstances) helpful diagrams. The methodological introduction, which I found quite helpful and user-friendly, notes that the coauthors "often (not always) start our analysis with the U.S. perspective." (xxvi) Yet, despite the anchoring use of U.S. law throughout the book, it somehow has a very European feel. The coauthors note the emphasis on "U.S., U.K., major European continental civil law systems (France, Germany, Italy) and European Union law, and Japan," (id.) but my observation is that the words and phrasing also have a European flair. Of course, this is unsurprising, given that all but one of the coauthors hail from European universities. I note this without praise or criticism, but I mention it so others can assess its impact in their own teaching environments.
I recommend that those teaching in study abroad (or other courses focusing on comparative corporate law) review a copy of this book. I will look forward to teaching from it the next time I need an international or comparative law teaching text for use in or outside the United States.
March 26, 2018 in Business Associations, Comparative Law, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, International Business, International Law, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, March 6, 2018