Monday, April 22, 2024

Fiduciary Duties: A Tale of Two Families

Check out the third issue of volume 73 of the DePaul Law Review!  It includes a series of papers emanating from the HBO series Succession.  As you may recall, I posted a call for papers for this issue about a year ago.  Most of the papers in the issue came from a venture originated and organized by Susan Bandes and Diane Kemker called the Waystar Royco School of Law.  I wrote about that enterprise here.  

I participated in the Waystar Royco School of Law Zoom meetings as the “Roy/Demoulas Distinguished Professor of Law and Business.”  I presented on fiduciary duty issues comparing the principals of two family businesses--The Demoulas family from Northern Massachusetts and Succession's Roy family from New York.  You can find my Zoom session here (Passcode: #hN+7J5N).  That presentation resulted in an essay that I wrote for the DePaul Law Review issue as well as an advanced business associations course based on the Succession series. I finish teaching that course this week.  I also presented on the topic of my Succession essay at the Popular Culture Association conference back in March.  I include a screenshot of my cover slide below.

I just posted the essay to SSRN.  The piece is entitled What the Roys Should Learn from the Demoulas Family (But Probably Won’t).  The SSRN abstract is set forth below.

This essay offers a comparison of the actions taken by members of two families: the Demoulas family, best known as owner-operators of northeastern regional supermarkets, and the Roy family featured in HBO's series "Succession." The comparative appraisal focuses principally on the selfish pursuit of individualized financial, social, and familial status by key members of both the Demoulas and Roy families as they relate to the law of business associations (principally corporate law). At the heart of the matter is the legal concept of fiduciary duty. A comparison of the two families’ exploits reveals that lessons earlier learned by the Demoulas family (and observers of the multifaceted, multi-year litigation involving them and their business undertakings) fail to positively impact the destiny and legacy of Succession’s Roy family—at least as far as the Roy family story has been told to date. Although hope may be limited, there is still time for the remaining Roy family members to take heed and make changes.

To execute and comment on the comparison of these two families, the essay starts by outlining relevant information concerning legally recognized fiduciary duties in the corporate (and, to a lesser degree, partnership) contexts. Next, the essay offers background information about the Demoulas and Roy families and their respective businesses (both organized as corporations) and selected business dealings and governance, noting actual and potential breaches of fiduciary duty in each case. A brief conclusion offers comparative observations about the actions taken by members of the Demoulas and Roy families that contravene or challenge applicable fiduciary duties and the opportunity for general reflection. Of particular note is the observation that the ability of corporate directors and officers to comply with their fiduciary duties may become more difficult and complicated when integrating family dynamics and business succession issues into business decisions in a family business context.

I have enjoyed the research and teaching I have done in this area over the past year.  It always is nice to take a fresh approach to familiar concepts.  I daresay my students have felt the same way in covering business associations topics through the lens of the happenings in the series.  They certainly have been attentive and communicative, which is what I had been shooting for in teaching corporate and other business associations law through the course.  I am happy to answer questions about the course and provide my syllabi to anyone who wants to see what I assigned and did for the course.  Just ask.

Screen Shot 2024-04-21 at 6.42.58 PM

April 22, 2024 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Family Business, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 5, 2024

Packin and Alon-Beck on Board Observers

I had the opportunity to attend one of the sessions in the Interdisciplinary Workshop on Corporations, Private Ordering, and Corporate Law last week.  The program was co-hosted by Foundations of Law and Finance (Goethe University Frankfurt, Center for Advanced Studies) and Columbia Law School.  Luckily for me, the piece of the program I attended featured Nizan Geslevich Packin presenting a work-in-progress she is co-authoring with Anat Alon-Beck entitled Board Observers: Shadow Governance in the Era of Big Tech.

Although a draft of the paper is not yet posted, here is the SSRN abstract:

This Article examines the rise in corporate governance practice of appointing board observers, especially in the context of private equity, venture capital (VC), and corporate venture capital (CVC). Board observers are non-voting members attending board meetings to gain knowledge and insight. They arguably also provide valuable feedback, an outside perspective, and can even help ensure corporate operations. In recent years, board observer seats – a notion also existing in the nonprofit sector – have become increasingly popular in the for-profit business world, where investors have various market and business justifications for using board observers, including corporate governance considerations, minimizing litigation exposure, navigating antitrust issues, CFIUS regulation, and ERISA concerns. It was not until November 2023 that mainstream media started paying more attention to the concept of board observers, after OpenAI, the corporate entity that brought the world ChatGPT, gave Microsoft a board observer seat following the drama in OpenAI’s boardroom. But what the mainstream media did not explore in its coverage of the board observer concept was its seemingly less interesting nature as a non-voting board membership, which was an important element in the complex relationship between OpenAI and Microsoft. This signaled deepening ties between the two companies that also eventually got the attention of the DOJ and FTC, as well as the influential role of CVC in funding and governing the research and development of OpenAI.

This Article makes several contributions. First, it provides an account of the board observer phenomenon, which has significantly developed and become a common practice in recent years given antitrust and national security considerations and scrutiny. Second, it presents fresh insights, groundbreaking empirical findings, and data on the scope of this corporate governance vehicle. Third, it considers the theoretical circumstances and implications of these developments. It argues for a shift in contractual innovation in deal-making and regulatory reviews, necessitating the development of corporate culture norms emphasizing disclosure and prioritizing company interests, communication, and trust-building as crucial elements in service of board observers. Finally, the Article considers the practical implications of these developments and explains why more empirical data collection and further research are necessary to determine whether current corporate governance mechanisms require modification in connection with liability, accountability, and fiduciary duties for board observers.

As someone who had to deal with board observer requests and provisions in an earlier corporate finance era, I was fascinated by the work.  So much of what their research is revealing felt familiar (even though much also has changed): what is old can be new again.  I look forward to reading the draft and learning more.

February 5, 2024 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Teaching and Supporting Small Business and Innovation

As you may know or recall, I am teaching an advanced business law course that leverages the characters and transactions featured in HBO Max's Succession.  I reported on the course here back in November. The inspiration for the course came in part from the work some of us did to produce a series of educational sessions as the Waystar Royco School of Law last year.  I posted on that lecture series here on the BLPB, too, including here.

From that series of Zoomcasts, a publication opportunity, some press inquiries, and a few new friendships followed, as well as the idea for my Succession course.  We are only a few classes in so far, but we had the pleasure of hosting friend-of-the-BLPB Ben Means in class today.  As you may know, Ben directs South Carolina's innovative Family and Small Business Program.  He also participated int he Waystar Royco School of Law (ad)venture and was a super guest.  We covered a lot of ground on family businesses, big and small, in our 75 minutes together this morning.  Thank you, Ben.

This class meeting and my Securities Regulation teaching today had me thinking about small businesses and innovation.  That reminded me that I keep forgetting to blog about a nifty small business that I was introduced to last year.  The business is The Grain Free Baker.  I learned about the business from one of my fellow BLPB editors, Colleen Baker.  It is her sister's business.  As a cook, a foodie, and a business lawyer supportive of entrepreneurship, it was fun to learn about the business--founded by a Baker who is a baker!  You can read about it here

It is the need to bring money into businesses like this that helps drive me to teach a new generation of law students to be corporate finance lawyers.  It is essential that lawyers understand, I argued earlier today, what a security is and what the legal implications of offering and selling securities are if they are to use their law degrees to support start-ups and small businesses.  Although many entrepreneurs will seek out commercial loans to finance their businesses, corporate finance transactions are desired or needed by others.

I hope those of you who are instructors also can find passion projects that inspire your teaching.  They can be so helpful in motivating instruction at downtimes during the semester.  That has been true for me.  And what's not to like about financing businesses that produce amazing products like the mix that made these cookies?!

BLPB(GrainFreeBaker)



January 23, 2024 in Colleen Baker, Corporate Finance, Family Business, Joan Heminway, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 20, 2023

Governance, Finance, and HBO Max's Succession

The title of this post is the name of the advanced business associations law course I will teach in the spring.  I got the idea for this course after talking to students about decreasing enrollments in advanced business law courses.  Although they attributed much of the decrease to grade shopping, they also noted that they and their peers often base course registration decisions on course names (from which they make assumptions) without reading the course descriptions.  So, a course named "Advanced Business Associations," no matter how creatively it is taught (and I teach it as a discussion seminar), is not likely to attract positive attention.  When I floated using the HBO Max series Succession as a jumping off point for a discussion seminar on business law, they responded favorably.  The rest is, as they say, history. The proof of the pudding will be in the registration numbers.

The idea for the Succession-oriented course came to me quite naturally. I already was writing an essay on fiduciary duties relating to the series--forthcoming in the DePaul Law Review in a special volume focusing on Succession.  So, it was only a small jump to think about teaching more broadly from the many business law situations in the four seasons of the show.

Some of my friends from West Publishing heard about my teaching plans when they were visiting UT Law recently.  They mentioned the course to their colleague, Leslie Y. Garfield Tenzer, who produces a podcast for West Academic, Legal Tenzer: Casual Conversations on Noteworthy Legal Topics.  Leslie reached out and asked me to record an episode with her on the series and my course, which I recently did.  The podcast was released last week.  You can find it here.

My Succession course syllabus is still under construction.  If you have a favorite episode that you would like me to include--one that illustrates concepts from business governance or finance--let me know.  I admit that I am excited to teach from the material in Succession, a series that I enjoyed watching.

November 20, 2023 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Family Business, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Financial Restructuring Roundtable: Call for Papers

BLPB(FinRestructRoundtable)

The Third Annual Financial Restructuring Roundtable will be held in person on April 4, 2024 in New York City. Spearheaded by Samir Parikh, Robert Rasmussen, and Michael Simkovic, this invitation-only event brings together practitioners, jurists, scholars, and finance industry professionals to discuss important financial restructuring and business law issues.

The Roundtable invites the submission of papers. Selected participants will receive a $2,000 stipend and have the opportunity to workshop their papers in an intimate, collegial setting.

We seek papers exploring diverse topics and will be interested in interdisciplinary perspectives. Papers will be selected through a blind review process. Junior scholars (with one to ten years in academia) are invited to submit a 3 – 5 page overview of a proposed paper. Submissions may be an introduction, excerpt from a longer paper, or extended abstract. The submission should be anonymized, and – aside from general citations to the author’s previous articles – all references to the author should be removed.

Please submit proposals by October 30, 2023. Invitations will be issued via email by December 1, 2023. Working drafts of papers should be available for circulation to participants by March 1, 2024.

Proposals – as well as questions and concerns – should be directed to Samir Parikh at [email protected].

October 3, 2023 in Call for Papers, Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Teaching the Core of the Securities Act of 1933

It was so much find to have our business law prof colleague Erik Gerding and two fabulous key members of his staff here in Knoxville yesterday.  I had posted on this visit last week.  Our visitors regaled us on the role of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") Division of Corporation Finance, the registration requirements and exemptions under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended ("1933 Act"), and the rule-making part of the Division's (and SEC's) mission.

Erik explained how, when he is teaching Securities Regulation, he spends two classes at the beginning of the semester putting the "fear of God" into his students about the registration requirement in Section 5 of the 1933 Act.  (His point is to make the dangers clear up front, since students tend to drop the class who should take it, given that they plan to practice business law in one way or another.)  Erik's colleague, Jennifer Zepralka, Chief of the SEC's Office of Small Business Policy, similarly noted in her remarks that there are only three kinds of securities offerings: registered, exempt from registration, and illegal.  Erik's Counsel, Jeb Byrne, echoed this.  And in the session at lunch time, one of my students (bless him!) was able to articulate my way of teaching this concept, through what I call the commandment of Section 5: "Thou shalt not offer or sell securities with out registration absent an exemption."  I used forced repetition of that commandment in teaching my Securities regulation course to refocus students as we move through the material.

Teachers of Business Associations and Securities Regulation all must contend with this central premise of the 1933 Act.  Its importance truly cannot be overstated.  So, how do you teach it to your students and make it stick?  And if you do not teach, what made the core value of Section 5 salient for you?  Share your wisdom in the comments.

September 26, 2023 in Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, September 18, 2023

Tennessee Law Welcomes the SEC Division of Corporation Finance!

We are excited to welcome our colleague Erik Gerding, the Director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Corporation Finance, together with members of his staff, to The University of Tennessee College of Law a week from today. Information about the visit is included below.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop by!

SECFlyer

September 18, 2023 in Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 11, 2023

NFTs from a Distinctive Angle

Thanks to my dear and patient friend and colleague Nizan Packin, I set out on a research and writing adventure a bit more than eighteen months ago.  The result is a book chapter on NFTs for her forthcoming edited volume, The Cambridge Handbook for the Law and Policy of NFTs.  The chapter is entitled "Non-investment Finance in an NFT World."  At her suggestion, I recently posted the draft chapter to SSRN.  You can find it here, and the abstract is set forth below.

Recent years have witnessed the rise of NFTs as vehicles for non-investment finance, including in nonprofit and political fundraising. As with other financial sectors in which NFTs have a role, the use of NFTs in financing nonprofits and political campaigns and committees has revealed gaps and ambiguities in existing legal regulatory systems. Appetite exists to evolve legal frameworks to complete and clarify applicable bodies of law and regulation.

This chapter undertakes to illuminate and reflect on the use of NFTs in financing nonprofits, political campaigns, and political committees. It begins by reviewing general aspects of the non-investment Internet finance environment and then describes and illustrates the use of NFTs in nonprofit and political fundraising. The chapter also offers guidance and reflections on core issues under applicable law and regulation and reflections on legal and regulatory questions and approaches relevant to non-investment finance using NFTs.

Those who know my work will recognize the roots of this chapter in the research I have conducted and published on crowdfunding.  My writing on and work with nonprofits also makes a cameo appearance in the chapter.  This one stretched my brain a bit (and that of my research assistant, too).

September 11, 2023 in Corporate Finance, Crowdfunding, Joan Heminway, Nonprofits, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 28, 2023

Book and Upcoming Symposium: Investment Crowdfunding

image from siliconflatirons.org

Friend-of-the-BLPB Andrew Schwartz has written his first book on a topic about which we both enjoy thinking and researching and writing: investment crowdfunding.  We have been cohabiting this corporate finance space for more than ten years now.  All credit is due to Andrew for laying down these words—his hard-fought wisdom—in a book.  He captures so much about the law and regulation of crowdfunding in the investment context in this volume.  I had the opportunity to offer some feedback to Andrew during the drafting process.   I recommend having the book on your bookshelves.

Colorado Law is hosting an event on its campus in Boulder on September 8, The Future of Startup Finance: A Symposium on "Investment Crowdfunding", honoring the release of the book, which is entitled Investment Crowdfunding.  If you are in the neighborhood, you’ll want to stop by.  Among the invited speakers are many friends from the corporate finance law academy, as well as former SEC Commissioner Allison Herren Lee.

Congrats to Andrew!

August 28, 2023 in Books, Corporate Finance, Crowdfunding, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 28, 2023

Is Your Law School Ready for Generative AI? Fifteen Questions You Should Consider

Greetings from SEALS, where I've just left a packed room of law professors grappling with some thorny issues related to ChatGPT4, Claude 2, Copilot, and other forms of generative AI. I don't have answers to the questions below and some are well above my pay grade, but I am taking them into account as I prepare to teach courses in transactional skills; compliance, corporate governance, and sustainability; and ethics and technology this Fall.

In no particular order, here are some of the questions/points raised during the three-hour session. I'll have more thoughts on using AI in the classroom in a future post.

  1. AI detectors that schools rely on have high false positives for nonnative speakers and neurodivergent students and they are easy to evade. How can you reliably ensure that students aren't using AI tools such as ChatGPT if you've prohibited it?
  2. If we allow the use of AI in classrooms, how do we change how we assess students?
  3. If our goal is to teach the mastery of legal skills, what are the legal skills we should teach related to the use of AI? How will our students learn critical thinking skills if they can rely on generative AI?
  4. How should we keep up with the rapid pace of change?
  5. How will adjuncts use AI with our students if they are already integrating it into their practice? Alternatively, will adjuncts see the use of AI as cheating?
  6. If students use papers as writing samples, should there be attestations indicating that they are AI free? Same question for journals/law reviews.
  7. Can clinicians and others use generative AI to help with access to justice? If so, how can we ensure that the information is reliable and not a hallucination??
  8. How should schools assess faculty coming up for promotion and tenure? Will junior faculty feel pressured to rely on AI to be more productive?
  9. Can generative AI be helpful with students with disabilities and neurodivergent students? AI tools can help with creating study schedules, note taking (organizing by topic), time management, summarizing large articles, staying on task, academic support tool, ascertaining how long will tasks take, planning meals and more. If a policy prohibits the use of generative AI in the classroom, should its use be a reasonable accommodation?
  10. Do we as faculty members have the growth mindset to deal with this change? Or will we teach the way we always do, which may do a disservice to our students. How do we prepare our students to deal with generative AI in practice?
  11. Do you need a uniform policy or should each professor have their own policy? Should the default policy be that students cannot use it for work that gets academic credit unless the professor has specifically opted in?
  12. Should we embrace AI especially for students who can’t write? Is using ChatGPT any different from using a calculator? Is it any different from asking a partner for a template so you don't have to start from scratch?
  13. Should we use more in-class exams? Should they be closed book? Do we need more oral presentations? How might this affect space planning at exam time?
  14. Should class participation count for more than it already does?
  15. If you're not familiar with generative AI tools, where should you start?

How many of these questions have  you asked yourself, your colleagues, or your dean? If you have some best practices or thoughts, please share them in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 28, 2023 in Compliance, Conferences, Contracts, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Ethics, Law Firms, Law Reviews, Law School, Lawyering, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 10, 2023

Time for an Italian Symposium!

Ciao, from Italy.

Tomorrow, I have the privilege of sharing my work in an international symposium at the University of Genoa at the invitation of Vanessa Villanueva Collao.  This symposium offers a unique opportunity for transnational collaboration among corporate governance scholars.  We also are celebrating Vanessa's completion of her J.S.D. degree (University of Illinois 2023).  

I am presenting my paper, forthcoming in the Michigan State Law Review, on civil insider trading in personal networks.  This is the companion paper to my article on criminal insider trading in personal networks, recently published in the Stetson Business Law Review and part of my larger, long-term project on U.S. insider trading in friendships and family situations.  As many readers may know, this project has fascinated me for a number of years now.  Each phase of the project offers new insights.  And each audience helps provide valuable food for thought. I am confident that the participants in and audience members at tomorrow's symposium will be no exception.  I look forward to the interchanges on my work and the work of others being featured.

The program for the symposium is included below.  You will see more than a few fascinating members of the U.S. corporate governance law academic community (and friends of the BLPB) on the program for this event!  It is always good to reconnect with colleagues, especially our contributors and readers.

 

Italy2023(SymposiumProgram)

July 10, 2023 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 6, 2023

Carney & Sharfman: Whither Judicial Valuation?

I teach a unit on the legal aspects of valuation in my Corporate Finance planning and drafting seminar every year.   I have often been able to secure as a guest speaker on one day during that unit a friend of mine who is a seasoned valuation expert (and was the expert whose opinion carried the day in the most recent Tennessee Supreme Court case on valuation in an M&A context).  

There is a relatively large body of academic literature on appraisal (a/k/a dissenters') rights and, more generally, the history of valuation law and practices in the M&A context.  In the Business Associations textbook of which I am a coauthor, I excerpt from Mary Siegel's 1995 article, Back to the Future: Appraisal Rights in the Twenty-First Century (32 Harv. J. on Legis. 79).  Her 2011 follow-on article, An Appraisal of the Model Business Corporation Act's Appraisal Rights Provisions (74 Law & Contemp. Probs 231 (2011)), also is a good read on appraisal rights history.  Other legal academics who have dipped their toes into these waters include George Geis, Bayless Manning, Brian JM Quinn, Randall Thomas, and Barry Wertheimer (who is no longer a law professor), and many more. 

I am excited to report that there is a new kid (really, two coauthor new kids) on the block.  Bill Carney has coauthored a new article on appraisal rights with Keith Sharfman entitled: The Exit Theory of Judicial Appraisal (28 Fordham J. Corp. & Fin. L 1 (2023)).  The SSRN abstract follows.

For many years, we and other commentators have observed the problem with allowing judges wide discretion to fashion appraisal awards to dissenting shareholders on the basis of widely divergent, expert valuation evidence submitted by the litigating parties. The results of this discretionary approach to valuation have been to make appraisal litigation less predictable and therefore more costly and likely. While this has been beneficial to professionals who profit from corporate valuation litigation, it has been harmful to shareholders, making deals costlier and less likely to complete.

In this Article, we propose to end the problem of discretionary judicial valuation by tracing the origins of the appraisal remedy and demonstrating that its true purpose has always been to protect the exit rights of minority shareholders when a cash exit is otherwise unavailable, and not to judge the value of the deal. So understood, judicial appraisal should not be a remedy for dissenting shareholders when a market exit or equivalent protection is otherwise available.

While such reform would be costly to valuation litigation professionals, their loss would be more than offset by the benefit of such reforms to shareholders involved in future corporate transactions. Shareholders presently have adequate protections, both from private arrangements and legal doctrines involving fiduciary duties.

I am grateful that Bill passed a copy of the article along to me yesterday.  This is a topic that generates significant interest in a variety of business law courses that I teach/have taught (including, in addition to Corporate Finance, Advanced Business Associations, Business Associations, and Mergers & Acquisitions).  Students love puzzling through the issues, asking, e.g.:

  • Why do appraisal rights exist? 
  • Why do we not see many reported appraisal rights opinions?
  • How do planners and drafter address the existence of appraisal rights in practice?

Based on a quick peek at the table of contents of Bill's and Keith's article, I sense their work will offer the reader some answers to these and other related questions.

February 6, 2023 in Business Associations, Corporate Finance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, M&A | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Can The Next Generation of Lawyers Save the World?

An ambitious question, yes, but it was the title of the presentation I gave at the Society for Socio-Economists Annual Meeting, which closed yesterday. Thanks to Stefan Padfield for inviting me.

In addition to teaching Business Associations to 1Ls this semester and running our Transactional Skills program, I'm also teaching Business and Human Rights. I had originally planned the class for 25 students, but now have 60 students enrolled, which is a testament to the interest in the topic. My pre-course surveys show that the students fall into two distinct camps. Most are interested in corporate law but didn't know even know there was a connection to human rights. The minority are human rights die hards who haven't even taken business associations (and may only learn about it for bar prep), but are curious about the combination of the two topics. I fell in love with this relatively new legal  field twelve years ago and it's my mission to ensure that future transactional lawyers have some exposure to it.

It's not just a feel-good way of looking at the world. Whether you love or hate ESG, business and human rights shows up in every factor and many firms have built practice areas around it. Just last week, the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive came into force. Like it or not, business lawyers must know something about human rights if they deal with any company that has or is part of a supply or value chain or has disclosure requirements. 

At the beginning of the semester, we discuss the role of the corporation in society. In many classes, we conduct simulations where students serve as board members, government officials, institutional investors, NGO leaders, consumers, and others who may or may not believe that the role of business is business. Every year, I also require the class to examine the top 10 business and human rights topics as determined by the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB). In 2022, the top issues focused on climate change:

  1. State Leadership-Placing people at the center of government strategies in confronting the climate crisis
  2. Accountable Finance- Scaling up efforts to hold financial actors to their human rights and environmental responsibilities
  3. Dissenting Voices- Ensuring developmental and environmental priorities do not silence land rights defenders and other critical voices
  4. Critical Commodities- Addressing human rights risks in mining to meet clean energy needs
  5. Purchasing Power- Using the leverage of renewable energy buyers to accelerate a just transition
  6. Responsible Exits- Constructing rights-based approaches to buildings and infrastructure mitigation and resilience
  7. Green Building- Building and construction industries must mitigate impacts while avoiding corruption, reducing inequality, preventing harm to communities, and providing economic opportunities
  8. Agricultural Transitions- Decarbonising the agriculture sector is critical to maintaining a path toward limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees
  9. Transforming Transport- The transport sector, including passenger and freight activity, remains largely carbon-based and currently accounts for approximately 23% total energy-related CO2 global greenhouse gas emissions
  10. Circular Economy- Ensure “green economy” is creating sustainable jobs and protecting workers

The 2023 list departs from the traditional type of list and looks at the people who influence the decisionmakers in business. That's the basis of the title of this post and yesterday's presentation. The 2023 Top Ten are:

  1. Strategic Enablers- Scrutinizing the role of management consultants in business decisions that harm communities and wider society. Many of our students work outside of the law as consultants or will work alongside consultants. With economic headwinds and recessionary fears dominating the headlines, companies and law firms are in full layoff season. What factors should advisors consider beyond financial ones, especially if the work force consists of primarily lower-paid, low-skilled labor, who may not be able to find new employment quickly? Or should financial considerations prevail?
  2. Capital Providers- Holding investors to account for adverse impacts on people- More than 220 investors collectively representing US$30 trillion in assets under management  have signed a public statement acknowledging the importance of human rights impacts in investment and global prosperity. Many financial firms also abide by the Equator Principles, a benchmark that helps those involved in project finance to determine environmental and social impacts from financing. Our students will serve as counsel to banks,  financial firms, private equity, and venture capitalists. Many financial institutions traditionally focus on shareholder maximization but this could be an important step in changing that narrative. 
  3. Legal Advisors- Establishing norms and responsible performance standards for lawyers and others who advise companies. ABA Model Rule 2.1 guides lawyers to have candid conversations that "may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client's situation." Business and human rights falls squarely in that category. Additionally, the ABA endorsed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ten years ago and released model supply chain contractual clauses related to human rights in 2021. Last Fall, the International Bar Association's Annual Meeting had a whole track directed to business and human rights issues. Our students advise on sanctions, bribery, money laundering, labor relations, and a host of other issues that directly impact human rights. I'm glad to see this item on the Top 10 list. 
  4. Risk Evaluators- Reforming the role of credit rating agencies and those who determine investment worthiness of states and companies. Our students may have heard of S&P, Moody's, & Fitch but may not know of the role those entities played in the 2008 financial crisis and the role they play now when looking at sovereign debt.  If the analysis from those entities  are flawed or laden with conflicts of interest or lack of accountability, those ratings can indirectly impact the government's ability to provide goods and services for the most vulnerable citizens.
  5. Systems Builders- Embedding human rights considerations in all stages of computer technology. If our students work in house or for governments, how can they advise tech companies working with AI, surveillance, social media, search engines and the spread of (mis)nformation? What ethical responsibilities do tech companies have and how can lawyers help them wrestle with these difficult issues?
  6. City Shapers-  Strengthening accountability and transformation in real estate finance and construction. Real estate constitutes 60% of global assets. Our students need to learn about green finance, infrastructure spending, and affordable housing and to speak up when there could be human rights impacts in the projects they are advising on. 
  7. Public Persuaders- Upholding standards so that advertising and PR companies do not undermine human rights. There are several legal issues related to advertising and marketing. Our students can also play a role in advising companies, in accordance with ethical rule 2.1, about persuaders presenting human rights issues and portraying controversial topics related to gender, race, indigenous peoples, climate change in a respectful and honest manner. 
  8. Corporate Givers- Aligning philanthropic priorities with international standards and the realities of the most vulnerable. Many large philanthropists look at charitable giving as investments (which they are) and as a way to tackle intractable social problems. Our students can add a human rights perspective as advisors, counsel, and board members to ensure that organizations give to lesser known organizations that help some of the forgotten members of society. Additionally, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer note that a shared-value approach, "generat[es] economic value in a way that also produces value for society by addressing its challenges. A shared value approach reconnects company success with social progress. Firms can do this in three distinct ways: by reconceiving products and markets, redefining productivity in the value chain, and building supportive industry clusters at the company's locations." Lawyers can and should play a role in this. 
  9. Business Educators- Mainstreaming human rights due diligence into management, legal, and other areas of academic training. Our readers teaching in business and law schools and focusing on ESG can discuss business and human rights under any of the ESG factors. If you don't know where to start, the ILO has begun signing MOUs with business schools around the world to increase the inclusion of labor rights in business school curricula. If you're worried that it's too touchy feely to discuss or that these topics put you in the middle of the ESG/anti-woke debate, remember that many of these issues relate directly to enterprise risk management- a more palatable topic for most business and legal leaders. 
  10. Information Disseminators- Ensuring that journalists, media, and social media uphold truth and public interest. A couple of years ago, "fake news" was on the Top 10 and with all that's going on in the world with lack of trust in the media and political institutions, lawyers can play a role in representing reporters and media outlets. Similarly, lawyers can explain the news objectively and help serve as fact checkers when appearing in news outlets.

If you've made it to the end of this post, you're either nodding in agreement or shaking your head violently in disagreement. I expect many of my students will feel the same, and I encourage that disagreement. But it's my job to expose students to these issues. As they learn about ESG from me and the press, it's critical that they disagree armed with information from all sides.

So can the next generation of lawyers save the world? Absolutely yes, if they choose to. 

January 14, 2023 in Business Associations, Business School, Compliance, Conferences, Consulting, Contracts, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Human Rights, International Business, International Law, Law Firms, Law School, Lawyering, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Private Equity, Shareholders, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching, Technology, Venture Capital | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2022

Corporate Finance Maxims?!

My classroom teaching for the semester is over.  I am in "grading mode"--not my favorite way of being.  But final assessments must be completed!  (Wishing you well in completing yours.)

Before I left the classroom, however--specifically, in the last class meeting for my corporate finance students--I did have some fun.  I saved my last class session in the course to address what my students wanted me to cover.  I asked for the topics in advance.  They covered a range of corporate finance topics, from litigation issues (Theranos, FTX, and current hot legal claims) through common mistakes to avoid in a corporate finance practice to survival tips for first-year law firm associates.  Weaving all of that together in a 75-minute class period was a tall task.

My ultimate vehicle was to come up with a list of maxims--short-form guidance statements--that would allow me to address all of what my students had asked me to cover.  I came into class with just a few maxims to get us started and cover the basics.  But the conversation was very engaged and got rich relatively quickly.  As we riffed off each other's questions and comments, my little list grew to a robust thirteen maxims!  

Before I erased the white board and left the classroom, I took a picture of each of the two white board panels generated from our conversation.  Those pictures are included below.  Despite my handwriting, I am hoping you can see what we came up with real-time.  If not, set forth below is our jointly created list of principles (edited slightly), many of which apply equally outside a corporate finance practice.

  1. Act based on legal analysis (rules applied to facts), rather than speculation or assumptions.
  2. Pay attention to licensure and competence--your reputation is at issue.
  3. People--networking, human resources--are critical to practice.
  4. Fraud is real; be on the lookout for it, and do what you can to protect clients from it.
  5. The same is true for for breaches of fiduciary duty.
  6. Take an issue as far as you can before consulting.
  7. Learn when to decide and when to consult.
  8. Keep abreast of changes in law, business, etc. relevant to your practice.
  9. Don't check your common sense at the door (with a hat tip to GWK--George W. Kuney, one of my colleagues).
  10. Time is important--show up on time, meet deadlines, etc.
  11. Manage your time away from the office; don't forget personal care/wellness.  (Drugs--including caffeine--are not the answer.)
  12. Hand colleagues and clients your best work (within the allotted time).
  13. Take time to enjoy your colleagues, clients, and work--there is great joy in this practice.

Which of these maxims resonate most with you?  Which of them would you amend by adjustment or addition? What maxims do you share with your students?  Leave thoughts in the comments!

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December 12, 2022 in Corporate Finance, Lawyering, Teaching, Wellness | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Teaching Corporate Finance: Public & Exempt Offerings

 

Yesterday, I taught my Corporate Finance students about public offerings (focusing on initial public offerings--IPOs) and exempt offerings of securities.  The front end of this course focuses on the instruments of corporate finance and the back end focuses on a number of different corporate finance transactional contexts.  Although Business Associations is a prerequisite for the course, Securities Regulation is not.  As a result, the 75 minutes I spend on public and exempt offerings is less doctrinally focused and more practically driven (unsurprising, perhaps, given the fact that my Corporate Finance course is a practical applied experiential offering).

Students prepare for the class session by reading parts of the SEC's website on going public and exempt offerings and reviewing an IPO checklist created and modified by me from a timetable/checklist I generated while I was in full-time law practice.  Each student also must bring to class and be prepared to discuss a news article or blog post on public securities offerings.  I share general knowledge and we dialogue about insights gained from the discussion items they bring to class.  It usually turns out to be a fun and engaged class day, and yesterday's class meeting proved to be no exception.

I captured the board work on my phone and have pasted the photos in below.  (I should note that I use a much more detailed public offering timeline in Securities Regulation, which I have memorialized in a series of PowerPoint slides.  But the whiteboard version depicted below seems to be at about the right level of detail for the students in this course.)  I am curious about how my coverage of public and exempt securities offerings might compare to what others give to this material in similar courses.  Feel free to share in the comments.

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November 22, 2022 in Corporate Finance, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2022

Stakeholder Thread at the Global Meeting on Law and Society

Greetings from Cervera, Spain.  As you know from my post last week, I am traveling in the Catalonia region of Spain for a few days this week after the 2022 Law and Society Association Global Meeting on Law and Society, which was held in Lisbon, Portugal this year.  I have the blessing of staying with a friend (whom I met through Zoom mindful yoga practices during the pandemic) in her private home.

I want to offer a quick post this week to reflect on what turned out to be a mini-theme in the presentations I attended at the Global Meeting on Law and Society.  That mini-theme was, perhaps unsurprisingly, corporate stakeholderism.  (And I note with some interest that Stefan has recently written and blogged on an aspect of corporate stakeholderism as well.)  The following programs from the collaborative research network (CRN) to which I belong picked up on this theme, in one way or another:

  • an entire paper panel entitled: "Corporations, Shareholders, and Other Stakeholders," which featured academic work focusing on corporate governance and finance from a number of different stakeholder perspectives;
  • a roundtable discussion entitled "Corporations & Engendering Public Trust," billed as a session that "brings together corporate law experts to investigate how information and communications with stakeholders, investors, and the market can enhance trust in corporations and the corporate sector as a whole";
  • an Author Meets Reader session celebrating Reconstructing the Corporation: From Shareholder Primacy to Shared Governance (2021), co-authored by Grant Hayden and Matt Bodie (which, as many of you likely know, takes a hard look at the current state of corporate governance and offers a new model in which shareholders and employees play a stronger role);
  • a paper panel entitled, "Corporations and Society," which featured Grant and Matt's new paper, Democratic Participation as Corporate Purpose;
  • a roundtable session entitled "Present and Future of Corporations in Society," which addressed ways in which corporate law and securities regulation impact the relationship of corporations to environmental and social concerns; and
  • a roundtable entitled "Awakening Capitalism," catalyzed by Alan Palmiter's Capitalism, heal thyself essay (which I wrote about in an earlier post).

Of course, papers and commentary in other programs and papers also raised the stakeholderism theme and related issues.  And, of course, the prominence of this theme may not be news to any of you, given the central role that ESG has been playing in recent corporate finance and corporate governance discussions.  Finally, of course, I may be suffering from anchoring, an immediacy effect, or other cognitive biases in identifying this substantive thread that tied together so many programs and presentations.  Yet, I do not remember a dominant theme like this emerging from our CRN's programming in the past.  In any event, it seems we should be looking out for a bunch of business law research publications in the coming months that offer insights on stakeholder rights, opportunities, and concerns . . . .

July 18, 2022 in Conferences, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, July 4, 2022

Celebrating Independence without the Trappings: A Business Law Prof "Take"

Stefan's Independence Day post is far more erudite than mine.  Kudos and thanks to him for the substantive legal content.  This post covers more of a teaching point--one that I often think about in the background but want to being to the fore here.

I am focused in writing this on things like family reunions, local holiday festivities, grilling out, and fireworks.  It has been a rocky road to the Fourth in these and other aspects this year.  Overlapping causes can easily be identified.  As if the continuing COVID-19 nightmare were not enough . . . .

I will start with COVID-19, however.  I have heard of many who are missing family and other events this weekend because of positive COVID-19 diagnoses, test results, or exposures.  I was sad to learn, for example, that Martina Navratilova had to miss the historic Wimbledon centennial celebration, including the Parade of Champions, yesterday.  But there is more.

The air travel debacles have been well publicized.  Weather, labor shortages, and other issues contribute to the flight changes and cancellations airlines need to make on this very popular travel weekend--expected to set records.  And gas prices have stymied the trips of some by land (again, at a time during which travel was expected to be booming), although news of some price drops in advance of the weekend was certainly welcomed.  Even for those who are well and able to travel to spend holiday time with family, it has been a challenge.

The cost of your cookout this year also may be higher, should you choose to have one.  Supply chain turmoils and the effects of inflation and the war in Ukraine all are listed as contributing factors.  (The linked article does note that strawberries are a good buy, nevertheless, which is welcome news to me.)

And yes, fireworks displays also have been disrupted.  The causes include both concerns about weather (dry conditions and flammables do not mix well!) as well as the impact of labor shortages, inflation, and other factors influencing the supply of goods.  Of course, there also is a high demand for fireworks in the re-opened socio-economic environment.  All have been widely reported.  See here, here, here, and here.

These holiday weekend disappointments create personal strife.  But why should a business law prof care about all of this? 

I find that stepping back and looking at the state of business at given times can be instructive in reflecting on the ways in which business law policy, theory, and doctrine do and should operate in practice.  In an inflationary period with labor shortages, what profit-seeking business would not be looking at customers, clients, and employees as an important constituencies?  In an era of supply chain dislocations, what business managers would not be focused on strong, positive relationships with those who sell them goods and services significant to their business?  And, of course, with investment returns of direct and indirect import to the continued supply of funding to business ventures, firms need to pay heed to investor concerns.  Note how these observations allow for commentary on principles of/underlying contract law, contract drafting, securities regulation, fiduciary duty in (and other elements of) business associations law, insurance law, and more.

Looking at legal theory, policy, and doctrine in practical contexts can useful to a business law prof for teaching, scholarship, and service--depending on the nature of a person's appointment and the institution at which the prof teaches.  The current Fourth of July woes are but one example of how those connections can be made.  But I want to invite folks to make them, especially in their teaching--in current courses (if you are teaching over the summer) and in fall and spring course planning, which I know many folks are now doing.

In closing, I send sympathetic vibes to all who had plans foiled by (or who decided to have a "staycation" and avoid) some or all of the holiday weekend dislocations I highlight in this post.  I hope you found joy in your Independence Day weekend nonetheless.

July 4, 2022 in Business Associations, Contracts, Corporate Finance, Current Affairs, Financial Markets, Insurance, Joan Heminway, Law School, Lawyering, Research/Scholarhip, Service, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

More Commentary on the SEC's ESG Proposal - Sharfman and Copland

Courtesy of friend-of-the-BLPB Bernie Sharfman, I am linking to his coauthored (with James Copland) comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the climate change rule-making proposal.  The letter includes copious footnotes.  As with other comment letters that have been written on the substance of the SEC proposal, there are some interesting definitional questions on which intelligent folks disagree.  E.g., what is included under the umbrella of investor protection?  What regulation promotes "efficiency, competition, and capital formation"?  These all are among the big picture issues on which the SEC has the opportunity to speak.  I expect thoughtful responses.

June 21, 2022 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 6, 2022

Colin Marks: Total Return Swaps ≡ Secured Transactions?!

I am excited to be promoting here an inventive and interesting paper, Total Return Meltdown: The Case for Treating Total Return Swaps as Disguised Secured Transactions, written by friend-of-the-BLPB Colin Marks (St. Mary's School of Law).   The SSRN abstract follows.

Archegos Capital Management, at its height, had $20 billion in assets. But in the spring of 2021, in part through its use of total return swaps, Archegos sparked a $30 billion dollar sell-off that left many of the world’s largest banks footing the bill. Mitsubishi UFJ Group estimated a loss of $300 million; UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, lost $861 million; Morgan Stanley lost $911 million; Japan’s Nomura, lost $2.85 billion; but the biggest hit came to Credit Suisse Group AG which lost $5.5 billion. Archegos, itself lost $20 billion over two days. These losses were made possible due to the unique characteristics of total return swaps and Archegos’ formation as a family office, both of which permitted Archegos to skirt trading regulations and reporting requirements. Archegos essentially purchased beneficial ownership in large amounts of stocks, particularly ViacomCBS Inc. and Discovery Inc., on credit. Under Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board, up to 50 percent of the purchase price of securities can be borrowed on margin. However, to avoid these rules, Archegos instead entered into total return swaps with the banks whereby the bank is the actual owner of the stock, but Archegos would bear the risk of loss should the price of the stock fall and reap the benefits if the stock were to go up or were to make a distribution. Archegos would still pay the transaction fees, but the device permitted Archegos to buy massive amounts of stock without having the initial margin requirements, thus making Archegos heavily leveraged. This article argues that the total return swap contracts are analogous to and should be re-characterized as what they really are – disguised secured transactions. Essentially the banks are lending money to enable the Archegoses of the world to buy stocks, and are simply retaining a security interest in the stocks. Such a re-characterization should place such transactions back into Regulation T and the margin limits. But re-characterization also offers another contract law approach that is more draconian. If the structure of the contract violates a regulation, then total return swaps could be declared void as against public policy. This raises the specter that a court could apply the doctrine of in pari delicto and leave the parties where they found them in any subsequent suits to recover outstanding debts.

I do not teach, research, or write in the secured transactions space, but this work engages corporate finance and contract law as well.  (I am grateful that Colin, among others, has encouraged my forays into contract law research over the years.)  I was privileged to have the opportunity to preview Colin's arguments and offer some feedback during his research and writing of this paper, which is forthcoming in the Pepperdine Law Review.  I find his argument creative and intriguing.  I think you may, too.

June 6, 2022 in Contracts, Corporate Finance, Financial Markets, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Federalization of Corporate Governance - Heminway on Karmel

Last May, I posted on a wonderful two-day event--a symposium hosted over Zoom by Brooklyn Law School celebrating the career of Professor Roberta Karmel.  As I noted then, I was honored to be invited to speak at the event. It was so inspiring.

I have just posted the essay that I presented at the symposium, "Federalized Corporate Governance: The Dream of William O. Douglas as Sarbanes-Oxley Turns 20" (recently published by the Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law), on SSRN.  It can be found here

The roadmap paragraph from the essay's introduction offers a brief description of the essay's contents.

This essay focuses on the federalization of U.S. corporate governance since Sarbanes-Oxley—and, more specifically, since Roberta’s article was published in 2005 [Realizing the Dream of William O. Douglas — The Securities and Exchange Commission Takes Charge of Corporate Governance, 30 DEL. J. CORP. L. 79 (2005)]—pulling forward key aspects of Roberta’s work in Realizing the Dream. To accomplish this purpose, the essay first briefly reviews the contours of Roberta’s article. It then offers observations on corporate governance in the wake of (among other things) the public offering reforms adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2005, the SEC’s 2010 adoption of Rule 14a-11, the 2010 enactment of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), the 2012 enactment of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), and recent adoptions of corporate charter and bylaw provisions that constrain aspects of shareholder-initiated federal securities and derivative litigation. Finally, before briefly concluding, the essay provides brief insights on the overall implications for future corporate governance regulation of these and other occurrences since the publication of Realizing the Dream.

I found it great fun to build on the architecture of Roberta's earlier work in writing this piece.  Work on the essay allowed me to appreciate in new ways the many linkages between corporate governance and corporate finance--an appreciation that will no doubt continue to infuse my teaching with new ideas over time.  I hope some of you will take time out to read the essay and that you gain some insight from it.   Comments are, of course, always welcomed.

April 11, 2022 in Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Joan Heminway, Legislation, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)