Tuesday, May 7, 2024

ESG Greenwashing

ESG greenwashing has been getting attention among legal academics.  In Rainbow-Washing, 15 Ne. U. L. Rev. 285 (2023), LMU Law's John Rice explores the

increasingly common, but destructive, practice in which corporations make public-facing statements espousing their support of the LGBTQIA+ community . . . to draw in and retain consumers, investors, employees, and public support, but then either fail to fulfill the promises implicit in those statements or act in contravention to them. 

My own forthcoming article in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, presented at the November 2023 ILEP-Penn Carey Law symposium honoring Jill Fisch, mentions the increasing notoriety of ESG greenwashing and cites to John's article.

Last week, UVA Law Professor Naomi Cahn called out ESG greenwashing in Forbes, citing to a study to be published in the Journal of Accounting Research that finds "firms’ ESG rhetoric may not match their reality."  She suggests that "a meaningful analysis of a firm’s ESG commitment requires much further digging, and ultimately it requires meaningful oversight from outside the ESG community on what should be disclosed and the accuracy of the reports."  The article references a forthcoming book coauthored by Cahn, June Carbone (Minnesota Law) ,and Nancy Levit (UMKC Law) and quotes Minnesota Law Professor Claire Hill.  (Hat tip to Claire for leading me to this Forbes piece.)  It's a solidly good read.  I added a citation to it in my forthcoming article.

I suspect more will be done in this space academically and practically as ESG continues to occupy the minds of legal academics, lawyers, and business principals.  I will be continuing to work in this area, focusing next on corporate compliance issues.  Stay tuned for news on that project (and for a notification about the publication of my forthcoming University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law article referenced above).

May 7, 2024 in Compliance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 6, 2024

2024 Corporate & Securities Litigation Workshop

Corporate & Securities Litigation Workshop: 

Call for Papers 

UCLA School of Law, in partnership with the University of Illinois College of Law, University of Richmond School of Law, and Vanderbilt Law School invites submissions for the Eleventh Annual Workshop for Corporate & Securities Litigation. This workshop will be held on September 20-21, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. 

Overview 

This annual workshop brings together scholars focused on corporate and securities litigation to present their scholarly works. Papers addressing any aspect of corporate and securities litigation or enforcement are eligible, including securities class actions, fiduciary duty litigation, and SEC enforcement actions. We welcome scholars working in a variety of methodologies, as well as both completed papers and works-in-progress at any stage. Authors whose papers are selected will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by UCLA School of Law. Participants will pay for their own travel, lodging, and other expenses. 

Submissions 

If you are interested in participating, please send the paper you would like to present, or an abstract of the paper, to [email protected] by Friday, June 7, 2024 Please include your name, current position, and contact information in the e-mail accompanying the submission. Authors of accepted papers will be notified in early July. 

Questions 

Any questions concerning the workshop should be directed to the organizers: Jim Park ([email protected]), Jessica Erickson ([email protected]), Amanda Rose ([email protected]), and Verity Winship ([email protected]). 

May 6, 2024 in Call for Papers, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

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

Monday, March 4, 2024

Corporate Transparency Act Held Unconstitutional

A U.S. District Court judge sitting in the Northeastern Division of the Northern District of Alabama found the Corporate Transparency Act (affectionately referred to in short form as the CTA) unconstitutional as detailed in a memorandum opinion issued on Friday.  The opinion granted the plaintiffs, the National Small Business United (NSBU) and Isaac Winkles, an NSBA member, their summary judgment motion on this basis.  The accompanying final judgment permanently enjoined the Secretary of the Treasury and other government defendants, as well as "any other agency or employee acting on behalf of the United States," from enforcing the Corporate Transparency Act against the plaintiffs in the litigation.

Many of us business law profs--and all of our business law practice brethren--have been following the CTA, endeavoring to gain a more comprehensive understanding of its provisions and fashioning advice on compliance.  The CTA, enacted in 2021 and effective as of January 1, 2024, requires nonexempt companies (domestic or foreign corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities formed or, in the case of foreign entities, registered to do business in any U.S. state or tribal jurisdiction) to disclose certain information, including about their beneficial owners, to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), part of the U.S. Treasury Department.  Exempt firms include (among others) “large operating companies” with a presence in the U.S., entities with a class of securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (or registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, or the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended), and controlled or wholly owned subsidiaries of certain exempt firms.

The March 1 memorandum opinion specifically holds that the U.S. Congress acted outside the scope of its constitutional power in enacting the CTA.  In holding the CTA unconstitutional, the court found that the congressional enactment of the CTA was not authorized under the Commerce Clause, Congress's taxing power, or the Necessary and Proper Clause and could not be justified as incidental to the exercise by Congress of its express legislative authority.  As to the Commerce Clause--which has been interpreted broadly in many contexts--the court noted that "the CTA does not regulate economic or commercial activity on its face."  The court also found that the CTA does not have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.  In essence, the court finds the CTA analogous to incorporation--a state entity structure and governance matter and not a matter of interstate commerce.

It will be interesting to see if there is any reaction at the federal level or any fallout in other federal trial courts.  The memorandum opinion is well written and easy to follow.  Having said that, although I am no constitutional law scholar, it seems that the court's reasoning is subject to attack on a number of points.  I will continue to keep my ear to the ground on this.

March 4, 2024 in Constitutional Law, Corporations, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, LLCs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, February 19, 2024

Baiardi Endowed Law Speaker Series - Wayne State Law

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I have the privilege and honor to be in Detroit today to present the second annual Baiardi lecture at Wayne State University Law School.  Wayne Law is a bit of a second home for me (a status it enjoys with several other law schools).  I have presented at two symposia here (publishing twice, as a result, with the Wayne Law Review).  Also, Wayne Law was the academic pied à terre of Peter Henning, who was a trusted and dear mentor (and an accomplice in reasoning through insider trading and applied corporate governance questions) until his untimely death.

My lecture addresses aspects of a joint project I previewed at the National Business Law Scholars Conference at Tennessee Law last June.  The project is the brainchild of my Tennessee Law colleague Tomer Stein and involves taking a new approach to the ongoing debate about federalizing corporate law.  The talk offers some practical applied thoughts on the project and is entitled "Visioning (Not Advocating or Discounting) Federal Corporate Law." I undoubtedly will have more to say on this topic as our work on the project progresses.  But if you think of or come across anything you deem relevant to the cause and have time to contact me or Tomer, I know we would be grateful for your insights and suggestions.

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[Please note that, although the notice above says the day of the week is a Thursday, I am speaking today--Monday.]

February 19, 2024 in Conferences, Corporations, Joan Heminway | 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)

Friday, January 26, 2024

Are Lawyers, Lawmakers, and Law Professors Really Ready for AI in 2024?

We just finished our second week of the semester and I’m already exhausted, partly because I just submitted the first draft of a law review article that’s 123 pages with over 600 footnotes on a future-proof framework for AI regulation to the University of Tennessee Journal of Business Law. I should have stuck with my original topic of legal ethics and AI.

But alas, who knew so much would happen in 2023? I certainly didn’t even though I spent the entire year speaking on AI to lawyers, businesspeople, and government officials. So, I decided to change my topic in late November as it became clearer that the EU would finally take action on the EU AI Act and that the Brussels effect would likely take hold requiring other governments and all the big players in the tech space to take notice and sharpen their own agendas.

But I’m one of the lucky ones because although I’m not a techie, I’m a former chief privacy officer, and spend a lot of time thinking about things like data protection and cybersecurity, especially as it relates to AI. And I recently assumed the role of GC of an AI startup. So, because I’m tech-adjacent, I’ve spent hours every day immersed in the legal and tech issues related to large and small language models, generative AI (GAI), artificial general intelligence (AGI), APIs, singularity, the Turing test, and the minutiae of potential regulation around the world. I’ve become so immersed that I actually toggled between listening to the outstanding Institute for Well-Being In Law virtual conference and the FTC’s 4-hour tech summit yesterday with founders, journalists, economists, and academics. Adding more fuel to the fire, just before the summit kicked off, the FTC announced an inquiry into the partnerships and investments of  Alphabet, Inc., Amazon.com, Inc., Anthropic PBC, Microsoft Corp., and OpenAI, Inc. Between that and the NY Times lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft alleging billions in damages for purported IP violations, we are living in interesting times.

If you’ve paid attention to the speeches at Davos, you know that it was all AI all the time. I follow statements from the tech leaders like other people follow their fantasy football stats or NCAA brackets. Many professors, CEOs, and general consumers, on the other hand, have been caught by surprise by the very rapid acceleration of the developments, particularly related to generative AI.

However, now more members of the general public are paying attention to the concept of deepfakes and demanding legislation in part because the supernova that is Taylor Swift has been victimized by someone creating fake pornographic images of her. We should be even more worried about the real and significant threat to the integrity of the fifty global elections and occurring in 2024 where members of the public may be duped into believing that political candidates have said things that they did not, such as President Biden telling people not to vote in the New Hampshire primary and to save their votes for November.

For those of us who teach in law schools in the US and who were either grading or recovering from grading in December, we learned a few days before Christmas that Lexis was rolling out its AI solution for 2Ls and 3Ls. Although I had planned to allow and even teach my students the basics of prompt engineering and using AI as a tool (and not a substitute for lawyering) in my business associations, contract drafting, and business and human rights class, now I have to also learn Lexis’ solution too. I feel for those professors who still ban the use of generative AI or aren’t equipped to teach students how to use it ethically and effectively.

Even so, I’m excited and my students are too. The legal profession is going to change dramatically over the next two years, and it’s our job as professors to prepare our students. Thompson Reuters, the ABA, and state courts have made it clear that we can’t sit by on the sidelines hoping that this fad will pass.

Professionally, I have used AI to redraft an employee handbook in my client’s voice (using my employment law knowledge, of course), prepare FAQs for another client’s code of conduct in a very specialized industry, prepare interview questions for my podcast, and draft fact patterns for simulations for conferences and in class. I’ve also tested its ability to draft NDAs and other simple agreements using only ChatGPT. It didn’t do so well there, but that’s because I know what I was looking for. And when I gave additional instructions, for example, about drafting a mutual indemnification clause and then a separate supercap, it did surprisingly well. But I know what should be in these agreements. The average layperson does not, something that concerns Chief Justice Roberts and should concern us all.

How have you changed your teaching with the advent of generative AI? If you’re already writing or teaching about AI or just want more resources, join the 159 law professors in a group founded by Professors April Dawson and Dan Linna. As for my law review article, I’m sure a lot of it will be obsolete by the time it’s published, but it should still be an interesting, if not terrifying, read for some.

January 26, 2024 in Business Associations, Compliance, Consulting, Contracts, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, International Law, Jobs, Law Firms, Law School, Lawyering, Legislation, Marcia Narine Weldon, Research/Scholarhip, Science, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 27, 2023

Of Directorships: Reconfiguring the Theory of the Firm

It always is a great pleasure to pass along and promote the work of a colleague.  And today, I get to post about the work of a UT Law colleague!  Many of you know Tomer Stein, who came to join us at UT Law back in the summer.  He is such an ideal colleague and, like many of us, has broad interests across business finance and governance.

This post supports a recent draft governance piece, the title of which is the same as this post--Of Directorships: Reconfiguring the Theory of the Firm.  You can find the draft here.  The abstract is included below.

This Article develops a novel account of directorships and then uses it to reconfigure the theory of the firm. This widely accepted theory holds that firms emerge to satisfy the economic need for carrying out vertically integrated business activities under a fiduciary contract that substitutes for the owners’ multiple agreements with contractors and suppliers. As per this theory, the fiduciary contract is inherently incomplete, yet often preferable: while it cannot address all future contingencies in the firm, it will effectively direct all unaccounted-for firm events by placing them under the owners’ purview as a matter of default, or residual right. Under this contractual mechanism, firm owners, such as corporate shareholders, acquire the status of residual claimants who have the power to decide on all contractually unenumerated contingencies.

This view of the firm is conceptually flawed and normatively mistaken. Firms do carry vertically integrated business activities managed by their fiduciaries, but those fiduciaries—agents, trustees, and directors—are not functional equivalents from either the legal or economic standpoint. Unlike agents and trustees who receive commands from principals and settlors, respectively, directors manage the firm’s business by exercising decisional autonomy. Conceptually, shareholders who hire directors do not run the firm’s business as residual claimants. Rather, it is the directors who manage the firm as residual obligors—all contractually unaccounted for contingencies are placed under the fiduciary’s purview as a matter of obligation. This feature makes directorship an attractive management mechanism that often outperforms other fiduciary mechanisms, and the residual-claimant structure that stands behind them, in a broad variety of contexts. By developing this critical insight, the Article proposes not only to reconfigure the prevalent theory of the firm, but also to redesign both federal and state laws in a way that will facilitate directorships not only in corporations, but also across several indispensable dimensions of our financial, communal, and familial organizations.

As someone who understands both the central role of the director in corporate governance and the incomplete and inaccurate principal/agent relationship between shareholders and directors, I have enthusiasm for this project!  But I also am intrigued by the thought that the ideas in the paper can be translated to non-business institutions and groups.

Read on, and enjoy!

November 27, 2023 in Agency, Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip, Shareholders | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 13, 2023

What Business Lawyers Needs to Ask their Clients About Generative AI Usage

Last week I had the pleasure of joining my fellow bloggers at the UT Connecting the Threads Conference on the legal issues related to generative AI (GAI) that lawyers need to understand for their clients and their own law practice. Here are some of the questions I posed to the audience and some recommendations for clients. I'll write about ethical issues for lawyers in a separate post. In the meantime, if you're using OpenAI or any other GAI, I strongly recommend that you read the terms of use. You may be surprised by certain clauses, including the indemnification provisions. 

I started by asking the audience members to consider what legal areas are most affected by GAI? Although there are many, I'll focus on data privacy and employment law in this post.

Data Privacy and Cybersecurity

Are the AI tools and technologies you use compliant with relevant data protection and privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA? Are they leaving you open to a cyberattack?

This topic also came up today at a conference at NCCU when I served as a panelist on cybersecurity preparedness for lawyers.

Why is this important?

ChatGPT was banned in Italy for a time over concerns about violations of the GDPR. The Polish government is investigating OpenAI over privacy issues. And there are at least two class action lawsuits in California naming Microsoft and OpenAI. Just yesterday, a US government agency halted the use of GAI due to data security risks. 

It’s also much easier for bad actors to commit cybercrime because of the amount of personal data they can  scrape and analyze and because deepfake technology allows impersonation of images and voices in a matter of seconds. The NSA and FBI have warned people to be worried about misinformation and cyberthreats due to the technology. On a positive note, some are using GAI to fight cybercrime.

Surveillance and facial recognition technology can violate privacy and human rights. Governments have used surveillance technology to tamp down on and round up dissidents, protestors, and human rights defenders for years. Now better AI tools makes that easier. And if you haven't heard some of the cautions about Clearview AI and the misidentification of citizens, you should read this article. A new book claims that this company could "end privacy as we know it."

What should (you and) your clients do?

  • Ensure algorithms minimize collection and processing of personal data and build in confidentiality safeguards to comply with privacy laws
  • Revise privacy and terms of use policies on websites to account for GAI
  • Build in transparency for individuals to control how data is collected and used
  • Turn on privacy settings in all AI tools and don’t allow your data to be used for training the large language models
  • Turn off chat history in settings on all devices
  • Prevent browser add-ons
  • Check outside counsel guidelines for AI restrictions (or draft them for your clients)
  • Work with your IT provider or web authority to make sure your and your clients’ data is not being scraped for training
  • Use synthetic data sets instead of actual personally identifiable information
  • Ensure that you have a Generative AI Security Policy
  • Check vendor contracts for AI usage
  • Enhance cybersecurity training
  • Conduct a table top exercise and make sure that you have an incident response plan in place
  • Check cyberinsurance policies for AI clauses/exclusions

What about the employment law implications?

According to a Society for Human Resources Management Member Survey about AI usage:

• 79% use AI for recruiting and hiring

• 41% use AI for learning and development

• 38% use AI for performance management

• 18% use AI for productivity monitoring

• 8% use Ai for succession planning

• 4% use AI or promotional decisions

GAI algorithms can also have significant bias for skin color. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released research showing that "not just dark African-American faces, but also Asian faces were up to 100 times more likely to be failed by these systems than the faces of white individuals.”

Then there’s the question of whether recruiters and hiring managers should use AI to read emotions during an an interview. The EU says absolutely not

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken notice. In a panel discussion, Commissioner Keith Sonderling explained, “carefully designed and properly used, AI has potential to enhance diversity and inclusion, accessibility in the workplace by mitigating the risk of unlawful discrimination. Poorly designed and carelessly implemented, AI can discriminate on a scale and magnitude greater than any individual HR professional.” The EEOC also recently settled the first of its kind AI bias case for $365,000.

What to do 

  • Use AI screening tools to disregard name, sec, age, national origin, etc.
  • Use bots for interviews to eliminate bias because of accents
  • Check local laws such as New York City's automated decision tools guidance for employers
  • Be careful about training large language models on current workforce data because that can perpetuate existing bias
  • Review the EEOC Resource on AI

Questions to Ask Your Clients:

• How are you integrating human rights considerations into your company's strategy and decision-making processes, particularly concerning the deployment and use of new technologies?

• Can you describe how your company's corporate governance structure accounts for human rights and ethical considerations, particularly with regards to the use and impact of emerging technologies?

• How does your company approach balancing the need for innovation and competitive advantage with the potential societal and human rights impact of technologies like facial recognition and surveillance?

• As data becomes more valuable, how is your company ensuring ethical data collection and usage practices?

• Are these practices in line with both domestic and international human rights and privacy standards?

• How is your organization addressing the potential for algorithmic bias in your technology, which can perpetuate and exacerbate systemic inequalities?

• What steps are you taking to ensure digital accessibility and inclusivity, thereby avoiding the risk of creating or enhancing digital divides?

• How is your company taking into account the potential environmental impacts of your technology, including e-waste and energy consumption, and what steps are being taken to mitigate these risks while promoting sustainable development?

• Are you at risk of a false advertising or unfair/deceptive trade practices act claim from the FTC or other regulatory body due to your use of AI?

Whether or not you're an AI expert or use GAI in your practice now, it's time to raise these issues with your clients. Future posts will address other legal issues and the ethical implications of using AI in legal practice. 

October 13, 2023 in Compliance, Corporate Governance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Employment Law, Ethics, Human Rights, Law Firms, Lawyering, Legislation, Marcia Narine Weldon | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The LLC As a Corporation -- The Hits Keep Coming

A new opinion this week tells us that "Defendant, Intermed Resources TN, LLC, [is] a Tennessee limited liability company that markets medical equipment."  Camber Spine Technologies v. Intermed Resources TN, LLC, No. CV 22-3648, 2023 WL 5182597, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2023). The opinion later, though, tells us that Intermed is a "Tennessee limited liability corporation." It was right, before it was wrong. 

The United States Supreme Court has told us that the test for general personal jurisdiction for LLCs is the same test that is used for corporations. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 123 (2014). Unfortunately, in that case, Justice Ginsburg referred to "MBUSA" as "a Delaware limited liability corporation." MBUSA is an LLC, not a corporation. It's a little less clear in cases of specific jurisdiction, so there is least some potential litigation value in the getting this right, in addition the more general principle of being accurate. 

Camber Spine was one the case calling an LLC a corporation that I found this week. Last week there were four more: 

  1.  Ocean Tomo LLC v. Golabs, Inc., No. 22 C 4966, 2023 WL 4930348, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 2, 2023) )" Plaintiff is a limited liability corporation with a principal place of business in Illinois . . . ."). 
  2. Jackson v. Reliance Constr. Servs., LLC, No. 1:20-CV-799, 2023 WL 4933269, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 2, 2023) ("Defendant Reliance Construction is a limited liability corporation that is currently unrepresented.").
  3. Universitas Educ., LLC v. Benistar, No. 3:20-CV-00738 (KAD), 2023 WL 4932034, at *4 (D. Conn. Aug. 2, 2023) ("Greyhound Partners is a Connecticut limited liability corporation with the following current members: Greyhound Management Inc. and Constance Ann Carpenter.") 
  4. NetApp, Inc. v. Cinelli, No. 2020-1000-LWW, 2023 WL 4925910, at *12, n.172 (Del. Ch. Aug. 2, 2023) (citing "Metro Communication Corp. BVI v. Advanced Mobilecomm Techs. Inc., 854 A.2d 121, 153-55 (Del. Ch. 2004)  and stating that "imputing fraud to the corporation where the manager of a limited liability corporation designated by the corporation made false statements.")

I suppose it is painfully obvious I am not going to let this go. If nothing else, these cases are reinforcing the need for my new paper, with Samantha Prince (available on SSRN): An LLC By Any Other Name Is Still Not A Corporation. We're still talking to editors for those interested in helping us clean up this mess.  One day, we hope to put an end to this madness.

August 15, 2023 in Corporations, Joshua P. Fershee, Litigation, LLCs, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

New Paper: An LLC By Any Other Name Is Still Not A Corporation

It's been little while since I posted here, but long-time readers of theis blog will not be surprised by the topic.  I am happy to say that, after a lot of work with an exceptional co-author who shares my concerns, Professor Samantha Prince from Penn State Dickinson Law, we have an article documenting the problems with mislabeling LLCs and providing a variety of solutions.  I have been writing on this for nearly 15 years, and unfortunately, not a lot has changed. 

The article, An LLC By Any Other Name Is Still Not A Corporation, is now available on SSRN, here, and has been submitted for publication. In the meantime, we welcome thoughts and comments.  

Here is the abstract: 

Business entities have their own unique characteristics. Entrepreneurs and lawyers who represent them select an entity structure based on the business’s current and projected needs. The differing needs of each business span across myriad topics such as capital requirements, taxation, employee benefits, and personal liability protection. These choices present advantages and disadvantages many of which are built into the type of entity chosen.

It is critically important that people, especially lawyers, recognize the difference between entities such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs). It is an egregious, nearly unforgivable, error in our view to call an LLC a “limited liability corporation.” In part, this is because lawyers should try to get things right, but it is also because conflating the two entity types can lead to unpredictable outcomes. Perhaps more important, it could lead to incorrect and unjust outcomes. A prime example lies within the veil piercing context.

Lest you think that this is not a prevalent occurrence, there are nearly 9,000 references to the phrase “limited liability corporation” in court cases. Practicing attorneys are not the only people messing this up. Judges, legislators, federal and state agency officials, and media pundits are also getting it wrong. Most recently, Justice Samuel Alito scribed an op-ed that was published in the Wall Street Journal where he misused the term. Even the TV show Jeopardy! allowed as correct the answer, “What is a limited liability corporation?,” during one episode.

Enter artificial intelligence. AI relies on information it can find, and therefore AI generators, like ChatGPT, replicate the incorrect term. With a proliferation of users and programs using ChatGPT and other AI, the use of incorrect terminology will balloon and exacerbate the problem. Perhaps one day, AI can be used to correct this problem, but that cannot happen until there is widespread understanding of the distinct nature of LLCs and a commitment to precise language when talking about them.

This article informs of the looming harms of misidentifying and conflating LLCs with corporations. Additionally, it presents a warning together with ideas on how to assist with correcting the use of incorrect terminology in all contexts surrounding LLCs.

August 8, 2023 in Business Associations, Corporations, Joshua P. Fershee, LLCs, Partnership, Research/Scholarhip, Shareholders, Teaching, Unincorporated Entities, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 7, 2023

Matteo Gatti on Corporate Governing

I am excited to highlight the recent posting by Matteo Gatti of his draft paper entitled Corporate Governing: Promises and Risks of Corporations as Socio-Economic Reformers.  I got a preview of this work at the National Business Law Scholars Conference back in June.  The title of the paper is both descriptive and clever, as the abstract below reveals.

Corporations are involved in public affairs: racial equity, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, climate efforts are just a few examples of an increasingly long list of areas in which corporations are active and vocal. One phenomenon is well-known: corporations promote, contrast, or finetune governmental initiatives through political messaging. In addition, corporations perform quasi-governmental functions when the actual government cannot (because of its dysfunction) or does not want to (because of its political credo) perform such functions. Economists, legal scholars, and policymakers are split as to whether corporations should take this role.

This Paper contributes to the literature in several ways. First, it maps various areas of reform by corporations in the socio-economic sphere. Then, it provides legal and policy frameworks for corporate governing by analyzing the underlying conducts under our current laws and by evaluating its multifaceted normative merits: Is there a business case for corporate governing? Is corporate governing strategically wise for corporations? Does it help social advocacy and society at large? Does corporate governing undermine actual government and imperil democratic institutions? Further, this Paper assesses corporate governing by looking into its promises and risks from a corporate and from a societal perspective and singles out two risks. First, corporate governing cannot help society in fields in which corporations have a conflicting interest, like on themes such as antitrust, tax, labor, privacy, financial and corporate reform. Second, with corporations having a greater role in policymaking, citizens may become less accustomed to expecting reform via traditional politics: addressing this risk requires efforts from citizens, civil society, and politicians to preserve democratic values and institutions—corporate governance can help but cannot be the driving force.

The article offers helpful, coherent observations about and analyses of the roles business firms play--and should play--in political governance, as well as the possible effects of those political governance engagements.  I look forward to spending more time with this work!

August 7, 2023 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip | 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)

Friday, July 7, 2023

Generative AI Is the Greatest Thing Since the Discovery of Fire And/Or Will Kill Us All

Depending on who you talk to, you get some pretty extreme perspectives on generative AI. In a former life, I used to have oversight of the lobbying and PAC money for a multinational company. As we all know, companies never ask to be regulated. So when an industry begs for regulation, you know something is up. 

Two weeks ago, I presented the keynote speech to the alumni of AESE, Portugal’s oldest business school, on the topic of my research on business, human rights, and technology with a special focus on AI. If you're attending Connecting the Threads in October, you'll hear some of what I discussed.

I may have overprepared, but given the C-Suite audience, that’s better than the alternative. For me that meant spending almost 100 hours  reading books, articles, white papers, and watching videos by data scientists, lawyers, ethicists, government officials, CEOs, and software engineers. 

Because I wanted the audience to really think about their role in our future, I spent quite a bit of time on the doom and gloom scenarios, which the Portuguese press highlighted. I cited the talk by the creators of the Social Dilemma, who warned about the dangers of social media algorithms and who are now raising the alarms about AI's potential existential threat to humanity in a talk called the AI Dilemma.

I used statistics from the Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum on potential job displacement and from Yale's Jeffrey Sonnenfeld on what CEOs think and are planning for. Of the 119 CEOs from companies like Walmart, Coca-Cola, Xerox and Zoom, 34% of CEOs said AI could potentially destroy humanity in ten years, 8% said that it could happen in five years,  and 58% said that could never happen and they are “not worried.” 42% said the doom and gloom  is overstated, while 58% said it was not. I told the audience about deepfakes where AI can now mimic someone's voice in three seconds.

But in reality, there's also a lot of hope. For the past two days I've been up at zero dark thirty to watch the live stream of the AI For Good Global Summit in Geneva. The recordings are available on YouTube. While there was a more decidedly upbeat tone from these presenters, there was still some tamping down of the enthusiasm.

Fun random facts? People have been using algorithms to make music since the 60s. While many are worried about the intellectual property implications for AI and the arts, AI use was celebrated at the summit. Half of humanity's working satellites belong to Elon Musk. And  a task force of 120 organizations is bringing the hammer down on illegal deforestation in Brazil using geospatial AI. They've already netted 2 billion in penalties. 

For additional perspective, for two of the first guests on my new podcast, I've interviewed lawyer and mediator, Mitch Jackson, an AI enthusiast, and tech veteran, Stephanie Sylvestre, who's been working with OpenAI for years and developed her own AI product somehow managing to garner one million dollars worth of free services for her startup, Avatar Buddy. Links to their episodes are here (and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast).

If you’re in business or advising business, could you answer the following questions I asked the audience of executives and government officials in Portugal?

  • How are you integrating human rights considerations into your company's strategy and decision-making processes, particularly concerning the deployment and use of new technologies?

 

  • Can you describe how your company's corporate governance structure accounts for human rights and ethical considerations, particularly with regards to the use and impact of emerging technologies?

 

  • How are you planning to navigate the tension between increasing automation in your business operations and the potential for job displacement among your workforce?

 

  • How does your company approach balancing the need for innovation and competitive advantage with the potential societal and human rights impact of technologies like facial recognition and surveillance?

 

  • In what ways is your company actively taking steps to ensure that your supply chain, especially for tech components, is free from forced labor or other human rights abuses?

 

  • As data becomes more valuable, how is your company ensuring ethical data collection and usage practices? Are these practices in line with both domestic and international human rights and privacy standards?

 

  • What steps are you taking to ensure digital accessibility and inclusivity, thereby avoiding the risk of creating or enhancing digital divides?

 

  • How is your company taking into account the potential environmental impacts of your technology, including e-waste and energy consumption, and what steps are being taken to mitigate these risks while promoting sustainable development?

 

  • What financial incentives do you have in place to do the ”right thing” even if it’s much less profitable? What penalties do you have in place for the “wrong” behavior?

 

  • Will governments come together to regulate or will the fate of humanity lie in the hands of A few large companies?

Luckily, we had cocktails right after I asked those questions.

Are you using generative AI like ChatGPT4 or another source in your business 0r practice? If you teach, are you integrating it into the classroom? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

July 7, 2023 in Business School, Conferences, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, Lawyering, Legislation, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Science, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 26, 2023

Trust in Business Associations: Fiduciary Duties

The University of Tennessee College of Law's business law journal, Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law, recently published my essay, "The Fiduciary-ness of Business Associations."  You can find the essay here.  This essay--or parts of it, anyway--has been rattling around in my brain for a bit.   It is nice on a project like this to be able to get the words out on a page and release all that tension building up inside as you fashion your approach.

The abstract for the essay is included below. 

This essay offers a window and perspective on recent fiduciary-related legislative developments in business entity law and identifies and reflects in limited part on related professional responsibility questions impacting lawyers advising business entities and their equity owners. In addition—and perhaps more pointedly—the essay offers commentary on legal change and the legislative process for state law business associations amendments in and outside the realm of fiduciary duties. To accomplish these purposes, the essay first provides a short description of the position of fiduciary duties in U.S. statutory business entity law and offers a brief account of 21st century business entity legislation that weakens the historically central role of fiduciary duties in unincorporated business associations. It then reflects on these changes as a matter of theory, policy, and practice before briefly summarizing and offering related reflections in concluding.

Although I always welcome thoughts on my work, I am especially interested in your thoughts on this essay. It relates to all three of my activities as a law professor--my scholarship, teaching, and service.  And I know that fiduciary duty waivers and opt-ins have different impacts in different business sectors . . . .  So, let me know what you think.

June 26, 2023 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Ethics, Joan Heminway, Lawyering, Legislation, LLCs, Management, Partnership, Research/Scholarhip, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, May 19, 2023

University of Miami Law School Seeks Law & Technology Resident Fellow: Apply by July 1, 2023

I'm excited to announce this new position. It's particularly timely as just this morning, I had breakfast with venture capitalists, founders, and others in the tech ecosystem nurtured and propelled by the founders of Emerge Americas. This is a great time to be in Miami. Here are the details.

The University of Miami School of Law seeks to appoint an Inaugural Law & Technology Resident Fellow.  

This will be an exciting opportunity as the Fellow will join a vibrant community of scholars and practitioners working at the intersection of law and technology. Miami-Dade County and the surrounding Tech Hub is enjoying a dramatic expansion in technology-related startups and finance.  MiamiLaw has an established J.D. degree concentration in Business of Innovation, Law, and Technology (BILT). Faculty have set up numerous technology-related programs including Law Without Walls (LWOW) and the We Robot conference.

MiamiLaw currently offers courses in: AI and Robot Law; Blockchain Technology and Business Strategies; Digital Asset and Blockchain Regulation; Digital Transformation Services: Business & Legal Considerations; Dispute Resolution; Technology and The Digital Economy; E-Sports; Electronic Discovery; Genomic Medicine, Ethics and the Law; Intellectual Property in Digital Media; Introduction to Programming For Lawyers; NFTs: Legal and Business Considerations; Scientific Evidence; Tax Issues Relating to Movement of Foreign Tech Founders Into Miami in the 21St Century; Space Law: Regulating and Incentivizing Private Commercial Activities in Outer Space; a Startup Clinic and a class in Startup Law and Entrepreneurship; The Digital Economy and International Taxation--National and International Responses; Law, Technology, and Practice; Law, Policy & Technology; and Tiktok, Twitter and Youtube: The Legal Framework Governing Social Media.

We aim to enhance these substantial and growing technology-related activities by hiring a Law & Technology Resident Fellow. We seek a recent law graduate interested in studying and teaching about the impact artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the legal field, from the impact on legal education to the impact on legal practice and legislative reform.  We are specifically interested in candidates who would connect our students and our faculty both with new technologies and with tech startups in Miami.

In order to provide a space for training of and experimentation by the law school community, the initial Fellow also will be responsible for designing and then setting up an Artificial Intelligence Technology Lab—which could be real or virtual—that will, among other things, support faculty in their courses and research. The Fellow would be expected to teach one technology-related course, subject to approval by the Vice Dean and the law school’s Curriculum Committee, once the Lab is functional.

Applicants must have completed their J.D. degree prior to the beginning of the fellowship. Experience with Artificial Intelligence as it pertains to law and law practice, or optionally a degree in Computer Science or a related field, would also be helpful. The fellowship begins on August 1 and lasts for one year; a Fellow in residence may apply for a second year of support.

The University of Miami offers competitive salaries and a comprehensive benefits package including medical and dental benefits, vacation, paid holidays and much more.

Applications should include the following:

  • A cover letter indicating your interest in the Resident Fellowship
  • A resume or CV
  • A law/graduate school transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation

Applications for the Law & Tech Resident Fellowship must be received no later than July 1, 2023.

Please apply online and submit an application in electronic form to Carolina Morris ([email protected]).

The University of Miami is an Equal Opportunity Employer - Females/Minorities/Protected Veterans/Individuals with Disabilities are encouraged to apply. Applicants and employees are protected from discrimination based on certain categories protected by Federal law. Click here for additional information.

If you have any questions about what it's like to work at UM or live in Miami, please reach out at [email protected].

May 19, 2023 in Corporations, Current Affairs, Jobs, Law School, Lawyering, Marcia Narine Weldon, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 5, 2023

Ten Questions Lawyers Should Ask Themselves about AI

A few months ago, I asked whether people in the tech industry were the most powerful people in the world. This is part II of that post.

I posed that question after speaking at a tech conference in Lisbon sponsored by Microsoft. They asked me to touch on business and human rights and I presented the day after the company announced a ten billion dollar investment in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. Back then, we were amazed at what ChatGPT 3.5 could do. Members of the audience were excited and terrified- and these were tech people. 

And that was before the explosion of ChatGPT4. 

I've since made a similar presentation about AI, surveillance, social media companies to law students, engineering students, and business people. In the last few weeks, over 10,000 people including Elon Musk, have called for a 6-month pause in AI training systems. If you don't trust Musk's judgment (and the other scientists and futurists), trust the "Godfather of AI," who recently quit Google so he could speak out on the dangers, even though Google has put out its own whitepaper on AI development. Watch the 60 Minutes interview with the CEO of Google.

Just yesterday, the White House held a summit with key AI stakeholders to talk about AI governance

Between AI-generated photos winning competitions, musicians creating songs simulating real artists' voices, students using generative AI to turn in essays that fool professors, and generative AI's ability to hallucinate (come up with completely wrong answers that look correct), what can we as lawyers do? Are our jobs at risk? Barrons has put out a list.  IBM has paused hiring because it believes it can gain efficiencies though AI.  Goldman Sachs has said that 300 million jobs might be affected by this technology. I'm at a conference for entrepreneurs and the CEO of a 100-million dollar company said that he has reassigned and is re-skilling 90% of his marketing team because he can use AI for most of what they do. 

Should we be excited or terrified? I've been stressing to lawyers and my students that we need to understand this technology to help develop the regulations around it as well to wrestle with the thorny legal and ethical issues that arise. Here are ten questions, courtesy of ChatGPT4, that lawyers should ask themselves:

  1. Do I understand the basic principles and mechanics of AI, including machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing, to make informed decisions about its use in my legal practice?
  2. How can AI tools be used effectively and ethically to enhance my practice, whether in legal research, document review, contract drafting, or litigation support, while maintaining high professional standards?
  3. Are the AI tools and technologies I use compliant with relevant data protection and privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, and do they adequately protect client confidentiality and sensitive information?
  4. How can I ensure that the AI-driven tools I utilize are unbiased, transparent, and fair, and what steps can I take to mitigate potential algorithmic biases that may compromise the objectivity and fairness of my legal work?
  5. How can I obtain and document informed consent from clients when using AI tools in my practice, ensuring that they understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives associated with these technologies?
  6. What are the intellectual property implications of using AI, particularly concerning AI-generated content, inventions, and potential copyright or trademark issues that may arise?
  7. How can I assess and manage potential liability and accountability issues stemming from the use of AI tools, including understanding the legal and ethical ramifications of AI-generated outputs in my practice?
  8. How can I effectively explain and defend the use of AI-generated evidence, analysis, or insights in court, demonstrating the validity and reliability of the methods and results to judges and opposing counsel?
  9. What measures should I implement to supervise and train my staff, including paralegals and support personnel, in the responsible use of AI tools, ensuring that ethical and professional standards are maintained throughout the practice?
  10. How can I stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in AI technology and best practices, ensuring that I continue to adapt and evolve as a legal professional in an increasingly technology-driven world?

Do you use ChatGPT or any other other generative AI in your work? Can you answer these questions? I'll be talking about many of these issues at the Connecting the Threads symposium and would love to get your insights as I develop my paper. 

May 5, 2023 in Compliance, Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Ethics, Financial Markets, Human Rights, Jobs, Lawyering, Legislation, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 3, 2023

Neyland, Bates, and Lv on "Who Are the Best Law Firms?"

Professors Jordan Neyland (George Mason, Antonin Scalia Law School), Tom Bates (Arizona State University), and Roc Lv (ANU/Jiangxi University), have recently posted their article, Who Are the Best Law Firms? Rankings from IPO Performance to SSRN. Here's the Description:

If you have ever wondered who the best law firms are (which lawyer hasn’t?), have a look at our new ranking. My co-authors—Tom Bates at ASU and Roc Lv at ANU/Jiangxi University—and I developed a ranking method based on law firms’ clients’ outcomes in securities markets. 

There is no shortage of recent scandals in rankings in law. In particular, U.S. News’ law school rankings receive criticism for focusing too much on inputs, such as student quality or acceptance rates, instead of student outcomes like job quality and success in public interest careers. Many schools even refuse to submit data or participate in the annual ranking. Similar critiques apply to law firm rankings. We propose that our methodology improves upon existing methods, which frequently use revenue, profit, or other size-related measures to proxy for quality and reputation. Instead, we focus on the most important outcomes for clients: litigation rates, disclosure, pricing, and legal costs.

By focusing on the most relevant outcomes, this ranking system makes it harder for those being ranked to “game the system” without actually producing better results. Moreover, we use multivariate fixed-effect models to control for confounding effects, which provides some assurance that the ranking is based on a law firm’s skill rather than good timing or choosing “better” clients with a lower risk of getting sued.

We suggest that our innovation can provide some guidance and help improve upon extant methods. Rankings can be valuable tools to help evaluate a firm, school, or other institution. Despite the limitations and criticisms of rankings in law, perhaps the solution is to improve the current system instead of withdrawing from it altogether.

March 3, 2023 in Corporations, John Anderson, Law and Economics, Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Heminway on Fiduciary Duties and Succession - Tonight!!

As I noted in a post a few weeks ago, I am presenting on corporate fiduciary duties tonight as the Roy/Demoulas Distinguished Professor of Law and Business at the Waystar/ROYCO School of Law.  The title of my presentation is: What the Roys Should Learn from the Demoulas Family (But Probably Won't).  The presentation will run from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm Eastern on Zoom at the following link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86783560319?pwd=cTJza2N6elFyVGhBUFVjdk1Gb2oxQT09.

If you do not know about the Demoulas family and their fiduciary duty tangles up in Massachusetts, my presentation will inform you (and may even get you interested).  Members of the family were locked in litigation with each other for over 20 years.  Much of that litigation relates to alleged breaches of corporate and trust fiduciary duties.  And for those who have not watched the HBO Max series Succession, I will offer a window on some of the characters and plot lines, tying them in to observations about the Demoulas family.  

I welcome your attendance and participation!

February 16, 2023 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Family Business, Joan Heminway | 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)