Monday, September 18, 2023
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!
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Suffolk Law is Seeking a Clinical Professor to Lead its Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic!
Suffolk University Law School’s nationally ranked Clinical Programs, expects to conduct a search for a tenured or tenure-track Clinical Professor to lead our Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic (IPEC), to begin in the 2024-25 school year. IPEC is a full-year in-house clinic, one of Suffolk’s 12 in-house clinics, and an important part of Suffolk Law’s outstanding Clinical Programs. Suffolk’s Clinical Programs have been ranked among the top 20 such programs in U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade. Our Clinical Professors have full tenure and are wholly integrated into our faculty, including having equity in terms of faculty rights, perquisites, and responsibilities. IPEC is also integrated into Suffolk’s recently launched Intellectual Property Center and its Intellectual Property Concentration, which includes a number of highly regarded faculty. Suffolk Law’s intellectual property program is regularly ranked among the nation’s best and was most recently ranked number 31 in the country.
We seek candidates with a commitment to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. Candidates must have at least five years of relevant experience in one or more areas of intellectual property, including patent, trademark, and/or copyright practice. Applicants must also be admitted or eligible for admission to the Massachusetts bar within a year of the start of the appointment. Prior experience in clinical education or a demonstrated passion for teaching or mentoring is also required. A record of scholarship or a demonstrated interest in producing scholarship, as well as an intellectual engagement with the subject matter is required. Experience working with diverse communities, clients, and other stakeholders is strongly preferred.
The Clinical Professor will have the opportunity to shape the docket of IPEC to meet students’ needs and align with their expertise and interests. The Clinical Professor will similarly shape the content of the accompanying seminar to educate students on relevant substantive law and lawyering skills, including the ethical dimensions of practice, cross-cultural lawyering, critical reflection, and the formation of a professional identity.
Currently, students enrolled in IPEC represent small and emerging businesses from communities unlikely to have access to legal services. Students work on a variety of intellectual property and entrepreneurial matters, including those related to branding, copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, and privacy protections. IPEC students also currently counsel entrepreneurs and start-up companies on business law matters, such as incorporation, contract law, and IP strategy. Past clients of IPEC have included artists, authors, designers, filmmakers, musicians, innovators, individual entrepreneurs, small businesses, some established corporations, and nonprofit organizations. IPEC has participated in the USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification Program. You can read more about IPEC here.
Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, research agenda, description of current scholarship (if any), and teaching evaluations (if any). Applicants are also encouraged to submit a diversity statement that describes previous activities mentoring members of underrepresented groups, how issues relating to diversity and inclusion have been or will be addressed in their teaching and practice, and how their scholarship or service would contribute to building and supporting inclusive communities. Cover letters should be addressed to Professor Ragini Shah, Chair of the Clinical Committee. We will be reviewing candidates on a rolling basis and encourage early inquiries and applications.
Suffolk University does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religious creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, age, genetic information, or status as a veteran in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its programs, activities, or employment. As an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer, the University is dedicated to the goal of building a diverse and inclusive faculty and staff that reflect the broad range of human experience who contribute to the robust exchange of ideas on campus, and who are committed to teaching and working in a diverse environment. We strongly encourage applications from groups historically marginalized or underrepresented because of race/color, gender, religious creed, disability, national origin, veteran status or LGBTQ status. Suffolk University is especially interested in candidates who, through their training, service and experience, will contribute to the diversity and excellence of the University community.
Monday, June 26, 2023
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)
Monday, June 12, 2023
If you happen to be traveling in the region of Knoxville, Tennessee on Thursday or Friday, feel free to stop by and catch all or part of this year's National Business Law Scholars Conference, hosted by the Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law at The University of Tennessee College of Law. The final schedule will be posted on the conference website within the next day, but I can tell you now that we start at 8:15 am for breakfast on Thursday (9:15 am for the program) and run through a 5:30 pm reception, and we start at at 8:00 am for breakfast on Friday (8:45 am for the program) and run until 3:30 pm. We have, as usual, a number of engaging plenary programs, but the conference mostly consists of scholarly paper panels. As always, the schedule has been produced by the incomparable Eric Chaffee (who is moving to Case Western Law this summer). He is amazing.
The morning plenaries (which start the conference proceedings each day) focus on entrepreneurship, a topic of focus for and strength of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and The University of Tennessee College of Law, working through our Transactional Law Clinic. Thursday's morning plenary panel focuses on the engagement of law schools with university and community venture activity. Friday's morning plenary session features an interview with two lawyer entrepreneurs who will help us explore our ability, as business law professors, to help prepare our students for entrepreneurship.
The third plenary session (Thursday, just after lunch) is an author-meets-readers program on Adam Pritchard's recently released book, A HISTORY OF SECURITIES LAW IN THE SUPREME COURT (Oxford University Press 2023). Adam previewed aspects of the book in a presentation at the Neel Corporate Governance Center last fall. We are in for a real treat! UT Law is so pleased to be able to host this session at the conference. Adam has been a regular National Business Law Scholars Conference attendee and frequently offers constructive comments on other business law scholars' works at the conference.
I look forward to seeing many of you later in the week! We are so glad to have everyone at UT Law in person this year for the conference.
Monday, May 1, 2023
A great joy in my law practice over the years has been to work on a pro bono basis with creative and social enterprises. For the 2021 Business Law Prof Blog symposium, Connecting the Threads, I offered some wisdom from my work with creatives in legally organizing and funding their projects. I wrote briefly about that presentation here.
I recently posted the article that I presented back then, Choice of Entity: The Fiscal Sponsorship Alternative to Nonprofit Incorporation, 23 Transactions: Tenn. J. Bus. L. 526 (2022), on SSRN. The associated abstract follows.
For many small business ventures that qualify for federal income tax treatment under Section 501(a) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, the time and expense of organizing, qualifying, managing, and maintaining a tax-exempt nonprofit corporation under state law may be daunting (or even prohibitive). Moreover, the formal legal structures imposed by business entity law may not be needed or wanted by the founders or promoters of the venture. Yet, there may be distinct advantages to entity formation and federal tax qualification that are not available (or not as easily available) to unincorporated not-for-profit business projects. These advantages may include, for example, exculpation for breaches of performative fiduciary duties by nonprofit corporate directors and other personal liability limitations applicable to various participants in nonprofit corporations under state statutory law.
The described conundrum—the prospect that founders or promoters of a charitable or other federal income tax-exempt nonprofit business or undertaking (often simply denominated as a “nonprofit project”) may not have the time or financial capital to fully form and maintain a business entity that may offer substantial identifiable advantages—is real. Awareness of this challenge can be disheartening to lawyer and client alike. Fortunately, at least for some of these nonprofit projects, there is a third option—fiscal sponsorship—that may have contextual benefits. Fiscal sponsorships allow for projects to receive tax advantaged funding and operating support without the need for time-consuming, costly legal entity formation.
This brief article offers food for thought on the uses for and benefits of fiscal sponsorship, especially (but not exclusively) for creative endeavors. First, fiscal sponsorships are defined and described in more detail. Then, the attributes of fiscal sponsorships are compared with the attributes of nonprofit § 501(c)(3) corporations to identify important bases for advice and decision making. Finally, before briefly concluding, the article synthesizes this information for use in applied legal advising and offers an example of a nonprofit project that found fiscal sponsorship both desirable and efficacious.
The article is available here. Even though I do not teach a course on nonprofit organization, governance, or finance, I do occasionally raise the idea of fiscal sponsorship and other nontraditional organizational possibilities with students outside the classroom. Had it not been for my pro bono work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s, I would not have known about fiscal sponsorships and could not have had those teaching moments with my students. By publishing this piece, I hope to offer that same "aha moment" to others who may find themselves working with artists or musicians or others in the nonprofit space.
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
University of Washington Law is Seeking a Visiting Lecturer to Teach Business and Entrepreneurship Law-Related Courses
This just in from Mary Fan at the University of Washington School of Law:
The University of Washington School of Law invites applications for a visiting lecturer to teach courses in business law and entrepreneurship. The University of Washington is a major research university in the dynamic hub of Seattle with numerous connections to innovative business and entrepreneurial activity. Courses that the lecturer may teach include Business Organizations, Entrepreneurial Law, Law and Technology, Intellectual Property Survey, and Nonprofit Organizations. The successful candidate will have a track record of teaching and practical experience in these areas. Please apply soon because applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.
More information and the application upload site is here:
Thanks to Mary for sharing this opportunity.
Thursday, March 16, 2023
The University of Michigan Law School is seeking a clinical teaching fellow in its Zell Entrepreneurship Clinic (ZEC). Law students in the ZEC provide transactional legal services to early-stage startups and play a significant role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Ann Arbor. Typical matters include business entity formation, intellectual property, contract drafting, and other common early-stage legal issues. This is a two-year appointment with the possibility of extension for a third year, beginning in the summer of 2023.
Thursday, March 9, 2023
The College of Business Administration at Central Michigan University invites applications for one or more entrepreneurship faculty members to begin service at the rank of assistant professor, associate professor, or full professor on August 21, 2023.
CMU anticipates the successful applicant will take a leadership role in the department. This could include serving as the Department Chairperson, serving as the Director of the Master in Entrepreneurial Ventures (MEV) program, or service in another administrative capacity. A reduced teaching load is available for successful applicants serving in one of these roles.
Tenure-track faculty are generally expected to teach three courses per semester, maintain an active research agenda, and actively participate in service activities. Courses may be face-to-face or online and at the undergraduate or graduate level. Faculty may also: advise students; engage in assessment of learning activities; help develop and promote CMU’s entrepreneurship offerings; support CMU’s New Venture Competition (NVC) and other extra-curricular initiatives; and strengthen partnerships on and off campus. Candidates must have the ability to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.
Candidates must have a terminal degree: (i) a Ph.D. or D.B.A in entrepreneurship or a related business field (from an AACSB accredited institution); or, (ii) a J.D. (from an ABA accredited institution) with significant entrepreneurship-related experience; or, (iii) other relevant terminal degree (from a major national university) with significant entrepreneurship-related experience. For those pursuing a Ph.D. or D.B.A., ABD applicants will be considered if it is clear that the applicant’s degree will be conferred at the time of appointment.
Message to Applicants
CMU encourages applicants from diverse academic backgrounds to apply. You must submit an online application to be considered an applicant for this position. To apply, please visit our website at https://www.jobs.cmich.edu/. Inquiries about the position may be directed to the Entrepreneurship Chairperson David Nows at [email protected]; however, the applicant must apply directly through the online Central Michigan University applicant portal.
CMU, an AA/EO institution, strongly and actively strives to increase diversity and provide equal opportunity within its community. CMU does not discriminate against persons based on age, color, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, height, marital status, national origin, political persuasion, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, race, religion, sex, sex-based stereotypes, sexual orientation, transgender status, veteran status, or weight (see http://www.cmich.edu/ocrie).
Thursday, February 2, 2023
The University of Arkansas School of Law seeks to fill a tenure-track clinical position starting in the 2023-2024 academic year with a focus on economic development, transactions, business, or entrepreneurship. Lateral applicants are encouraged to apply. Clinical professors are expected to teach 6 to 8 students during the fall and spring semesters.
A candidate must have a J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school and a commitment to teaching in an environment dedicated to excellence in teaching and mentoring of students. The ideal candidate will have at least three (3) years of practice experience in the clinic subject. At least one (1) year of clinical teaching experience is strongly preferred. Must be a licensed attorney and be eligible to become a member of the Arkansas Bar.
We look for innovative faculty with a preference for both practice and teaching experience. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to service to legal education and to the wider community as well as a desire to engage in the intellectual life of the University. The University of Arkansas School of Law is dedicated to the aims of diversity and strongly encourages applications from women and minorities.
The University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, located in the northwest corner of the state, is the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked the city of Fayetteville as one of the "top five" places to live in America. The region is welcoming, forward-thinking, and full of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The University of Arkansas is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution. The university welcomes applications without regard to age, race/color, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, disability, religion, marital or parental status, protected veteran status, military service, genetic information, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Persons must have proof of legal authority to work in the United States on the first day of employment.
All applicant information is subject to public disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Questions and expressions of interest should be directed to Professor Carl Circo, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at [email protected].
Please apply for this position at the link below:
Monday, April 18, 2022
On Friday, I have the honor and pleasure of presenting a continuing legal education session for the Tennessee Bar Association with Dean Matt Lyon from the LMU Duncan School of Law. Our topic? Partner freeze-outs--situations in which a co-venturer in a business recognized as a partnership is excluded from the business by their fellow co-venturers. This exclusion often occurs through or involves the formation of a limited liability entity, typically a corporation or limited liability company, to conduct the operations of the business going forward. That new business entity does not include one of the initial co-venturers. We have titled our session "No Partner Left Behind:Organizing a Limited Liability Entity for a Pre-existing Business Venture."
I truly enjoy the judicial opinions in this area. You probably know some of them. Holmes v. Lerner may be one of the better known cases in this space. But there are others. Some of the claims in these cases, like the claims in Holmes v. Lerner, stem from co-venturers involved in a de facto partnership--a venture recognized under statutory law as a partnership for which there is no express written acknowledgment of partnership. Entrepreneurs beware!
The partnership freeze-out genre of judicial opinions is related to the old chestnut Meinhard v. Salmon, a partnership opportunity case relating to the exclusion of a "coadventurer" from a subsequent leasehold for the property that had been the subject of the co-venturers original joint venture. These judicial opinions also can be connected to the more recent, interesting, and aberrant Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. v. Enter. Prod. Partners, L.P., in which the court finds that “[a]n agreement not to be partners unless certain conditions are met will ordinarily be conclusive on the issue of partnership formation as between the parties,” foreclosing an argument made by one of the parties to the agreement that a partnership was nonetheless formed by conduct under the statutory definition.
It turns out that Matt and I are not the only folks intrigued by these cases. Twenty-three years ago, Frank Gevurtz wrote a nifty article on partner freeze-outs: Franklin A. Gevurtz, Preventing Partnership Freeze-Outs, 40 MERCER L. REV. 535 (1989). Ultimately, Frank focuses in on planning and drafting ideas as a means of avoiding litigation in this area. Like Frank, Matt and I offer lawyering points emanating from what we learned in reviewing judicial opinions of this kind. Of course, these law practice points require that co-venturers be aware of the creation of a partnership in the first place. These cases certainly make for animated discussions in entrepreneurship and other small business settings and are especially great fodder for discussion in a business associations law course.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Penn State Law Minority Business Development: Special Open Session (November 30, 2021, 4:00 PM - 6:45 PM EST)
This just in from friend-of-the-BLPB Sam Thompson at Penn State Law. Sam hopes we will bring this program to the attention of those "who might be interested in learning more about this very important topic," including law school administrators, faculty, and students. I know I plan to make others aware.
Dear Colleagues: This semester I am teaching a course dealing with issues in Minority Business Development, a subject I took as a student literally 50 years ago in my third year at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Because of the importance of this topic, Penn State Law has permitted me to make the course open to anyone who is interested in this very important topic, and recordings of all of the sessions of the course are available on the Penn State Law website here.
The course is divided into the following three segments:
Part I, Introduction and in-Depth Analysis of the Minority-White Gap in Business Ownership,
Part II, The Lawyer’s Essential Tools in Representing a Minority-Owned Small Business, and
Part III, The Big Ideas for Addressing the Minority-White Gap in Business Ownership
Part I was covered over five sessions and ended with a discussion with Professor Berdejo of the Loyola Law School in LA about his recently published article in the University of Wisconsin Law Review entitled: Financing Minority Entrepreneurship. Part II of the course focused on the Essential Tools that any lawyer needs in advising owners of a business. Each of these sessions was led by an outstanding practitioner, including a lawyer from the following firms: McGuire Woods; Richards, Layton & Finger; Nelson Mullins; Schiff Hardin; Wachtell Lipton; and Starfield & Smith. For this part, we principally used the Maynard et. al. Business Planning casebook.
This brings me to Part III, The Big Ideas for Addressing the Gap, which will be held in one session on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. This special session will be live over the Internet from 4 PM to 6:45 PM Eastern Time. A recording of this session will also be available on the website for the course. This Special Session is entitled Perspectives on Minority Business Development, and in this session, experts from across the country will engage in a live discussion of Minority Business Development issues. The event, which is divided into three sessions, includes perspectives of lawyers, an economist, a business school dean, tax policy experts, entrepreneurs, and Penn State Law students who are enrolled in the course. Reactions to the presentations in the three sessions will be provided by Dana Peterson, Chief Economist at The Conference Board. While Ms. Peterson was a banker at Citigroup, she was the co-author of a 2020 report by Citigroup entitled: Closing the Racial Inequality Gaps. A flyer for the program is attached, and the event page for the program can be reached here.
. . .
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
In 2008, my university (Belmont University) was supposedly the first to offer a social entrepreneurship major. Since then, not only have the schools offering majors in social entrepreneurships grown, but many schools have created centers, institutes, or programs dedicated to the area. Below I try to gather these social enterprise centers in universities. The vast majority are in business schools, some are collaborative across campus, and a few are located in other schools such as law, social work, or design. A few have a specifically religious take on business and social good. Happy to update this list with any centers I missed.
Lewis Institute at Babson https://www.babson.edu/academics/centers-and-institutes/the-lewis-institute/about/#
Christian Collective for Social Innovation at Baylor https://www.baylor.edu/externalaffairs/compassion/index.php?id=976437
Center for Social Innovation at Boston College https://www.bc.edu/content/bc-web/schools/ssw/sites/center-for-social-innovation/about.html
Watt Family Innovation Center at Clemson https://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/watt/
Center for the Integration of Faith and Work at Dayton https://udayton.edu/business/experiential_learning/centers/cifw/index.php
CASE i3 at Duke https://sites.duke.edu/casei3/
Social Innovation Collaboratory at Fordham https://www.fordham.edu/info/23746/social_innovation_collaboratory
Social Enterprise & Nonprofit Clinic at Georgetown https://www.law.georgetown.edu/experiential-learning/clinics/social-enterprise-and-nonprofit-clinic/
and Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown https://beeckcenter.georgetown.edu
Global Social Entrepreneurship Institute at Indiana https://kelley.iu.edu/faculty-research/centers-institutes/international-business/programs-initiatives/global-social-entrepreneurship-institute.html
Business + Impact at Michigan https://businessimpact.umich.edu
Social Enterprise Institute at Northeastern https://www.northeastern.edu/sei/
Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business at Notre Dame https://cerv-mendoza.nd.edu
Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford https://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/research/centres-and-initiatives/skoll-centre-social-entrepreneurship
Wharton Social Impact Iniviative at Penn https://socialimpact.wharton.upenn.edu/
and Center for Social Impact Strategy at Penn https://csis.upenn.edu
Faith and Work Initiative at Princeton https://faithandwork.princeton.edu/about-us
Center for Faithful Business at Seattle Pacific https://cfb.spu.edu
Center for Social Innovation at Stanford https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/centers-initiatives/csi
Social Innovation Initiative at Texas https://www.mccombs.utexas.edu/Centers/Social-Innovation-Initiative
Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane https://taylor.tulane.edu/about/
Social Innovation Cube at UNC https://campusy.unc.edu/cube/
Social Innovation at the Wond’ry at Vanderbilt https://www.vanderbilt.edu/thewondry/programs/social-innovation/
Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest: https://leadershipandcharacter.wfu.edu/#
Program on Social Enterprise at Yale https://som.yale.edu/faculty-research/our-centers/program-social-enterprise/programs
Saturday, April 24, 2021
My friend and colleague Prof. Victoria Haneman has shared her paper, Menstrual Capitalism, Period Poverty, and the Role of the B Corporation. Here is the abstract:
A menstruation industrial complex has arisen to profit from the monthly clean-up of uterine waste, and it is interesting to consider the way in which period poverty and menstrual capitalism are opposite sides of the same coin. Given that the average woman will dispose of 200 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs and applicators” in her lifetime and menstruate for an average of thirty-eight years, this is a marketplace with substantial profit to be reaped even from the marginalized poor. As consciousness of issues such as period poverty and structural gender inequality increases, menstrual marketing has evolved and gradually started to “go woke” through messaging that may or may not be genuine. Companies are profit-seeking and the woke-washing of advertising, or messaging designed to appeal to progressively-oriented sentimentality, is a legitimate concern. Authenticity matters to those consumers who would like to distinguish genuine brand activism from appropriating marketing, but few objective approaches are available to assess authentic commitment.
This Essay considers the profit to be made in virtue signaling solely for the purpose of attracting customers and driving sales: pro-female, woke menstruation messaging that may merely be an exploitative and empty co-optation. Feminists should be expecting more of menstrual capitalists, including a commitment that firms operating within this space address the diapositive issue of period poverty, one of the most easily solved but rarely discussed public health crisis of our time, and meaningfully assist those unable to meet basic hygiene needs who may never be direct consumers. This Essay serves as a thought piece to explore the idea of B Corporation certification as an implicit sorting device to distinguish hollow virtue signaling from those menstrual capitalists committed to socially responsible pro-womxn business practices.
It is well-known that I am not fond of benefit corporation statutes, but given that they are a thing (along with B Corp certification), we have to deal with them. I still feel strongly that they benefit entity type, as it currently exists, is not helpful and potentially counterproductive. And I really don't like that B Corp certification has moved to include mandating entity type. But that's just facts, for now, anyway.
My opposition to benefit entities, though, is not anti-signaling by an entity of their values, and there's little doubt in my mind that a benefit entity (if it must exist) certainly makes sense for nonprofits (thought I still think the nonprofit thing told us all we needed to know). We're stuck with benefit entities, so Professor Haneman is probably correct that choosing the entity type could have value in marketing and signaling to consumers shared values. I still think companies should signal through acts, not entity choice, and that all entity types should have the latitude to do such signaling. But in the world we live in, this just may be how it is. Regardless, I recommend taking a look -- even when I disagree, Professor Haneman is always thoughtful, smart, and entertaining.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Given anti-democratic events at the nation’s Capitol which were made possible by continued structural injustice in the U.S. – I feel obligated as a lawyer and professor to emphasize our responsibilities to address the interlocking systems of subordination that impact every area of the law – with entrepreneurship being no exception. These systems divide us into “haves” and “have nots” based on race, gender, class, and even geography.
We have a moral obligation as lawyers and professors to address these structural barriers in the classroom. Entrepreneurship is often touted as a means for greater economic participation and a vehicle for innovation. Yet many entrepreneurs and small businesses are hobbled by barriers rooted in structural injustice. These obstacles prevent them from raising necessary capital, accessing legal resources, obtaining other technical assistance, and numerous impediments related to operations such as insurance and talent retention. A full accounting of existing barriers, though important, is insufficient. We must examine the legal roots of modern structural barriers to entrepreneurship - interlocking systems of subordination based on race, class, and gender. Sadly, U.S. laws and policies have actively devalued certain populations and entire communities, elevating certain communities while relegating others to the economic margins. For example, redlining influenced decades of public and private investment, decimating both the inner-city as well as rural areas.
Law professors must equip our students to be thoughtful, diligent, competent, compassionate, and ethical lawyers. As part of this education, students must confront, and unpack legal regimes and reckon with their practical impacts. At a minimum, our students will engage with state and local policy as private attorneys, regulators, and even elected officials. Grounding them in a thorough understanding of the impacts of structural barriers and empowering them to create change by demanding legal reforms is a task we must embrace.
This blog post expands on my presentation at the AALS 2021 Annual Meeting, where I outlined methods for introducing this vital and complex topic into the business law classroom. Below, I detail my learning goals, lesson plans, and provide some additional materials that may prove helpful for other business law professors. This class was first designed and implemented during my time as an Associate Professor at West Virginia University’s College of Law. I mention this to emphasize that the demographics of a law school student body or fellow faculty should not deter academics from engaging in these topics. I have also modified this class successfully for my current students at American University’s Washington College of Law. I can attest that the class has resulted in important and rich dialogue in both law school classrooms. (Please click below for more.)
Friday, July 24, 2020
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of Black entrepreneurs sponsored by the Miami Finance Forum, a group of finance, investment management, banking, capital markets, private equity, venture capital, legal, accounting and related professionals. When every company and law firm was posting about Black Lives Matter and donating to various causes, my colleague Richard Montes de Oca, an MFF board member, decided that he wanted to do more than post a generic message. He and the MFF board decided to launch a series of webinars on Black entrepreneurship. The first panel featured Jamarlin Martin, who runs a digital media company and has a podcast; Brian Brackeen, GP of Lightship Capital and founder of Kairos, a facial recognition tech company; and Raoul Thomas, CEO of CGI Merchant Group, a real estate private equity group.
These panelists aren't the typical Black entrepreneurs. Here are some sobering statistics:
- Black-owned business get their initial financing through 44% cash; 15% family and friends; 9% line of credit; 7% unsecured loans; and 3% SBA loans;
- Between February and April 2020, 41% of Black-owned businesses, 33% of Latinx businesses, and 26% of Asian-owned businesses closed while 17% of White-owned business closed;
- As of 2019, the overwhelming majority of businesses in majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods did not have enough cash on hand to pay for two weeks worth of bills;
- The Center for Responsible Lending noted that in April, 95% of Black-owned businesses were tiny companies with slim change of achieving loans in the initial rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program;
- Only 12% of Black and Hispanic business owners polled between April 30-May 12 had received the funding they requested from the stimulus program. In contrast half of all small business had received PPP funds in the same poll.
Because we only had an hour for the panel, we didn't cover as much as I would have liked on those statistics. Here's what we did discuss:
- the failure of boards of directors and companies to do meaningful work around diversity and inclusion- note next week, I will post about the spate of shareholder derivative actions filed against companies for false statements about diversity commitments;
- the perceptions of tokenism and "shallow, ambiguous" diversity initiatives;
- how to get business allies of all backgrounds;
- the need for more than trickle down initiatives where the people at the bottom of the corporation/society don't reap benefits;
- the fact that investing in Black venture capitalists does not mean that those Black VCs will invest in Black entrepreneurs and the need for more transparency and accountability;
- whether the Black middle class still exists and the responsibility of wealthier Black professionals to provide mentorship and resources;
- why it's easier for entrepreneurs to get investments for products vs. services, and a hack to convince VCs to invest in the service;
- whether a great team can make up for a so-so product when a VC hears a pitch;
- why there are so many obstacles to being a Black LGBTQ entrepreneur and how to turn it to an advantage when pitching; and
- whether reparations will actually help Black entrepreneurs and communities.
If you want to hear the answers to these questions, click here for access to the webinar. Stay safe and wear your masks!
July 24, 2020 in Corporations, CSR, Current Affairs, Entrepreneurship, Family Business, Management, Marcia Narine Weldon, Private Equity, Service, Shareholders, Technology, Venture Capital | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, July 13, 2020
U.S. Securities Crowdfunding: A Way to Economic Inclusion for Low-Income Entrepreneurs in the Wake of COVID-19?
Earlier today, I submitted a book chapter with the same title as this blog post. The chapter, written for an international management resource on Digital Entrepreneurship and the Sharing Economy, represents part of a project on crowdfunding and poverty that I have been researching and thinking through for a bit over two years now. My chapter abstract follows:
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated and created economic hardship all over the world. The United States is no exception. Among other things, the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis deepen pre-existing concerns about financing U.S. businesses formed and promoted by entrepreneurs of modest means.
In May 2016, a U.S. federal registration exemption for crowdfunded securities offerings came into existence (under the CROWDFUND Act) as a means of helping start-ups and small businesses obtain funding. In theory, this regime was an attempt to fill gaps in U.S. securities law that handicapped entrepreneurs and their promoters from obtaining equity, debt, and other financing through the sale of financial investment instruments over the Internet. The use of the Internet for business finance is particularly important to U.S. entrepreneurs who may not have access to funding because of their own limited financial and economic positions.
As the pandemic continues and the fifth year of effectiveness of the CROWDFUND Act progresses, observations can be made about the role securities crowdfunding has played and may play in sustaining and improving prospects for those limited means entrepreneurs. A preliminary examination indicates that, under current legal rules, securities crowdfunding is a promising, yet less-than-optimal, financing vehicle for these entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, there are ways in which U.S. securities crowdfunding may be used or modified to play a more positive role in promoting economic inclusion through capital raising for the innovative ventures of financially disadvantaged entrepreneurs and promoters.
I value the opportunity to contribute to this book with scholars from a number of research disciplines and countries. I have been looking for ways to concretize some of my ideas from this project in a series of shorter publications, and this project seems like a good fit. Nevertheless, I admit that I have been finding it challenging to segment out and organize my ideas about how securities crowdfunding may better serve entrepreneurs and investors, especially in the current economic downturn. As always, your ideas are welcomed.
Monday, June 1, 2020
Call for Papers
AALS Section on Agency, Partnership, LLCs & Unincorporated Associations
Entrepreneurship and the Entity
January 5-9, 2021, AALS Annual Meeting
The AALS Section on Agency, Partnership, LLCs & Unincorporated Associations will sponsor a panel on “Entrepreneurship and the Entity” at the 2021 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California. This panel will showcase scholarship on subjects relating to business law and entrepreneurship, including entity choice throughout a company’s evolution, financing alternatives, and how legal rules promote and discourage different kinds of entrepreneurship. Scholars are encouraged to interpret the subject of the Call for Papers broadly and creatively.
SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Scholars should send a summary of a work or a work-in-progress of no more than 600 words to Professor Sarah C. Haan at [email protected] on or before Friday, August 21, 2020. The summary should be a pdf or Word document that has been stripped of information identifying the author; only the cover email should connect the author to the submission. The subject line of the email should read: “Submission—[author name & title].” Papers will be selected through an anonymous review by the Section’s Executive Committee.
SPECIAL NOTE: Interested parties are encouraged to submit even if they are not certain at this time that they will attend the AALS Annual Meeting in person.
ELIGIBILITY: Scholars at AALS member law schools are eligible to submit. Pursuant to AALS rules, faculty at fee-paid non-member law schools, foreign faculty, adjunct and visiting faculty (without a full-time position at an AALS member law school), graduate students, fellows, and non-law school faculty are not eligible to submit. Please note that all program presenters are responsible for paying their own annual meeting registration fees and, for those attending the AALS Annual Meeting in person, travel expenses.
Any inquiries about the Call for Papers should be submitted to: Professor Sarah C. Haan at [email protected].
Monday, March 30, 2020
COVID-19's effects on financings and M&A, as well as contracts more generally (as covered here, here, and here among many other places), the rapid adoption of the Coronavirus Act, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a/k/a the “CARES Act” (key terms summarized briefly here and elsewhere), and the President's invocation of the Defense Production Act have me feeling like I am drinking business law water out of a fire hose this past week. Anyone else feeling that way? Whew!
I am still sorting through it all. I am sure that I will have more to say on some of this as time passes. However, earlier today, in the process of reading online resources and watching and listening to others talk about the many legal aspects of the current pandemic, I came across this YouTube video, done by one of my former students, a local attorney who works with entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small businesses.
I have not fact-checked this video. And he jumps in to correct himself. But what I like about it is that it represents unvarnished, even humorous, boots-on-the-ground legal public service. He does not want businesses in the local community to miss out or waste time/money shooting in the dark--or in the wrong direction.
Sometimes, our students do great things after they leave the hallowed halls of law school. Many times, those good deeds go unrecognized. Haseeb has always been passionate. It makes me so happy to see him using his passion to help the local business community. I want to offer a "shout out" to him here. (And his dog, Simon, is the cutest! ♥)
Monday, March 2, 2020
I recently had occasion to offer background to, and be interviewed by, a local television reporter about a publicly traded firm that owns several health care facilities in East Tennessee and has been financed significantly through loans from and corporate payments made by a member of its board of directors. The resulting article and news clip can be found here. Since the story was published, a Form 8-K was filed reporting that the director has resigned from the board and the firm is negotiating with him to cancel its indebtedness in exchange for preferred stock.
In reviewing published reports on the firm, Rennova Health, Inc., I learned that it had been delisted from NASDAQ back in 2018. The reason? The firm engaged in too many stock splits.
I also came across an article reporting that another health care firm, a middle Tennessee skilled nursing provider, Diversicare Healthcare Services, Inc., had been delisted in late 2019. The same article noted two additional middle Tennessee health care firms also were in danger of being delisted from stock exchanges. One was subsequently delisted.
Health care mergers and acquisitions also have been in the news here in Tennessee. A Tennessee/Virginia health care business combination finalized in 2018 is one of two under study by the Federal Trade Commission. The combining firms, Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, avoided federal and state antitrust merger approvals and challenges through the receipt of a certificate of public advantage (COPA) under Tennessee law and a coordinated process in Virginia. The resulting firm, Ballad Health, is an effective health care monopoly in the region and has had well publicized challenges in meeting its commitment to provide cost-effective, quality patient care.
I can only assume that these health care corporate finance issues in Tennessee are a microcosm of what exists nationally.
All of this has made me interested in the U.S. healthcare industry as an engaging and useful lens through which one could teach and write about the legal aspects of corporate finance . . . . Many of the current business law issues in U.S. health care firms stem from well-known financial challenges in the industry and the related governmental responses (or lack thereof). With public debates--including in connection with this year's presidential caucuses, primaries, and election--over the extent to which the federal government should provide financial support to the health care industry under existing conditions and whether the health care industry has become too big to fail, health care examples and hypotheticals seem very salient now, in the same way that banking or telecomm examples and hypotheticals may have had pedagogical and scholarly traction in corporate finance in the past.
Some of the business law issues facing U.S. health care firms may be quite the same as they are for firms in any other industry. Yet, some also may be unique to the health care industry and worth further, individualized exploration in the classroom or in the research realm. For example, innovation and entrepreneurship--intricately tied to corporate finance--may be different in the health care space, as currently configured in the United States. This article makes arguments in that regard.
In all, it seems there is a synergy worth examining in the connections between the U.S. health care crisis and business law teaching and research. Unless and until something fundamental changes in the U.S. health care delivery system, corporate finance lawyers and professionals are likely to have important (if somewhat hidden) roles in ensuring that health care firms survive while providing cost-effective care to those who need it. Business law analyses and innovations are sure to play strong roles in this environment, making business law professors key potential contributors. Time for us to step up and take the challenge!
Monday, November 11, 2019
The above photo honors my father's U.S. Army service and my father-in-law's U.S. Army service, in each case, in the Korean War. I took a pause today to respect what they and so many others have done to serve our country. I hope that all veterans and their families and friends have enjoyed a Happy Veteran's Day.
With veteran legal service projects (some through student organizations, like our award-winning Vols for Vets organization at UT Law, a nonprofit supported by many in our community), including full-fledged law clinics (e.g., here and here and here and here and here), emerging across the country, I wondered whether there was any assistance outside the law school context, specifically for veterans who are entrepreneurs. I did find, through a page on the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) website, that the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization has a program for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. Under the program, a veteran who owns a small business "may qualify for advantages when bidding on government contracts—along with access to other resources and support—through the Vets First Verification Program." A number of additional entrepreneurship programs exist under the auspices of the same VA office. Many can be found on the website for the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (noted above).
In my web travels, I also found a nifty national veteran's entrepreneurship program at the University of Florida Warrington School of Business. And at one of our sister UT system schools, the The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the business school--the Gary W. Rollins College of Business--has a Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. And it seems there is quite a bit more out there in the educational setting.
This all seems like a good start. I am sure with more digging, I could find more. I was admittedly gratified, however, to see that Forbes published a piece on free support programs for veteran entrepreneurs. I was hoping to see a bunch more of that kind of thing . . . . Maybe next year?
Again, I send abundant and heartfelt thanks to all of our veterans for their service.