Friday, December 14, 2018

Getting Back to B Corporations and Benefit Corporations . . . .

Haskell Murray, this one's for you (and many others who work with B corporations and benefit corporations)!

Friend of the BLPB Tamara Belinfanti recently sent me a link to an article in which she was quoted.  The premise of the article is clear from its title: To B or not to B? That’s the question for companies who seek to "balance profit and purpose."  Familiar proposition; great article title.  It's certainly worth a quick read, even if it says nothing new.  (Although it does seem to imply that Justice Strine is no longer the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court . . . .)

In the article, various folks (including Justice Strine) comment about whether B corporation certification and/or benefit corporations are "needed" for social enterprise firms.  This is a question that I love to think about (especially if it can keep me from grading papers for a bit . . . ).  Some of you may remember my post on this topic from a few years ago.  It also is an issue that I have approached at times in pieces of my academic writing, including in the article featured in this post.

Next summer, at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools annual meeting/conference, I am moderating a discussion group on the subject to continue and enrich the conversation.  The title and brief abstract are set forth below.

Discussion Group: Benefit Corporation (or Not)? Establishing and Maintaining Social Impact Business Firms

As the benefit corporation form nears the end of its first decade of "life" as a legally recognized form of business association, it seems important to reflect on whether it has fulfilled its promise as a matter of legislative intent and public responsibility and service. This discussion group is designed to take on the challenge of engaging in that reflective process. The participating scholars include doctrinal and clinical faculty members who both favor and tend to recommend the benefit corporation form for social enterprises and those who disfavor or hesitate to recommend it.

To date, the participants include domestic and international law professors (clinical and doctrinal) and a practitioner, too!  Let me know if you would like to join this group.  The conference runs from July 28 - August 3 and will be held this year at the Boca Resort and Beach Club.

I will be interested in the discussion.  In the mean time, as someone who does not recommend the benefit corporation form, I am opening the BLPB "floor" for discussion here.  I am interested in your views.

December 14, 2018 in Conferences, Corporate Governance, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Storytelling is for Business Lawyers, Too

A number of years ago, I attended the Biennial Conference on Applied Legal Storytelling.  It was a super event.  I came out of the conference with amazing ideas for teaching and scholarship.  I am thinking of taking my spring research project (on friends and family insider trading) to the conference in 2019.  Will you come join me?

Typically, the conference principally attracts legal writing instructors and clinicians. But more of us should be jumping on this bandwagon.   Storytelling and narrative more generally—which are (of course) a part of all advocacy and dispute resolution—also are used in transaction-building and negotiation.  Accordingly, I am hoping that some of you will consider attending the conference with me this coming summer.  Here are the details from the call for proposals.

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Call for Proposals

Seventh Biennial Conference on Applied Legal Storytelling

Boulder, Colorado, July 9–11 2019

Hosted by the University of Colorado School of Law,
University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and University of Wyoming School of Law, and coordinated by the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Scholarship Group

This is the call for proposals for the seventh biennial conference on Applied Legal Storytelling. We are offering two deadlines for submitting proposals: January 21, 2019 (priority deadline) and March 11, 2019 (extended deadline).

About the Conference

The Applied Legal Storytelling Conference brings together academics, judges, andpractitioners. The conference has previously convened in 2007 (London), 2009 (Portland),2011 (Denver), 2013 (London), Seattle (2015), and Washington D.C. (2017). We are veryexcited to bring it back to the Mountain West (Boulder) in July 2019.

Applied Legal Storytelling (AppLS) examines the use of stories—and of storytelling or narrative elements—in law practice, legal education, and the law.

This definition is intentionally broad in order to allow people creativity in the way theythink and present on the topic. Such topics may include: the ways in which fiction-writing techniques or narrative theory can inform legal storytelling; stories in the law, or law as stories; legal storytelling and metaphor; client story advocacy; legal storytelling and cognitive science; and ethical considerations in legal storytelling.

In an effort to continue the storytelling conversation for this seventh conference, and to welcome new attendees, we are providing resources for those interested in submitting a proposal and who wish to generate ideas or respond to others’. The first is a list of topicsfrom past conferences, available athttps://www.lwionline.org/sites/default/files/TopicsfrompastAppLSconferences.pdf. The second is a link to a bibliography on AppLS, including articles that have emerged from previous storytelling conferences, available at http://www.alwd.org/wp-contentuploads20151108-rideout_article2015-pdf/. We are also happy to answer questions and offer you suggestions—if you are a newcomer and interested in becoming involved, please reach out.

Continue reading

December 11, 2018 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 3, 2018

More on the SEC Roundtable on the Proxy Process

On November 15, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) convened a Roundtable on the Proxy Process.  (See also here.)  I have not been following this as closely as co-blogger Ann Lipton has (see recent posts here and here), but friend-of-the-BLPB, Bernie Sharfman (Chairman of the Main Street Investors Coalition Advisory Council) has been active as a comment source.  Both contribute valuable ideas that I want to highlight here as the SEC continues to chew on the information it amassed in the roundtable process. 

Ann, as you may recall, has been focusing attention on the uncertain status of proxy advisors when it comes to liability for securities fraud.  In her most recent post, she observes that

There’s a real ambiguity about where, if it all, proxy advisors fit within the existing regulatory framework, and while I am not convinced there is a specific problem with how they operate or even necessarily a need for regulation, I think it can only be for the good if the SEC were to at least clarify the law, if for no other reason than that these entities play an important role in the securities ecosystem, and if we expect market pressure to discipline them, potential new entrants should have an idea of the regime to which they will be subject.

I remember having similar questions as to the possible fiduciary duties and securities fraud liability of funding portals under the Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure Act of 2012 (a/k/a the CROWDFUND Act)--Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (a/k/a/, the JOBS Act).  I wrote about these ambiguities (and other concerns) in this paper, published before the SEC adopted Regulation CF.  I know Ann's right that we have clean-up to do when it comes to the status of securities intermediaries in various liability contexts (a topic co-blogger Ben Edwards also is passionate about--see, e.g., here and here).

Bernie has honed in on voting process issues relating to both proxy advisors (the standard for making voting recommendations and the use/rejection of the same) and mutual fund investment advisers (the disclosure of mutual fund adviser voting procedures and SEC's enforcement of the Proxy Voting Rule).  Specifically, in an October 12 letter to the SEC, Bernie sets forth three proposals on proxy advisor voting recommendations.  His bottom line?

Institutional investors have a fiduciary duty to vote. However, the use of uninformed and imprecise voting recommendations as provided by proxy advisors should not be their only option. They should always be in a position of making an informed vote, whether or not a proxy advisor can help in making them informed.

Earlier, in an October 8 letter to the SEC (Revised as of October 23, 2018), Bernie recommends mutual adviser disclosure of "the procedures they will use to deal with the temptation to use their voting power to retain or acquire more assets under management and to appease activists in their own shareholder base" and "the procedures they will use to identify the link between support for a shareholder proposal at a particular company and the enhancement of that company’s shareholder value."  He also recommends that the SEC "should clarify that voting inconsistent with these new policies and procedures or omission of such policies and procedures will be considered a breach of the Proxy Voting Rule" and engage in "diligent" enforcement of the Proxy Voting Rule.  I commend both letters to you.

Ann's and Bernie's proxy disclosure and voting commentary also reminds me of the importance of co-blogger Anne Tucker's work on the citizen shareholder (e.g., here).  It will be interesting to see what the SEC does with the information obtained through the proxy process roundtable and the related comment letters.  There certainly is much here to be explored and digested.

[Postscript, 12/4/2018: Bernie Sharfman notified me this morning of a third comment letter he has filed--on proxy advisor fiduciary duties.  It seems he may have a fourth letter in the works, too.  Look out for that. - JMH]

December 3, 2018 in Agency, Ann Lipton, Anne Tucker, Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

10th Annual National Business Law Scholars Conference - Call for Papers

It seems like it's "Call for Papers Week" for me.  Here's one near and dear to my heart, as you all must know . . . .

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National Business Law Scholars Conference (NBLSC)
June 20-21, 2019
Call for Papers

The National Business Law Scholars Conference (NBLSC) will be held on Thursday and Friday, June 20-21, 2019, at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

This is the tenth meeting of the NBLSC, an annual conference that draws legal scholars from across the United States and around the world. We welcome all scholarly submissions relating to business law. Junior scholars and those considering entering the academy are especially encouraged to participate. If you are thinking about entering the academy and would like to receive informal mentoring and learn more about job market dynamics, please let us know when you make your submission.

To submit a presentation, email Professor Eric C. Chaffee at eric.chaffee@utoledo.edu with an abstract or paper by February 15, 2019. Please title the email “NBLSC Submission – {Your Name}.” If you would like to attend, but not present, email Professor Chaffee with an email entitled “NBLSC Attendance.” Please specify in your email whether you are willing to serve as a moderator. We will respond to submissions with notifications of acceptance shortly after the deadline. We anticipate the conference schedule will be circulated in May.

Conference Organizers:
Tony Casey (The University of Chicago Law School)
Eric C. Chaffee (The University of Toledo College of Law)
Steven Davidoff Solomon (University of California, Berkeley School of Law)
Joan Heminway (The University of Tennessee College of Law)
Kristin N. Johnson (Tulane University Law School)
Elizabeth Pollman (Loyola Law School, Los Angeles)
Jeff Schwartz (University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law)

 

 

November 29, 2018 in Call for Papers, Conferences, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Teaching Corporate Fiduciary Duties, Again . . . .

Even after 19 years or so of teaching Business Associations courses, I still marvel at how hard it is to teach corporate fiduciary duty doctrine to my students.  A lot of my frustration comes from the amount of (perhaps not-so-useful) judicially instigated labeling involved under Delaware law, as the leading state in the area.  In particular, there is the narrowing of the duty of care to exclude both substantive duty of care claims and Caremark claims.  And then there is the matter of how to best describe the nature of the business judgment rule and how to describe the interaction of disclosure (candor) with the fiduciary duties of care and loyalty. And finally there is a lingering doctrinal question as to whether, in other jurisdictions, good faith, classified as a subsidiary component of the duty of loyalty in Delaware, may be a free-standing fiduciary duty or, in the alternative, foundational, penumbral, etc. to the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care  . . . .  Tough stuff.

Is anyone else out there suffering in the same way I do in teaching fiduciary duties in a Business Associations or Corporations class?  How do you handle the legal complexity/labeling questions?  I continue to want to improve in teaching this material.  I am all ears.

[Postscript:  I failed to note in the original post the helpful comments that I received on a longer-form, less specific post on this issue two years ago.  Feel free to look there for more and for some ideas folks shared about their teaching then.]

November 19, 2018 in Corporate Governance, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Blessings to All Veterans

Today, in honor of my Dad, my father-in-law, my cousin, my administrative assistant, many friends, and others who have honored us with their military service, I am posting a link to a recent episode of The Home Team with Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors.  The episode features an interview by my former student, Betty Rhoades, of one of my new military buddies, Captain Chris Davis, USMC.  Chris is a 3L at UT Law and a super guy.  He founded a nonprofit last year, Vols for Vets, of which I (and others) are very proud.

Thanks to all who have served in our armed forces for helping to protect us from enemies far and near.  Your service is to be honored and cherished.  We thank you for our lives and our freedom.

November 12, 2018 in Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (1)

ComplianceNet2 Conference Invitation Announcement & Call for Papers

ComplianceNetLogo

Friend of the BLPB Josephine Nelson informs us of the following:

The second-annual ComplianceNet conference will take place on June 3-4, 2019. Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law and its Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance will host the conference. Like the highly successful inaugural conference at UC Irvine in 2018, this conference will allow scholars from across disciplines and different legal and regulatory topics to exchange research and explore connections for collaboration.

The timing of this year’s conference is designed to follow on the heels of the Law & Society meeting in nearby Washington, D.C. If you are already headed to Law & Society, Villanova is a short train-ride away and easily accessible by public transportation. Regardless of whether you will be attending Law & Society, Villanova is in a beautiful location right outside Philadelphia, easily serviced by major international airports (Philadelphia (PHL), Newark (EWR), Baltimore (BWI), two more in NYC, and two more in DC); 90 minutes from NYC; and two hours from D.C.

The theme of this year's conference is Business Ethics, although we welcome additional papers discussing compliance across diverse settings. This year’s theme seeks to engage the question of how to run ethical companies, and how to encourage ethical behavior within organizations. The conference welcomes attempts to explore the strengths and limitations of various approaches, to identify how measurement strategies have shaped practices, and to understand how we can improve outcomes, for instance through new technology and combining methods. Submissions do not need to align with the meeting theme, but we encourage you to consider relating to it. The conference is also open to scholars and other experts who want to attend without presenting a paper.

The conference will host a business meeting of ComplianceNet, during which members may discuss future activities.

To register for the conference either as a presenter or attendee, please fill out the form by following this link. The URL is https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-second-annual-compliancenet-conference-tickets-50784542935.

For individual papers, please submit the paper title and abstract (up to about 200 words). For panels (3 papers minimum with a maximum of 5 per panel), please submit an integrative statement explaining the panel (approximately 200 words), the titles of each paper and their authors, and an abstract for each paper (approximately 200 words). At our website, ComplianceNet.org, there is also a form to nominate papers for awards. Papers may be considered for awards whether they come through the nomination link or are presented at the conference.

The early registration discount deadline to submit papers and panels is January 25, 2019. The regular registration deadline for papers and panels is February 22, 2019. The registration deadline to attend without a paper or panel (as space available) is March 29, 2019. Registration for the conference includes the yearly membership in ComplianceNet. If you have questions regarding the call for proposals or about the conference, please contact Benjamin van Rooij (bvanrooij@law.uci.edu).

 . . . 

---For conference updates, please refer to the ComplianceNet website at www.ComplianceNet.org--- 

Sounds like a great event.  I note (and informed Josephine) that this conference overlaps with the Impact Investing Legal Working Group (IILWG)/Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship’s 2019 Conference on “Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing – in the US and Beyond,” scheduled for June 4-5 at the NYU Schools of Law in NYC.  More on that conference later.  In any event, it looks like there is a lot to do up North after the Law and Society Association conference!  One could spend the whole week away presenting papers. . . .

November 12, 2018 in Compliance, Conferences, Ethics, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Cambridge Handbook of Social Enterprise Law

The Cambridge Handbook of Social Enterprise Law, edited by Ben Means (South Carolina) and Joe Yockey (Iowa) is at the printers and should be ready for orders in early 2019. 

My fellow BLPB editor Joan Heminway and I both have chapters in the book, along with many others. 

The introduction is posted on SSRN, for those who are interested. Also, editor Ben Means has many talents, as he did the cover artwork below as well.

The Cambridge Handbook of Social Enterprise Law_Cover

November 9, 2018 in Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip, Social Enterprise | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Elections of the Political and Corporate Kind

By the time many of you read this, Election Day 2018 will be upon us (or even over).  I have had elections on my mind for some time now--elections of the political and corporate kind.  As a result of an invitation to participate in last week's symposium on women and corporate governance hosted by the George Washington Law Review ("Women and Corporate Governance: A Conference Exploring the Role and Impact of Women in the Governance of Public Corporations"), my election-oriented thoughts somehow became infused with gender reflections . . . .

1992 was dubbed the political “Year of the Woman.” The appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991 after hearings focused on sexual harassment allegations and revelations of Bill Clinton’s extramarital sexual conduct during his first campaign for election as U.S. President were and are credited with the record number of women elected to federal legislative positions in 1992. “When the ballots were counted, America had elected a record-breaking four women as senators and 24 women as representatives to Congress.” Li Zhou, The striking parallels between 1992’s “Year of the Woman” and 2018, explained by a historian, VOX, Nov 2, 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/11/2/17983746/year-of-the-woman-1992 (interview with Georgetown University professor Michele Swers).

2018 has again been a hallmark year for women in politics—and in the public company boardroom. The #MeToo movement (and along with it yet another U.S. Supreme Court appointment tinged with allegations of sexual misconduct and a U.S President with a history of philandering and lechery) undoubtedly has been a factor in both the record-breaking number of women seeking political office in 2018 and a simultaneous renewed interest in gender diversity on corporate boards of directors. Perhaps this is not surprising. #MeToo largely emanates from the abuse of gendered power in government and business firms (which together are responsible for the fundamental regulation of our economic and social lives).

Given these parallels, there may be some value to looking at both the political and business management reactions to #MeToo.  Specifically, I am interested in comparing, contrasting, and reflecting on the gender effects of the #MeToo movement on public company board composition in relation to the gender effects of the #MeToo movement on the composition of legislative bodies. I have determined to write a symposium essay along those lines for the George Washington Law Review.  Your reflections and ideas on content are welcomed.

November 5, 2018 in Corporate Governance, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Valuing and Visioning Collaboration - Thank You, Haskell!

Last Friday, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the 64th annual conference of the Southeastern Academy of Legal Studies in Business (SEALSB).  The invitation for this appearance was extended to me months ago by BLPB contributing editor Haskell Murray.  It was a treat to have the opportunity to mingle and talk shop with the attendees (some of whom I already knew).

The participants in SEALSB are largely business law faculty members teaching at business schools.  Having never before attended one of their meetings and as a bit of a "foreigner" in their midst, I wondered for quite a bit about what I should talk about.  Should I take the conservative route and present some of my work, hoping to dazzle the group with my legal knowledge (lol), or should I take a riskier approach and tell them what was really on my heart when I accepted Haskell's kind invitation?

I chose the latter.  I spoke for 15-20 minutes on "Valuing and Visioning Collaboration" between business law faculties in business and law schools and then took about 10 minutes of questions.  I started with the stories of two of my students--who could have been the students of anyone in the room.  Sarah took a business (accounting) major as an undergraduate and then came to law school; Ryan completed law school and went on to an MBA.  Both achieved lofty learning objectives and engaged in productive scholarship.  Both landed the jobs they wanted--ironically at the same firm (but years apart).  For me, the stories of these two students--what they did and how they became successful--illustrates both the power of business school law faculty and law school business law faculty working together and the high value in that relationship as to both teaching and scholarship.

I noted that, in these two (of the three principal) aspects of our common academic existence, teaching and scholarship, there are a number of ways that we can collaborate, offering examples of each:

  • conference organization and attendance;
  • work in interdisciplinary centers;
  • scholarship co-authorships;
  • co-teaching and teaching for each other;
  • co-currocular and extra-curricular programs (e.g., competitions and journals);
  • curriculum development; and
  • blogging.

I bet you can guess what blog I mentioned as an example in addressing that last collaborative method . . . .

I also noted, however, that there are barriers to these collaborations--or at least to some of them in certain contexts.  Those barriers may include: the fact that reaching across the aisle may be, for the relevant institutions and faculty members, new--that there is no history--and that it may therefore be more of a challenge to scope out and implement collaboration; differences in methodology, norms, and terminology; potential disagreements about institutional or personal credit allocation (including because of ego); questions about the necessary sources of funding and human capital; and overall, a lack of institutional or departmental incentives and rewards for collaboration (including credit in tenure and promotion deliberations at many schools).

Nevertheless, I offered that, even if institutions do not act to support collaborative efforts, we should strike out to overcome the barriers and engage with each other because the benefits are worth the costs.  To do so, however, we must both understand and truly appreciate the benefits of collaboration.  We also must be willing to take some attendant risk (or pick collaborative methods that avoid or limit risk).  I indicated that I plan to head down the collaborative path with increased focus.

To conclude my remarks, in the spirit of my invitation from Haskell to attend and speak at SEALSB, I encouraged the assembled crowd to join me on that collaborative journey, quoting from Patrick Lencioni's book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.  In that book, he wrote: "Remember teamwork begins by building trust.  And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability." [p. 58; emphasis added]  Here, I invite all of you who teach business law in a business or law school setting to embrace vulnerability and reach across the aisle to work with your business law colleagues.  And if you already have done so, please leave a comment on the outcome--positive or negative.

October 29, 2018 in Business School, Conferences, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Research/Scholarhip, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Employee Stock Options in Unicorns: Scholarship At the Intersection of Securities Law and Employee Benefits

Friend of the Business Law Prof Blog Anat Beck recently posted a draft of her article entitled Unicorn Stock Options - Golden Goose or Trojan Horse? on SSRN.  I heard presentations on earlier versions of this piece, which I personally find quite intricate and interesting.  An excerpt fro the SSRN abstract follows:

This article examines a contemporary puzzle in Silicon Valley – is there a shift in unicorn employees expectations that results in labor contracting renegotiations? It explores the challenges faced by unicorn firms as repeat players in competitive technology markets. It offers the following possible solutions. First, new equity-based compensation contracts, and critiques them. Second, alternatives to the traditional liquidity mechanisms, and critiques them.

It concludes with proposals to remove legal barriers to private ordering, and new mandatory disclosure requirements.

The article has been picked up by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation and linked to in a Matt Levine column for Bloomberg.  This is a good read, especially for those of you interested in entrepreneurial business law (which is Anat's speciality).

October 23, 2018 in Employment Law, Entrepreneurship, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

And So, I Brag: Business Law Students with Initiative

I try not to use this space too often to brag on my students--the folks whose quest for knowledge gets me up in the morning.  But three of my students have been co-authors of two separate pieces in the American Bar Association's Business Law Today publication since May.  The initiative and the follow-through that these students (two of whom have graduated and are now in private practice) exhibited is truly extraordinary.  And so, I brag . . . .

Most recently, my current student Samuel Henninger has co-authored an article with a practitioner on preference payments in bankruptcy entitled "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream at Preference Claims."  Samuel graduates in May 2019. He will clerk for a local bankruptcy court judge next year and then practice with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in Nashville after his clerkship concludes.

Back in May, my former students Brian Adams and Bo Cook co-authored an article together entitled "Limiting the Scope of Post-Closing Actions in Private Mergers & Acquisitions: The Role of Non-Reliance and Integration Clauses in Delaware," delving into enforcement issues in mergers and acquisitions relating to allegations of fraud based on "extra-contractual representations."  Brian and Bo graduated in the spring of this year (2018).  Brian is a newly minted associate at Polsinelli PC in Nashville and Bo holds the same august position at Bass Berry & Sims PLC also in Nashville.

Few students understand the significant contribution that these kinds of articles may make in solving the problems of practicing lawyers and, potentially, the judiciary.  Fewer yet have the chutzpah to think that their article of this kind, if submitted, would make it to publication.  Even fewer students would undertake and complete the tailored research and writing that an article of this kind takes.  These three guys deserve some real credit, in my estimation.  And so, I brag!

October 16, 2018 in Bankruptcy/Reorganizations, Joan Heminway, M&A | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Poking the SEC Bear

BLPB reader Tom N. sent me a link to this article last week by email.  The article covers Elon Musk's taunting of the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a post on Twitter.  The post followed on the SEC's settlement with Musk and Tesla, Inc. of a legal action relating to a prior Twitter post. The title of Tom N.'s message?  "Musk Pokes the Bear in the Eye."  Exactly what I was thinking (and I told him so) when I had read the same article earlier that day!  This post is dedicated to Tom N. (and the rest of you who have been following the Musk affair).

Last week, I wrote about scienter issues in the securities fraud allegations against Elon Musk, following on Ann Lipton's earlier post on materiality in the same context.  This week, I want to focus on state corporate law--specifically, fiduciary duty law.  The idea for this post arises from a quotation in the article Tom N. and I read last week.  The quotation relates to an order from the judge in the SEC's action against Musk and Tesla, Alison Nathan, that the parties jointly explain and justify the fairness and reasonableness of their settlement and why the settlement would not hurt the public interest.  Friend and Michigan Law colleague Adam Pritchard offered (as quoted in the article): “She may want to know why Tesla is paying a fine because the CEO doesn’t know when to shut up.”  Yes, Adam.  I agree.

What about that?  According to the article, the SEC settlement with Musk and Tesla "prevents Musk from denying wrongdoing or suggesting that the regulator’s allegations were untrue."  The taunting tweet does not exactly deny wrongdoing or suggest that the SEC's allegations against him were untrue.  Yet, it comes close by mocking the SEC's enforcement activities against Musk and Tesla.  Musk's action in tweeting negatively about the SEC is seemingly--in the eyes of a reasonable observer--an intentional action that may have the propensity to damage Tesla.  

At the very least, the tweet appears to be contrary to the best interests of the firm.  But is it a manifestation of bad faith that constitutes a breach of the duty of loyalty under Delaware law?  As most of us well know, 

[b]ad faith has been defined as authorizing a transaction "for some purpose other than a genuine attempt to advance corporate welfare or [when the transaction] is known to constitute a violation of applicable positive law." In other words, an action taken with the intent to harm the corporation is a disloyal act in bad faith. . . . [B]ad faith (or lack of good faith) is when a director acts in a manner "unrelated to a pursuit of the corporation's best interests." It makes no difference the reason why the director intentionally fails to pursue the best interests of the corporation.

Bad faith can be the result of "any emotion [that] may cause a director to [intentionally] place his own interests, preferences or appetites before the welfare of the corporation," including greed, "hatred, lust, envy, revenge, . . . shame or pride."

In Re Walt Disney Co. Derivative Litigation, 907 A.2d 693, 753-54 (Del. Ch. 2005).  Of course, Musk was not authorizing a transaction--or even clearly acting for or on behalf of Tesla--in making his taunting tweet.  But he is identified strongly with Tesla, and his tweet was intentional and inconsistent with the best interests of the firm.  Did he intend to harm Tesla in posting his tweet?  Perhaps not.  Did he act in a manner "unrelated to a pursuit of the corporation's best interests?"  Perhaps.  The tweet is certainly an imprudent (and likely grossly negligent or reckless) action that appears to result from Musk intentionally placing his own hatred or revenge ahead of the interests of Tesla.  

"To act in good faith, a director must act at all times with an honesty of purpose and in the best interests and welfare of the corporation."  Id. at 755.  Yet, it is unclear how far that goes in a Twitter-happy world in which the personal blends into the professional.  Musk was (in all likelihood) not taking action as a director or officer of Tesla when he tweeted his taunt.  Yet, he was undoubtedly cognizant that he occupied those roles and that his actions likely had an effect on the firm.  Should his fiduciary duties extend to this type of conduct?

And what about the Tesla board's duty to monitor? Does it extend to monitoring Musk's personal tweeting?  E.g., the argument made in the Chancery Court's opinion in Beam Ex Rel. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. v. Stewart.  Even of not mandated by fiduciary duty law, the SEC clearly wants the board to have that monitoring responsibility.  The settlement with the SEC reportedly provides for "Tesla’s board to implement procedures for reviewing Musk’s communications with investors, which include tweets."  More for us all to think about when we think about Elon Musk and Tesla . . . .  It's always best not to poke the bear.

October 8, 2018 in Ann Lipton, Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Scienter and the Musk Tweet Affair

I have been so grateful for Ann Lipton's blog posts (see here and here) and tweets about Elon Musk's going-private-funding-is-secure tweet affair.  Her post on materiality on Saturday--just before the SEC settlement was announced--was especially interesting (but, of course, that's one of my favorite areas to work in . . .).  She tweeted about the settlement here:

Screenshot 2018-10-01 10.12.17

[Note: this is a screenshot.]  Ann may have more to say about that in another post; she did add a postscript to her Saturday post reporting the settlement . . . .

But I also find myself wondering about another of the contentious issues in Section 10(b)/Rule 10b-5 litigation: scienter.  This New York Times article made me think a bit on the point.  It tells a tale--apparently relayed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in connection with its inquiry into the tweet incident--of fairly typical back-room discussions between/among business principals.  This part of the article especially stuck with me in that regard:

On an evening in March 2017, . . . Mr. Musk and Tesla’s chief financial officer dined at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., with Larry Ellison, the chairman of Oracle, and Yasir Al Rumayyan, the managing director of the Saudi Public Investment Fund. During the meal, . . . Mr. Rumayyan raised the idea of taking Tesla private and increasing the Saudi fund’s stake in it.

More than a year later, . . . Mr. Musk and Mr. Rumayyan met at the Tesla factory on July 31.  When Mr. Rumayyan spoke again of taking the company private, Mr. Musk asked him whether anyone else at the fund needed to approve of such a significant deal. Mr. Rumayyan said no . . . .

Could Musk have actually believed that a handshake was all that was needed here?  We all know a handshake can be significant.  (See here and here for the key facts relating to the now infamous Texaco/Getty/Pennzoil case.)  But should Musk have taken (or at least should he have known that he should take) more care to verify before tweeting?  In other words, can Musk and his legal counsel actually believe they can prove that Musk (1) had no knowledge that his tweet was false and (2) was merely negligent--not reckless--in relying on the oral assurance of a business principal to commit to a $70+ billion transaction?

Don Langevoort has written cogently and passionately about the law governing scienter.  One of my favorite articles he has written on scienter is republished in my Martha Stewart book.  What he urges in that piece is that the motive and purpose of a potentially fraudulent disclosure are not the relevant considerations in determining the existence of scienter.  Rather, the key question is whether the disclosing party (here, Musk) knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that what he was saying was false.  Join this, Don notes, with the securities fraud requirement that manipulation or deception be in connection with the purchase or sale of a security, and the test becomes not merely whether Musk misrepresented material fact or misleadingly omitted to state material fact, but also whether he could reasonably foresee the likely impact of his misrepresentation on the market for Tesla's securities.

On the one hand, as Ann points out in her post on Saturday, a number of investors in the market thought the tweet was a joke.  Given that, might we assume that Musk--a person perhaps similarly experienced in finance--knew or should have known that his tweet was false?  On the other hand, as Ann notes in her post, the SEC's complaint states that "market analysts - sophisticated people - privately contacted Tesla’s head of investor relations for more information and were assured that the tweet was legit. So that’s evidence the market took it seriously."  Yet, Musk might just be presumptuous enough to believe he could reasonably rely on an oral promise by a person who is in control of executing on that promise--thinking it represented a deal (although, of course, not one that experienced legal counsel would understand to be legally, or even morally, binding or enforceable).  Too wealthy men jawing about a deal . . . .Puffery, or the way business actually is done in this crowd?  

Based on what I know today (which is not terribly much), my sense is that a court should find that Musk acted in reckless disregard of the falsity of his words and understood the likely impact those words would have on the trading of his firm's stock.  To find otherwise based on the specific facts alleged to have occurred here would inject too much subjectivity into the (admittedly subjective) determination of scienter.  But we shall see.  As Ann noted in Saturday's post, a private class action also has been brought against Musk and Tesla based on the tweet affair.  So, we may yet see the materiality and scienter issues play themselves out in court (although I somehow doubt it).

October 1, 2018 in Ann Lipton, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, Securities Regulation | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Electronic and Digital Signatures - A New Area for Statutory Activity

This past Friday, Burr & Forman LLP and the Clayton Center for Entrepreneurial Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law (including its business law journal, Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law), cosponsored a conference entittled "Law and Business Tech: Cybersecurity, Blockchain and Electronic Transactions."  This was, as you may recognize, the second business law conference UT Law sponsored in a week's time (the first being the Business Law Prof Blog symposium, "Connecting the Threads II," the week before).  It has been a busy time for business law faculty and students at UT Law!

(Parenthetically, I will note here that one of the attendees at Friday's event, who also had been at the Business Law Prof blog symposium, came back to this past week's conference because he was so jazzed up about Marcia's presentation at the first event--which she mentions here and here.  Thanks, Marcia, for encouraging this interest in blockchain technology in our legal community!)

At Friday's conference, I moderated and participated in a panel on "The Coming Second Wave of Digital and other Electronic Signatures in Commerce."  The panelists included Ed Snow of Burr & Forman and Katy Blackwell from SIGNiX.  The panel walked through a history and course of conduct from handwritten signatures to electronic signatures to digital signatures, discussing the transitions from one to another (which are, as yet, incomplete).  Interesting questions emerged as among us as to, e.g., why banking/credit transactions and mergers/acquisitions tend to lag behind in the adoption of new signature technologies.  (Your thoughts are welcomed.)

At the end of the prepared program, my co-panelists asked me to speak about Tennessee's adoption of a digital signature statute back in the spring.  This was another of the legislative review projects that I have undertaken as a member of the Tennessee Bar Association Business Section Executive Council.  We were given 24-48 hours to comment on a digital signature bill that had been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly based on an Arizona statute adopted in 2017 (information available here).  Although I personally thought the bill/statutory revision was likely unnecessary and would have preferred to spend more time studying it before commenting on it, two of us on the Executive Council pooled comments on the draft bill, which also received comments from other quarters.  

The ostensible legislative policy was to ensure the enforceability of legally valid and binding transactions occurring in a distributed ledger environment.  Tennessee proponents of the bill wanted to support business in this environment, as I noted in commentary quoted in this article.  With that in mind, two issues were, in the short time we had, important.

Continue reading

September 24, 2018 in Conferences, Contracts, Joan Heminway, Marcia Narine Weldon, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Helping Business Law Students Develop Judgment, Wisdom . . .

I am still basking in the warm glow of having hosted a number of my fellow Business Law Prof Blog editors in Knoxville last week for our second annual "Connecting the Threads" event.  What a great day we had on Friday.  I could listen to these folks talk about business law until the cows come home (so to speak--no actual cows here!).

As BLPB readers may recall, the title of my paper for the 2018 "Connecting the Threads II" symposium is Lawyering for Social Enterprise.  I am sure that I will blog more on that topic in this space later--when my paper from the symposium has been published--but I want to offer here the three paragraphs of conclusion to the handout I prepared for the continuing legal education materials for the program, which focus on the need of judgment, discretion, and even wisdom.

Advising entrepreneurs, founders, promoters, and directors of social enterprises can be both satisfying and frustrating. The satisfaction most often comes from helping these businesses achieve financial success while also serving the public good. The frustration comes from the difficulty of the task in providing the necessary counsel—both in selecting the optimal legal form for the firm and in advising management as the business operates over time. These legal advisory contexts involving social enterprises are richly textured and immerse legal counsel in multi-level decision-making that impacts both internal and external business constituencies. The overall advisory environment implicates, among other things, hortatory text in the Preamble to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct providing that “[a] lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession and to exemplify the legal profession's ideals of public service.” In lawyering for social enterprise, the legal advisor’s skill and public service responsibilities interact meaningfully.

Said another way, the complex decision-making involved in lawyering for social enterprise presents obvious challenges for business venturers and their legal counsel that involve not only baseline professional responsibility matters of competence (comprising doctrinal knowledge and solid, rational legal analysis), diligence (by offering patient and perceptive insights in helping the client to choose from among available alternatives), and communication (with the goal of ensuring informed client decision-making), but also the exercise of appropriate discretion and professionalism that require the savvy built from doctrinal, theoretical, and practical experience and leadership capabilities. As Professor Jeff Lipshaw has written in his intriguing and engaging book Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure Lawyering, “I am firmly convinced that great lawyers . . . bring something more than keen analytical skills to the table. They bring some kind of wisdom—a metaphorical creativity—that transcends disciplinary boundaries, both within the law and without.” That brand of wisdom is especially important in the kinds of questions that arise in lawyering for social enterprise.

Accordingly, as lawyers representing social enterprises, we need to develop knowledge of a complex set of laws and well-practiced, contextual legal reasoning skills. But that, while necessary, is insufficient to the task. We also must impose judgment borne of a deep understanding of the nature of social enterprise and of our clients and their representatives working in that space. Only then can we fulfill our professional promise as legal advisors: to provide clients with both “an informed understanding of . . . legal rights and obligations” and an explanation of “their practical implications.”

(footnotes omitted; hypertext links added).

Agree?  Disagree?  Can we help students (and inexperienced members of the bar) develop complex decision-making rubrics that incorporate judgment and wisdom?  Can we teach judgment, wisdom, and the like to law students?  Forever the optimist, I have an intuition that we can.

And with that thought in mind, I close with a picture of a UT Law student who gives me that hope.  He commented on my draft paper at the symposium on Friday.  He has been in my classroom for two semesters now (taking Advanced Business Associations, Corporate Finance, and Mergers & Acquisitions).  He spoke about why limited liability companies may be a better legal option for organizing social enterprise firms than corporations.  Proud moment for him and for me.  He aced it.

TransactionsBLPB2018(Adgent)

 

September 17, 2018 in Joan Heminway, Lawyering, Social Enterprise, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

A National Business Deregulatory Agenda?

Slide1I am writing this fall about (among other things) business deregulation in the Trump era.  Given that the President's campaign for office featured business deregulation as a prominent tenet, it seems like a good time to visit what's been done to fulfill those campaign promises.  Business being a broad area for focus, I am trying to narrow the subject down a bit by picking some salient examples.

I reference the early executive orders on agency rule rulemaking and assessments of their success.  See, e.g., here and here.  But the deregulatory moves impacting business that have gotten the most media attention are the Trump administration's tax cuts and a few smaller initiatives--like the tamp-backs to parts of bank regulation in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Apart from these headline items, what catches your attention, if anything, about the current administration's forays into deregulation?  I would be interested in knowing.

Of course, there also are areas where it seems that there is new business regulation or business re-regulation rather than business deregulation.  Perhaps the most prominent area in which the current administration has taken a non-deregulatory approach to business operation is in international trade.  The reported outcome of recent trade talks with Mexico, for example, as well as the imposition of significant tariffs on Chinese imports earlier this year, have both been classified as contrary or counterproductive to a deregulatory agenda.  See, e.g., here and here, respectively.  Query whether and, if so, how these contrary or counterproductive measures should be weighed in any evaluation of business deregulatory success . . . .

And that's just it.  Successful deregulation is somewhat in the eye of the beholder.  No single reference point represents an established determinant or embodiment of deregulatory triumph.  There are no standardized rules of the road governing the evaluation of efficacious deregulatory actions (taken individually or collectively).  Thus, political and other biases often underlie reports of effective or ineffective deregulatory initiatives, just as they underlie reports of effective or ineffective regulatory initiatives, even though deregulatory impact may intuitively seem to be more capable of simple measurement and objective assessment.

I will be presenting a draft paper on business deregulation during the Trump administration at an upcoming symposium sponsored by the Mercer Law Review.  The symposium, "Corporate Law in the Trump Era," will be held on October 5 at the Mercer University School of Law.  I will have more to say on that essay in later posts, I am sure.  But for now, I invite you to let me know what current areas of business deregulation interest you most.  I would like to make my choices meaningful to the target audience for this essay, which likely includes many BLPB readers.

September 10, 2018 in Current Affairs, Joan Heminway | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Connecting the Threads II - Laboring on Labor Day

Like many in the law academy, I find three-day holiday weekends a great time to catch my breath and catch up on work items that need to be addressed.  This Labor Day weekend--including today, Labor Day itself--is no exception to the rule.  I am working today, honoring workers through my own work.  My husband and daughter are doing the same.

This blog post and the announcement it carries are among my more joyful tasks for the day.  I have been remiss in not earlier announcing and promoting our second annual Business Law Prof Blog symposium, which will be held at The University of Tennessee College of Law on September 14.  The symposium again focuses on the work of many of your favorite Business Law Prof Blog editors, with commentary from my UT Law faculty colleagues and students.  This year, topics range from the human rights and other compliance implications of blockchain technology to designing impactful corporate law, with a sprinkling of other entity and securities law related topics.  I am focusing my time in the spotlight (!) on professional challenges in the representation of social enterprise firms.  More information about the symposium is available here.  For those of you who have law licenses in Tennessee, CLE credits are available.

I am looking forward to again hosting some of my favorite law scholars at this symposium.  I am sure some will blog about their presentations here (Marcia already has previewed her talk and summarized all of our presentations, and I plan to later blog about mine), Transactions (our business law journal) will publish the symposium proceedings, and videos will be processed and posted on UT Law's CLE website later in the year.  But if you are in the neighborhood, stop by and hear us all in person!  We would love to see you.

Transactions(BLBP-ConnectingThreadsLogo)

September 3, 2018 in Ann Lipton, Conferences, Current Affairs, Joan Heminway, Joshua P. Fershee, Marcia Narine Weldon, Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Should Corporate Lawyers and Business Law Professors Be Talking About DAOs?

Did I lose you with the title to this post? Do you have no idea what a DAO is? In its simplest terms, a DAO is a decentralized autonomous organization, whose decisions are made electronically by a written computer code or through the vote of its members. In theory, it eliminates the need for traditional documentation and people for governance. This post won't explain any more about DAOs or the infamous hack of the Slock.it DAO in 2016. I chose this provocative title to inspire you to read an article entitled Legal Education in the Blockchain Revolution.

The authors Mark Fenwick, Wulf A. Kaal, and Erik P. M. Vermeulen discuss how technological innovations, including artificial intelligence and blockchain will change how we teach and practice law related to real property, IP, privacy, contracts, and employment law. If you're a practicing lawyer, you have a duty of competence. You need to know what you don't know so that you avoid advising on areas outside of your level of expertise. It may be exciting to advise a company on tax, IP, securities law or other legal issues related to cryptocurrency or blockchain, but you could subject yourself to discipline for doing so without the requisite background. If you teach law, you will have students clamoring for information on innovative technology and how the law applies. Cornell University now offers 28 courses on blockchain, and a professor at NYU's Stern School of Business has 235 people in his class. Other schools are scrambling to find professors qualified to teach on the subject. 

To understand the hype, read the article on the future of legal education. The abstract is below:

The legal profession is one of the most disrupted sectors of the consulting industry today. The rise of Legal Tech, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, and, most importantly, blockchain technology is changing the practice of law. The sharing economy and platform companies challenge many of the traditional assumptions, doctrines, and concepts of law and governance, requiring litigators, judges, and regulators to adapt. Lawyers need to be equipped with the necessary skillsets to operate effectively in the new world of disruptive innovation in law. A more creative and innovative approach to educating lawyers for the 21st century is needed.

For more on how blockchain is changing business and corporate governance, come by my talk at the University of Tennessee on September 14th where you will also hear from my co-bloggers. In case you have no interest in my topic, it's worth the drive/flight to hear from the others. The descriptions of the sessions are below:

Session 1: Breach of Fiduciary Duty and the Defense of Reliance on Experts

Many corporate statutes expressly provide that directors in discharging their duties may rely in good faith upon information, opinions, reports, or statements from officers, board committees, employees, or other experts (such as accountants or lawyers). Such statutes often come into play when directors have been charged with breaching their procedural duty of care by making an inadequately informed decision, but they can be applicable in other contexts as well. In effect, the statutes provide a defense to directors charged with breach of fiduciary duty when their allegedly uninformed or wrongful decisions were based on credible information provided by others with appropriate expertise. Professor Douglas Moll will examine these “reliance on experts” statutes and explore a number of questions associated with them.

Session 2: Fact or Fiction: Flawed Approaches to Evaluating Market Behavior in Securities Litigation

Private fraud actions brought under Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act require courts to make a variety of determinations regarding market functioning and the economic effects of the alleged misconduct. Over the years, courts have developed a variety of doctrines to guide how these inquiries are to be conducted. For example, courts look to a series of specific, pre-defined factors to determine whether a market is “efficient” and thus responsive to new information. Courts also rely on a variety of doctrines to determine whether and for how long publicly-available information has exerted an influence on security prices. Courts’ judgments on these matters dictate whether cases will proceed to summary judgment and trial, whether classes will be certified and the scope of such classes, and the damages that investors are entitled to collect. Professor Ann M. Lipton will discuss how these doctrines operate in such an artificial manner that they no longer shed light on the underlying factual inquiry, namely, the actual effect of the alleged fraud on investors.

Session 3: Lawyering for Social Enterprise

Professor Joan Heminway will focus on salient components of professional responsibility operative in delivering advisory legal services to social enterprises. Social enterprises—businesses that exist to generate financial and social or environmental benefits—have received significant positive public attention in recent years. However, social enterprise and the related concepts of social entrepreneurship and impact investing are neither well defined nor well understood. As a result, entrepreneurs, investors, intermediaries, and agents, as well as their respective advisors, may be operating under different impressions or assumptions about what social enterprise is and have different ideas about how to best build and manage a sustainable social enterprise business. Professor Heminway will discuss how these legal uncertainties have the capacity to generate transaction costs around entity formation and management decision making and the pertinent professional responsibilities implicated in an attorney’s representation of such social enterprises.

Session 4: Beyond Bitcoin: Leveraging Blockchain for Corporate Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Enterprise Risk Management

Although many people equate blockchain with bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and smart contracts, Professor Marcia Narine Weldon will discuss how the technology also has the potential to transform the way companies look at governance and enterprise risk management. Companies and stock exchanges are using blockchain for shareholder communications, managing supply chains, internal audit, and cybersecurity. Professor Weldon will focus on eliminating barriers to transparency in the human rights arena. Professor Weldon’s discussion will provide an overview of blockchain technology and how state and nonstate actors use the technology outside of the realm of cryptocurrency.

Session 5: Crafting State Corporate Law for Research and Review

Professor Benjamin Edwards will discuss how states can implement changes in state corporate law with an eye toward putting in place provisions and measures to make it easier for policymakers to retrospectively review changes to state law to discern whether legislation accomplished its stated goals. State legislatures often enact and amend their business corporation laws without considering how to review and evaluate their effectiveness and impact. This inattention means that state legislatures quickly lose sight of whether the changes actually generate the benefits desired at the time off passage. It also means that state legislatures may not observe stock price reactions or other market reactions to legislation. Our federal system allows states to serve as the laboratories of democracy. The controversy over fee-shifting bylaws and corporate charter provisions offers an opportunity for state legislatures to intelligently design changes in corporate law to achieve multiple state and regulatory objectives. Professor Edwards will discuss how well-crafted legislation would: (i) allow states to compete effectively in the market for corporate charters; and (ii) generate useful information for evaluating whether particular bylaws or charter provisions enhance shareholder wealth.

Session 6: An Overt Disclosure Requirement for Eliminating the Duty of Loyalty

When Delaware law allowed parties to eliminate the duty of loyalty for LLCs, more than a few people were appalled. Concerns about eliminating the duty of loyalty are not surprising given traditional business law fiduciary duty doctrine. However, as business agreements evolved, and became more sophisticated, freedom of contract has become more common, and attractive. How to reconcile this tradition with the emerging trend? Professor Joshua Fershée will discuss why we need to bring a partnership principle to LLCs to help. In partnerships, the default rule is that changes to the partnership agreement or acts outside the ordinary course of business require a unanimous vote. See UPA § 18(h) & RUPA § 401(j). As such, the duty of loyalty should have the same requirement, and perhaps that even the rule should be mandatory, not just default. The duty of loyalty norm is sufficiently ingrained that more active notice (and more explicit consent) is necessary, and eliminating the duty of loyalty is sufficiently unique that it warrants unique treatment if it is to be eliminated.

Session 7: Does Corporate Personhood Matter? A Review of We the Corporations

Professor Stefan Padfield will discuss a book written by UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler, “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.” The highly-praised book “reveals the secret history of one of America’s most successful yet least-known ‘civil rights movements’ – the centuries-long struggle for equal rights for corporations.” However, the book is not without its controversial assertions, particularly when it comes to its characterizations of some of the key components of corporate personhood and corporate personality theory. This discussion will unpack some of these assertions, hopefully ensuring that advocates who rely on the book will be informed as to alternative approaches to key issues.

 

September 1, 2018 in Ann Lipton, Compliance, Conferences, Contracts, Corporate Governance, Corporate Personality, Corporations, Current Affairs, Employment Law, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, International Business, Joan Heminway, Joshua P. Fershee, Law School, Lawyering, LLCs, Marcia Narine Weldon, Real Property, Shareholders, Social Enterprise, Stefan J. Padfield, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Kuo & Means - The Political Economy of Corporate Exit

Are corporations (and other business associations) political actors?  Of course.  Some of Marcia's posts here on the BLPB have raised, for example, questions about the use of boycotts as firm political activity.  See, e.g., here.  Marcia also pointed out here that National Football League teams (typically owned by and operated through some form of business association) have been caught up in political activity surrounding the players-kneeling-during-the-national-anthem controversy.

The Vanderbilt Law Review has recently published an essay on the political corporation written by a Dream Team of sorts--two friends who are married to each other--at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Susan Kuo and Ben Means.  Susan teaches advocacy and dispute resolution courses (currently focusing on criminal law and procedure, conflicts, and social justice issues) and is the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.  Ben is likely known to many BLPB readers as a business law guy (with a special focus on small and family owned busnesses). He's been a member of the executive committee for the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Business Associations and is past chair of the AALS Section on Agency, Partnership, LLCs, and Unincorporated Business Associations.  They bring their individual and collective talents to this essay, entitled The Political Economy of Corporate Exit.  Here is the SSRN abstract.  

Corporate political activity is understood to include financial contributions, lobbying efforts, participation in trade groups, and political advertising, all of which give corporations a “voice” in public decisionmaking. This Essay contends that the accepted definition of corporate political activity overlooks the importance of “exit.” Corporations do not need to spend money to exert political influence; when faced with objectionable laws, they can threaten to take their business elsewhere. From the “grab your wallet” campaign to the fight for LGBT rights in states such as Georgia, Indiana, and North Carolina, corporate exit has played a significant role in recent political controversies.

This Essay offers the first account of corporate exit as a form of political activity and identifies two basic rationales: (1) attaching economic consequences to public choices, and (2) avoiding complicity with laws that violate a corporation’s values. This Essay also shows how citizens can harness corporate economic power when conventional political channels are inaccessible. In an era of hashtag activism and boycotts sustained via social media, corporations cannot afford to ignore consumers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders.

I communicated with Ben about this piece a while back and was excited about it then.  I am looking forward to getting into it in short order.  Looks like a relevant, insightful read.

August 28, 2018 in Business Associations, Corporations, Joan Heminway, Marcia Narine Weldon | Permalink | Comments (0)