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Dynamic Disclosure: An Exposé On The Mythical Divide Between Voluntary And Mandatory Esg Disclosure, Lisa Fairfax Nov 2022

Dynamic Disclosure: An Exposé On The Mythical Divide Between Voluntary And Mandatory Esg Disclosure, Lisa Fairfax

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In March 2022, for the first time in its history, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) proposed rules mandating disclosure related to climate change. The proposed rules are remarkable because heretofore many in the business community, including the SEC, vehemently resisted climate-related disclosure, based primarily on the argument that such disclosure is not material to investors. This resistance is exemplified by the current lack of any SEC disclosure mandates for climate change. The proposed rules have sparked considerable pushback including allegations that the rules violate the First Amendment, would be too costly, and focus on “social” or “political” issues …


Purpose Proposals, Jill E. Fisch Sep 2022

Purpose Proposals, Jill E. Fisch

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Repurposing the corporation is the hot issue in corporate governance. Commentators, investors and increasingly issuers, maintain that corporations should shift their focus from maximizing profits for shareholders to generating value for a more expansive group of stakeholders. Corporations are also being called upon to address societal concerns – from climate change and voting rights to racial justice and wealth inequality.

The shareholder proposal rule, Rule 14a–8, offers one potential tool for repurposing the corporation. This Article describes the introduction of innovative proposals seeking to formalize corporate commitments to stakeholder governance. These “purpose proposals” reflect a new dynamic in the debate …


Board Committee Charters And Esg Accountability, Lisa Fairfax Sep 2022

Board Committee Charters And Esg Accountability, Lisa Fairfax

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We are currently witnessing a sharp increase in corporate attention on environmental, sustainability, and governance (“ESG”). The steep rise in corporate focus on ESG has prompted considerable criticism, not only from those concerned about how best to ensure that corporations are held accountable for their ESG commitments, but also from those who strenuously insist that corporate commitment to ESG is merely rhetorical or otherwise merely a passing fad. In an effort to shed light on the concerns around ESG accountability, and gain perspective about the potential illusory or short-term nature of ESG, I conducted my own survey of the committee …


The Uncertain Stewardship Potential Of Index Funds, Jill E. Fisch Apr 2022

The Uncertain Stewardship Potential Of Index Funds, Jill E. Fisch

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Regulators and commentators around the world are increasingly demanding that institutional investors engage in stewardship with respect to their portfolio companies. Further, the demand for stewardship has broadened from an expectation that investors engage to reduce agency costs and promote economic value to a call for investors to demand that companies serve a broader range of societal interests and objectives. This chapter considers calls for stewardship in the context of the U.S. capital markets specifically as applied to index funds. It argues that, irrespective of the merits of institutional stewardship generally, the structure of index funds and the business environment …


Stakeholderism, Corporate Purpose, And Credible Commitment, Lisa Fairfax Jan 2022

Stakeholderism, Corporate Purpose, And Credible Commitment, Lisa Fairfax

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One of the most significant recent phenomena in corporate governance is the embrace, by some of the most influential actors in the corporate community, of the view that corporations should be focused on furthering the interests of all corporate stakeholders as well as the broader society. This stakeholder vision of corporate purpose is not new. Instead, it has emerged in cycles throughout corporate law history. However, for much of that history—including recent history—the consensus has been that stakeholderism has not achieved dominance or otherwise significantly influenced corporate behavior. That honor is reserved for the corporate purpose theory that focuses on …


Stealth Governance: Shareholder Agreements And Private Ordering, Jill E. Fisch Jan 2022

Stealth Governance: Shareholder Agreements And Private Ordering, Jill E. Fisch

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Corporate law has embraced private ordering -- tailoring a firm’s corporate governance to meet its individual needs. Firms are increasingly adopting firm-specific governance through dual-class voting structures, forum selection provisions and tailored limitations on the duty of loyalty. Courts have accepted these provisions as consistent with the contractual theory of the firm, and statutes, in many cases, explicitly endorse their use. Commentators too support private ordering for its capacity to facilitate innovation and enhance efficiency.

Private ordering typically occurs through firm-specific charter and bylaw provisions. VC-funded startups, however, frequently use an alternative tool – shareholder agreements. These agreements, which have …


Racial Rhetoric Or Reality? Cautious Optimism On The Link Between Corporate #Blm Speech And Behavior, Lisa Fairfax Jan 2022

Racial Rhetoric Or Reality? Cautious Optimism On The Link Between Corporate #Blm Speech And Behavior, Lisa Fairfax

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The summer of 2022 marks the two-year anniversary of the dramatic rekindling of the #BlackLivesMatter movement because of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people at the hands of police. The summer of 2020 saw cities in the United States and around the world erupt in protest, with calls to dismantle racist policies and practices both in the criminal system and within the broader society, with a particular emphasis on policies and practices impacting Black people. The summer of 2022 also marks the two-year anniversary of the visible and somewhat surprising avalanche of corporate statements …


Optimizing The World’S Leading Corporate Law: A 20-Year Retrospective And Look Ahead, Lawrence Hamermesh, Jack B. Jacobs, Leo E. Strine Jr. Oct 2021

Optimizing The World’S Leading Corporate Law: A 20-Year Retrospective And Look Ahead, Lawrence Hamermesh, Jack B. Jacobs, Leo E. Strine Jr.

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In a 2001 article (Function Over Form: A Reassessment of Standards of Review in Delaware Corporation Law) two of us, with important input from the other, argued that in addressing issues like hostile takeovers, assertive institutional investors, leveraged buyouts, and contested ballot questions, the Delaware courts had done exemplary work but on occasion crafted standards of review that unduly encouraged litigation and did not appropriately credit intra-corporate procedures designed to ensure fairness. Function Over Form suggested ways to make those standards more predictable, encourage procedures that better protected stockholders, and discourage meritless litigation, by restoring business judgment rule …


Mutual Fund Stewardship And The Empty Voting Problem, Jill E. Fisch Oct 2021

Mutual Fund Stewardship And The Empty Voting Problem, Jill E. Fisch

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When Roberta Karmel wrote the articles that are the subject of this symposium, she was skeptical of both the potential value of shareholder voting and the emerging involvement of institutional investors in corporate governance. In the ensuing years, both the increased role and engagement of institutional investors and the heightened importance of shareholder voting offer new reasons to take Professor Karmel’s concerns seriously. Institutional investors have taken on a broader range of issues ranging from diversity and political spending to climate change and human capital management, and their ability to influence corporate policy on these issues has become more significant. …


The “Value” Of A Public Benefit Corporation, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon Apr 2021

The “Value” Of A Public Benefit Corporation, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon

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We examine the “value” a PBC form provides for publicly-traded corporations. We analyze the structure of the PBC form and find that other than requiring a designated social purpose it does not differ significantly in siting control and direction with shareholders. We also examine the purpose statements in the charters of the most economically significant PBCs. We find that, independent of structural limitations on accountability, these purpose statements are, in most cases, too vague and aspirational to be legally significant, or even to serve as a reliable checks on PBC behavior. We theorize, and provide evidence, that without a legal …


Just Say Yes? The Fiduciary Duty Implications Of Directorial Acquiescence, Lisa Fairfax Mar 2021

Just Say Yes? The Fiduciary Duty Implications Of Directorial Acquiescence, Lisa Fairfax

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The rise in shareholder activism is one of the most significant recent phenomena in corporate governance. Shareholders have successfully managed to enhance their power within the corporation, and much of that success has resulted from corporate managers and directors voluntarily acceding to shareholder demands. Directors’ voluntary acquiescence to shareholder demands is quite simply remarkable. Remarkable because most of the changes reflect policies and practices that directors have vehemently opposed for decades, and because when opposing such changes directors stridently insisted that the changes were not in the corporation’s best interest. In light of that insistence, and numerous statements from directors …


Lifting Labor’S Voice: A Principled Path Toward Greater Worker Voice And Power Within American Corporate Governance, Leo E. Strine Jr., Aneil Kovvali, Oluwatomi O. Williams Feb 2021

Lifting Labor’S Voice: A Principled Path Toward Greater Worker Voice And Power Within American Corporate Governance, Leo E. Strine Jr., Aneil Kovvali, Oluwatomi O. Williams

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In view of the decline in gain sharing by corporations with American workers over the last forty years, advocates for American workers have expressed growing interest in allowing workers to elect representatives to corporate boards. Board level representation rights have gained appeal because they are a highly visible part of codetermination regimes that operate in several successful European economies, including Germany’s, in which workers have fared better.

But board-level representation is just one part of the comprehensive codetermination regulatory strategy as it is practiced abroad. Without a coherent supporting framework that includes representation from the ground up, as is provided …


Reconsidering The Evolutionary Erosion Account Of Corporate Fiduciary Law, William W. Bratton Jan 2021

Reconsidering The Evolutionary Erosion Account Of Corporate Fiduciary Law, William W. Bratton

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This Article reconsiders the dominant account of corporate law’s duty of loyalty, which asserts that the courts have steadily relaxed standards of fiduciary scrutiny applied to self-dealing by corporate managers across more than a century of history—to the great detriment of the shareholder interest. The account originated in Harold Marsh, Jr.’s foundational article, Are Directors Trustees? Conflicts of Interest and Corporate Morality, published in The Business Lawyer in 1966. Marsh’s showing of historical lassitude has been successfully challenged in a recent book by Professor David Kershaw. This Article takes Professor Kershaw’s critique a step further, asking whether the evolutionary …


Synthetic Governance, Byung Hyun Anh, Jill E. Fisch, Panos N. Patatoukas, Steven Davidoff Solomon Jan 2021

Synthetic Governance, Byung Hyun Anh, Jill E. Fisch, Panos N. Patatoukas, Steven Davidoff Solomon

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Although securities regulation is distinct from corporate governance, the two fields have considerable substantive overlap. By increasing the transparency and efficiency of the capital markets, securities regulation can also enhance the capacity of those markets to discipline governance decisions. The importance of market discipline is heightened by the increasingly vocal debate over what constitutes “good” corporate governance.

Securities product innovation offers new tools to address this debate. The rise of index-based investing provides a market-based mechanism for selecting among governance options and evaluating their effects. Through the creation of bespoke governance index funds, asset managers can create indexes that correspond …


Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton Jan 2021

Team Production Revisited, William W. Bratton

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This Article reconsiders Margaret Blair and Lynn Stout’s team production model of corporate law, offering a favorable evaluation. The model explains both the legal corporate entity and corporate governance institutions in microeconomic terms as the means to the end of encouraging investment, situating corporations within markets and subject to market constraints but simultaneously insisting that productive success requires that corporations remain independent of markets. The model also integrates the inherited framework of corporate law into an economically derived model of production, constructing a microeconomic description of large enterprises firmly rooted in corporate doctrine but neither focused on nor limited by …


Corporate Personhood And Limited Sovereignty, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2021

Corporate Personhood And Limited Sovereignty, Elizabeth Pollman

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This Article, written for a symposium celebrating the work of Professor Margaret Blair, examines how corporate rights jurisprudence helped to shape the corporate form in the United States during the nineteenth century. It argues that as the corporate form became popular because of the way it facilitated capital lock-in, perpetual succession, and provided other favorable characteristics related to legal personality that separated the corporation from its participants, the Supreme Court provided crucial reinforcement of these entity features by recognizing corporations as rights-bearing legal persons separate from the government. Although the legal personality of corporations is a distinct concept from their …


Restoration: The Role Stakeholder Governance Must Play In Recreating A Fair And Sustainable American Economy A Reply To Professor Rock, Leo E. Strine Jr. Jan 2021

Restoration: The Role Stakeholder Governance Must Play In Recreating A Fair And Sustainable American Economy A Reply To Professor Rock, Leo E. Strine Jr.

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In his excellent article, For Whom is the Corporation Managed in 2020?: The Debate Over Corporate Purpose, Professor Edward Rock articulates his understanding of the debate over corporate purpose. This reply supports Professor Rock’s depiction of the current state of corporate law in the United States. It also accepts Professor Rock’s contention that finance and law and economics professors tend to equate the value of corporations to society solely with the value of their equity. But, I employ a less academic lens on the current debate about corporate purpose, and am more optimistic about proposals to change our corporate governance …


Should Corporations Have A Purpose?, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon Jan 2021

Should Corporations Have A Purpose?, Jill E. Fisch, Steven Davidoff Solomon

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Corporate purpose is the hot topic in corporate governance. Critics are calling for corporations to shift their purpose away from shareholder value as a means of addressing climate change, equity and inclusion, and other social values. We argue that this debate has overlooked the critical predicate questions of whether a corporation should have a purpose at all and, if so, what role it serves.

We start by exploring and rejecting historical, doctrinal, and theoretical bases for corporate purpose. We challenge the premise that purpose can serve a useful function either as a legal constraint on managerial discretion or as a …


The History And Revival Of The Corporate Purpose Clause, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2021

The History And Revival Of The Corporate Purpose Clause, Elizabeth Pollman

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The corporate purpose debate is experiencing a renaissance. The contours of the modern debate are relatively well developed and typically focus on whether corporations should pursue shareholder value maximization or broader social aims. A related subject that has received much less scholarly attention, however, is the formal legal mechanism by which a corporation expresses its purpose—the purpose clause of the corporate charter. This Article examines corporate purpose through the evolution of corporate charters. Starting with historic examples ranging from the Dutch East India Company to early American corporations and their modern 21st century parallels, the discussion illuminates how corporate purpose …


The Corporate Governance Machine, Dorothy S. Lund, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2021

The Corporate Governance Machine, Dorothy S. Lund, Elizabeth Pollman

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The conventional view of corporate governance is that it is a neutral set of processes and practices that govern how a company is managed. We demonstrate that this view is profoundly mistaken: in the United States, corporate governance has become a “system” composed of an array of institutional players, with a powerful shareholderist orientation. Our original account of this “corporate governance machine” generates insights about the past, present, and future of corporate governance. As for the past, we show how the concept of corporate governance developed alongside the shareholder primacy movement. This relationship is reflected in the common refrain of …


Corporate Law For Good People, Yuval Feldman, Adi Libson, Gideon Parchomovsky Jan 2021

Corporate Law For Good People, Yuval Feldman, Adi Libson, Gideon Parchomovsky

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This article offers a novel analysis of the field of corporate governance by viewing it through the lens of behavioral ethics. It calls for both shifting the focus of corporate governance to a new set of loci of potential corporate wrongdoing and adding new tools to the corporate governance arsenal. The behavioral ethics scholarship emphasizes the large share of wrongdoing generated by "good people" whose intention is to act ethically. Their wrongdoing stems from "bounded ethicality" -- various cognitive and motivational processes that lead to biased decisions that seem legitimate. In the legal domain, corporate law provides the most fertile …


Codetermination In Theory And Practice, Grant M. Hayden, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2021

Codetermination In Theory And Practice, Grant M. Hayden, Matthew T. Bodie

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A system of shared corporate governance between shareholders and workers, codetermination has been mostly ignored within the U.S. corporate governance literature. When it has made an appearance, it has largely served as a foil for shareholder primacy and an example of corporate deviance. However, over the last twenty years—and especially in the last five—empirical research on codetermination has shown surprising results as to the system’s efficiency, resilience, and benefits to stakeholders. This Article reviews the extant American legal scholarship on codetermination and provides a fresh look at the current state of codetermination theory and practice. Rather than experiencing the failures …


From Mandates To Governance: Restructuring The Employment Relationship, Brett Mcdonnell, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2021

From Mandates To Governance: Restructuring The Employment Relationship, Brett Mcdonnell, Matthew T. Bodie

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Employers are saddled with a dizzying array of responsibilities to their employees. Meant to advance a wide array of workplace policies, these demands have saddled employment with the burden of numerous social ends. However, that system has increasingly come under strain, as companies seek to shed employment relationships and workers lose important protections when terminated. In this Article, we propose that employers and employees should be given greater flexibility with a move from mandates to governance. Many of the employment protections required from employers stem from employees’ lack of organizational power. The imbalance is best addressed by providing workers with …


From Mandates To Governance: Restructuring The Employment Relationship, Brett H. Mcdonnell, Matthew T. Bodie Jan 2021

From Mandates To Governance: Restructuring The Employment Relationship, Brett H. Mcdonnell, Matthew T. Bodie

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Employers are saddled with a dizzying array of responsibilities to their employees. Meant to advance a wide array of workplace policies, these demands have saddled employment with the burden of numerous social ends. However, that system has increasingly come under strain, as companies seek to shed employment relationships and workers lose important protections when terminated. In this Article, we propose that employers and employees should be given greater flexibility with a move from mandates to governance. Many of the employment protections required from employers stem from employees’ lack of organizational power. The imbalance is best addressed by providing workers with …


Shareholder Collaboration, Jill E. Fisch, Simone M. Sepe Jan 2020

Shareholder Collaboration, Jill E. Fisch, Simone M. Sepe

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Two models of the firm dominate corporate law. Under the management-power model, decision-making power rests primarily with corporate insiders (officers and directors). The competing shareholder-power model defends increased shareholder power to limit managerial authority. Both models view insiders and shareholders as engaged in a competitive struggle for corporate power in which corporate law functions to promote operational efficiency while limiting managerial agency costs. As scholars and judges continue to debate the appropriate balance of power between shareholders and insiders, corporate practice has moved on. Increasingly, the insider–shareholder dynamic is collaborative, not competitive.

This Article traces the development of insider–shareholder collaboration, …


Corporate Law And The Myth Of Efficient Market Control, William W. Bratton, Simone Sepe Jan 2020

Corporate Law And The Myth Of Efficient Market Control, William W. Bratton, Simone Sepe

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In recent times, there has been an unprecedented shift in power from managers to shareholders, a shift that realizes the long-held theoretical aspiration of market control of the corporation. This Article subjects the market control paradigm to comprehensive economic examination and finds it wanting.

The market control paradigm relies on a narrow economic model that focuses on one problem only, management agency costs. With the rise of shareholder power, we need a wider lens that also takes in market prices, investor incentives, and information asymmetries. General equilibrium theory (GE) provides that lens. Several lessons follow from reference to this higher-order …


Fiduciary Blind Spot: The Failure Of Institutional Investors To Prevent The Illegitimate Use Of Working Americans' Savings For Corporate Political Spending, Leo E. Strine Jr. Jan 2020

Fiduciary Blind Spot: The Failure Of Institutional Investors To Prevent The Illegitimate Use Of Working Americans' Savings For Corporate Political Spending, Leo E. Strine Jr.

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For decades, American workers have been subjected to increasing pressure to become forced capitalists, in the sense that to provide for retirement for themselves, and to pay for college for their children, they must turn part of their income every month over to mutual funds who participate in 401(k) and 529 programs. These “Worker Investors” save for the long term, often hold portfolios that are a proxy for the entire economy, and depend on the economy’s ability to generate good jobs and sustainable growth in order for them to be able to have economic security. In recent years, there has …


Private Company Lies, Elizabeth Pollman Jan 2020

Private Company Lies, Elizabeth Pollman

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Rule 10b-5’s antifraud catch-all is one of the most consequential pieces of American administrative law and most highly developed areas of judicially-created federal law. Although the rule broadly prohibits securities fraud in both public and private company stock, the vast majority of jurisprudence, and the voluminous academic literature that accompanies it, has developed through a public company lens.

This Article illuminates how the explosive growth of private markets has left huge portions of U.S. capital markets with relatively light securities fraud scrutiny and enforcement. Some of the largest private companies by valuation grow in an environment of extreme information asymmetry …


Toward Fair And Sustainable Capitalism: A Comprehensive Proposal To Help American Workers, Restore Fair Gainsharing Between Employees And Shareholders, And Increase American Competitiveness By Reorienting Our Corporate Governance System Toward Sustainable Long-Term Growth And Encouraging Investments In America’S Future, Leo E. Strine Jr. Sep 2019

Toward Fair And Sustainable Capitalism: A Comprehensive Proposal To Help American Workers, Restore Fair Gainsharing Between Employees And Shareholders, And Increase American Competitiveness By Reorienting Our Corporate Governance System Toward Sustainable Long-Term Growth And Encouraging Investments In America’S Future, Leo E. Strine Jr.

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To promote fair and sustainable capitalism and help business and labor work together to build an American economy that works for all, this paper presents a comprehensive proposal to reform the American corporate governance system by aligning the incentives of those who control large U.S. corporations with the interests of working Americans who must put their hard-earned savings in mutual funds in their 401(k) and 529 plans. The proposal would achieve this through a series of measured, coherent changes to current laws and regulations, including: requiring not just operating companies, but institutional investors, to give appropriate consideration to and make …


Making Sustainability Disclosure Sustainable, Jill E. Fisch Jul 2019

Making Sustainability Disclosure Sustainable, Jill E. Fisch

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Sustainability is receiving increasing attention from issuers, investors and regulators. The desire to understand issuer sustainability practices and their relationship to economic performance has resulted in a proliferation of sustainability disclosure regimes and standards. The range of approaches to disclosure, however, limit the comparability and reliability of the information disclosed. The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has solicited comment on whether to require expanded sustainability disclosures in issuer’s periodic financial reporting, and investors have communicated broad-based support for such expanded disclosures, but, to date, the SEC has not required general sustainability disclosure.

This Article argues that claims about the relationship …