One way to understand the 2016 US election and Brexit decision, says Professor of Law Edward Rock, is that many voters feel left out of the system of corporate governance and free trade that has emerged over the last 30 years. If voters have rejected the longstanding view that the role of the board is to maximize shareholder value, what view of corporate governance will replace it? What will be the “new paradigm” of corporate governance in a world of activist shareholders and institutional investors who have become the de facto “deciders” in controversies over firm direction, governance, and control?
At the intersections of academia and practice and law and finance, NYU School of Law’s Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance seeks to understand these and other central questions and to encourage the development of institutional investors as a responsible force in corporate governance. Launching March 9 with “A New Paradigm for Corporate Governance?,” the institute brings together key players through programming that takes advantage of the concentration of finance, talent, and activity in New York City and at NYU Law and NYU Stern School of Business. At the helm is Rock, who joined the Law School after having spent more than 25 years at the University of Pennsylvania where he was instrumental in developing Penn Law’s Institute of Law and Economics. “NYU Law has one of the world’s greatest collections of scholars working on corporate law, corporate governance, securities regulation, the regulation of financial institutions, and taxation. With close relations to Stern’s world-class finance department, the concentration of academic talent here is amazing,” says Rock.
The institute’s flagship program will consist of biannual full-day “roundtables” designed to bring together major institutional investors, activist and highly engaged shareholders, the Delaware judiciary, top corporate law and finance academics, investment bankers, and top deal lawyers and litigators from New York and Delaware, among others. Each roundtable, conducted under the Chatham House Rule, will last throughout the day with 40 to 50 participants and will focus on an important issue in corporate governance or corporate finance. Typically, the morning session will be devoted to the presentation of academic research, with commentators from academia and practice; the afternoon will feature a moderated panel discussion of cutting-edge developments in the real world, led by individuals with experience in the field. The institute also offers short public programs, specially designed private programs, and, eventually, an annual London program.
“Our people are our programs,” Rock asserts. “The key to our programming—both short format and full-day programs—is that we bring the key people together and then structure a conversation in which the essential facts and arguments are brought forward and discussed. Sometimes, an academic paper will be the jumping-off point, as in our full-day roundtables. Other times, insights from the world of practice will frame the key questions. In whatever format, the programs will be a place where central participants will interact around pressing questions of law and policy.”
At the March 9 launch event, Martin Lipton ’55, founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and a member of NYU Law’s Board of Trustees, will present his “New Paradigm for Corporate Governance,” with commentary from Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr., of the Delaware Supreme Court; Matthew Mallow ’67, LLM ’68, vice chairman of BlackRock and formerly at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Jean-Pierre Rosso, of the World Economic Forum; and Robert Schumer, chair of the corporate department at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
“New York is the center of law and business in the United States. It is the global financial center,” Rock says. “And what that means is one can organize programs that take advantage of the riches of the city, with key players within a short subway or cab ride. My hope is that the institute will become the convener of important conversations on corporate law, governance, and finance.”
Posted March 8, 2017