Lawyers play a critical role in designing, implementing, and advancing models by which economic and social activity are conducted globally. The Grunin Center administers two awards to celebrate the contributions of lawyers who purposefully engage in advancing the fields of social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and sustainable development – the Grunin Prize for Law and Social Entrepreneurship and the Grunin Prize for Sustained Commitment.
The award of an annual Grunin Prize for Law and Social Entrepreneurship recognizes lawyers’ participation in the ways in which business is increasingly advancing the goals of sustainability and human development. This prize aims to reward the innovation, potential impact, and replicability and/or scalability of projects and solutions developed by lawyers to advance the fields of social entrepreneurship, impact investing and sustainable development. In addition, 2023 marks the award of the first-ever Grunin Prize for Sustained Commitment. This prize aims to honor lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to these ideals over their careers.
These Grunin Prizes were awarded at a special ceremony on June 6, 2023 in New York City. This ceremony took place as part of the Annual Conference on Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing—in the US and Beyond, which is co-hosted at NYU School of Law by the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship and the Impact Investing Legal Working Group.
Deborah Burand, professor of clinical law and faculty director of the Grunin Center at NYU Law, said, “In awarding these two prizes, we’re celebrating how the fields of social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and sustainable development are being advanced by legal practitioners and educators. The contributions of intellectual capital by creative legal teams like Gavi and dedicated legal educators like Professor Scott are shaping these fields for a better world.”
The 2023 Grunin Prize Winners
Grunin Prize for Sustained Commitment:
Helen Scott, Professor of Law, Co-Director, Leadership Program on Law and Business
Prof. Scott was honored for her exceptional dedication during her career at NYU Law to guiding law students in making a positive impact within transactional and business law.
Helen Scott is a Professor of Law at NYU School of Law. Prof. Scott joined NYU Law’s faculty in 1982 and has taught a wide variety of business law courses. At NYU Law, she also founded and co-directed the Mitchell Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business and the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship.
Grunin Prize for Law and Social Entrepreneurship:
This year, the Grunin Prize for Law and Social Entrepreneurship once again drew nominations from around the world, showcasing the remarkable and growing legal community of practice emerging in these fields. Meet this year’s winner and our 2023 finalists below:
2023 Grunin Prize for Law and Social Entrepreneurship Winner
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – Covax
Nominated legal team: Jelena Madir, General Counsel; Simon Duffield, Lead, Legal – Covax; Muneeza Aumir, Senior Legal Counsel; Christine Crawford, Senior Legal Counsel; Raj Bahia, Senior Legal Counsel; Harpal Dhillon, Senior Legal Counsel; Kate Fendler, Senior Legal Counsel; Laurent Gabus, Senior Legal Counsel; Joanne Hutchings, Senior Legal Counsel; Danielle Lawson, Senior Legal Counsel; Peik Makela, Senior Legal Counsel; Jack Nichols, Senior Legal Counsel; and Clinton Starghill, Senior Legal Counsel; Marion Boutemy, Senior Assistant
Supporting legal teams: Marly Didzian, Partner, Linklaters LLP; Adam Fogarty, Partner, Linklaters LLP; Marc Harvey, Partner, Linklaters LLP; Andrew Jones, Partner, Linklaters LLP; Teresa Laboucarie-Polak, Partner, Linklaters LLP; Aisling Zarraga, Partner, Linklaters LLP
The project: At an early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, it became apparent that to end the global health crisis we not only needed Covid-19 vaccines, but we also needed to ensure that everyone in the world had access to them. This triggered global leaders to call for a solution that would accelerate the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to them for people in all countries. That solution was Covax – the world’s largest programme for the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. As the legal administrator of Covax, Gavi – the global health public-private partnership – entered into agreements with over 150 governments, guarantee arrangements with a number of countries and commercial banks, advance purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers, procurement agreements with UNICEF and Pan American Health Organization, and a range of financing agreements with a number of multilateral development banks. Gavi’s legal team played a leading role in the launch of Covax by drafting and negotiating different agreement with high- and low-income countries, humanitarian partners, development partners and pharmaceutical companies. They created new legal, financial and insurance mechanisms to manage risks, which were critical to securing the participation of countries receiving the vaccines and from the vaccine makers.
2023 Grunin Prize Finalists
Beccar Varela – Sumatoria’s Simplified Negotiable Obligations and Social, Green, and Sustainable bonds
Nominated legal team: Luciana Denegri, Partner, Beccar Varela; María Fernanda Mierez, Partner, Beccar Varela; Daniel Levi, Partner, Beccar Varela, María Victoria Pavani, Senior Associate, Beccar Varela; María Inés Cappelletti, Associate, Beccar Varela; Julián A. Ojeda, Associate, Beccar Varela; María Belén Tschudy, Associate, Beccar Varela.
The project: Non-profit organizations (“NGOs”) in Argentina play a very important role in the current context of a serious economic and social crisis. Today 43.1% of Argentines are below the poverty line. Taking data on access to health, education, food, housing, public services, work and healthy habitat into account, between 2010 and 2022, 70% of the population saw at least one of these fundamental rights negatively affected. Most strikingly, over 50% of Argentine children are poor. In this context, NGOs play a transcendent role that is supplementary or complementary to the government in assisting vulnerable populations. One of the greatest impediments to NGOs performance is the shortage of funds. It was essential to find a lasting solution so that non-profit organizations with self-sustainable economic models could access consistent financing mechanisms. The capital market presented a great opportunity. Asociación Sumatoria para una Nueva Economía (“Sumatoria”) is a non-profit civil association that aims to promote sustainable financing by expanding access to financial services and investment instruments and vehicles to entrepreneurs, projects, institutions and companies with positive social and environmental impact. Beccar Varela proposed collaborating with Sumatoria to explore the possibility that NGOs could access alternative financial sources and working together with the financial regulatory authorities to produce the necessary normative changes, adapt them to the reality of this type of organization and then Sumatoria could issue its first simplified bond. This ground-breaking legal structure has already proven its impact through an NGO´s historic access to local capital markets. The results are clearly scalable since the doors to capital markets financing have been opened to NGOs across the country. Sumatoria has now issued three Social, Green, and Sustainable (SGS) bonds (Class I, II and III), including pioneering with Argentina´s first SGS bond with a gender perspective, in which Banco Comafi S.A., Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires S.A. and Banco Santander Argentina S.A. acted as guarantors. As a result of these three issuances, Sumatoria currently financed 33 projects throughout the city of Buenos Aires and 10 provinces, demonstrating truly national impact. It directly involves 1,205 people working on the projects financed and indirectly 76,401 people working on the funded projects and/or people who are served by the funded projects. The issuance of the three Bonds were for a total amount of Argentine pesos $ 210 million (equivalent to almost U$S1 Million). They are now planning to issue a new Class, for an amount of Argentine pesos $250 million (equivalent to almost U$S1,2 million).
Conduit Capital and Rural Works – RuralWorks Joint Venture between Community Reinvestment Fund, USA and Conduit Capital
Nominated Legal Team: Teresa Rae Farley, JD, Chief Operating Officer, RuralWorks Partners, a public benefit company; Melissa D. Obegi, JD, President, Conduit Capital
Supporting Legal Teams: Eric Chapin, General Counsel, Community Reinvestment Fund, USA, ("CRF"); Mark Kromkowski, Partner, Ice Miller LLP, Counsel to RuralWorks; Bruce Bonjour; Jesse Kanach, Rick Sevcik, John Schreiner, Partners, Perkins Coie LLP, Counsel to CRF; Andrew Lee and Jill Radloff, Stinson LLP, Counsel to Conduit Capital ("CCAP"); John Holton, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Partner, Counsel to CCAP
The project: There are 60 million people living in rural communities in the U.S. These communities have been vibrant sources of entrepreneurship yet are consistently under-funded and under-resourced compared with urban areas. To help marshal the capabilities and resources needed to tackle systemic issues facing rural businesses, Conduit Capital and Community Reinvestment Fund, USA formed a joint venture platform, "RuralWorks", secured a special license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and raised anchor capital (including from members of the Farm Credit System) to invest integrated capital in 10-15 rural businesses committed to quality jobs for their employees, resilient local communities, and environmentally sustainable practices and products. This unique joint venture between a for-profit investment manager and a national non-profit community development finance institution (a "CDFI") creates a multiplier effect and enables the participation of a wider range of contributors who share a common interest in addressing the needs of underserved communities.
Patagonia – The Holdfast Collective
Nominated legal team: Hilary Dessouky, General Counsel, Patagonia; Greg Curtis, Executive Director, Holdfast Collective
Supporting legal teams: The names of the attorneys at the following law firms are being withheld for confidentiality reasons. Morrison & Foerster LLP Young; Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP; BDT & Company; LLC Loeb & Loeb LLP; Long Reimer Winegar LLP
The project: Patagonia, a designer of clothing and gear for outdoor sports and a corporate leader in sustainability and governance, completed a restructuring that involved the transfer of ownership to a purpose trust and a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization to preserve the company’s mission and direct its profits to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. Patagonia will continue to operate as a private, for-profit California benefit corporation, but the Chouinard family, who previously controlled Patagonia, no longer holds any shares of the company. As part of the restructuring, the Chouinards transferred ownership of all of the company’s voting stock (equivalent to 2 percent of the overall shares) to a newly established entity known as the Patagonia Purpose Trust. The trust, which is a Wyoming purpose trust, will be overseen by members of the family and their advisers and will ensure that Patagonia’s mission to run a socially responsible business in maintained. The Chouinard’s donated the other 98 percent of Patagonia (its non-voting shares) to a newly established 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, referred to as the Holdfast Collective, which will be the recipient of all the company’s profits, which in turn will be used to combat climate change in accordance with their charitable purpose. At the time of the restructuring, Patagonia was valued at $3 billion and the Chouinards had the option to pursue traditional exit’s such as a sale or IPO, but were determined to create an option that, consistent with the company’s historical practices, places purpose over profit. Transferring ownership and governance to the Patagonia Purpose Trust and Holdfast Collective were the product of Patagonia “going purpose.”
RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP – (1) CHAI Equity Capital, L.P. – Impact Carry Structure and (2) Maycomb Capital’s Outcomes Finance Accelerator Fund – Impact Carry Structure
(1) CHAI Equity Capital, L.P. – Impact Carry Structure
Nominated legal team: Tom Scriven, Senior Counsel, RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP; Chintan Panchal, Partner, RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP; Bjorn Sorenson, Senior Counsel, RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP; and Tom Bealer, Associate, RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP
The project: Colorado Housing Accelerator Initiative (CHAI) emerged in response to the strain the pandemic and housing market placed on workers across the income spectrum but particularly and disproportionately BIPOC households and workers in many critical service occupations. Weave Social Finance, LLC (Weave) founded CHAI for the purpose of speeding the delivery of mission-driven capital to middle income and workforce housing – but wealth building for tenants quickly emerged as an essential extension of our mission. CHAI believes that access to stable, affordable housing is just the first step toward wealth-building. This belief prompted CHAI to launch two funds to provide much-needed debt and equity financing for housing for low- and moderate-income renters and to take a critical further step of contributing to the financial security and a pathway to homeownership for those renters. Their approach presents two notable innovations that we are pleased to submit for consideration for the Grunin Prize.
First, the pioneering Tenant Equity Vehicle (TEV) allows residents of affordable housing units to share in the financial returns of funds sponsored by CHAI and Weave. Investors in CHAI Funds have committed to the TEV a significant portion (typically 50% or 100%) of the returns on their investments in the CHAI Funds, which exceed specified thresholds. The TEV will fund individual custodial accounts on behalf of eligible residents and disbursements from these accounts may be used for qualified purposes that advance residents’ financial security and paths to homeownership. Second, the CHAI Funds' innovation continues with a unique impact carry (Impact Carry) component, which increases (or decreases) the General Partner’s carried interest entitlement upon the achievement (or nonachievement) of certain impact objectives relative to specified targets, namely the affordability level of the housing units financed by CHAI Equity Capital, L.P. (the Equity Fund). The Impact Carry provides added incentive for Weave to remain true to, and to optimize the Fund’s investment strategy for the realization of, the impact objectives marketed to Fund investors. RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP serves as fund formation and regulatory counsel to Weave Social Finance and the CHAI Funds and, in this capacity, designed and incorporated the TEV and the Impact Carry as an integral component of the CHAI Funds and the terms of investments in these Funds.
(2) Maycomb Capital’s Outcomes Finance Accelerator Fund – Impact Carry Structure
Nominated legal team: Aaron Bourke, Senior Counsel at RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP and counsel to Maycomb Capital, the project sponsor; Joshua Teitelbaum, Partner at RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP and counsel to Zoma Foundation, the lead investor; Chintan Panchal, Partner at RPCK Rastegar Panchal LLP and counsel to Zoma Foundation, the lead investor; Angelo Ciavarella, Tax Partner at Reed Smith LLP and counsel to Maycomb Capital, the project sponsor
The project: Alignment of incentives across multiple bottom lines among impact investors, asset managers and ultimate investees in impact investments has long been a challenge. In this project, the team worked on the formation and launch of the Outcomes Finance Accelerator Fund, a $10 million fund designed to provide risk-tolerant, outcomes-aligned financing to mission-driven organizations in Colorado – and potentially other strategic geographies – across a broad range of social and environmental sectors including education, environment, health, workforce and economic development. The fund advances Maycomb Capital’s field-leading work in outcomes financing investments, and features a unique “impact-linked carried interest” structure that the parties devised to align the general partner’s compensation with the achievement of the fund’s impact goals/targets. Impact-linked carry is a much-discussed concept in impact investing that we believe requires deeper and more nuanced analysis before it can be implemented at a larger scale. In the course of designing this fund, the legal team worked closely with the business/investment team to think through the unique considerations and challenges inherent in implementing an impact carry structure, and we devised a structure that we believe is well tailored to the fund’s investment strategy and the structure of its underlying investments, while appropriately incentivizing the general partner. We believe that the thoughtful approach that the legal team brought to the Fund’s impact carry structure can serve as a foundation for other funds to implement impact carry structures and, ultimately, for impact carry to achieve its promise as a game-changing feature of the impact investing industry.
World Bank – Wildlife Conservation (aka “Rhino Bonds”)
Nominated legal team: Shirmila Ramasamy, Senior Counsel, Innovative Finance, The World Bank Group; Jorge Luis Alva-Luperdi, Senior Counsel, South Africa Operations, The World Bank Group
Supporting legal teams: Anthony Stringer, Director, Head of DCM Legal, Credit Suisse; Elaine Keats, Partner, Linklaters LLP; Sirae Chen, Managing Associate, Linklaters LLP; Simon Lee, Head of Legal Governance and Risk, Zoological Society of London
The project: In March 2022, the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD) issued its Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB) in support of South Africa’s efforts to conserve endangered species. Also known as the “Rhino Bond,” this five-year $150 million Sustainable Development Bond includes a potential performance payment from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and will contribute to protecting and increasing black rhino populations in two protected areas in South Africa, the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) and the Great Fish River Nature Reserve (GFRNR). AENP is managed by the South African National Parks (SANParks) and GFRNR is managed by Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA). The WCB is a first-of-its-kind, outcome-based, financial instrument that channels investments to achieve conservation outcomes – measured in this case by an increase in black rhino populations. Rhinos are considered an umbrella species that play a crucial role in shaping entire ecosystems on which countless other species depend. Through the WCB, investors are supporting the financing of activities to protect and grow a critically endangered species with clear conservation targets, contributing directly to biodiversity, and bringing jobs to local communities through the creation of conservation-related employment in a rural and underserved region of South Africa. The Rhino Bond is a groundbreaking approach to enabling private sector investment in global public goods — in this case biodiversity conservation, a key global development challenge. The pay-for-success financial structure protects an endangered species and strengthens South Africa’s conservation efforts by leveraging the World Bank’s infrastructure and track record in capital markets. Importantly, it can be replicated and scaled to channel more private capital for other conservation and climate actions and development objectives around the world. Investors in the WCB will not receive coupon payments on the bond. Instead, IBRD as issuer of the WCB will make conservation investment payments to finance rhino conservation activities at the two parks. If successful, as measured by the rhino population growth rate independently calculated by Conservation Alpha and verified by the Zoological Society of London, investors will receive a success payment at maturity, paid by IBRD as issuer with funds provided by a performance-based grant from the GEF, in addition to principal redemption of the bond. This represents a new approach in conservation financing that passes project risks to capital market investors and allows donors to pay for conservation outcomes.
2023 Judging Panel
The screening panel is composed of an internal prize committee that selects the finalists.
The final judging panel is composed of NYU Law representatives and industry experts who select the Grunin Prize winner based on the submission materials, references, and a final interview.
Meet the Judging Panel below:
Deborah K. Burand
Deborah Burand is a Professor of Clinical Law at NYU Law, where she directs the International Transactions Clinic and is Faculty Co-Director of the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship. She writes and lectures on issues related to international finance, microfinance and microfranchise, impact investing, and social finance innovations such as social impact bonds, social entrepreneurship, and developing sustainable businesses at the base of the economic pyramid.
During 2010-2011, Burand served as general counsel to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the development finance institution of the United States. Earlier in her career, she worked in the environmental sector (Conservation International), microfinance sector (FINCA International and Grameen Foundation), and US government (Federal Reserve Board and Department of the Treasury). She also has worked in private practice at a global law firm, where, among other things, she supported, on a pro bono basis, the development of the world’s first debt-for-nature swap.
Burand is a member of the board and Investment Committee of the MicroBuild Fund, an impact investment fund sponsored by Habitat for Humanity International. She is an advisor to the Linked Foundation and Social Sector Franchise Initiative. She co-founded the Impact Investing Legal Working Group (IILWG) and Women Advancing Microfinance (WAM) International.
Burand received her BA from DePauw University cum laude, and a joint degree, JD/MSFS with honors, from Georgetown University.
Jay Grunin is Co-Founder and Chairman, Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation. Jay graduated from Brooklyn College (with honors) in 1964, and from NYU School of Law in 1967, where he was an Editor of the Law Review and where he met his future wife and business partner. After a brief exposure to academia –as Research Assistant to an NYU Law professor teaching a seminar on legislative history–, as well as a brief stint in Big Law in New York, followed by a one year Appellate Division clerkship in New Jersey, Jay, who would never have to rue about the road not taken, opted to then take the advice of his lawyer-wife who implored him to “go south young man, go south”. And so Jay and Linda “hitched on to the second wagon train” and landed in a then small town on the Central Jersey Shore called Toms River.
After a few years, Jay and Linda decided to open up their own small “mom and pop” law firm. In the 1970s, as Ocean County became one of the fastest growing counties in the entire United States, Jay and Linda’s law practice flourished. At the same time, Jay and Linda expanded their business interests to include real estate and other investments.
In the 1990s, the Grunins dissolved their law practice so as to concentrate full time on their greatest passions, business investments and philanthropy. In 2013 their philanthropic endeavors were formalized with the creation of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation.
Maria Santos Valentin
From September 2022 through May 2023, Maria Santos Valentin was a Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow of the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship where, among other things, she co-taught the International Transactions Clinic and supervised fieldwork of the students enrolled in the ITC.
Prior to joining NYU Law School, Maria Santos Valentin served as the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of The Rockefeller Foundation where she managed the Foundation’s legal, grants management and records departments. During her tenure, she helped effectuate the foundation’s historic $700 million bond offering and created the foundation’s public charity (RF Catalytic Capital) to aggregate capital for foundation-managed projects, including the Pandemic Prevention Institute and The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet which obtained over $1 billion in funding.
Prior to that, Maria worked at the Open Society Foundations, most recently serving as Legal Director of the Economic Justice Program and Secretary and General Counsel of the Soros Economic Development Fund. In this capacity, she structured and negotiated the fund’s more than 40 innovative program-related investments around the world, primarily in Central and Eastern Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East, which totaled over $200 million. The investments focused on increasing financial inclusion and improving the lives of smallholder farmers, refugees and migrants. Projects included the creation of over 300,000 affordable housing units in South Africa and establishing a wholly-owned holding company (Aspada) to make investments in small businesses in India.
Prior to her work at private foundations, Maria worked for 10 years as an international corporate securities lawyer, first for New York based law firm Brown & Wood and then UK based Clifford Chance. In that capacity, Maria worked on emerging market capital markets transactions in Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, many of which were the first such issuances out of the country, including Spain, Romania, Argentina, and China. In addition, she worked for two years as a senior commercial associate with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, where she helped structure a small business lending program.
Maria was also appointed to the Water Board of New York City by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, serving in that role from 2003 to 2008. Maria is a member of the New York Bar and the American Bar Association and holds a B.A. in Economics from Fordham University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
Helen Scott is Professor of Law and the founder and co-director of the Mitchell Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business at New York University School of Law. In that capacity, she has participated in the development of innovative Law and Business courses, including Investing in Microfinance, Law & Business of Corporate Governance, and Professional Responsibility in Law and Business. Scott oversees the competitive Leadership Scholars program, and runs the capstone seminar for the program, Law and Business Projects. She has been a member of the NYU School of Law faculty since 1982 and teaches a wide variety of business law courses, including the basic Contracts and Corporations courses.
Scott currently serves on the Board of Directors of IEX LLC, the newly launched stock exchange. From 1999 to 2004, Scott co-chaired the Listing and Hearing Review Council of the NASDAQ Stock Market, an independent advisory committee to the board of directors, with primary responsibility for formulating and recommending corporate governance and quantitative listing standards for that market.
In 1997, Scott received the Legal Advocate of the Year award from the US Small Business Administration in recognition of her participation in the development of the Angel Capital Electronic Network (ACE-Net) project to increase financing available to early-stage entrepreneurial enterprises. Before joining the Law School faculty, Scott practiced law in Washington, DC, and New York.
Steve Valdes-Robles is a Senior Attorney responsible for advising The Nature Conservancy, including its NatureVest unit, on impact investments and its Office of Investments on the management of TNC’s endowment. He was the lead attorney on a number of ground breaking transactions, including the Belize Blue Bond, the Cumberland Forest Project and TNC’s Green Bond.
Prior to joining TNC, he was a foreign service legal officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he completed tours in Washington, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Mozambique. At USAID, he advised on a wide range of matters, including conservation, development finance, agriculture, water and sanitation, health and education. Before USAID, he was a corporate attorney at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP where he spent time in the New York, Hong Kong, Moscow and Frankfurt offices. He also worked as an international visiting attorney at the law firm Barros Letelier y Cia in Santiago, Chile.
Steve holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and is a member of the New York bar.