Governance by the Sword

Etiquette guides suggest that one has a year from the wedding to send a gift. I just read Larry Cunningham’s elegant article published precisely a year ago. So I’m on time to comment.

This piece addresses the explosion in the federal government’s use of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) in combatting corporate crime, a phenomenon that has increasingly become the subject of debate, at least in part because of the extraordinary fines that typically constitute a part of these deals. The corporate (or, as Larry corrects the record, partnership) death of Arthur Andersen, and enforcement in the pharmaceuticals industry (where conviction can lead to exclusion from federal health care programs to the detriment of patients) have made prosecutors sensitive to the collateral damage they can cause by indicting and trying (or obtaining guilty pleas from) corporations suspected of misconduct. Much of the literature focuses on the potential abuses inherent in the use of DPAs, which have a fitful history of prescribed guidelines and standards, and which present significant potential for prosecutorial abuse due to the one-sided nature of the bargain. (Among the abuses have been mandated—sorry, bargained-for—waivers on behalf of employees of work product and attorney-client privileges.) Further concern has been their secrecy, precluding interested corporations from tailoring compliance to address prosecutor’s concerns. While commentators see the utility of these agreements in avoiding litigation costs and achieving some measure of deterrence (in addition to avoiding collateral damage), much of the analysis has been negative.

Larry has taken a practical and sensible approach to the problem. DPAs can be useful, he tells us, but only if prosecutors approach the negotiation and structuring of an agreement as a governance problem. Ever since the 1996 Delaware Caremark decision, Delaware law at least formally has required that its corporations structure governance in a manner that discourages unlawful conduct and that makes it detectable when it occurs. Sarbanes-Oxley supplemented this approach with its own regulations. And who better to understand the governance of any particular corporation than its own board and executives? Yet, as Larry shows us, principally through his examination of the travails of AIG during the middle of the first decade of this century, prosecutors can be less than thoughtful about the appropriate, compliance-ensuring governance regime for any particular corporation. He rather convincingly demonstrates that AIG’s role in the financial crisis may well have been a direct consequence of the standardized “best practices” corporate governance regime imposed under Arthur Levitt’s supervision. (I point out that his knowledge of AIG is as a result of a book he co-authored with Hank Greenberg, who has a dog in this particular hunt, but Larry’s careful and scholarly approach give me confidence in the veracity of his reporting.) Continue reading "Governance by the Sword"

 
 

Privileged Delegations

Mila Sohoni, The Power to Privilege, 163 U. Pa. L. Rev. (forthcoming, 2015), available at SSRN.

When Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited Berkeley Law in 2013, she expressed surprise when students in my Civil Procedure class advocated the passage of the Open Access to Courts Act (which would have imposed the Conley “no set of facts” standard on Rule 12(b)(6) motions), even though she had dissented in Twombly and Iqbal. She asked: “You want Congress to change the Rules of Civil Procedure?” She would, I think, agree with Professor Mila Sohoni’s skepticism of allowing executive agencies to change the Rules of Evidence. Both laud the rulemaking process through the Judicial Conference instead.

Sohoni’s forthcoming article, The Power to Privilege, is a rare and insightful article that examines the intersection of the rules of litigation and the administrative state. The article takes a seemingly obscure and ignored provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)—authorizing the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that “provide[] an evidentiary privilege for, and provide[] for the confidentiality of communications between or among” a plethora of federal and state officials and organizations—and persuasively demonstrates the likely costs of such a delegation. Continue reading "Privileged Delegations"

 
 

Another Set Of Eyes: A New-Old Proposal To Combat Wage Theft

Matthew W. Finkin, From Weight Checking to Wage Checking: Arming Workers to Combat Wage Theft, Ind. L.J. (forthcoming), available at SSRN.

Matthew Finkin’s article, From Weight Checking to Wage Checking: Arming Workers to Combat Wage Theft, reaches back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for a solution to the very current problem of wage theft for low-wage workers. Finkin proposes a modern-day version of the “checkweighman” laws that enabled coal miners to select an independent checker to verify their wages.

Finkin begins by defining “wage theft” as a set of employer practices “that result in employees taking home less than they are legally entitled to under federal and state law.” Employers may pay sub-minimum wages, refuse to pay for “off the clock” time, fail to pay overtime at all or at the correct rate, steal tips, or fail to pay any wages whatsoever. Finkin summarizes the current research on wage theft, including now-DOL Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil’s valuable work on federal wage and hour violations and Annette Bernhardt, Trey Spiller, and Diana Polson’s excellent study of employment law violations experienced by low-wage, front-line workers in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Drawing on this and other scholarship, Finkin concludes that wage theft is rampant, checked neither by government oversight nor by workers, who have too much to lose to take on the costly, risky proposition of suing their employers. Finkin thus characterizes wage theft as both feasible and attractive to employers; stealing wages from the workers who can least afford it has become—and likely always was—a good business proposition. Continue reading "Another Set Of Eyes: A New-Old Proposal To Combat Wage Theft"

 
 

Erasing the Lines Between Contracts, Gifts, and Wills

Adam J. Hirsch, Formalizing Gratuitous and Contractual Transfers: A Situational Theory, 91 Wash. U.L. Rev. 797 (2014).

Imagine that I asked your opinion about a dispute concerning the purchase of a new car; or whether I was entitled to a necklace my friend promised to give me; or about the devise of land by my father. You would likely analyze each transaction against the rules of contracts, gifts, and estates and trusts, respectively. Was there a signed contract for the purchase of the car? Was the necklace delivered? How many witnesses signed the will? As Adam Hirsch’s Formalizing Gratuitous and Contractual Transfers: A Situational Theory points out, however, the laws of contracts, gifts, and estates and trusts are all fundamentally about transfers. And perhaps we could considerably simplify the law if we abolished doctrinal categories and instead focused on the circumstances under which transfers occur.

At present, each doctrinal category has its own set of requirements for a valid transfer. Broadly speaking, contracts must comply with the statute of frauds; gifts must be delivered, and wills must be written, signed, and witnessed. But each of these formal requirements has exceptions. Lots and lots of exceptions, as well as inconsistencies, and Hirsch details most of them. These exceptions have sprung up over time, as legislatures and judges try to account for the varying circumstances under which transfers occur. Continue reading "Erasing the Lines Between Contracts, Gifts, and Wills"

 
 

Making Courts Attractive to Plaintiffs

Daniel M. Klerman & Greg Reilly, Forum Selling (December 31, 2014), available at SSRN.

Have you read Supreme Court cases on personal jurisdiction and wondered about the utilitarian basis for restricting the power of a court to assert jurisdiction over the parties in a case? The court opinions have often left me wondering what problem jurisdictional restrictions are designed to address. Finally, someone has provided an answer.  Dan Klerman (USC Law School) and Greg Reilly (California Western Law School), in their recent working paper, “Forum Selling,” provide a theory of inefficient jurisdiction grabbing by courts. If courts have a tendency to grab jurisdiction excessively under certain conditions, as Klerman and Reilly argue, then society’s welfare could be enhanced by restricting their power to assert jurisdiction.

The authors note that limitations on jurisdiction would probably not be necessary if all legal disputes arose out of contracts. The parties to contracts have incentives to choose the courts that optimize the value of their contracts, provided both sides to the contract are reasonably sophisticated. An accurate, fair, and efficient court enhances the joint value of the contract, leaving more surplus to be divided between the parties. To be more specific, sophisticated contract parties will choose the court that maximizes the difference between the joint governance benefits of the contract and the dispute resolution costs. Thus, there is little basis on social welfare grounds for preventing sophisticated parties from forum shopping through contract. The same can be said when the parties jointly agree on the dispute resolution forum, because if a forum gets a reputation for being too one-sided in favor of plaintiffs or defendants, few parties will jointly choose it as a place to resolve disputes. Continue reading "Making Courts Attractive to Plaintiffs"

 
 

Law Learning from Medicine

Evan D. Anderson & Scott Burris, Educated Guessing: Getting Researchers and Research Knowledge into Policy Innovation, Temp. U. Legal Stud. Res. Paper No. 2014-10, available at SSRN.

The Society for Empirical Legal Studies (SELS) was created less than a decade ago to create a forum for scientific research on the law itself, and the Society has grown each year, with now hundreds of submissions from all over the world for its annual conference and flagship journal. Although there are many strands of such research, a primary research question is whether any particular law works to achieve its end, and if so how? Does the death penalty reduce crime? Does medical malpractice reform promote patient safety or lower costs? Do restrictions on the practice of medicine promote health?

Even before SELS was created, scholars in many fields were looking at the law as an independent variable, and looking at various dependent variables that could be used to access their success or failure. Health outcomes present an obvious dependent variable, given its importance for overall welfare and given the rich data available in this sector. Five years ago, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created the Public Health Law Research Program (PHLR), and appointed law professor Scott Burris as its director. PHLR is dedicated to “building the evidence base for laws that improve public health. PHLR funds research, improves research methods, and makes evidence more accessible to policy-makers, the media, and the public.” PHLR has helped to create a rich multidisciplinary field of scholars and practitioners engaged in this sort of research to understand the impact of law on health.

This empirical turn in legal scholarship—drawing other scholarly disciplines into the law and developing empirical capacities among legal experts—creates a wonderful opportunity to improve the law itself. As the methods become more rigorous and the breadth of the work grows, it will be possible for lawmakers to make more intelligent decisions about which laws to enact and which to repeal, based on the empirical evidence as to whether they in fact work. In this way, evidence can supplant ideology in the law, just as evidence has supplanted superstition in medicine. In the grand scheme of things, this approach begins to fulfill the aspirations of philosophers like Francis Bacon, Jeremy Bentham, John Dewey—who all sought to bring intelligent evidence into the domain of social policy.

With this background, I turn to the excellent new work of Evan Anderson and Scott Burris. In this paper, Anderson and Burris begin to explore the question of how empirical evidence can feed into the lawmaking process. Assuming that the science has been performed, and that it is good, how can policymakers incorporate those findings to actually improve the laws on the books and the laws as enforced? This inquiry is analogous to the question of “translation” in medicine, the movement of scientific findings from the bench to the bedside. Continue reading "Law Learning from Medicine"

 
 

Does Punishment Work (at Least in International Tax)?

Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman, The End of Bank Secrecy? An Evaluation of the G20 Tax Haven Crackdown, 2014 Am. Econ. J. Econ. Policy 65.

The OECD is currently undertaking a major study of virtually every significant issue confronting the international tax regime through its “base erosion and profit shifting” (BEPS) project. Among the proposals for reform include the familiar call for increased penalties on non-cooperative states. In fact, punishment has served as a core feature of virtually every modern attempt to combat tax competition.

But does punishment really work in this context? Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman address precisely this question in their paper The End of Bank Secrecy? An Evaluation of the G20 Tax Haven Crackdown. The best way to describe the project is to quote the abstract:

During the financial crisis, G20 countries compelled tax havens to sign bilateral treaties providing for exchange of bank information. Policymakers have celebrated this global initiative as the end of bank secrecy. Exploiting a unique panel dataset, our study is the first attempt to assess how the treaties affected bank deposits in tax havens. Rather than repatriating funds, our results suggest that tax evaders shifted deposits to havens not covered by a treaty with their home country. The crackdown thus caused a relocation of deposits at the benefit of the least compliant havens.

This paper provides an extremely important and timely contribution to the international tax literature. Anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of punishment has been mixed to date, and there has been little empirical data directly on the question. Further, the question taps into a larger debate over the underlying, root causes of tax competition more generally. By providing empirical data directly on this question, Johannesen and Zucman move the debate forward in an extremely valuable way. Continue reading "Does Punishment Work (at Least in International Tax)?"

 
 

Beyond Diversity Rhetoric: Understanding the Link between Professional Responsibility and Reasonable Accommodations for Lawyers with Disabilities

Over the last three decades organized bar groups and law firms have embraced the value of diversity, taking steps to promote diversity among ranks of lawyers. These diversity initiatives fall short when they do not include the interests of lawyers in different groups. One group that is often ignored is comprised of lawyers with disabilities. That is one of the reasons that I especially liked this article.

Professor Long’s article is a welcome addition to the scholarship on diversity in the legal profession. It addresses important issues that deserve attention, providing insightful observations on the connection between professional responsibility and the inclusion and treatment of lawyers with disabilities. Specifically, the article examines the inextricable link between lawyers’ professional responsibility under the ethics rules, professionalism, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions that require reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Continue reading "Beyond Diversity Rhetoric: Understanding the Link between Professional Responsibility and Reasonable Accommodations for Lawyers with Disabilities"

 
 

The Open Access Advantage in Legal Education’s Age of Assessment

James M. Donovan, Carol A. Watson & Caroline Osborne, The Open Access Advantage for American Law Reviews (October 7, 2014), available at SSRN.

Open access (OA) scholarship is available online, without fees, and free of restrictive copyright and licensing provisions. As institutions of higher education implement a more metrics-driven paradigm, law schools are increasingly attentive to the quantification of both individual faculty and aggregate law school impact. Citation counts are one means of quantifying these impacts. Donovan, Watson, and Osborne build on their 2011 article, Citation Advantage of Open Access Legal Scholarship, which demonstrated that open access resources have a great impact on legal scholarship, (103 Law Lib. J. 553, 557). In this article, they work to develop a systematic and scientific explanation for why open access scholarship has a citation advantage in the legal education context.

The authors’ research shows that articles published simultaneously as print and open access law review articles provide at least a 50% citation advantage over their print-only law review counterparts. More specifically, they find that the aggregate cumulative OA advantage for new and retrospective works combined is about 53%; the OA advantage of newer works published during the years 2007-2012 is about 60%. Their research also indicates that OA articles are more heavily cited in the years immediately following an article’s publication and that OA articles tend to “command greater attention over the lifespan of the work” (Donovan et al, at 8). Continue reading "The Open Access Advantage in Legal Education’s Age of Assessment"

 
 

Racialized Violence and American Liberalism

Daniel Kato, Constitutionalizing Anarchy: Liberalism, Lynching, and the Law, 10 J. of Hate Stud. 143 (2012).

For nearly a century in the American South, lynching as a practice of racialized violence persisted openly and with minimal federal intervention. In his article, “Constitutionalizing Anarchy,” the center-piece of a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press titled Liberalizing Lynching: Building a New Racialized State, 1883-1966, Daniel Kato not only provides a compelling and novel explanation for the reasons why. He also forcefully argues that one cannot understand either the character of American liberalism or how the American state developed over the course of the twentieth century without placing the question of racial violence at the center.

In studies on American political development, accounts of lynching and its persistence abound. Some scholars argue that the American state in the post-Civil War period was “weak,” institutionally limited in its capacity to address rampant violence against African Americans—especially given the divided and federalist nature of the constitutional system. By contrast, others contend that rather than being incapable of stopping lynching, the federal government actually implicitly sanctioned the activity. Continue reading "Racialized Violence and American Liberalism"

 
 

The Federalism Argument for Judicial Diversity

For the past several years, commentators have discussed the importance of diversity in the federal judiciary. Yet in at least some respects the federal judiciary is becoming less diverse, not more. Consider the current Supreme Court. Five of the justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—are from the Northeast, and two others—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas—went to law school on the East Coast and have spent the vast majority of their professional lives in Washington, D.C. Only Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy, who both grew up in California, are from the West Coast. We have no sitting justice from the Northwest or the Midwest, nor do we have a justice who assumed the bench directly from a position in the South.

To the ongoing conversation about diversity in the federal judiciary, Sharon Rush’s recent article offers an intriguing argument in favor of geographic diversity. She explains that the principles of federalism embedded in Article III favor consideration of geographic diversity in federal judicial appointments. Even the simple structure of the judiciary that we take for granted reflects the concern that different geographical regions are adequately represented: the circuits are designed by geography, each state has at least one federal district court judge, and no district combines multiple states. This organization, Rush persuasively explains, “is partly due to efficiency concerns, but is also a result of federalism and state participation in protecting individual liberties.” While Article III does not require this structure, its concern for federalism explains why the judiciary has been designed as it has. Continue reading "The Federalism Argument for Judicial Diversity"