Fall 2019 – Spring 2020 Courses

Fall 2019 | Business in Society

Society’s expectations of companies are changing, and companies are responding. Many companies today go beyond compliance with the law to implement policies in line with the values of their shareholders, employees, customers, and other stakeholders. An increasing number are engaging in activities that were traditionally conducted by governments and nonprofits. This new articulation of corporate purpose raises complex legal, ethical, and business questions. In this course, we will explore the unique and increasingly central role that legal and compliance professionals are playing in this landscape.

This class is taught using the case study method, common in business schools. On Mondays, we will analyze a case study on a particular company. On Wednesdays, we will have a discussion about that case study with the general counsel or chief compliance officer from that company. The companies we will examine include: Salesforce, Patagonia, Starbucks, Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, ABInBev, and Clorox, among others. The issues we will address include:

– The shareholder/stakeholder debate 
– The risks and opportunities of engaging on political issues, from guns to immigration
– The increasing trend of CEOs as “moral leaders” 
– How employees are leveraging their voice to advocate for corporate governance reforms 
– Social due diligence in mergers and acquisitions post #MeToo
– The value of transparency in mitigating risk

Course description available here

Spring 2020 | Business and Human Rights

Businesses today increasingly face human rights dilemmas. With social media’s ability to scale transparency, the reputational risks of failing to protect human rights are too high for businesses to bear. No industry is immune–the food and apparel industry must ensure that its products are ethically sourced, the technology industry must ensure that it is adequately protecting our privacy, the manufacturing industry must ensure that AI is not displacing its workforce, and the financial industry must ensure that it is not funding perpetual human rights abuses. Often human rights norms, and society’s growing expectation of companies, go beyond what the law requires. These norms are also rapidly evolving, and, in certain cases, even contradict the law in certain jurisdictions. 

This course will address: 

– The history of business and human rights, including international human rights norms, and the various ways that companies have adopted these norms voluntarily. 
– The increasing trend of “hard-law” requiring businesses to respect human rights, and the advantages and limitations of those laws. 
– The role that governments, NGOs, consumers, activists, and civil society groups play in advancing business and human rights.
– Specific case studies of companies that respected and failed to respect human rights. 
– The tension between respecting human rights and short-term profit maximization and traditional theories of the role of business in society. 

Course description available here

Spring 2020 | Social Enterprise Law

Social enterprises are at the forefront of a paradigm shift, combining the goals of philanthropy with the power of business and legal systems to address social and environmental needs. This course introduces students to the legal, regulatory and business aspects of ‘social’ enterprises, which include both (i) for-profit business entities that undertake certain social and environmental objectives (alternately referred to as ESG, “triple bottom line” or “sustainability”) in addition to shareholder value in both the ordinary course of business and in change of control situations and (ii) non-profits that form “hybrids” with for-profit entities.

Students will study contrasting approaches to social entrepreneurship, learn about the different (new and existing) legal structures that regulate social enterprises, consider the types of financing models available social enterprises, evaluate the need for “exits” in the social enterprise space and consider the various means currently available to evaluate performance against the social and environmental objectives.

Course description available here

Spring 2020 | Corporations in Crisis

There seems to be one headline-grabbing corporate crisis after the next in sectors from technology (Facebook), manufacturing (Volkswagen), and Finance (Wells Fargo). When a crisis hits, companies must develop a strategy that takes into account both legal and reputational risk. All too often, companies, even the largest and most iconic, don’t have a crisis plan in place. 

This class will examine the role of different corporate actors (including the Board, CEO, General Counsel, and Chief Communications Officer) in navigating crisis. Through active simulations and case studies, students will learn how to ask the right questions. 

Course description available here