Over the past few decades, significant changes have occurred across capital markets. Shareholder activists have become more prominent, institutional investors have begun to wield more power, and intermediaries like investment advisory firms have greatly increased their influence. These changes to the economic environment in which corporations operate have outpaced changes in basic corporate law and left corporations uncertain of how to respond to the new dynamics and adhere to their fiduciary duties to stockholders.
With The Corporate Contract in Changing Times, Steven Davidoff Solomon and Randall Stuart Thomas bring together leading corporate law scholars, judges, and lawyers from top corporate law firms to explore what needs to change and what has prevented reform thus far. Among the topics addressed are how the law could be adapted to the reality that activist hedge funds pose a more serious threat to corporations than the hostile takeovers and how statutory laws, such as the rules governing appraisal rights, could be reviewed in the wake of appraisal arbitrage. Together, the contributors surface promising paths forward for future corporate law and public policy.
The Death of Contract is a masterful commentary on the common law, especially the law of promissory obligation known as contracts. In this slim and lively book, the late Yale law professor Grant Gilmore examines the birth, development, death, and even the resurrection of a body of American law. It is both a modern-day reply to and a funeral oration for an American legal classic—Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Common Law.
This new edition, with an instructive and timely foreword by Ronald K. L. Collins, challenges anyone interested in the life of the law to think about where it has come from and where it is tending. As such, The Death of Contract still retains its vitality in the brave new world of the law known as contracts. A new bibliography of early reviews and new responses reveals how considerable the interest was, and continues to be, in this modern anti-classic.
Why should the law care about enforcing contracts? We tend to think of a contract as the legal embodiment of a moral obligation to keep a promise. When two parties enter into a transaction, they are obligated as moral beings to play out the transaction in the way that both parties expect. But this overlooks a broader understanding of the moral possibilities of the market. Just as Shakespeare’s Shylock can stand on his contract with Antonio not because Antonio is bound by honor but because the enforcement of contracts is seen as important to maintaining a kind of social arrangement, today’s contracts serve a fundamental role in the functioning of society.
With The Dignity of Commerce, Nathan B. Oman argues persuasively that well-functioning markets are morally desirable in and of themselves and thus a fit object of protection through contract law. Markets, Oman shows, are about more than simple economic efficiency. To do business with others, we must demonstrate understanding of and satisfy their needs. This ability to see the world from another’s point of view inculcates key virtues that support a liberal society. Markets also provide a context in which people can peacefully cooperate in the absence of political, religious, or ideological agreement. Finally, the material prosperity generated by commerce has an ameliorative effect on a host of social ills, from racial discrimination to environmental destruction.
The first book to place the moral status of the market at the center of the justification for contract law, The Dignity of Commerce is sure to elicit serious discussion about this central area of legal studies.
Declared dead some twenty-five years ago, the idea of freedom of contract has enjoyed a remarkable intellectual revival. In The Fall and Rise of Freedom of Contract leading scholars in the fields of contract law and law-and-economics analyze the new interest in bargaining freedom. The 1970s was a decade of regulatory triumphalism in North America, marked by a surge in consumer, securities, and environmental regulation. Legal scholars predicted the “death of contract” and its replacement by regulation and reliance-based theories of liability. Instead, we have witnessed the reemergence of free bargaining norms. This revival can be attributed to the rise of law-and-economics, which laid bare the intellectual failure of anticontractarian theories. Scholars in this school note that consumers are not as helpless as they have been made out to be, and that intrusive legal rules meant ostensibly to help them often leave them worse off. Contract law principles have also been very robust in areas far afield from traditional contract law, and the essays in this volume consider how free bargaining rights might reasonably be extended in tort, property, land-use planning, bankruptcy, and divorce and family law. This book will be of particular interest to legal scholars and specialists in contract law. Economics and public policy planners will also be challenged by its novel arguments.
Contributors. Gregory S. Alexander, Margaret F. Brinig, F. H. Buckley, Robert Cooter, Steven J. Eagle, Robert C. Ellickson, Richard A. Epstein, William A. Fischel, Michael Klausner, Bruce H. Kobayashi, Geoffrey P. Miller, Timothy J. Muris, Robert H. Nelson, Eric A. Posner, Robert K. Rasmussen, Larry E. Ribstein, Roberta Romano, Paul H. Rubin, Alan Schwartz, Elizabeth S. Scott, Robert E. Scott, Michael J. Trebilcock
The central theme of this book is that an economic framework—incorporating such concepts as information asymmetry, moral hazard, and adaptation to changed circumstances—is appropriate for contract interpretation, analyzing contract disputes, and developing contract doctrine. The value of the approach is demonstrated through the close analysis of major contract cases. In many of the cases, had the court (and the litigators) understood the economic context, the analysis and results would have been very different.
Governments and development agencies spend considerable resources building property and company registries to protect property rights. When these efforts succeed, owners feel secure enough to invest in their property and banks are able use it as collateral for credit. Similarly, firms prosper when entrepreneurs can transform their firms into legal entities and thus contract more safely. Unfortunately, developing registries is harder than it may seem to observers, especially in developed countries, where registries are often taken for granted. As a result, policies in this area usually disappoint.
Benito Arruñada aims to avoid such failures by deepening our understanding of both the value of registries and the organizational requirements for constructing them. Presenting a theory of how registries strengthen property rights and reduce transaction costs, he analyzes the major trade-offs and proposes principles for successfully building registries in countries at different stages of development. Arruñada focuses on land and company registries, explaining the difficulties they face, including current challenges like the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States and the dubious efforts made in developing countries toward universal land titling. Broadening the account, he extends his analytical framework to other registries, including intellectual property and organized exchanges of financial derivatives. With its nuanced presentation of the theoretical and practical implications, Institutional Foundations of Impersonal Exchange significantly expands our understanding of how public registries facilitate economic growth.
Legal thinkers typically justify contract law on the basis of economics or promissory morality. But Peter Benson takes another approach. He argues that contract is best explained as a transfer of rights governed by a conception of justice. The result is a comprehensive theory of contract law congruent with Rawlsian liberalism.
Does the seller of a house have to tell the buyer that the water is turned off twelve hours a day? Does the buyer of a great quantity of tobacco have to inform the seller that the military blockade of the local port, which had depressed tobacco sales and lowered prices, is about to end? Courts say yes in the first case, no in the second. How can we understand the difference in judgments? And what does it say about whether the psychiatrist should disclose to his patient's girlfriend that the patient wants to kill her?
Kim Lane Scheppele answers the question, Which secrets are legal secrets and what makes them so? She challenges the economic theory of law, which argues that judges decide cases in ways that maximize efficiency, and she shows that judges use equality as an important principle in their decisions. In the course of thinking about secrets, Scheppele also explores broader questions about judicial reasoning—how judges find meaning in legal texts and how they infuse every fact summary with the values of their legal culture. Finally, the specific insights about secrecy are shown to be consistent with a general moral theory of law that indicates what the content of law should be if the law is to be legitimate, a theory that sees legal justification as the opportunity to attract consent.
This is more than a book about secrets. It is also a book about the limits of an economic view of law. Ultimately, it is a work in constructive legal theory, one that draws on moral philosophy, sociology, economics, and political theory to develop a new view of legal interpretation and legal morality.
Our legal system is committed to the idea that private markets and the law of contracts that supports them are the primary institutions for allocating goods and services in a modern economy. Yet the market paradigm, this book argues, leaves substantial room for challenge.
Douglas G. Baird Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress KF801.B35 2013 | Dewey Decimal 346.73022
Douglas Baird takes stock of the current state of contract doctrine and in the process reinvigorates the classic framework of Anglo-American contract law, showing that Oliver Wendell Holmes’s set of principles, properly understood, continue to provide the best guide to contracts for a new generation of students, practitioners, and judges.
In this timely reevaluation of an infamous Supreme Court decision, David E. Bernstein provides a compelling survey of the history and background of Lochner v. New York. This 1905 decision invalidated state laws limiting work hours and became the leading case contending that novel economic regulations were unconstitutional. Sure to be controversial, Rehabilitating Lochner argues that the decision was well grounded in precedent—and that modern constitutional jurisprudence owes at least as much to the limited-government ideas of Lochner proponents as to the more expansive vision of its Progressive opponents.
Tracing the influence of this decision through subsequent battles over segregation laws, sex discrimination, civil liberties, and more, Rehabilitating Lochner argues not only that the court acted reasonably in Lochner, but that Lochner and like-minded cases have been widely misunderstood and unfairly maligned ever since.
Rethinking Patent Law
Robin Feldman Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress KF3114.F38 2012 | Dewey Decimal 346.730486
Scientific and technological innovations are forcing the inadequacies of patent law into the spotlight. Robin Feldman explains why patents are causing so much trouble. She urges lawmakers to focus on crafting rules that anticipate future bargaining, not on the impossible task of assigning precise boundaries to rights when an invention is new.
Martha A. FIELD Harvard University Press, 1990 Library of Congress KF540.F53 1990 | Dewey Decimal 346.73017
A practice known since biblical times, surrogate motherhood has only recently leaped to prominence as a way of providing babies for childless couples--and leaped to notoriety through the dramatic case of Baby M. Contract surrogacy is officially little more than ten years old, but by 1986 five hundred babies had been born to mothers who gave them up to sperm donor fathers for a fee, and the practice is growing rapidly. Martha Field examines the myriad legal complexities that today enmesh surrogate motherhood, and also looks beyond existing legal rules to ask what society wants from surrogacy.
A man's desire to be a "biological" parent even when his wife is infertile-the father's wife usually adopts the child-has led to this new kind of family, and modern technology could further extend surrogacy's appeal by making gestational surrogates available to couples who provide both egg and sperm. But is surrogacy a form of babyselling? Is the practice a private matter covered by contract law, or does adoption law govern? Is it good or bad social and public policy to leave surrogacy unregulated? Should the law allow, encourage, discourage, or prohibit surrogate motherhood? Ultimately the answers will depend on what the American public wants.
In the difficult process of sorting out such vexing questions, Martha Field has written a landmark book. Showing that the problem is rather too much applicable law than too little, she discusses contract law and constitutional law, custody and adoption law, and the rights of biological fathers as well as the laws governing sperm donation. Competing values are involved all along the legal and social spectrum. Field suggests that a federal prohibition would be most effective if banning surrogacy is the aim, but federal prohibition might not be chosen for a variety of reasons: a preference for regulating surrogacy instead of driving it underground; a preference for allowing regulation and variation by state; or a respect for the interests of people who want to enter surrogacy arrangements. Since the law can support a wide variety of positions, Field offers one that seems best to reconcile the competing values at stake. Whether or not paid surrogacy is made illegal, she suggests that a surrogate mother retain the option of abiding by or canceling the contract up to the time she freely gives the child to the adopting couple. And if she cancels the contract, she should be entitled to custody without having to prove in court that she would be a better parent than the father.
Boilerplate language in contracts tends to stick around long after its origins and purpose have been forgotten. Usually there are no serious repercussions, but sometimes it can cause unexpected problems. Such was the case with the obscure pari passu clause in cross-border sovereign debt contracts, until a novel judicial interpretation rattled international finance by forcing a defaulting sovereign—for one of the first times in the market’s centuries-long history—to repay its foreign creditors. Though neither party wanted this outcome, the vast majority of contracts subsequently issued demonstrate virtually no attempt to clarify the imprecise language of the clause.
Using this case as a launching pad to explore the broader issue of the “stickiness” of contract boilerplate, Mitu Gulati and Robert E. Scott have sifted through more than one thousand sovereign debt contracts and interviewed hundreds of practitioners to show that the problem actually lies in the nature of the modern corporate law firm. The financial pressure on large firms to maintain a high volume of transactions contributes to an array of problems that deter innovation. With the near certainty of massive sovereign debt restructuring in Europe, The Three and a Half Minute Transaction speaks to critical issues facing the industry and has broader implications for contract design that will ensure it remains relevant to our understanding of legal practice long after the debt crisis has subsided.
Trust, Ethnicity, and Identity deals with the economic role of laws and institutions in achieving social order in a decentralized economy. Specifically, this book considers the coordinating role of three major nonprice institutions--ethnic trading networks, contract law, and gift-exchange--in economizing on transaction costs and thus facilitating the process of exchange in decentralized economies in different historical contexts.
The major unifying theme of the book is this: identity matters when traders operate in an environment characterized by contract uncertainty, where the legal framework for the enforcement of contracts is not well developed. This in turn points out the importance of trust embedded in particularistic exchange relations such as kinship or ethnicity.
One unique facet of this book is that the author uses a property rights--public choice approach--part of the New Institutional Economics--to provide a unifying theoretical framework to explain such diverse exchange institutions as contract law, ethnic trading networks, and gift-exchange, In addition, it goes beyond the New Institutional Economics paradigm by incorporating some crucial concepts from sociology, anthropology, and bioeconomics, such as social structure, social norms, culture, reciprocity, and kin-related altruism. This broad interdisciplinary framework gives Landa's work a relevance beyond economics to law, political science, sociology, anthropology, and bioeconomics.