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2020 Conference on Corporations and Democracy

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Monday, Dec 07, 2020 — Wednesday, Dec 09, 2020 | Online

Corporations do not vote in elections, but their impact on democratic societies is immense. The Corporations and Democracy Conference brought together scholars and practitioners in various areas of law, business, and the media to examine the complex interactions and balance of power among corporations, governments, and individuals in democracies today. They also considered how those with power can be held more accountable to society’s broad interest.

Related Readings

Conference Sponsors

Program Committee

DAY 1: December 7
Corporation and Political Voice

Corporate Legal Rights and Democracy

Elizabeth Pollman, University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law
Adam Winkler, UCLA School of Law
Moderator: Susanna Kim Ripken, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Corporations are abstract persons. What legal rights have corporations gained and how? What rights should corporations have so that they can best serve the needs of democratic societies? How do we ensure that corporations do not expand their rights excessively or abuse them?

Related Reading: How American Corporations Used Courts and the Constitution to Avoid Government Regulation by Adam Winkler
Is Corporate Personhood to Blame for Money in Politics? by Elizabeth Pollman

Corporations and Money in Politics

Marianne Bertrand, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Bruce Freed, Center for Political Accountability
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
Moderator: Neil Malhotra, Stanford Graduate School of Business

How do corporations and their leaders use money to impact key democratic outcomes such as elections and policy? To what extent does corporate lobbying and other forms of spending distort democracy? What actions might correct these distortions?

Related Reading: The Self-Destructive Downside to Corporate Political Spending

DAY 2: December 8
Corporate Influence and Democratic Decision Making

Expertise, Incentives, and “Thin Political Markets”

Karthik Ramanna, University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government
Sarah Bloom Raskin, Duke University School of Law
Tommaso Valletti, Imperial College London
Moderator: Paul Pfleiderer, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Thin political markets arise in areas where the issues have low salience to the general public and special interests have tacit knowledge that is relevant to policy. How might policy outcomes get distorted in these thin political markets? What are the incentives of experts, including those from academia, when they participate in policymaking? How can we mitigate special-interest capture?

Related Reading: George Stigler and the Challenge of Democracy by Anat Admati

Corporations, Media, and Truth

Jonathan FordFinancial Times
Nathaniel Persily, Stanford Law School
Moderator: Henry McGee, Harvard Business School

How well do traditional media outlets inform the public and help hold those with power in corporations and in government accountable? What is the impact of internet platforms and social media on democratic discourse? How might we balance free speech with the need for truth to inform citizens in a democracy?

DAY 3: December 9
Corporations and Democratic Accountability

Corporations, Corruption and Democracy

Kevin Davis, New York University School of Law
Alexander Wilson, United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
Luigi Zingales, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Moderator: Larry Diamond, Stanford University

International corruption threatens democracies everywhere. Oligarchs and others attempting to preserve their ill-gotten gains use financial institutions in developed economies in corruptive ways. How well do anti-money laundering laws and anti-bribery laws deal with these challenges? This session will discuss a specific case involving European corporations helping a corrupt Nigerian politician.

Related Reading: Recovering from Kleptocracy: A 10-Step Program by Larry Diamond

Corporations and the Justice System 

Corporations and the Justice System 
Anat Admati, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Brandon Garrett, Duke University School of Law
Vikramaditya (Vic) Khanna, University of Michigan Law School
Moderator: John Donohue III, Stanford Law School

Does the justice system, including law enforcement, hold those with power properly accountable when they cause substantial and preventable harms to others? Is there equal justice under the law in the corporate context? If not, what must change in the laws and in the institutions and mechanisms of law enforcement to achieve more just outcomes?

Related Reading: Holding Corporations and Executives Accountable Depends on our Legal System by Vic Khanna