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Practice Meets Theory: Academia

Publication Date: 
May 14, 2010
The Deal
Suzanne Stevens

Professor Joseph Grundfest is mentioned in this article by The Deal's Suzanne Stevens:

The Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance brings together leading thinkers on all sides of the shareholder rights divide. Its 2009 roundtable on proxy access attracted Delaware Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine Jr.; senior Securities and Exchange Commission adviser Kayla Gillan; Dean Shahinian, senior counsel for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and AFL-CIO associate general counsel Damon Silvers, among others.

The program is best known, however, as the base of Harvard Law professor Lucian Bebchuk, a prolific researcher, writer and occasional investor activist. Bebchuk sports a near-perfect record on a flurry of bylaws he proposed in 2007 and 2008 at companies including Home Depot Inc., FedEx Corp., Safeway Inc. and CVS Caremark Corp. "It's very useful for academics to be more exposed to issues of practitioners and for practitioners to be exposed to empirical research that can resolve some issues they wrestle with," he says.


Ensconced 3,000 miles away at Stanford University is Beb­chuk's frequent sparring partner Joseph Grundfest, who co-directs the school's Directors' College and founded the Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, which provides online information about securities fraud litigation. Grundfest -- a frequent contributor to Harvard's blog -- often opposes Bebchuk on issues such as proxy access. The former SEC commissioner (1985 to 1990) says it's likely activist investors will run candidates as a way to get attention for their agendas, which is why he isn't surprised that access is an SEC priority. "Lots of people say Democrats are politicizing the process. Well, in Washington, everybody politicizes everything," he says. "When Republicans control the White House, the corporate side of the story tends to be dominant. When Democrats control the White House, the side of the story that's more aligned with unions and state pension funds tends to predominate."