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Wake Forest Law Review hosts 22nd annual Business Law Symposium

The Wake Forest Law Review held its 22nd annual Business Law Symposium on “Corporate Governance and Climate Change” on March 20 in the Worrell Professional Center.

"This is such a timely topic as well as one of great academic debate," said Wake Forest University School of Law Dean Blake Morant during the symposium’s opening.

The symposium was coordinated with the expertise of resident faculty member Alan Palmiter.

"I think this is the first law school symposium that has combined these two questions," Palmiter said.

The symposium featured Anne Kelly,

director of Governance Programs at Ceres, a non-profit coalition of investors and public interest groups working toward sustainable prosperity, who said that since the Exxon Valdez environmental disaster 20 years ago, climate change needs to be squarely placed with corporations’ boards of directors.

Janet Kerr,

executive director of the Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law and professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law, presented the paper “Implications of Climate Change on Corporate Governance with Respect to Enterprise Risk Management.”

Kerr discussed how ERM policies are currently being expanded to account for climate change. She also discussed both the financial and non-financial risks associated with climate change and stressed that how companies deal with these risks in our current economic environment is especially important. "If you say you are going to participate in corporate social responsibility, you’d better do it," she said.

James Fanto of the Brooklyn Law School presented “Anticipating Crises: The Adequacy of Risk Management in Finance and Environmental Studies." Fanto compared the world’s current economic financial crisis with the environmental crisis the world is facing as a result of global warming. "Both crises are to an extent human made," he said.

Kelly Levine of Yale University’s

International Institute for Sustainable Development

presented Ben Cashore’s "Bolstering Environmental Integrity and Sustainable Development Benefits of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): Can Non-State Certification Systems Facilitate State-Centered Efforts?" Cashore is a faculty member at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Other topics addressed included: “Global Warming and the Management-Centered Corporation," and “Hot, Crowded, and Not-So-Flat: The Changing Climate for Corporations.”

“The success of corporations has come at a price,” Palmiter explained. “This symposium looked at how corporations deal with risk management and at how corporate organizations have responded, can respond and should respond to global climate change.”

Palmiter said the symposium also addressed the movement from corporate board decision making to shareholder decision making among other issues.

“The broader question is whether self-regulation can be effective,” he added.“Can corporate governance respond to the ‘super wicked’ nature of climate change or should the corporation as we know it be replaced by another system of economic activity?”