Friday, June 29, 2012

Announcing Relaunch of Open Access Journal: No Foundations

I am a big fan of open access scholarship and wary of the commodificaiton of knowledge and its use as object--either of status and career advancement, of allegiance to the ideology of a scholarly field, or as a disciplinary technique for the control of speech and the management of mass culture.

So I am always happy to pass along information about new open access efforts at knowledge production. With that in mind I have received word of the relaunch of the open access journal No Foundations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice, edited by two members of the University of Helsinki, Julen Etxabe and Monica Lopez Lerma.  Check it out and decide for yourselves.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sovereign Wealth Funds Get More Aggressive

Andrew Peale for the Wall Street Journal reminds us: "Sovereign-wealth funds have largely been welcomed by companies as reliable passive investors and strategic allies." Andrew Peaple, Qatar Unleashes Passive Aggression on Xstrata, Heard on the Street, The Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2012. 
 (Pix from Xstrata and Glencore scramble to save deal, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2012)

But he notes: 
But when SWF's interests in companies grow larger and their stakes more important, they  But Qatar Holding's demand for better terms for Glencore's proposed merger with Xstrata has stunned both the companies' managements and markets, raising fears such funds may be entering a new phase of activism." (Ibid).
The saga of the Xstrata merger serves as a reminder that  SWFs may not ordinarily be aggressive, but when conditions are right, they can be, and to great effect. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Changing Face of Markets in Education: Competition for Online Education and Education Hubs

Online is in the business of providing resources in online education to help interested persons maximize their distance learning experience. Their staff writers have recently posted to their blog a post entitled:  8 Nations Leading the Way in Online Education, June 26, 2012)

(Pix from, 8 Nations Leading the Way in Online Education, June 26, 2012)
 The post focuses on the spread of online education by country.  The writers note:
Online education is quickly becoming a major phenomenon around the world. The ease and convenience it offers learners appeal to people just about everywhere, especially those who are trying to balance work, family, and other obligations with completing a degree or certification program. Yet certain nations have embraced online education more than others, leading the way both in terms of the number and variety of programs and new innovations to online learning itself. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the nations that are really stepping up the game when it comes to online education, though with the proliferation of high-speed Internet connections and a growing need for highly educated candidates in technical positions around the world, other nations likely aren’t far behind. (Ibid.).
The Blog post considers each of these efforts in turn, basing their view on the unique number of IP addresses and suggesting that there may be a correlation between the potential for market penetration of online education and the growth of IP addresses. It then addresses the creation of an alternative to online education--educational hubs. Jason Lane and Kevin Kinser, Me Too, Me, Too!, Worldwise, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 26, 2012.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Michael Komesaroff on Inefficiencies in Chinese Outbound Investment

Michael Komesaroff, principal of Urandaline Investments, a consultancy specializing in China’s capital intensive industries, and a former executive in residence at the School of International Affairs, Pennsylvania State University, has written an  excellent analysis of the operational difficulties of China's outbound investment.  Michael Komesaroff, "Screwing up in foreign climes," China Economic Quarterly 9-12 (Dec. 2010).  

 (Pix from Citi Pacific Mining)

Komesaroff starts by suggesting misdirection and waste: "When China launched its “Go Out” policy in 1999, leaders hoped state-owned enterprises (SOEs) would snap up valuable foreign assets and transform themselves into successful multinationals. In the mining sector, China’s national champions have become powerful international investors—yet they have also wasted billions of dollars on ill-conceived projects, often exacerbated by poor management. . . . Far from being exceptions, these examples of mismanagement are the rule."   (Komesaroff, "Screwing up in foreign climes," supra, 1).

This post considers insights from that essay.

Friday, June 22, 2012

From the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE): Luis Luis on Cuban Bank International Assets and Relief for Cuba on Food Import Prices

The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy is preparing for its 22nd Annual Conference, to be held in Miami, Florida, August 2-4, 2012.

This post includes material from the ASCE's Spring 2012 Newsletter: (1) two short analyzes from Luis Luis, and (2) the Preliminary conference program.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Book: Nichola Gutgold, "The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women: From Obstacles to Options"

My colleague, Nichola Gutgold has just published her excellent book: The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women: From Obstacles to Options, by Lexington Books – a division of Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. (2012) ISBN-10: 0739172506; ISBN-13: 978-0739172506

(Pix of Professor Gutgold, from PSU Press Release, Professor publishes book focused on women in the U.S. Supreme Court, Penn State Live, June 20, 2012)

What follows are the Penn State Press Release announcing publication, the publisher's summary and my forward to the book.  The book is well worth the read! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Norway SWF and Jewish Building Activity in East Jerusalem: Excluding Shikun & Binui Ltd. from the Investment Universe of the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG)

Acting on the earlier recommendation of the Council of Ethics, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance has just announced that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Government Pension Fund (Global), will exclude Shikun & Binui Ltd. from its investment universe. Norway, Ministry of Finance, Press Release:  Exclusion of a company from the Government Pension Fund, June 15, 2012.

The role of the Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund Global is to provide evaluation on whether or not investment in specified companies is inconsistent with the established ethical guidelines. The Ministry of Finance makes decisions on the exclusion of companies from the Fund's investment universe based on the Council's recommendations. Both the Ministry's decisions and the Council's recommendations will be made publicly available on this website. The Council has it's own secretariat which provides research for the Council.  (From Council on Ethics Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Outcome of the second session of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

I have written about the UN Working Group on the issue of business and Human Rights before.  The Working Group provides an institutional framework for carrying on the work of John Ruggie, who as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Business and Human Rights was instrumental in developing and the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Following the second session of the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises held in May 2012, the Working Group issued a report: Human Rights Council, Working Group on the issue of human rights and Transnational corporations and other business enterprises Second session, Outcome of the second session of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, A/HRC/WG.12/21 (June 7, 2012). The text of that statement follows:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Philip Peters on Cuba's Economic Reforms

For those interested in an analysis of the changes and restructurings of Cuban economic life, Philip Peters has published a very readable and interesting work:  Philip Peters, A Viewer's Guide to Cuba's Economic Reform, Lexington Institute, May 2012. 

(Picture of Mr. Peters from Art Ritter's excellent blog, The Cuban Economy/La Economís Cubana, May 31, 2012)

The Lexington Institute website describes Mr. Peters: "Philip Peters joined the Lexington Institute in April 1999. He has responsibility for international economic programs with a focus on Latin America. . . . Peters is an adviser to the Cuba Working Group that formed in January 2002 in the House of Representatives. He has testified before Congress and the U.S. International Trade Commission and has given talks on Cuba and U.S. policy to diverse audiences."   He also authors posts for the blog: The Cuban Triangle: Havana-Miami-Washington events and arguments and their impact on Cuba.  Included in those posts is a useful chronology of Cuba’s economic reforms that Mr. Peters will update and that also appears as an appendix to A Viewer's Guide to Cuba's Economic Reform.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jan Broekman: On the Origins of Legal Semiotics

My distinguished colleague at Penn State, Jan M. Broekman, presides over The Roberta Kevelson Seminar on Law and Semiotics.  He is Professor Emeritus Universities of Leuven, Belgium, and Amsterdam, Netherlands, Honorary Professor National University of Argentina in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Visiting Professor University of Illinois College of Law (some of whose works are listed here).

He has recently prepared an essay "On the Origins of Legal Semiotics" that is posted below. The essay forms part of a larger work, Lawyers Making Meaning: The Semiotics of Law in Education.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Rogier Creemers on China's New Internet Regulations

Rogier Creemers, writing in the blog China Copyright and Media: The law and policy of China's news and entertainment media, has recently posted on  the publication by the Chinese State Council of new draft regulations on the management of Internet information services.  Roger Creemers, New Draft Internet Regulations: the Empire Strikes Back?, China Copyright and Media:  The Law and Policy of China's News and Entertainment Media, June 8, 2012.

Creemers translated the draft document, comments for which may be directed to the State Council by July 6, 2012) as well as the accompanying explanations, and posted the translations:
Internet Information Service Management Rules (Opinion-Seeking Version of Revision Draft)

Explanation concerning the “Internet Information Service Management Rules (Opinion-Seeking Version of Revision Draft)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Havana Club and the Face of State-Corporate Alliances in War by Other Means

The battle lines over trademark protection may be heating up between the US and Cuba. What makes this battle front in the non-military war between the U.S. and Cuba more interesting is that in this case multinational corporations, rather than the belligerent state parties, appear to be both directing and taking the lead.  The object for these multinationals is not political, but almost purely economic--the control of a brand name for a liquor that may be exploited to the profit of the winner of the contest.  For states the corporation provides a useful proxy for engaging in warfare in the style that has become acceptable  now--no human casualties but lots of opportunities for causing political, economic, social and cultural damage through lawfare. For corporations, this provides a means of leveraging corporate power through strategic alliances with states.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2011; Barcelona Spain)

 Here is a nice example of the way in which polycentric governance--the existence of multiple and autonomous governance units--are now beginning to form alliances for advancing their own, and quite distinct interests.  In this case, Cuba and its ally Pernod Ricardi have engaged the United States and its ally Barcadi.  States remain powerful actors in transnational governance and law remains an import mechanics of control. But one wonders if these actions suggest the ways that states are increasingly de-centered as non-state actors begin to participate in (and in some cases guide) actions once reserved solely to states and law serves as both structure and object in the inter-systemic battles.   

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Ruminations 39: Responsible Investing And Market Behavior Beyond Principles and GAAP

Responsible investment is an important element of efforts to influence corporate behavior through assertions of consumer and shareholder power.  Responsible investing accepts the foundational framework of corporate organization--corporations are entities that must be run to maximize the welfare of the institution and its shareholders, for whom corporate interest represent property, the value of which they may maximize in accordance with their own interests.  But those interests may reflect values other than mere short term wealth maximization counted solely in money terms.   See Larry Catá Backer,  Values Economics and Theology: The Contribution of Catholic Social Thought and its Implications for Legal Regulatory Systems, 5(2) Economics, Management, and Financial Markets 17-56 (2010).  

(Pix from UNFCU, Spotlight UN PRI Movement ("Responsible investments by design build portfolios and investment products where certain securities are screened out or into an account based on specific criteria. Social investing works to achieve competitive returns in assets that also have a strong social aspect that appeals to a wide range of participants. To this end, UN PRI actively engages companies on environmental and social issues beyond classic corporate governance issues like board independence."))

But one wonders whether the development of an institutional structure for responsible investing by funds is invariably hobbled by its focus only on the disclosure and monitoring aspects problem of substantive based investment from the perspective of the investing entity.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Democracy Part XXVI: Democratic Accountability--From Voter to Managed Mob

The rise of highly efficient administrative apparatus in states, and tightly networked clusters of functionally differentiated non-governmental actors with power to affect individual and group behavior may require a more direct confrontation with the question: has public participation in democratic governance is becoming largely symbolic.

 (From USA to Try Purple Finger Thing for 1012 Elections, The Comedy News Oct. 24, 2011 ("In an effort to stifle double-voting, the Federal Election Commission will be requiring all voters to dip their index fingers in purple indelible ink for the 2012 election."It is time the United States takes a stand against double voters," announced an FEC official.  "The purple finger thing has worked in Iraqi elections, and rather be a bunch of hypocrites, the United States should do the purple finger thing too." Political scientists have lauded the purple finger thing for its ability to keep voters from voting more than once.  They have also said the purple finger thing is a great way of hazing apathetic Americans into voting---since their lack of a purple-dipped index finger will indicate that they didn't vote and thus hate freedom."))

Saturday, June 02, 2012

New Issue of the German Law Journal

The German Law Journal has just published its latest, Vol. 13 No. 6.  Thanks to Russell Miller and Peer Zumbansen for another stimulating volume of work.

The articles are well worth reading.  Included below is the table of contents and links.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Anna Beckers on Contractualization of CSR Guidelines: How do private regimes and national law interact?

Anna Beckers, a PhD Researcher at the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) and the Maastricht European Private Law Institute (M-EPLI) has been doing excellent work in the area of corporate social responsibility, especially in its transnational aspects.  

Since June 2010, Anna has worked as a junior researcher at the Faculty of Law at Maastricht University. Her research project focuses on the legal and constitutional quality of rules set by multinational Enterprises, NGOs and other civil actors regarding labour and environmental standards (Codes of Conduct, Compliance Initiatives). Based on the concept of law within postmodern legal theory, e.g. theory of legal pluralism and system theory, Anna aims to prove whether these Codes of Conduct can be defined not only as law, but also as a part of a new transnational societal constitutionalism. It will particularly be analysed how this new form of constitutionalism will influence the structures of the formal legal system.