Saturday, April 30, 2016

Venmo Under Investigation by FTC

Venmo, the popular mobile payment app owned by PayPal, revealed in an SEC filing that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Venmo surrounding possible deceptive or unfair trade practices.  Venmo revealed that it had received a Civil Investigation Demand in March from the FTC requesting documentation and answers to interrogatories surrounding Venmo's services. 

Venmo indicated that it is cooperating with the FTC, but informed investors that the investigation could potentially lead to enforcement action, operational changes, or substantial costs.  Venmo is a free app allowing it's users to transfer money online to other Venmo users.  Paypal acquired Venmo in 2013.  In 2015, Venmo processed $7.5 billion in payments/transfers

Friday, April 29, 2016


Loyola University Chicago School of Law will host the 2016 Class Crits Conference on October 21 and 22, 2016, and I invite all to attend and submit papers in response to the following Call for Papers:

ClassCrits IX: Call for Papers and Participation

We invite panel proposals, roundtable discussion proposals, and paper presentations that speak to this year’s theme, as well as to general ClassCrits themes.  Proposal due: May 16, 2016. (Download a PDF of this page)
As the U.S. presidential election approaches, our 2016 conference will explore the role of corporate power in a political and economic system challenged by inequality and distrust as well as by new energy for transformative reform.
In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. FEC, redesigned the functioning of our constitutional democracy. By giving corporations a fundamental right to bankroll elections, the Court effectively shifted power to a new economic ‘royalty’ that sits atop the most massive capital aggregations in history.  Further, other government officials, influenced by elite lobbying and theory, have diminished longstanding rules and systems of corporate accountability (including criminal liability for financial crimes and basic norms of corporate disclosure) on the premise that some corporations and institutional forces are too big or important to fail or control. The result is that, along with other billionaires, these corporate and financial elites now may hold more influence in our political system than ever before.
The heightened power of monied interests has loomed over the 2016 election, provoking a groundswell of populist anger and resistance.  Even as elites have selected, shaped, and mediated candidates and campaigns, traditionally marginalized groups have also flexed new electoral muscle.  For example, #Blacklivesmatter and Fight for 15 have turned new energy toward visions of power based on values other than quantifiable individualized material gain. Yet this emerging and democratic populism has also confronted new restrictions on voting and newly limited protections for voting rights that strike at the heart of the public’s ability to enact meaningful democratic reform.
If the election has brought new mainstream attention to problems of inequality and insecurity, it has also exposed deep popular skepticism toward existing political and economic systems and whether they will provide adequate answers to these problems.  Out of this sense of human powerlessness, some populist calls seek security and control not only through invigorated social and political engagement, but also through messages of exclusion, fear and hate, as well as violence.  Against this backdrop, many social movements increasingly target corporate power and corporate citizenship rights, particularly the Citizens United ruling, as a source of numerous social, political, economic and environmental ills.
How might a sharper understanding of corporate power shed light on the current context of inequality and distrust?  How have legal changes in corporate rights and regulation reshaped political and social as well as economic activity?  Does the contemporary corporation simply empower individual human interests, as the Supreme Court suggested in the recent Hobby Lobby decision, or do the legal rights of corporations operate to narrow, distribute, and distort human rights and interests and citizenship?  What kind of person is the contemporary corporation and what does this mean for society, government, and law?   What is missing from the prevailing legal theory of the corporation as a nexus of contracts reflecting individualized economic transactions?  How does the contemporary legal understanding of the corporation help enforce and excuse inequality and instability? What structures of race, gender, and class have been advanced or obscured by the corporatocracy?   And finally, what law reforms might best reshape the corporation?  What alternative forms of business organization might offer better opportunities for more inclusive and responsible economic coordination? And, how might insights from other disciplines, including studies on religion and mindfulness, inform and inspire alternative visions and practices of law, democracy and political economy that promote human and (planetary) thriving?
We seek to explore these and other questions by focusing on a range of legal subject areas. Possibilities include:
  • Antitrust and Competition Law
  • Comparative Corporate Law
  • Corporate Constitutional Rights
  • Corporate Governance
  • Corporate Personhood
  • Corporate Power and Labor
  • Corporate Power, Class, and Poverty
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Corporate Taxation
  • Corporations and Campaign Finance
  • Corporations and Civil Justice Systems (civil procedure, class actions, judicial elections, tort reform)
  • Corporations and Diversity
  • Corporations and the Family
  • Corporations and Human Rights
  • Corporations and Immigration
  • Corporations and International Trade Law
  • Corporations and the University
  • Corporations, Pensions, and Social Security
  • Corporatization of Professions such as Health, Education and Law
  • Corporations and Small Business
  • Criminalization of Corporate Wrongdoing
  • Economic Development and Corporate Subsidies
  • Financial Institutions and Financial Regulation
  • Gender, Sex, Sexuality and the Corporation
  • Global Regulation of Corporations
  • Law, Corporations and Political Economy
  • Law, Litigation and the Corporation
  • Legal History of the Corporation
  • Race and the Corporation
  • Religion and the Corporation
  • Social Movements and the Corporation
ClassCrits IX also seeks to engage activists who help organize communities to action. The conference solicits the participation of activists who believe their work should be informed by a deep understanding of the limitations of current legal and institutional structures, as academics and activists alike strive to energize and mobilize our many communities for a more equal and just society.
Finally, we extend a special invitation to junior scholars (i.e., graduate students and non-tenured faculty members) to submit proposals for works in progress. At least one senior scholar, as well as other ClassCrits scholars, will provide feedback and detailed commentary upon each work in progress in a small, supportive working session at this year’s workshop.
Proposal Submission Procedure and Deadline
Please submit your proposal by email to by May 16, 2016. Proposals should include the author’s name, institutional affiliation and contact information, the title of the paper to be presented, and an abstract of the paper to be presented of no more than 750 words.  The Conference also welcomes panel proposals.  Junior scholar submissions for works in progress should be clearly marked as “JUNIOR SCHOLAR WORK IN PROGRESS PROPOSAL.”
The venue for the gathering is Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Chicago IL, October 21-22, 2016. The workshop will begin with continental breakfast on Friday, October 21, and continue through the afternoon of Saturday, October 22. Arrangements are being made for conference hotels. Please check our website,, for further updates. The registration fee is $150.00 for all conference attendees who are full-time faculty members.
Registration is free for students and activists. Participants who do not fit into these categories, and/or who for individual reasons cannot afford the registration fee, should contact us at Workshop attendees are responsible for their own travel and lodging expenses.
Conference Organizing Committee

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mass Incarceration and the Clintons

Bill and Hillary Clinton made news last year when both admitted regret in the roles they played in the 1990s in exacerbating the mass incarceration hysteria that gripped the nation in the 1980s and 1990s.  The Corporate Justice Blog highlighted as much at this time last year.  At that time, both President Clinton and the First Lady added fuel to the fire as reported by the New York Times:  “'Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets,' President Bill Clinton said in 1994 as he signed a far-reaching anti-crime bill to bipartisan acclaim.  Defending the law at the time, a frightened era of crack cocaine wars and record murder rates, Hillary Clinton, as first lady, warned about an emerging generation of 'super-predators' — a notion she later repudiated."

Now, the NY Times is reporting that the 1994 crime bill that is often blamed for massively increasing incarceration rates in the United States, signed into law by Bill Clinton, was simply a measure that piled-on to the draconian legislative provisions that criminalized drug abuse beginning in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.  Adding to this morass is data that shows that violent crime was already dropping, and rapidly, at the time the crime bill was signed in 1994 and despite notable drops in violent crime, law enforcement continued to lock up American citizens at record rates.  Why?  Consider the chart below:

As reported by the New York Times:  “'The trend of increased incarceration had already started two decades before 1994,' said Jeremy Travis, the president of the John Jay College of Justice in New York. . . .
'To lay mass incarceration and the damages to black communities on the doorstep of the 1994 crime act is historically inaccurate,' Mr. Travis said, although elements of the law added to the problem in a modest way.
What the historical record does show is that many federal and state changes in criminal justice policy led to a fourfold rise in the incarceration rate from the early 1970s until it declined modestly in the last few years.
The rise in incarceration was driven by state laws like the 1973 Rockefeller drug laws in New York. And it was stoked by a major 1986 federal drug act, which expanded mandatory sentences and set the now-notorious 100-to-one ratio in the quantities of powdered versus crack cocaine that could trigger severe penalties."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Women Underrepresented at Wall Street Firms

Supreme Court Justices O'Connor, Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Kagan
Public Domain
According to Bloomberg, women in general are underrepresented at Wall Street law firms and female partners are badly underrepresented at these firms.  The ABA Journal reports that:  "Law360’s third annual 'Glass Ceiling Report' surveyed 300 law firms with U.S. offices; the numbers reflect 2015. Its data showed that there are 8,549 attorneys practicing at Wall Street Law firms. Of that total, 17.1 percent are male partners, and only 3.9 percent are female partners. This puts women at 18.6 percent of Wall Street firms’ partnership ranks."

Law360 further reports that "Wall Street firms are notorious for keeping their partner ranks trim, but climbing to that top rung remains even more challenging for women, with less than 4 percent of female attorneys at those firms defying the odds to make the cut, a Law360 study found."