Conference - Finance in Asia: Integration & Regional Coordination

(7 December 2016, Singapore Management University)

Hosts: Centre for Cross-Border Commercial Law in Asia, Singapore Management University; Research Project: Financial Regulation in Asia – A New Model for Regional Co-operation, Melbourne School of Government; Global Economic Law Network, Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Transactional Law Group, Melbourne Law School.

Conference Program

On Corporate Governance – Lessons from the Australian Banks Since the GFC

(16 November 2016)

Speaker: Prof. Pamela Hanrahan, UNSW Business School

Australian banks should be among the most trusted institutions in the country.  Their governance is closely scrutinised by both ASIC and APRA, they operate pursuant to mature industry codes of practice, and they have adopted most of the major self-regulatory initiatives covering environmental, social and governance matters developed in Australian and globally over the last 25 years.  However since the Global Financial Crisis, community trust in them has fallen steadily. This seminar explores the lessons that can be learnt, from the banks’ recent experience, about some of our established ‘truths’ on what constitutes good corporate governance and how to achieve it.

Seminar slides

Is China at Risk of Financial Crisis?

(20 October 2016)

Speaker: Michael Taylor, Moody's Investors Service

Moody's Investors Service has recently reported that China's authorities have the tools to prevent a financial crisis from materialising in the near future. However, even in the absence of a systemic crisis, major imbalances created by rapid debt accumulation are likely to erode credit quality over time. In addition, China's growing debt levels will lead to the persistence of large unrecognized banking sector losses, delays to the reduction in excess capacity and economic rebalancing, and a prolonged period of sub-optimal growth. What are the risks of a financial crisis in China and how should they be managed?

Seminar slides

Supreme Court of Victoria Commercial Law Conference 2016

(13 October 2016)

Speakers:  The Rt Hon Lady Justice Elizabeth Gloster DBE, Court of Appeal England & Wales;  Mr Phillip Crutchfield QC, Barrister; The Hon Justice Ruth McColl AO, Supreme Court of New South Wales Court of Appeal; Mr David O’Callaghan QC, Barrister; Professor Richard Garnett, Melbourne Law School; Ms Helen Tiplady, Barrister

Legitimacy and Compliance in the Global Anti-Corruption Business

(20 September 2016)

Speaker: Dr Radha Ivory

The bribery of public officials was once thought to ‘grease the wheels of commerce’ in ‘modernizing’ states. Now, bribery (and corruption in all forms) is decried as a source of economic inefficiency, distributive injustice, and social and political instability in ‘emerging markets’ and ‘developing countries’. Through international treaties and soft laws, traditional export powers have committed to sanctioning legal entities that bribe foreign public officials in international business transactions.

The United Kingdom requires commercial organisations to maintain procedures to prevent associated persons from bribing – at home and abroad. Similar provisions have been mooted for Australia’s Commonwealth Criminal Code. Examples of the ‘due diligence’ (or compliance) approach to corporate social responsibility, the ‘adequate procedures’ and ‘corporate culture’ reforms seem like moderate options for imposing criminal liability on legal entities. They also appear to be an efficient mechanism for ‘scaling up’ the impact of the global anti-corruption norm and enabling private sector actors to internalize and express cosmopolitan concerns.

Dr Ivory explores the governance implications of globalised standards on corporate liability for the crime of foreign bribery, probing the legitimacy of transnational efforts to combat corruption in the global South by delegating law enforcement powers to large corporations in the North. She suggests a multi-dimensional approach to assessing the effectiveness of transnational legal orders on economic crime and raises the possibility of empirical studies of their perception among regulating and regulated groups.

International Legal Symposium

Climate Change Risk and Corporate Governance: Directors’ Duties and Liability Exposures in a post-Paris World

(29 – 30 August 2016)

The symposium considered international developments in the law and liability for climate change damages, with a practical, inter-disciplinary perspective provided by leading directors, economists, investors and insurance-sector executives.

View Program

Private Equity in the Wake of Brexit

(20 July 2016)

Speaker: Mr Timothy Spangler, Partner, Dechert LLB

On the day following the Brexit vote, the Financial Times reported that “it would be wrong to suggest that all the consequences of the Brexit vote are bad for UK businesses. Private equity groups, which have made decent progress in whittling down portfolios since 2012, may find opportunities to buy as asset prices drop.”

In this seminar, Timothy Spangler, partner in the Financial Services Group at Dechert LLP and adjunct faculty at UCLA Law, provided his views concerning the impact of Brexit on private equity. He also discussed the changing legal, regulatory and contractual framework for private equity and venture capital, particularly in view of increased competition for market share as funding sources diversity and sovereign wealth funds start to provide direct investment. The recent $2.5 billion investment in Uber from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is a case in point.

Using Social Impact Bonds to Fund Projects: Australia, Asia & Beyond

(12 July 2016)


  • Professor Jasper Kim, Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha University, South Korea
  • Ms Fabienne Michaux, Member of the Australian Advisory Board (AAB) on Impact Investing  and Chair of the AAB’s Market Building Working Group
  • Mr Malcolm Garrow, Director - Consulting, Social Ventures Australia
  • Mr Jeremy King, Partner and Chairman, Pro Bono & Community, Corrs Chambers Westgarth

FinTech: Evolution and Regulation

(1 June 2016)

Speaker: Professor Douglas Arner, University of Hong Kong

"Financial technology" or "FinTech" refers to technology enabled financial solutions. FinTech is often seen today as the new marriage of financial services and information technology. However, the interlinkage of finance and technology has a long history and has evolved over three distinct eras. FinTech 1.0, from 1866 to 1987, was the first period of financial globalization supported by technological infrastructure such as transatlantic transmission cables. This was followed by FinTech 2.0, from 1987 to 2008, during which financial services firms increasingly digitized their processes.

Since 2008 a new era of FinTech has emerged in both the developed and developing world. This era is defined not by the financial products or services delivered but by who delivers them. This latest evolution of FinTech, led by start-ups, poses challenges for regulators and market participants alike, particularly in balancing the potential benefits of innovation with the possible risks of new approaches.

Presentation slides - FinTech: Evolution and Regulation

Video - FinTech: Evolution and Regulation

Making Corporations Responsible: The Parallel Tracks of the B Corp Movement and the Business and Human Rights Movement

(10 May 2016)

Speaker: Professor Joanne Bauer, Columbia University

The business and human rights (BHR) movement shares several goals with the Benefit Corporation (B Corp) movement: corporations respecting human rights; maintaining a “wide aperture” so that all impacts of a company on people and communities are addressed; and creating rigorous standards of conduct and means of accountability. Prof Bauer argues that nonetheless the movements are traveling along parallel tracks and thus missing an opportunity for mutual learning that can improve their effectiveness in making corporations responsible. The BHR movement can look to B Corps for concrete examples of viable companies that use law to embed human rights in business conduct - in other words value human rights intrinsically and not just as a means to higher profits. The B Impact Assessment, the B Corp certification tool, can better ensure that B Corps are in fact respecting human rights by adopting BHR standards. And both movements must give greater consideration to the potential contradiction between unlimited scaling – a key goal of B Corps – and the ability of large corporations to respect human rights.  The talk will conclude with a summary of new initiatives to identify alternative corporate models beyond B Corps that are more compatible with the BHR principles of respect for human rights.

Related paper by Prof Bauer

Harold Ford Memorial Lecture: 'Corporate Structures, the Veil and the Role of the Courts'

(5 May 2016)

Speaker: The Hon. Marilyn Warren AC, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Victoria

Courts are frequently called upon to grapple with the consequences of the principle that corporations are separate legal entities with limited liability.  These consequences arise in a range of contexts, from corporate groups to tort liability.  The rise of the corporate trustee has added yet further complexity to issues of corporate knowledge, power and responsibility.  In this context, an age-old question is more relevant than ever: to what extent can courts look behind corporate structures to commercial realities in determining the disputes before them?

Transnational Corporations and Sustainable Development:  Clash or Mutual Supportiveness between Human Rights and Investment Law?

(20 April 2016)

Speaker: Dr. Marcos A. Orellana, George Washington University

The sustainable development paradigm is increasingly looking at businesses as a key actor in multi-stakeholder partnerships.  While some highlight the value of these partnerships and soft law instruments like the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for their ability to build consensus and effectuate change, others point to the limitations of voluntary initiatives in preventing abuses and securing accountability.  Against this backdrop, in July 2014 the UN Human Rights Council mandated negotiations toward a binding instrument on transnational corporations with respect to human rights.

Proponents argued that contemporary international law sources contemplate rights for corporations but no obligations to respect human rights and the environment.  They further argued that these structural imbalances were aggravated by economic globalization and the governance gaps in many States, in the end denying victims of corporate abuse access to an effective remedy. This seminar will map the landscape of the current debate on the interplay of human rights and investment law as it has unfolded in the negotiations of the “TNC Treaty”, and it will also explore the conceptual tensions and synergies that concern the role of TNCs in the sustainable development process.

True North: The Ethical Compass, An Instrument of Change

(15 April 2016)

Speaker: Jordan A. Thomas, Partner, Labaton Sucharow

Building on his tenure in US federal law enforcement, American attorney and whistleblower advocate Jordan Thomas will address the ethical breakdown that has contributed to the serial misconduct plaguing the financial markets.  He will examine ways the corporate and legislative communities can collaborate to eradicate this pervasive fraud; the role of truthtellers in a just and democratic society and the critical ways that tomorrow’s leaders can cultivate transparent, ethical cultures through principled action.

Hypernudge: Big Data as a Mode of Regulation by Design

(8 April 2016)

Speaker: Professor Karen Yeung, King's College London

In this seminar, Prof Karen Yeung argues that the analytic phenomenon known as ‘Big Data’ can be understood as a mode of design-based regulation.  ‘Big Data’ techniques are being used to shape the informational choice context in which individual decision-making occurs, with the aim of channelling attention and decision-making in directions preferred by the ‘choice architect’.  By relying upon the use of ‘nudge’- a particular form of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives, these techniques constitute a ‘soft’ form of design-based control.

Prof Yeung adopts a liberal, rights-based critique of these techniques, contrasting liberal theoretical accounts with insights from science and technology studies (STS) and surveillance studies.  She argues that concerns about the legitimacy of these techniques are not satisfactorily resolved through reliance on individual notice and consent, touching upon the troubling implications for democracy and human flourishing if Big Data analytic techniques driven by commercial self-interest continue their onward march unchecked by effective and legitimate constraint.

Presentation slides

Managing In-House Teams: Lessons from the Dutch Development Bank FMO

(22 March 2016)

Speaker: Jan Job de Vries Robbe

Jan Job (JJ) is Manager, Legal Affairs & Compliance at the Dutch Development Bank FMO. Its mission is to finance entrepreneurs in developing markets.

JJ works on a variety of legal areas, from debt capital markets (securitisations of microfinance receivables) to project financing of renewable energy, and corporate syndicated lending and some challenging restructurings. His current role is also managerial, and over the years one of his major challenges was to reconcile team motivation with the increasing demands of clients and regulation. During this seminar JJ will share his lessons learnt on this topic, and he welcomes your ideas for a fruitful discussion.