The New Bankruptcy “Detective Agency”?
The Origins of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Great Depression Canada

(31 October 2018)

Speaker: Professor Thomas GW Telfer, Western University, Faculty of Law

In the depths of the Great Depression, R.B. Bennett’s Conservative government appointed W.J. Reilley as Canada’s first Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Reilley’s experience made him eminently qualified. He had trained as a lawyer and had been the Registrar of the Bankruptcy Court of Ontario at Osgoode Hall for many years. As Registrar, his decisions appeared in the Canadian Bankruptcy Reports. The creation of the federal Superintendent’s office in 1932 and the establishment of a licensing regime for trustees in bankruptcy is one of the major milestones in the legislative history of Canadian bankruptcy law. In the bankruptcy law literature, there is a broad recognition that the 1932 reforms were vital. These accounts are incomplete. The seminar seeks to provide a fuller understanding of these Depression era bankruptcy reforms by examining sources of opposition to the establishment of the Superintendent’s office. Not all accepted the new regulatory approach and the prospects of a bankruptcy bureaucracy during the Depression. Within months of Reilley taking office, critics called into his qualifications and demanded his resignation.

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2018 Harold Ford Memorial Lecture - "Judicial advice to trustees: its origins, purposes and nature"

(14 September 2018)

Speaker: The Hon Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia

The rather strange practice of equity courts of providing advice to trustees has a long history.  To understand how it evolved it is necessary to trace its origins and the later development of procedures arising out of the general administration action.  It is necessary to identify its purposes in order to understand both the breadth of the power to advise and its limits.  Equity's broader supervisory jurisdiction over trusts may be explicable by reference to history.  There may be questions whether orders by way of judicial advice involve judicial power or are to be regarded as historical anomalies.

Technological Innovation and the Implications for the Legal Profession — Taking Global Polyarchy Seriously

(27 August 2018)

Speaker: Professor Jane K Winn, University of Washington

Technological innovation has huge implications for legal systems and the legal profession. The academic literature on “global legal pluralism”, however, has barely scratched the surface in analysing the impact that the decline of national sovereignty and the rise of global polyarchy are having on legal systems in western nations. The magnitude of the unexamined transformations now occurring can be illustrated by examining the decline of conventional legal service delivery models occurring in liberal democratic nations in the West as a result of technological innovation and globalisation. If legal professions do not respond to the rise of automated legal reasoning systems by moving to a “Knowledge Governance by Design” model of professional services, they risk being sidelined by the emergence of a new profession of governance designers.

Companies, corporate officers and public interests:  Are we at a legal tipping point?

(3 August 2018)

Speaker: Professor Pamela Hanrahan, UNSW Business School

Recent revelations at the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission have prompted many in the community to ask:  are or should companies and their officers be required to consider public interests in the conduct of their business affairs?  Foreshadowed changes to the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations emphasise the need for listed companies to act in a socially responsible manner and to have regard to their ‘social licence to operate’.  In this lunchtime seminar, Professor Hanrahan examines the current state of the law in Australia and canvasses some possible future developments and their ramifications.

Seminar slides

Contemporary Issues in Corporate and Competition Law: A Conference in Honour of Professor Robert Baxt AO

(26 June 2018)

This conference exploring contemporary issues in corporate and competition law was held to honour the contribution of the late Professor Robert (‘Bob’) Baxt AO to the development, practice and administration of business law in Australia.



The Hon Chief Justice Thomas F Bathurst AC,
Supreme Court of New South Wales

Directors’ and Officers’ Duties in the Age of Regulation

Professor Caron Beaton-Wells and
Associate Professor Julie Clarke, Melbourne Law School

Corporate Penalties for Cartel Conduct in Australia: Challenging the Status Quo

Professor Deborah Healey,

Government, the Market and the Level Playing Field: Covering All the Bases

Professor Ian Ramsay, Melbourne Law School and Dr Benjamin Saunders, Deakin Law School

Enforcement of the Statutory Duty of Care by ASIC

Ms Rebecca Maslen-Stannage, Global Deputy Senior Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills

Common Directors: Navigating Between the Rock and the Hard Place

The Hon Dr Robert Austin,
New South Wales Bar

Directors' Duties: When Statute Seeks to Enact Equitable Obligations

Mr Alan Cameron AO, Chairman,
NSW Law Reform Commission

Reflections on Regulators

Professor Pamela Hanrahan,
UNSW Business School

On Compliance

The Hon Justice Ashley Black,
Supreme Court of New South Wales

The Contributions of Professor Robert Baxt – A Retrospective

This conference was organised by UNSW Business School with the assistance of Melbourne Law School's Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation.

The ICO Gold Rush: It's a Scam, It's a Bubble, It's a Super Challenge for Regulators

(16 May 2018)

Speaker: Prof. Douglas Arner

Initial coin offerings typically use blockchain technology to offer tokens that confer various rights in return, most often, for cryptocurrency. They can be seen as a conjunction of crowdfunding and blockchain. Based on a database of over 450 ICO white papers, Prof Arner presents a taxonomy of ICOs to increase understanding of their many forms, analyze the various regulatory challenges they pose, and suggest the first steps regulators should consider in response.

ICOs are a global phenomenon and the global ICO market is much larger than generally thought, with overall ICO volume exceeding 20 billion USD as at the end of January 2018. The US ICO market is significant, but the US doesn’t dominate this market, by any means. Furthermore, many ICOs are offered on the basis of utterly inadequate disclosure of information; more than half the ICO white papers are either silent on the initiators or backers or do not provide contact details, and an even greater share do not elaborate on the applicable law, segregation or pooling of client funds, and the existence of an external auditor. Accordingly, the decision to invest in them often cannot be the outcome of a rational calculus. Hallmarks of a classic speculative bubble are present. At the same time, ICOs provide a new, innovative and potentially important vehicle for raising funds to support innovative ideas and ventures, with the potential for aspects of their underlying structure to have an important impact on fundraising systems and structures in future.

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Is the model of business format franchising broken? And can it be fixed?

(9 May 2018)

Speaker: Professor Jenny Buchan,University of New South Wales, and Dr Tess Hardy, University of Melbourne

The media is again awash with stories of franchising woe. Looming questions remain about the viability and sustainability of business format franchising in Australia and the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the legal regulation of this organisational model. Such concerns have not only prompted far-reaching reforms to federal labour laws, but a parliamentary inquiry is now on foot. This seminar provides complementary perspectives on some of the most pressing legal issues facing the franchising sector.

Professor Jenny Buchan explores the many myths that surround the business format franchise model. These include: that franchising is more successful than stand-alone businesses; that if only franchisees would do proper due diligence they would not buy into dud systems; and that all solutions lie with a stronger Franchising Code of Conduct and a better resourced ACCC.

Dr Tess Hardy discusses key provisions of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers’ legislation aimed at addressing the problem of systemic wage theft in franchises. She also considers the way in which competition and consumer regulation can facilitate and hinder franchisee compliance with labour standards.

G-Zero World and Trade: A Return to Bilateralism and Self-Interest

(16 April 2018)

Speaker: Professor Bryan Mercurio, Chinese University of Hong Kong

The era of multilateral cooperation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has effectively ended, but so has the more recent trend towards larger and more comprehensive bilateral and regional trade agreements (BRTAs). A G-Zero World - one without the guidance of a hegemon -  affects trade relations in that the leadership once expected (and desired) of the US, EU and a select few others has collapsed and the void has not been filled by leading developing countries such as China, Brazil and India.   This is unfortunate, as the multilateral system facilitated and added security and predictability to the widespread and complex networks of trading relationships– stimulating growth and increasing wealth (and health) across the globe. At the same time, while perhaps not the economically most efficient tool to stimulate trade and growth, BRTAs allowed countries to add depth and breadth to their liberalisation commitments with one or more like-minded partner countries in ways not possible in the multilateral system.

The G-zero world threatens both, and with a confluence of political factors around the globe, trade negotiations in the near to mid-term will not seek to increase liberalisation but more so to claw back and add protections to domestic industry and economy via smaller and more niche agreements.  The world economy, and the people, will suffer as a consequence. The question then becomes what middle powers caught in the middle can do to secure their own economic prospects as well as to re-shape the future direction of trade relations.

Regulation by Blockchain: The Emerging Battle for Supremacy between the Code of Law and Code as Law

(13 April 2018)

Speaker: Professor Karen Yeung, University of Birmingham

Many advocates of distributed ledger technologies (including blockchain technologies) claim that these technologies provide the foundations for an organisational form that will enable individuals to transact with each other free from the travails of conventional law, thus offering the promise of grassroots democratic governance without the need for third party intermediaries. But does the assumption that blockchain systems will operate beyond the reach of conventional law withstand critical scrutiny? The aim of this paper is to subject the intersection and interactions between conventional law promulgated and enforced by national legal systems (ie the ‘code of law’) and the internal rules of blockchain systems which take the form of executable software code and cryptographic algorithms via distributing computing networks (‘code as law’) to critical examination to identify whether, and to what extent, ‘regulation by blockchain’ will successfully avoid governance by conventional law.

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50 Shades of Green: Challenges and Opportunities in the Green Bonds Market

(26 March 2018)

Speaker: Jan Job de Vries Robbé, Netherlands Development Bank

Green Bonds are like Bitcoins. Everyone wants them, but do we know what we want? The purpose of this seminar is to explain green bonds, their potential and risks. Are green bonds the solution for sustainable finance? Market expectations of green bonds differ quite a bit. This gives rise to legal risks for market participants, for instance through ‘greenwashing’ or ‘tokenism’ of these bonds. Market transactions, including ‘Sustainability Bonds’, will be covered to illustrate the points above.

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Finance and Human Rights: Connecting the Dots

(2 March 2018)

Speaker: Professor Danny Bradlow, University of Pretoria Law School

Historically, the financial sector provides support to the real economy, thereby contributing to the wealth, resilience, stability and the degree of inequality in a society. However, in recent years it has been performing sub-optimally. One reason is that those who are responsible for designing and implementing the financial sector’s regulatory frameworks are paying insufficient attention to understanding all the impacts of financial regulations and financial activity thereby increasing the risk that financial institutions and their regulators are incorrectly calculating the costs and benefits of their actions.

This presentation seeks to answer the following question; would a human rights analysis add value to the quality of the functioning of the financial sector. Its hypothesis is that the quality of the regulation and operation of the financial sector would be improved if decision-makers incorporated a human rights analysis into their decision-making processes.

"Asian Financial Law Conference"

(23 January 2018)

Hosts: Centre for Cross-Border Commercial Law in Asia, Singapore Management University; Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Transactional Law Group, Melbourne Law School; Asian Institute of International Financial Law, University of Hong Kong; Shandong University

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