Digitalisation and Decentralisation: The Future of Corporations (webinar and book launch)

(11 October 2021)

Decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) are increasingly being used as an alternative form of business. Supported by blockchain technology and smart contracts, DAOs are decentralised in terms of removing the need for centralised governance, and autonomous in terms of operating in accordance with rules encoded via smart contracts (instead of in accordance with articles of association and shareholders agreements). But how should DAOs be treated from a legal perspective? As a collective investment structure? As a partnership? As a venture capital fund? As a crowdsourcing platform? Jurisdictions around the world are starting to consider how DAOs and crypto businesses generally should be regulated.  This webinar explored the legal and regulatory challenges associated with DAOs and how those challenges might be overcome. It brought together a panel of experts, consisting of a regulator, legal practitioners, a technology expert and a legal academic, to discuss the relevant issues.

At the webinar, the Honourable Justice Andrew Phang, Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Singapore, launched Technology and Corporate Law: How Innovation Shapes Corporate Activity (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021), edited by Andrew Godwin, Pey Woan Lee and Rosemary Teele Langford.

Speakers included: the Honourable Justice Andrew Phang, Justice of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Singapore; Associate Professor Rosemary Langford, Melbourne Law School; Saw Tiong Tjin, Product Manager, Palantir Technologies; Leong Weng Tat, Chief Legal Officer, ACRA; Lock Yin Mei, Partner, Allen & Overy; Urszula MacCormack, Partner, King & Wood Mallesons.

This webinar and book launch were co-hosted with Singapore Management University Law School and the Centre for Commercial Law in Asia at Singapore Management University.

Harold Ford Memorial Lecture: Commercial trusts and the liability of beneficiaries: Are commercial trusts a satisfactory vehicle to be used in modern day commerce?

(5 October 2021)

Speaker: The Hon Chief Justice TF Bathurst AC, Supreme Court of New South Wales

Despite the trust not having its origins in commerce, despite the passage of almost 40 years since Professor Harold Ford published ‘Trading Trusts and Creditors’ Rights’, and despite numerous calls for reform, there remains no comprehensive legislative regime governing what is colloquially described as the insolvency of commercial trusts. This lecture examined the adequacy of the current regime in Australia as it concerns the liability of beneficiaries in the event of the insolvency of commercial trusts. It examined the question of whether the 1901 decision of Hardoon v Belilios has any relevance to the problems facing commercial trusts today.

The 2021 Harold Ford Memorial Lecture was organised with the assistance of the Centre for Corporate Law.

Digital finance, COVID-19 and existential sustainability crises: building better financial systems

(30 June 2021)

Speaker: Professor Douglas Arner, University of Hong Kong

The origins of the 2008 crisis and the current crisis are different: the 2008 crisis was a financial crisis that spilt over into the real economy, while COVID-19 is a health and geopolitical crisis spilling over into the real economy. As such, COVID-19 – a pandemic and an existential sustainability crisis – requires different approaches. This lecture explored how COVID-19 experiences are driving forward a range of efforts to build better infrastructure to address future crises, in particular interoperable electronic payments systems (including central bank digital currencies and other forms of sovereign digital currency), sovereign digital identification (particularly in the context of market integrity and non face-to-face transactions), and use of technology for regulatory, supervisory and compliance purposes. At the same time, digitization generally and of finance in particular driven by the COVID-19 crisis – while providing effective tools to support the response – also raises new challenges, particularly around forms of TechRisk arising from control and use of data from both state and non-state actors. Looking forward, these are among the most significant challenges for policy, law and regulation in the 2020s.

This was the James Merralls Visiting Fellowship in Law Lecture that was organised with the assistance of the Centre for Corporate Law.