I was born, grew up and studied law in Bologna. It is likely also because I was so sedentary in my first 23 years that I have moved a lot since then. I first studied in the US for a master, then moved back and forth between Bologna and Rome for a number of times and finally, after a second year in the US, moved to Oxford seven years ago.
I’ve been married for 23 years with Claudia, who has recently started a career as an interior designer. We have three children: Federigo (20), who is in his second (online only) year of Film Studies at Queen Mary and wants to be a film director since he was 9 years old; Filippo (18), who wants to try a career as a fashion designer and is now spending an unusually uneventful gap year with his grandfather in Bologna; and Clara (15), who’s preparing for her GCSEs and is undecided between studying psychology or fashion design. I have mixed feelings about my children’s career plans: it is fair to say that I am more happy than I am worried about their not being as risk-averse as I was when I chose to study law.
We also have a new addition to the family: a puppy named Akira who joined us after Christmas (first dog ever).
What led you to a career in academia?
In my teens I was very much into politics and had strong opinions. In my twenties, I converted that into an interest in policy, while still retaining strong opinions. At first, I was most attracted by civil service. I did an internship at Consob (the Italian Financial Conduct Authority) and then worked at the Italian central bank for three years. During that time I was lucky enough to mainly assist the Italian government and Parliament in drafting bills.
I enjoyed my work at the Bank of Italy but ultimately could not stand the weight of hierarchy, which I found oppressive. Worst of all, it implied having to explain the same things to my bosses again and again.
As soon as I had a chance, I moved to academia where I knew I would be freer and better able to express my own views. But I also had many opportunities to keep working on policy issues in various capacities throughout the years, especially as a (full-time) Consob Commissioner between 2007 and 2012. That experience, incidentally, was professionally enriching but made me realize first-hand how little academics’ ideas are considered in policymakers’ decision-making process. The side effect was that, although my research angle is still mainly policy-focused, my opinions have become less strong.
What are your research interests and why have you chosen those particular areas?
My research areas are corporate law and financial regulation. The reason for choosing these fields is not very rational, I’m afraid. At the end of my undergraduate studies, I had to choose a professor to supervise my thesis. I was attracted by private law, business law and criminal law. I approached the top three professors in those fields and chose the one who sounded the most enthusiastic about supervising me and the warmest as a person. Despite the weak criteria guiding my choice, I have come to regret neither the choice of field nor the person who has become my mentor and who made sure that I would have a career in academia (no one without a committed mentor can make it into Italian academia, unfortunately). For the record, his name is Renzo Costi.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have some exciting projects focusing on climate change together with John Armour and Thom Wetzer. We are looking into how firms can credibly commit to lower their carbon footprint and how securities regulation can help in the process. In addition, together with Alessandro Romano (Bocconi), I am writing a paper more generally relating to corporate law and externalities, drawing from the ever greater presence of “universal owners” as shareholders of listed companies. Our suggestion is that a set of special corporate law rules tipping the scale of power in their direction should be devised but only in relation to those companies that create systemic externalities (such as global banks and large carbon emitters).
Finally, I haven’t stopped working on something I have written about for more than twenty years now, namely investor expropriation by controlling shareholders. I am writing a paper against the idea, very popular among continental European corporate law scholars and policymakers, that rules on intragroup transactions should be relaxed to allow for the smoother management of corporate groups. It still strikes me how most legal scholars on the continent appear to be little touched by the intuition that relaxing those rules facilitates minority shareholder expropriation (theft).
What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?
What I like to do most when I can are hiking in the mountains and climbing. I have always done both but for a long time only very occasionally. It really picked up after an inspiring hiking trip to Ladakh with two friends in 2018. I decided then to learn how to climb properly. I took lessons from some excellent instructors at the Oxford Brookes Wall, first with my daughter Clara and more recently, before the lockdowns, with John Armour. Since 2019 I spend my summer holidays climbing (always with a guide, I must say) and hiking in the Alps.
What charity do you support and why?
My mother, who taught child psychology to prospective nursery school teachers, was very active with a charity in Bologna (Adottando). In collaboration with a local organization (Tuzlanka Amica), Adottando helped orphans of war in Tuzla, Bosnia. She long-distance adopted Remzija, who is now the mother of a splendid boy. My mother visited her in Tuzla a few times and the bond between the two became very strong. After my mother died twelve years ago, my sister, Claudia and I still support Remzija and have donated to Adottando for various children-focused projects that Tuzlanka Amica and the local municipality have been running very efficiently.