The common law and finance: perspectives from the bench

In a forthcoming special lecture series, leading judges will reflect on the interactions of common law adjudication with commerce and finance.

This academic year the Oxford Law Faculty will be hosting lectures by leading appellate judges from four common law jurisdictions (USA, Hong Kong, Australia, and the UK) who have contributed to the legal regulation of commerce and finance in the wake of the 2008 banking and investment crisis. Major market disruptions such as 2008 can throw up a host of thorny problems for the courts, including frustration and renegotiation of long term contracts, control of fiduciary powers and discretions involving potential conflicts of interest, characterization of security interests and ordering of priorities, and resolution of major bank liquidity crises. We will be fortunate to hear the insights of four prominent judges, each leading jurists, as to how common law courts have approached such issues.

The role of the judiciary in common law systems has provoked a long-running academic debate as to the general relationship between forms of law on the one hand and development of business and financial practices on the other. The seminal 1998 paper “Law and Finance”, published by La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, Shleifer, and Vishny in the Journal of Political Economy 106 (6): 1113, used empirical data to suggest that common law systems were especially hospitable to financial growth through pragmatic development of improved investor protection over time, compared to more structured civilian systems working under codes. The relative performance of financial systems in countries with civilian and common law origins since 2008 has placed the "Law and Finance" hypothesis under strain. Now, twenty years after the launch of the "Law and Finance" debate, the opportunity to have leading judges reflect on their work in the arena of business and finance is especially to be welcomed.

The first of these lectures will be given by Geoffrey Ma CJ, Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, on 7 November 2018 (Week 5 MT). This event is open to the public and free to attend. Further information, including details of how to register to attend, is available here. Other speakers in the series include Justice James Edelman, Justice of the High Court of Australia, and Lord Briggs, Justice of the Supreme Court. 

These lectures are generously sponsored by the Bapsybanoo Marchioness of Winchester Trust, the Travers Smith Fund, and the Commercial Law Centre, Harris Manchester College, Oxford.