The Common Law and Finance: Perspectives from the Bench

A special lecture series, convened by Joshua Getzler and Kristin van Zwieten, in which senior judges from various common law jurisdictions reflect on the role of the judge in the regulation of commerce and finance.

2018 marks twenty years since the publication of La Porta et al’s seminal “Law and Finance” paper in the Journal of Political Economy. Although the methodology used in early law and finance papers attracted various criticisms, the finding that levels of investor protection vary systematically by legal family and are strongest (at least for some measures of protection) in common law systems has proved highly influential. One of the dominant explanations advanced for the apparent persisting influence of legal origin is the judiciary, and in particular the idea that the judge in a common law system is best positioned to adapt legal rules to changes in market conditions (Beck,Demirgüç-Kunt and Levine, 2003). It has been suggested that “financial markets may be an area where the adaptability of judge-made rules, as exemplified by the American Delaware courts, is especially beneficial” (La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, Shleifer, 2008). This claim, which reprises ideas about the adaptive capacity of the common law that featured in foundational law and economics literature, has largely been developed through historical analysis of the evolution of courts in particular colonising jurisdictions, rather than through (e.g.) contemporary comparative studies of the functioning of courts.

This project brings senior judges from apex or appellate courts in various common law jurisdictions to Oxford to offer a series of special lectures on the role of the judge in the regulation of commerce and finance, having regard to the experiences of recent financial crises. Each lecture is open to the public and free to attend.

Speakers in the series include Geoffrey Ma, Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal; Lord Briggs (Supreme Court) and Justice James Edelman (Australian High Court). 'Common Law and Finance - Legal Origins, Securities Fraud, and the Efficiency of the Common Law', the final lecture in the series is to be given by Judge Frank Easterbrook on 23rd May.

The series is generously sponsored by the Bapsybanoo Marchioness of Winchester Trust, the Travers Smith Fund, and the Commercial Law Centre, Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

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