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The 2018-2019 Lara D. Gass Annual Symposium featured three panels that explored the past, present, and future of social and environmental shareholder activism.

In March of 1968, a civil rights organization, the Medical Committee for Human Rights, received five shares of Dow Chemical Company stock as a gift. Well-known for its work deploying doctors and nurses on the front lines of civil rights protests across the American South, MCHR had no track record of shareholder activism. Within a year, however, MCHR had initiated its first shareholder proposal to stop Dow from manufacturing and selling napalm for military use in the Vietnam War. The activism campaign advanced MCHR’s commitment to civil and human rights, but it also represented an important innovation in shareholders’ use of corporate governance tools.

The civil rights group had catalyzed a movement: shareholder activism campaigns on pollution, minority hiring, and apartheid were quickly brought by other shareholders at major U.S. companies like General Motors and Honeywell, Inc. and, over the decades, numerous other campaigns have followed.

Today, shareholder activism on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters is surging. In the 2019 Proxy Season, companies will face shareholder campaigns on economic inequality, human rights, discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation, board and workforce diversity, and executive compensation, to name just a few topics.

Lisa M. Fairfax, the Leroy Sorenson Merrifield Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School, gave a public keynote lecture, and a number of highly regarded experts participated in panel discussions to connect the movement’s origins to the modern era.

Schedule

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2019
Friday, February 15th
9:00 AM

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Sarah C. Haan, Washington and Lee University School of Law
M. Claire Flowers, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Millhiser Moot Court Room

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM

9:15 AM

Panel Discussion: Civil Rights and Social Activism: History and Context

Colin Reid, Washington and Lee University
Sarah C. Haan, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Harvey L. Pitt, Kalorama Partners
Omari Scott Simmons, Wake Forest University

Millhiser Moot Court Room

9:15 AM - 10:00 AM

10:15 AM

Panel Discussion: Corporate Reform through Shareholder Power

Kishanthi Parella, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Virginia Harper Ho, University of Kansas School of Law
Barbara J. Krumsiek, MISO Energy
Cary Martin Shelby, DePaul University College of Law

Millhiser Moot Court Room

10:15 AM - 11:15 AM

11:30 AM

Keynote Speaker: Lisa M. Fairfax

Lisa M. Fairfax, George Washington University Law School
Brant J. Hellwig, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Millhiser Moot Court Room

11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

1:45 PM

Panel Discussion: The Future of Corporate Reform through Shareholder Activism

Carliss Chatman, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Ifeoma Ajunwa, Cornell University ILR School
D. Wendy Greene, Washington and Lee University School of Law
David H. Webber, Boston University School of Law

Millhiser Moot Court Room

1:45 PM - 2:45 PM

3:00 PM

Proxy Preview Presentation

Maya H. Ginga, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Spence M. Howden, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Danielle J. Novelly, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Millhiser Moot Court Room

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM