PROFESSOR OF LAW, BOSTON COLLEGE; CONSTITUTIONAL AND CORPORATE LAW EXPERT; AUTHOR
An internationally-recognized scholar of constitutional law and corporate governance, Kent Greenfield is Professor of Law and Michael and Helen Lee Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School. He is a frequent commentator on broadcast and cable news programs, having appeared on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, and Fox. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, SCOTUSBlog, the Boston Globe, the American Prospect, Salon, and The Nation. A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and Brown University, Greenfield clerked for Justice David H. Souter of the United States Supreme Court and practiced at Covington & Burling in Washington, DC.
Kent is the author of The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits (Yale, 2011), The Failure of Corporate Law: Fundamental Flaws and Progressive Possibilities (Chicago, 2006), and the forthcoming Corporations are People Too (And They Should Act Like It) for Yale University Press. He has authored numerous scholarly articles in leading legal journals including the Yale Law Journal and the Virginia Law Review.
A past chair of the Business Associations Section of the AALS, Kent has lectured at nearly 120 institutions in 40 states and ten countries, and has been a visiting professor at Brown University and the University of Sydney. While at Boston College, he has been the recipient of four teaching awards. He was also the Founder and President of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), the named plaintiff in the 2006 Supreme Court case Rumsfeld v FAIR that challenged the constitutionality of a federal law requiring law schools to assist military employers that discriminated against gay and lesbian students.
Kent also consults with litigators on issues of corporate accountability. He was instrumental in developing the theory of the cases brought against Unocal Corporation for alleged human rights violations committed by the company in Burma and against Hershey Corporation for the alleged use of child labor in West Africa. Greenfield is a co-author of an amicus brief in the 2017 case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission and was one of the principal authors of an amicus brief in the 2014 case of Hobby Lobby v Sebelius, both arguing that the Supreme Court should not extend religious freedom rights to for-profit corporations.
CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE TOO
One of the most hated cases in modern Supreme Court history is the 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which allowed corporations to start spending unlimited money in elections. "Corporations Are Not People" has been the battle cry of activists around the country. But the case is misunderstood. Money in politics—and corporate power in general—indeed poses significant risks to our democracy. But the real solution is not a rejection of corporate personhood but an adoption of it. In this talk, Kent—one of the nation's few authoritative scholars on both corporations and the constitution—explains the hidden backstory of Citizens United and its surprising effects on American politics. Instead of being a reason to push corporations out of the public square, Citizens United offers a moment to require corporations to take their obligations as citizens seriously. If they are going to be people, they should act like it.
WHY CHOICE IS A MYTH, AND WHAT WE CAN CHOOSE TO DO ABOUT IT
We are fixated on the idea of choice. Our political theory is based on the consent of the governed. Our legal system is built upon the argument that people freely make choices and bear responsibility for them. And what slogan could better express the heart of our consumer culture than "Have it your way"? In this talk, Kent explores unsettling questions about the choices we make. What if they are more constrained and limited than we like to think? If we have less free will than we realize, what are the implications for us as individuals and for our society?
THE REAL PURPOSE OF CORPORATIONS: TO MAKE MONEY (BUT NOT THE WAY YOU THINK)
In an increasingly global economy, every business must face the reality that they are connected with a multitude of stakeholders and situations that expose them to unexpected and unfamiliar challenges. One often hears that businesses must take care of "corporate social responsibility" as if the obligations to society are ones of ethics and altruism. But taking account of, and being able to respond to, the global implications of a business is not a matter of altruism or charity. Such awareness is essential to a company's core responsibility: to build and maintain a successful business that serves all its stakeholders over time. This keynote addresses the necessity of tackling these emerging responsibilities—whether they be related to the environment, consumer safety and health, or human and worker rights—within a challenging economic environment where the difference between success and failure can be pennies on the dollar.