14 June 2018

WORKSHOP: Business and the Law. Historical Perspectives on Legal Change (21-23 June 2018, Universität Bayreuth)

(Source: H/Soz/Kult)

Please find below information regarding the workshop “Business and the Law. Historical Perspectives on Legal Change”, which includes several panels with legal historical contributions.


Firms act in tightly regulated legal environments. Yet as new products, production processes, and economic practices emerged that environment has been constantly questioned, undermined, and rebuilt. At the same time, legal changes challenged established economic practices like the ban on child labor or new cartel laws. Our workshop, generously funded by the DFG, will address the relation of businesses and the law from a broad and subtle perspective. The aim of the workshop is to understand legal change as a change in routines that affected the ways in which businesses and courts interpreted the "rules of the game". Such a change could manifest itself in written law or lead to a fundamentally different way of interpreting it. In both cases the focus needs to be on economic and legal practices, i.e. on the question what the law meant in its historical context and how it actually affected economic actions.

The workshop focuses on theoretical work as well as empirical case studies that help to shed light on the historical transformations of legal institutions at the intersection of businesses and the law. Papers will address one of the following research questions with a focus on developments since the 19th century.

1. The Relation of Firm Behavior and the Law: Conceptual Clarifications and Historical Perspectives
What do we mean when we talk about "the law" and its effects on business practices? What is "legal change" and what are the possible channels through which such change can take place? To what extent did the meaning of the law change itself over time? The first section of the workshop is intended to discuss some of the underlying concepts and theories important for understanding the problem of the relationship of business behavior and the law. Such a clarification includes discussing the law as a restraining and enabling institution as well as the question of relevant actors. We assume that economists, historians, and legal scholars may have different views on what they perceive as "the law" or "legal institutions".

2. Lobbying, Legal Entrepreneurs and Legal Change
In which ways have firms tried to manipulate legislative and judicial power to change the legal framework? What do we know about the decision making processes inside the firms or by individual businessmen to act as "political entrepreneurs"? Is it possible to make statements about the effects of such interventions? Papers will focus on historical case studies from different time periods that shed some light on these questions.

3. Business Practices and Regulation / Business Law and Its Effects
What effects had legal change, whether a new law or the removal of an old one, on firm behavior? Did firms comply with the new legal rules or did they try to undermine it, sticking to the routines they had been used to? What were the long term effects of such firm reactions on legal practice and written law? Historical case studies seem to suggest that negotiations could be very complicated with different degrees of success. Although the intentions of lawmakers could be realized to some extent, as in the case of cartel law after the Second World War, firm reactions played an important part regarding how new laws were implemented in practice. A number of different historical papers will address these issues.

4. Rule-Breaking and Business Scandals
What happened to the legal environment when firms and entrepreneurs simply failed to play by the rules? History is full of such cases, including scandalous fraud schemes as well as cases in which legal rule breaking was perceived as legitimate and a result of outdated legal regulations. Yet what distinguished the criminal behavior of Bernard Madoff from the copy right infringements of Pirate Bay or Google Books if it could not have been rule-breaking per se? Why did some cases of legal rule-breaking lead to a tightening of the rules while others led to their re-interpretation or elimination? In this section case studies will discuss and explain the effects of business crime – understood broadly and independent of whether perceived as legitimate or illegitimate - on legal institutions.


June 21
Welcome and Introduction (Louis Pahlow and Sebastian Teupe)
Panel 1: Conceptual Clarifications (Chair: Louis Pahlow)
Martha Prevezer (Queen Mary University of London): "Relationship between Firm Behaviour and the Law. Conceptual Clarifications and Historical Perspectives".
Sebastian Teupe (University of Bayreuth): "Business History and the Law".
Panel 2: Lobbying, Legal Entrepreneurs and Legal Change. Pt. 1. (Chair: Kim Priemel)
Samuel Klebaner (University of Bordeaux): "Managing Technical Changes from the Scales of Legal Regulation. German Clean Cars against the European Pollutant Emissions Regulations in the 1980s".
Harald Espeli (BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo): "Business Influence on the Late Enactment of Limited Liability Companies in Norway. The Role of Shipping Interests (1880-1916)".
Brian Cheffins (University of Cambridge): "Law and the Divorcing of Ownership and Control in Corporate America".

June 22
Panel 3: Lobbying, Legal Entrepreneurs and Legal Change. Pt. 2. (Chair: Sebastian Teupe)
Franz Hederer (University of Frankfurt): "Lobbyists as Lawmakers? The Economic Council in Weimar Germany as an actor in economic policy".
Peter Labuza (USC School of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles): "United Arithmetic. Legal Contracts and the Financialization of Corporate Governance and Executive Labor in the Motion Picture Industry".
Panel 4: Business Practices and Regulation (Chair: Robert Bernsee)
Michael Buchner (Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken): "Legal Change and Business Practices: The Role of Commercial Usages. Some Examples from Securities Trading in 19th Century Germany".
Thomas Storrs (University of North Carolina at Greensboro): "This Will Drive Them Wild…Wild. Comptroller James Saxon’s Transformation of American Banking, 1961-1966".
Panel 5: Rule-Breaking and Business Scandals (Chair: Jan-Otmar Hesse)
Eva Schäffler (Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Berlin): "What Is Not Prohibited Is Allowed. Legal Loopholes in the Czech Privatization Process".
Sverre Flaatten (The Norwegian Police University College): "Decriminalizing Creative Destruction in Norway. Business Scandals and the Securities Laws of the Late 19th Century".

June 23
Panel 6: Business Law and Its Effects: Patents and International Law (Chair: Thomas Welskopp)
Alexander Donges (University of Mannheim): "The Consequences of a Radical Patent Regime Change. A Natural Experiment".
Michael Schneider (Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf): "The German Chemical Industry in Transnational Perspective. Innovations and Global Patent Protection during the Early 20th Century".
Nikitas E. Hatzimihail (University of Cyprus): "Companies as Border-Crossing Legal Entities".
Miriam Frey (University of Bayreuth): "Which Countries Mutually Recognize Commercial Court Decisions?".

Sebastian Teupe
Juniorprofessur für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Universität Bayreuth, Universitätsstraße 30, 95447 Bayreuth

More information to be found on the website of H/Soz/Kult

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