Corporations do not vote in elections, but their impact on democratic societies is immense. The Corporations and Democracy Conference will bring together scholars and practitioners in various areas of law, business, and the media to examine the complex interactions and balance of power among corporations, governments, and individuals in democracies today and consider how those with power can be held more accountable to society’s broad interest.

The conference is sponsored by the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business, in collaboration with the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, Stanford Law School, the Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School, the Division of Research and Faculty Development at Harvard Business School, and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.

Registration is free and open to the public.


DAY 1: December 7, 9:00am – 12:30pm PST
Corporation and Political Voice

Welcome and Introduction — 9:00am – 9:15am PST
Anat Admati, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Dean Jonathan Levin, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Dean Jenny Martinez, Stanford Law School

Corporate Legal Rights and Democracy — 9:15am – 10:35am PST
Elizabeth Pollman, University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law
Adam Winkler, UCLA School of Law
Moderator: Susanna Kim Ripken, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Corporations are abstract persons. What legal rights have corporations gained and how? What rights should corporations have so that they can best serve the needs of democratic societies? How do we ensure that corporations do not expand their rights excessively or abuse them?

Corporations and Money in Politics — 10:50am – 12:25pm PST
Marianne Bertrand, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Bruce Freed, Center for Political Accountability
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
Moderator: Neil Malhotra, Stanford Graduate School of Business

How do corporations and their leaders use money to impact key democratic outcomes such as elections and policy? To what extent does corporate lobbying and other forms of spending distort democracy? What actions might correct these distortions?

Wrap Up — 12:25pm – 12:30pm PST

DAY 2: December 8, 9:00am - 12:20pm PST
Corporate Influence and Democratic Decision Making

Welcome — 9:00am – 9:05am PST

Expertise, Incentives, and “Thin Political Markets” — 9:05am – 10:40am PST
Karthik Ramanna, University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government
Sarah Bloom Raskin, Duke University School of Law
Tommaso Valletti, Imperial College London
Moderator: Paul Pfleiderer, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Thin political markets arise in areas where the issues have low salience to the general public and special interests have tacit knowledge that is relevant to policy. How might policy outcomes get distorted in these thin political markets? What are the incentives of experts, including those from academia, when they participate in policymaking? How can we mitigate special-interest capture?

Corporations, Media, and Truth — 10:55am – 12:15pm PST
Jonathan FordFinancial Times
Nathaniel Persily, Stanford Law School
Moderator: Henry McGee, Harvard Business School

How well do traditional media outlets inform the public and help hold those with power in corporations and in government accountable? What is the impact of internet platforms and social media on democratic discourse? How might we balance free speech with the need for truth to inform citizens in a democracy?

Wrap Up — 12:15pm – 12:20pm PST

DAY 3: December 9, 9:00am – 12:30pm PST
Corporations and Democratic Accountability

Welcome — 9:00am – 9:05am

Corporations, Corruption and Democracy — 9:05am – 10:40am PST
Kevin Davis, New York University School of Law
Alexander Wilson, United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
Luigi Zingales, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Moderator: Larry Diamond, Stanford University

International corruption threatens democracies everywhere. Oligarchs and others attempting to preserve their ill-gotten gains use financial institutions in developed economies in corruptive ways. How well do anti-money laundering laws and anti-bribery laws deal with these challenges? This session will discuss a specific case involving European corporations helping a corrupt Nigerian politician.

Corporations and the Justice System — 10:55am – 12:25pm PST
Anat Admati, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Brandon Garrett, Duke University School of Law
Vikramaditya (Vic) Khanna, University of Michigan Law School
Moderator: John Donohue III, Stanford Law School

Does the justice system, including law enforcement, hold those with power properly accountable when they cause substantial and preventable harms to others? Is there equal justice under the law in the corporate context? If not, what must change in the laws and in the institutions and mechanisms of law enforcement to achieve more just outcomes?

Wrap Up — 12:25pm – 12:30pm PST

Open to

Faculty, Staff, Students, Stanford Community, Alumni, Public