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Centre for Commercial Law Studies

For Profit: A History of Corporations

When: Monday, February 27, 2023, 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Where: Online


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The London Financial Regulation Seminar is an inter-collegiate and inter-disciplinary group of experts led by CCLS and our Institute of Banking and Finance under the leadership of Professor Rosa M. Lastra and Dr. Daniele D’Alvia.

On Monday 27 February, Professor William J. Magnuson will discuss his last book titled “For Profit: A History of Corporations” (Basic Books 2022). Professor Lastra and Dr Daniele D’Alvia will chair the event, and Professor Bobby Reddy will be the discussant.

Professor William J. Magnuson is a professor at Texas A&M Law School. Previously he taught law at Harvard, worked as an associate in Sullivan & Cromwell, and served as a journalist in the Rome bureau of the Washington Post. He is the author of Blockchain Democracy: Technology, Law and the Rule of the Crowd, and has written for numerous leading publications including Harvard Business Law Review, Stanford Journal of Law, Business and Finance, and the Wall Street Journal.

Professor Bobby Reddy lectures in company law, corporate governance and transactional deals. Previously, Dr. Reddy was a corporate partner at the global law firm Latham & Watkins LLP dividing his time between the London and Washington D.C. offices. He specialised in public and private mergers and acquisitions, private equity, investment funds, financial regulation, cross-border transactions, and company representation.

From legacy manufacturers to emerging tech giants, corporations wield significant power over our lives, our economy, and our politics. Some celebrate them as engines of progress and prosperity. Others argue that they recklessly pursue profit at the expense of us all.

In For Profit, Professor William Magnuson reveals that both visions contain an element of truth. The story of the corporation is a human story, about a diverse group of merchants, bankers, and investors that have over time come to shape landscape of our modern economy. Its central characters include both the brave, powerful, and ingenious and the conniving, fraudulent, and vicious. At times, these characters have been one and the same.

Yet as Magnuson shows, while corporations have not always behaved admirably, their purpose is a noble one. From their beginnings in the Roman Republic, corporations have been designed to promote the common good. By recapturing this spirit of civic virtue, For Profit argues, corporations can help craft a society in which all of us – not just shareholders – benefit from the profits of enterprise.

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