March 31, 2011
Nearly 400 of the country’s top corporate lawyers, dealmakers, scholars, and media analysts gathered at The Roosevelt New Orleans hotel Thursday morning (March 31) to kick off the annual Tulane Corporate Law Institute (CLI). Twenty-three years after its inception, the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) conference, which focuses on relevant topics and updates to corporate and securities law, remains the most important gathering of its kind. (As DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin described it, “the equivalent of Davos for the rainmaker crowd.”) Whether the conference comes amidst turmoil on Wall Street or a surging market in a mending economy, the agenda is always active and the conversations are as candid and uncensored as they are strategic.
“It’s like attending an ‘Oscars for Lawyers’ ceremony, even if the attire lacks the traditional glamour,” says Sarka Cerna-Fagan, assistant dean of career development at Tulane Law School. Carna-Fagan knows firsthand how fortunate Tulane Law School students are to experience networking opportunities of this caliber. Through the Career Development Office, Tulane law students may attend informational interview sessions where they can meet with conference speakers to ask career-related questions.
“We have done this for many years,” Cerna-Fagan says, “and if past sessions are any indication, our students will be talking to corporate celebrities featured on the Charlie Rose Show, CNN and Squawk Box.”
Tulane Law School Dean David Meyer echoed Cerna-Fagan’s conviction through remarks delivered Thursday morning.
“The Tulane Corporate Law Institute exemplifies the best of what makes Tulane such an extraordinary law school,” Dean Meyer stated. “It reflects our close partnership and connectedness with the leading lights in law practice and business – and our recognition that a first-rate professional education requires continuing engagement with the frontiers of professional practice.”
Following the dean’s warm welcome, conference panelists looked at the current M&A environment and what may lie ahead for 2011 and beyond. Specifically, Antonio Weiss, Global Head of Investment Banking, Lazard, “laid out a broad and overly positive overview of the deal market,” DealBook’s Michael J. de la Merced recounted. Weiss’s assertion cast a refreshing sense of optimism throughout the Roosevelt hotel.
Leading up to the conference kick-off, The New York Times built the excitement by running a teaser titled, “More Good Times Ahead for M.&A., Survey Finds,” referring to the fourth annual M&A survey conducted by Brunswick Group LLC. Reportedly, “Everyone assembled here is feeling good about deal-making’s prospects for growth.” In addition to journalists from the Times and DealBook, media outlets present at the 2011 event include Bloomberg, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal to name a few. For an up close and personal look at this year’s M&A conversation, CNBC’s nationally televised
financial news program is broadcasting live from the event.
Typical of the spring event, as day one of the two-day conference drew to an end, headlines quickly shifted with the surprise resignation of David L. Sokol from Berkshire Hathaway. To quote The New York Times, “The Sokol Drama Takes Hold of Tulane.”
“On corner couches at the Roosevelt hotel here, or over soft-shell crab and coffee, lawyers were debating the technicalities of Mr. Sokol’s purchases of Lubrizol shares before approaching Warren E. Buffett about buying the company.
There was much to grapple with: What will be the consequences of Mr. Sokol buying shares before approaching Mr. Buffett, versus doing so after mentioning Lubrizol as an acquisition target? Did Mr. Sokol misappropriate sensitive company information for his own gain? Did Mr. Buffett do anything wrong?”
The Times was quick to point out that this “isn’t the first time that breaking news with complex legal angles coincided with the conference.” (Last year, Robert Khuzami, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement director, took to the lectern at the CLI minutes before the agency unveiled its lawsuit against Goldman Sachs.)
Looking to Friday, one should not assume the drama is over. After all, as The Wall Street Journal once put it, this is “the industry’s main conference
… combining fried oyster feasts, spirited debates and late-night crawls down Bourbon Street.”
With two panel discussions to come, there’s still time for a few more memorable remarks. Stay tuned for “Significant or Controlling Shareholders: Rights and Responsibilities” and two hours of “Enhanced Ethics and Professionalism.”
To view the twenty-third annual Tulane University Law School Corporate Law Institute brochure,
LAST UPDATED—Friday, April 1, 2011 6:39 PM
THE NEW YORK TIMES: DEALBOOK:
At Tulane, No More Fireworks Over Airgas
The Deal Professor is disappointed that a Tulane panel did not delve more deeply into the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in the Airgas case.
“If you were expecting fireworks on Friday about the Delaware Supreme Court’s decision in the Airgas case at the Tulane Corporate Law Institute, you were sorely disappointed. This was particularly true because — in between discussions of David L. Sokol, formerly of Berkshire Hathaway, and Nasdaq’s bid for NYSE/Euronext — the Air Products-Airgas battle was supposed to be the topic de jure at Tulane.”
STEVEN M. DAVIDOFF
, writing as The Deal Professor
Prod. Davidoff is a commentator for DealBook on the world of mergers and acquisitions.