Brian G. Cartwright, General Counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission, addressed the Widener Law community and participants in the 20th annual Ruby R. Vale Interschool Corporate Moot Court Competition as the 2008 Distinguished Scholar. Cartwright’s lecture, entitled “The Role of the States – Foreign and Domestic”, dealt with the impact of globalization on how individual states and countries treat corporate law and governance.
The program opened with a general welcome from Vice Dean Russell Hakes, who then turned the program over to the Honorable Myron T. Steele, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware. Chief Justice Steele introduced Mr. Cartwright, calling him “a leader in corporate governance.”
Mr. Cartwright noted that the trade of foreign stocks in the United States was 210 times higher in 2007 than it had been in 1980, and he emphasized that the globalization of the economy will dramatically affect the role that individual states play in corporate governance. “We must look ahead, or surely we will fall behind,” he said, stressing that corporations will no longer be national entities, but rather “transnational businesses with a global base.” He compared these global businesses to national ones, emphasizing that a national company headquartered in Illinois is treated as a U.S. company rather than an Illinois company.
Congress has previously left corporate governance largely to states, and Delaware in particular has achieved prominence in matters of corporate law. As Mr. Cartwright noted, however, “What will happen when Delaware, a small state, has to compete not with another state, but with a small nation?” At the conclusion of his lecture, Mr. Cartwright took a variety of questions from the audience. Asked what nations he thought might challenge Delaware’s preeminence in matters of corporate law, he replied, “Absent some kind of supra-national agreement, that’s an interesting question.”
Mr. Cartwright graduated from Yale University, holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago, and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School. From 1973 to 1977 he served as a Research Physicist at the University of California, Berkley. He served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and became a partner at the international law firm of Latham & Watkins. He has served as General Counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission since January 23, 2006.