Thursday, November 19, 2009

Call for Papers: February 2010 Contracts Conference at UNLV

UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law will host a two-day conference, February 26 & 27, 2010, designed to afford scholars and teachers at all experience levels (including those preparing to enter the academy and those whose primary teaching appointment is not in a law school) an opportunity to present/demonstrate and discuss (formally and informally) recently-published and accepted-but-not-yet-published scholarship, works-in-progress, as-yet-fully-formed ideas for scholarship, and pedagogical innovations, and to network with colleagues -- and potential collaborators or mentors -- from around the country and the rest of the (predominantly) common-law world.

Invitation: We invite paper, presentation, and panel proposals exploring any aspect of contract law, theory, and policy writ large (including, but not limited to, bankruptcy/insolvency, commercial law, consumer law, dispute resolution regimes, family law, insurance law, legal systems, and restitution, in addition to more traditional contract topics) from a behavioral, comparative, critical, doctrinal, economic, empirical, equitable, historical, institutional, interdisciplinary, jurisprudential, pedagogical, philosophical, policy-driven, or political perspective. We also solicit volunteers to serve as moderators or discussants for panels that are not "packaged deals."

The CFPs issued earlier this year for the AALS Section on Contracts' January annual meeting program on New Approaches to Teaching Contracts: A "Teach-In" and the AALS Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law's January annual meeting program on The Principles of the Law of Software Contracts: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes of Article 2B and UCITA? each yielded more excellent proposals than either section could accommodate in New Orleans. Both topics remain quite relevant, and I hope to assemble one or more panels on each that will continue the conversations begun in New Orleans. I am also working on the opening plenary, my UNLV colleague Jeff Stempel is organizing a panel on insurance contracts, and Wayne Barnes (Texas Wesleyan) is organizing a panel on comparative contract law and theory. Those efforts, if all bear fruit, still leave room for many more presenters, moderators, and discussants.

We will try to accommodate as many presenters, moderators, and discussants as possible. We particularly encourage junior scholars and those who work in non-U.S. legal systems to propose papers or panels and to volunteer to serve as a discussant or moderator. We also welcome anyone who wishes to attend the conference without presenting or serving as a discussant or moderator. The educational and networking benefits alone are worth the price of admission.

Publication: There is no publication requirement for conference participants, although experience suggests that individual papers and panels often find good homes. The Nevada Law Journal encourages participants to submit individual and panel papers and hopes to publish several works from the conference in upcoming issues.

Likely Attendees: In addition to me, Jeff Stempel, and Wayne Barnes (mentioned above), as of November 18, the following have committed to attend, or expressed a strong desire to attend: Eniola Akindemowo (Thomas Jefferson), Roy Anderson (SMU), Wayne Barnes, Dan Barnhizer (Michigan State), Charles Calleros (Arizona State), Hazel Glenn Beh (Hawaii), Barbara Bucholtz (Tulsa), Gerald Caplan (McGeorge), Miriam Cherry (McGeorge), Carol Chomsky (Minnesota), Karen Cross (John Marshall), Sidney DeLong (Seattle), Larry DiMatteo (Florida, Warrington College of Business), Jay Feinman (Rutgers-Camden), Marjorie Florestal (McGeorge), David A. Friedman (Willamette), Larry Garvin (Ohio State), Danielle Kie Hart (Southwestern), Nicholas Johnson (Fordham), Yong-Sung Jonathan Kang (U. of Washington), Tadas Klimas (Lithuania), Chuck Knapp (UC-Hastings), George Kuney (Tennessee), Peter Linzer (Houston), Charles Martin (Florida Coastal), Jennifer Martin (Oregon), Meredith Miller (Touro), Marcy Peek (Whittier), Joe Perillo (Fordham), Deborah Post (Touro), Michael Pratt (Queen's University/Ontario), Cheryl Preston (BYU), Scott Pryor (Regent), Val Ricks (South Texas), Caprice Roberts (West Virginia), Irma Russell (Tulsa), Adam Scales (Washington & Lee), Andrew Schwartz (Colorado), Sean Scott (Loyola-L.A.), Jeff Stempel, Otto Stockmeyer (Cooley), Howard Walthall (Cumberland), Jarrod Wong (Pacific), and Debbie Zalesne (CUNY). All this without a proper CFP until now. I expect attendance will be at least double this number.

Submitting a Proposal: If you would like to propose a presentation or panel, please e-mail a title, brief description, and any supporting materials by January 4, 2010 to keith.rowley@unlv.edu or snail-mail it to me at 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., Box 451003, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1003. If you would like to discuss or moderate, please let me know your interests and availability by January 4. We will evaluate proposals as they come in and will consider on a space-available basis any we receive after January 4.

Preliminary Schedule: The conference program will begin both Friday and Saturday morning no later than 9:00 a.m. (grazing and conversational opportunities will start earlier) and will run until 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. each day.

Accommodations: The Hyatt Place next to campus (4520 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, NV 89169) is holding a block of rooms at the rate of $118.00 per night (plus tax). The official deadline for hotel registration at the conference rate is January 25, 2010. However, I encourage you to book sooner, as we blocked a limited number of rooms (due to the The Hyatt Place requiring the law school to guarantee at least 80% occupancy and pay the difference if actual registration was less than we anticipate) and will be more likely to get the Hyatt Place to make the conference rate available to additional attendees if early registration is robust.

To book a conference-rate room at The Hyatt Place, go to http://www.lasvegas.place.hyatt.com/; choose a check-in date no earlier than February 25, 2010 and a check-out date no later than February 28, 2010; enter group code G-BOYD for Boyd School of Law Contracts Conference in the box labeled Group/Corporate #; hit the check availability button; if a room is available, verify that your group name is specified next to rate details and if everything matches, then hit book. If you have trouble booking online, or if you prefer to reserve a room over the phone, please call the hotel at (702) 369-3366.

Transportation: For attendees who stay at the conference hotel, The Hyatt Place provides airport shuttle service and we'll provide transportation between the Hyatt Place and the law school for those not wanting to walk the mile or so. Attendees who prefer to stay on The Strip or elsewhere are responsible for their own transportation.

Sustenance: Your registration fee will cover the costs of lunches both days and a reception and dinner Friday evening, as well as coffee, fruit, and baked goods each morning and cold beverage service and morsels each afternoon. The Hyatt Place also offers a complimentary continental breakfast, which might be particularly attractive to those whose body clocks are on Eastern or Central Time.

Registration: We're still finalizing the conference registration fee and process. The registration fee will be no more than $250. This is higher than past spring contracts conferences. Fortunately, the lower conference hotel rate than at prior conferences, free airport transportation for those staying at the conference hotel, and the relative ease and low cost of flying into and out of Las Vegas's McCarran Airport (which is less than two miles from the hotel) compared to the last three venues, will offset the higher registration fee.

Commercial Law Course Survey

I have received 43 responses to the survey on Commercial Law Courses that I posted yesterday. See below for the results so far (note that right now I am only reporting the raw numbers, but I may break the numbers down further as information continues to come in). Also the percentages at this point reflect the number of courses offered, not the number of institutions offering the course. As more numbers come in, I will break down the numbers to reflect institutional offerings, rather than mere occurrences. If you have not entered information on behalf of your school, please do so by clicking here. Its a very short survey and only takes two minutes to complete, if that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Commercial Law Offerings

I am doing a quick curriculum survey of commercial law offerings at various schools in an effort to see how commercial law courses are taught in a variety of configurations. The survey is only two questions long and will require less than a minute of your time (maybe less than two minutes -- but I offer no warranties as to the time). Please click the link, identify your school and check all of the boxes that apply to your institution regarding the commercial law courses offered by your school. And for those curious as to the overall results, I will post results as they come in updating as appropriate. I will not post by school, but rather will likely group the results according to tiers or by overall group size.

Marc (MLR)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fed Targets Gift Cards

The Federal Reserve is on a consumer protection roll. Last week, the Fed tackled overdraft fees on point-of-sale and ATM transactions (see Hooray for the New Overdraft Rules). Today, the Federal Reserve announced proposed rules concerning gift cards aimed at fees on the cards and expiration dates (see press release). The highlights are that providers cannot charge fees unless:
  1. The card is inactive for one year;
  2. No more than one fee is charged monthly; and
  3. The provider gives notice of the fees to the consumer.

Moreover, cards cannot expire for at least five years after purchase or reloading of the card. Both store-specific and network based cards are covered by the rules.

- JSM

Saturday, November 14, 2009

AALS Program and Print Symposium on the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts

The AALS Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law invites you to attend our Annual Meeting program on The Principles of the Law of Software Contracts: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes of Article 2B and UCITA? and solicits additional proposals for the companion symposium issue.

The Topic: On May 19, 2009, the ALI approved the Principles of the Law of Software Contracts, which undertake to weave the currently divergent threads of law governing software contracts into a coherent whole that will guide parties in drafting, performing, and enforcing software contracts, assist courts and other arbiters in resolving disputes involving software contracts, and, perhaps, inform future legislation addressing software contracts. Do the Principles clarify the law of software contracts? Will they successfully unify the law of software contracts? Are they consistent with current best practices in software contracting? Will they encourage desirable future developments in the law and practice of software contracts? These are among the questions our program speakers will address.

The Program: Our annual meeting program, scheduled for Saturday, January 9, 10:30 AM to 12:15 PM, in the Magnolia Room, Third Floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, will feature Principles Reporter Bob Hillman (Cornell) and Associate Reporter Maureen O’Rourke (Boston U.), who will offer their unique insights on the drafting process, key substantive provisions, and their legal and practical implications; Amy Boss (Drexel), who will add her insights about the failures of the UCC Article 2B project and UCITA and the prospects for the Principles’ success; Juliet Moringiello (Widener), who will discuss her and co-author Bill Reynolds's (Maryland) paper "What's Software Got to Do With It?," offering their perspectives on the Principles process, largely ignoring past efforts and debates, and addressing some of the assumptions underlying the Principles and how they address those assumptions; and Florencia Marotta-Wurgler (NYU), who will discuss her and co-author Yannis Bakos's (NYU Stern School of Business) paper "How Much Does Disclosure Matter?," which delves deeper into the value of disclosure -- an important assumption underlying the Principles and a subject the Principles tackle substantively -- and augments the conceptual discussion with empirical analysis.

The Symposium Issue: The Tulane Law Review will publish a print symposium issue including papers from most of our presenters, papers selected from among those who responded to our initial call for proposals as well as others from whom we solicited contributions, and some shorter responses and replies. We can accommodate a limited number of additional papers, responses, and replies in the symposium issue, which is scheduled to go to press in late summer 2010.

How to Submit a Paper or Proposal: If you would like to contribute to the print symposium, and want your proposal to receive full consideration, please e-mail an abstract, pr├ęcis, or draft by Monday, December 14, 2009 to Professor Keith A. Rowley, Chair of the AALS Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law. E-mail: keith.rowley@unlv.edu. We may consider submissions received after December 14 on a space-available basis. Executive Committee members and the Tulane Law Review's symposium editors will review all timely submissions and notify no later than Monday, January 11, 2010 those authors we would like to contribute to the print symposium.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hooray for the New Overdraft Rules

Yes, its taken a long time. Yes, it has needed urging through proposed legislation in Congress. Yes, it has taken the coordinated efforts of several federal agencies. But, success at last. Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Bank announced final rules amending Regulation E of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (see press release). As we've complained here before, these overdraft charges amount to about $1.7 billion each year in fees to banks (See FDIC Study, How Your $4 Cup of Coffee). There were a number of touchy issues with the banks pushing back firmly on how the rules would come out. Fortunately, the Federal Reserve seems to have come down firmly on the side of consumers on most of the issues primarily raised by debit card use.

So, here are the highlights:
  1. Banks must comply with the Final Rules as of July 1, 2010

  2. Banks cannot charge an overdraft fee on ATM and point-of-sale debit card (POS) transactions without the customer affirmatively opting-in to overdraft protection

  3. The rules apply to existing and new accounts

  4. Banks must offer the same account terms to customers who do not choose overdraft protection for ATM and POS transactions

Three issues remain unresolved by the Final Rules: (i) the size of overdraft fees (often $35 per transaction with no daily limit on the number of transactions charged; (ii) the batch reordering of transactions done by banks to increase the amount of fees generated on transactions by customers who do opt-in; and (iii) debit holds that trigger overdraft fees on transactions such as gasoline, hotels and restaurants. These gaps aside, the progress made by the Federal Reserve on debit cards is substantial.

Remember, banks can still charge the fees on those who have not opted-in until July 2010. So, still use your debit cards with care. As for me, I will not be opting-in, but will await the sales pitch that banks will inevitably make.


- JSM

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Phillip Keitel on Gift Cards

'Tis the season for gift cards! While this piece is from 2008, Phillip Keitel of the Philadelphia Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank has written The Laws, Regulations, Guidelines, and Industry Practices that Protect Consumers Who Use Gift Cards. Here's the abstract:

This paper discusses consumer protections available to gift-card users. Specifically, it examines the ways in which value loaded at the time of purchase is protected for future card use or returned to consumers when the card is not used or has expired. The consumer protection information included in this paper is derived from a number of sources, including several types of state statutes, Federal Trade Commission decisions, financial industry regulatory agency guidelines, and previous interviews with payments industry experts regarding practices concerning network-branded gift cards. This paper expands research begun by the Payment Cards Center in 2004 into prepaid cards generally and the protections available to consumers who use gift cards specifically.

Happy shopping!

- JSM

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update on H.R. 3126 Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee passed H.R. 3126, a bill for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), Oct. 22 in a 39-29 vote. The bill does not have a date scheduled for a full House vote, and the Senate does not have a companion bill proposed at this time.

In case you've not been following this, the CFPA would have the authority to write new consumer protection rules in the arenas of lending and credit, to monitor banks and other financial institutions for compliance with these rules, and to penalize institutions for any infractions. The CFPA would also have the ability to ban products, marketing tactics, and other business practices that it deems “unfair, deceptive, or abusive.”

The Financial Services Committee added several amendments which altered the Obama Administration’s original outline of the agency. An amendment added Oct. 21 exempts the insurance agency from CFPA oversight and prevents the agency from interfering with state insurance regulators’ oversight of insurance companies and products. An amendment offered by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) adds five representatives from the fields of “consumer protection, fair lending and civil rights, representatives of depository institutions that primarily serve underserved communities, or representatives of communities that have been significantly impacted by higher-priced mortgages” to the CFPA Oversight Board. Another amendment phases out the Home Valuation Code of Conduct; the amendment would allow all originators, licensed or registered in accordance with the SAFE Mortgage Licensing Act, to order appraisals directly.

The bill is now over at the House Energy and Commerce Committee which appears to be amending the bill to replace the executive who was to run the agency with a five-member commission with staggered terms.
- RH (Reid Haataja, posted by JSM)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Harry Flechtner on the Scope of the CISG

Those those CISG fans, Professor Harry Flechtner, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, has a new piece Selected Issues Relating to the CISG's Scope of Application. The abstract is as follows:
This paper addresses two issues concerning the scope of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (“CISG”), both of which have arisen in recent decisions applying the Convention: 1) whether requirements imposed by U.S. domestic sales law on attempts to disclaim implied warranties apply to attempts to derogate from the seller‘s obligations under Arts. 35(2)(a) & (b) CISG; and 2) whether burden of proof questions that are not expressly addressed in the CISG are governed by the general principles of the CISG. The paper defends the use of the distinction between substantive and procedural law in defining the scope of the CISG with respect to burden of proof issues, and in determining the whether the Convention provides for the recovery of damages for attorneys’ fees incurred to litigate a claim under the CISG. The paper concludes by arguing that defining the limits of the Convention‘s scope is critical to its success, and to the success of future attempts to create uniform international commercial law.

Happy reading.

- JSM