Margaret Blair appointed to the Milton R. Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise

Sep 20, 2010

Blair’s work focuses on corporate law and financial markets.

Margaret Mendenhall Blair, an internationally known economist who studies corporate and finance law, has been appointed to the Milton R. Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise at Vanderbilt Law School.

Her appointment was announced by Vanderbilt Law Dean Chris Guthrie.

Professor Blair’s current research focuses on four areas: team production and the legal structure of business organizations, legal issues in the governance of supply chains, the role of private-sector governance arrangements in contract enforcement, and the problem of excessive leverage in financial markets. Since joining the academy, she has received four grants from the Alfred E. Sloan Foundation to support her research, one of which is funding her current research on private-sector governance and excess leverage in financial markets.

Over the course of her academic career, Professor Blair has written or edited 12 books or monographs and nearly 30 journal articles. Her books and monographs include seven published by Brookings and four published by the Georgetown University Press. Perhaps the best known is Ownership and Control: Rethinking Corporate Governance for the Twenty-first Century, published in 1995, which received an academic book publisher award, and was translated into Chinese and republished by the Chinese Social Science Publishing House. Her articles have been published in law reviews, peer-reviewed journals, and professional publications, including the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the UCLA Law Review and the University of Virginia Law Review.

“Margaret Blair’s corporate law scholarship is widely-read, well regarded and frequently cited by other scholars,” Dean Guthrie said. “Throughout her academic career, she has demonstrated a journalist’s nose for important questions, and she has mounted a well-known challenge to the dominant account of corporate law. Rather than focusing narrowly on shareholder value, Professor Blair has argued that corporate law should take account of a much broader array of ‘stakeholders,’ including employees. She has also raised provocative questions about supply chain management, including assurance services and outsourcing, as well as the causes and cures of economic crises like the so-called ‘great recession.’ ”

Professor Blair’s most recent work includes a new working paper, “Financial Innovation, Leverage, Bubbles, and the Distribution of Income,” accepted for publication in the Journal of Banking and Financial Law; a chapter, “An Economic Perspective on the Notion of Human Capital,” in the Oxford University Handbook of Human Capital; and a chapter, coauthored with Cynthia A. Williams and Li-Wen Lin, in the forthcoming Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance, The Contribution of Economic Theory and Related Disciplines (Palgrave McMillan), of which she is also co-editor with Lorenzo Sacconi, Edward Freeman and Alessandro Vercelli, entitled “The Roles of Standardization, Certification and Assurance Services in Global Commerce.”

Professor Blair joined Vanderbilt's law faculty in 2004 as part of the team supporting the Law and Business Program, where she teaches Corporations, Corporate Finance and advanced seminars such as Theory of the Firm. Before joining Vanderbilt's faculty, Professor Blair taught at Georgetown University Law Center, where she became a visiting professor in 1996 and was a Sloan Visiting Professor, teaching Corporations and Corporate Finance, and the Research Director for the Sloan-GULC Project on Business Institutions, from 2000 through June 2004. Blair has also been a Senior Fellow in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, where she wrote about corporate governance and the role of human capital in corporations. She served on the board of directors of Sonic Corp. from 2001 through 2006 and currently serves on the board of WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production).

Professor Blair earned three graduate degrees, a Ph.D., an M.Phil. and an M.A. in economics, at Yale University. She earned her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and then served as a bureau chief and correspondent for Business Week magazine before beginning her graduate work at Yale. She began her career as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

“Professor Blair has devoted substantial time to professional service, sitting on multiple boards and refereeing for multiple journals,” Dean Guthrie said. “At Vanderbilt, she has served as a member of the University Faculty Senate, chaired an ad hoc renewal and promotion committee, and served as a member of the Faculty Appointments Committee. The law school has benefitted greatly from her teaching, scholarship and service.”

The Milton R. Underwood Chair in Free Enterprise was endowed by the Fondren Foundation to honor Milton Underwood, Class of 1928. The chair was previously held by James W. Ely, a distinguished legal historian and property rights expert, who retired from Vanderbilt’s law faculty in 2009. The Underwood endowment supports two faculty chairs; Chris Slobogin, who heads Vanderbilt’s Criminal Justice Program, holds the Milton R. Underwood Chair in Law.

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