Shaping corporate behaviour

Corporate behaviour has again come under mounting scrutiny as private corporations have assumed a greater and more public role in our society. Consequently, there has been a pressing demand for research on how to provide an effective regulatory mix for businesses operating domestically and worldwide – the kind of research currently being undertaken by York Professor Peer Zumbansen.

Zumbansen, who recently arrived from Germany, holds the Canada Research Chair in the Transnational and Comparative Law of Corporate Governance at Osgoode Hall Law School. His work explores the connection between hard, official law and so-called soft law and self-regulation in shaping corporate activities – activities that no longer are merely private undertakings but increasingly assume important public functions for the society at large.

Left: Peer Zumbansen

“Corporations are not simply ‘private’ actors on the domestic and global stages,” says Zumbansen. “In fact, corporations share many of the traditional responsibilities of public institutions like government, administering pensions, health care and education for their employees.” Ultimately, by acknowledging that businesses are both private and public in nature, Zumbansen’s research explores the ways in which state governments and transnational actors such as international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can shape corporate behavior while not stifling its ability to innovate.

The work is groundbreaking, combining both corporate law and regulatory theory. Indeed, many of Zumbansen’s interests are intensely interdisciplinary, and in his short time at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, he has developed an international research network called the Comparative Research in Law and Political Economy (CLPE). Pulling together academics in law, business, political science, sociology and history, CLPE hosts interdisciplinary conferences that explore the intersections between law and other research fields, while also publishing a new Research Paper Series, both through its Web site as well as through the Social Science Research Network, an online research forum hosted by the Stanford Law School, Stanford, California. “And, CLPE is totally virtual,” adds Zumbansen, proudly. “This enables it to cross many of the boundaries that separate traditional disciplines, connecting some really great scholars to one another.”

Zumbansen has some experience with virtual research and publication, as the co-founder and co-editor–  together with American Law Professor, Russell Miller – of the German Law Journal. An internationally distributed and recognized online law journal, reporting on and analyzing recent developments in German, European and international Law in the English language. The German Law Journal produces an average of 1,600 pages of scholarship a year, drawing on the work of scholars from around the world – and sometimes from disciplines outside of law. For its January 2005 issue, the German Law Journal was able to assemble a diverse pool of scholars to create a commemorative issue devoted entirely to the life of Jacques Derrida – one of the first such publications since the famous philosopher’s death – and with some 200 pages, a small book in itself.

At Osgoode Hall Law School , Zumbansen teaches a course on globalization and the law that serves as a prerequisite for the law school’s unique upper-year specialized curriculum program in international comparative and transnational law (the “ICT program”). He also teaches a graduate seminar on comparative corporate governance and political economy.

Zumbansen looks forward to new research projects and new collaborations. “York is a great school for this,” he observes. “There is a real collaborative energy that cuts across and unites the disciplines. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

This article was submitted to YFile by Jason Guriel, research assistant in the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.