Interviews | May 11, 2018 | Gabelli Connect Admin
Talking with … Brent Horton
“Talking with…” introduces you to a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member in each installment. This week, we’re speaking with Brent Horton, associate professor of law and ethics and faculty director of the MS in Investor Relations program.
Can you describe your current research?
I research securities law issues. In 2017, I published “In Defense of a Federally Mandated Disclosure System: Observing Pre-Securities Act Prospectuses” in the American Business Law Journal. “In Defense of Disclosure” challenges skeptics who believe that disclosure was adequate before the 1929 stock market crash. It is the most recent in a series of articles that I have written about Securities Act disclosure.
My most recent article, “Rising to Their Full Potential: How a Uniform Disclosure Regime Will Empower Benefit Corporation,” was accepted by the Harvard Business Law Review to be published in winter 2018-2019. “Rising to Their Full Potential” proposes that benefit corporations be subject to a mandatory disclosure system. I argue that mandatory disclosure would increase accountability to both shareholders and other stakeholders. Also—perhaps counterintuitively—a narrowly tailored disclosure system may save benefit corporations time and money.
Can you share an example of particularly good—or, conversely, poor—corporate governance?
One characteristic of good corporate governance is transparency. Unfortunately, too many CEOs are content to keep shareholders in the dark—a practice I would categorize as bad corporate governance.
For example, during a May 2, 2018, earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared to show disdain for analysts who asked questions of interest to shareholders. When asked by an analyst about Tesla’s capital expenditures, Musk interrupted: “Excuse me. Next, next. Boring questions are not cool. Next.” Of course, Tesla’s “burn rate” is not boring to investors who want to know when Tesla is going to turn the corner and become profitable. Following that performance, Tesla’s spurned shareholders voted with their feet. Tesla stock fell almost 6 percent.
What is your favorite course to teach?
My favorite course to teach is Corporate and Securities Law for two reasons. First, I can use my research to inform my teaching of the class, and sometimes, vice versa. Second, it is a smaller class, which allows me to better engage with students.
What is one skill that students should have to excel in the service economy, regardless of particular industry?
Writing. A student may be smart. A student may have great ideas. But if he cannot communicate those ideas in writing, he is not going to do well academically. This of course extends to the workplace. If an employee cannot communicate her ideas, she will not get noticed or promoted.
I believe that teaching students to write coherently is one area where Fordham excels. And I am proud to say that all courses I teach are writing intensive, with comprehensive essay-based exams.
Summer reading suggestion:
I am not much of a recreational reader. That being said, I enjoyed reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column. It is a compelling collection of stories from the midst of the Spanish Civil War. And Hemingway is so succinct in his storytelling. He never wastes a word.
Best thing about summer in New York:
The Adirondack Mountains. My two sons love exploring the trails, and it is good to be away from technology.
Worst thing about summer in New York:
Taxes, but that is really a year-round problem.
Your ideal “staycation” activity:
Building a 1/32-scale Fokker D.VII biplane.
Soda, coffee, or tea?
If you had to have one of these animals as a pet, which would you choose: rat, tarantula, or chicken?
A chicken named Camilla.