Corporate, business law scholar Lynn Stout dies at 60

Lynn Stout

Lynn Stout, an internationally recognized corporate law scholar, died April 16 after a long struggle with cancer. She was 60.

Stout joined the Cornell Law School faculty in 2012; her official title was Distinguished Professor of Corporate and Business Law. She helped transform the Clarke Business Law Institute into one of the nation’s preeminent business-law programs. With expertise in corporate governance, securities regulation, financial derivatives, law and economics, and moral behavior, Stout was the author of numerous articles and books and lectured widely.

“Lynn was a force of nature,” said Eduardo Peñalver ’94, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. “In a relatively short period of time, she touched many lives here in Ithaca, and I will greatly miss her presence in Myron Taylor Hall.”

Her pioneering work on derivatives and on corporate purpose has been canonical for decades, said Robert Hockett, the Edward Cornell Professor of Law. “Lynn was easily one of the most energetic, brilliant, creative and courageous scholars of her generation,” he said. “Even up to the last several weeks, she was still producing first-rate and cutting-edge work.”

She also made recent contributions to curricular reform in the legal academy. “Lynn’s willingness to challenge accepted dogmas and pieties in corporate and financial law was an inspiration not only to those of us whom she mentored and championed, but also to legislators and activists throughout the nation and world,” Hockett said.

She was a generous scholar and mentor, Hockett said. To better prepare students for the business world, Stout created the intensive “Business Law Boot Camp,” which covered a wide range of topics over a long weekend.

“Many a young scholar will tell you of how Lynn carefully read unsolicited working papers they’d sent her while hoping to enter the academy, which she would then comment upon and help the new scholar improve,” Hockett said.

Her most recent book, “The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations and the Public,” was named 2012 Governance Book of the Year by Directors & Boards magazine.She was also the author of “Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People” (2011) and “Cases and Materials on Law and Economics” (1992), co-written with David Barnes.

Stout came to the Law School from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. She also taught at the law schools of Harvard University, New York University, Georgetown University and George Washington University.

She served on the Board of Governors of the CFA Institute, which offers the Chartered Financial Analyst designation; the Financial Research Advisory Committee to the U.S. Treasury; the Board of Advisors for the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program; as executive adviser to the Brookings Institution Project on Corporate Purpose; and as a research fellow for the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research.

Stout earned a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1979; a master’s degree in public affairs, also from Princeton, in 1982; and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School, also in 1982.

She faced her diagnosis with courage and optimism, Peñalversaid. “Like the consummate scholar she was, she continued to work tirelessly on her academic projects, even throughout her treatment,” he said. In recent weeks, she completed the manuscripts for two new books that will be published in the coming year, he added.

She is survived by two sons.

Several colleagues at Cornell Law School are planning a conference for the fall, to celebrate her work, life and legacy.

According to her wishes, a memorial service will be held in New York City.

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Rebecca Valli