The Duke Project: Law students piece together solutions to the global financial crisis

April 10, 2009Duke Law News

April 10, 2009 — “The Duke Project” continues its analysis of the global financial crisis on April 15 with an examination of the role risk management has played in the current crisis and how it should be used going forward.

The free, public event begins at 6:00 p.m. in Room 3041 of Duke Law School. The Law School is located at the corner of Science Drive and Towerview Road on Duke’s West Campus. Parking is available at the Bryan Center.

Third-year law students Nikhil Palekar and Joshua Schmidt will lead a discussion with Bill McMahon, head of Risk Management for Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., and Professor Jonathan Wiener, Duke’s Perkins Professor of Law, Professor of Environmental Policy, and Professor of Public Policy Studies, and the immediate past president of the Society for Risk Analysis. The discussion will focus on the failure of risk management to prevent the current crisis and suggestions for reforms.

The Duke Project is a class project with ambitious real-world goals. Over a nine-week period, students in Professor Bill Brown’s class on “Legal, Accounting, and Business Responses to the Subprime Crisis” are publicly unveiling their solutions to specific aspects of the global financial meltdown with the help of both experts in the field and academics with expertise on each topic.

Throughout the fall semester of his yearlong class, Brown and his students undertook a forensic analysis of the origins and contagion of the financial crisis. Working in teams, students are developing nine papers that propose approaches to specific domestic and international challenges raised by the crisis, such as economic stimulus, moral hazard, consumer debt, accounting rules, and the role of rating agencies. Each of the papers will form one chapter of a book to be published at the end of the semester. Palekar and Schmidt’s paper focuses on risk management.

Brown is a 1980 Duke Law graduate who joined the faculty after serving in leadership positions at Goldman Sachs & Co, AIG, and Morgan Stanley where he specialized in currency and fixed-income markets. He says his students have approached key economic challenges with creativity and insight. “This could be the most important set of issues they encounter in their lifetimes — it certainly is the most important issue for the next decade,” he says. “They really have wrapped their arms around this and understand it in ways that many top policymakers don’t.”