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Institutional Investor Educational Foundation

There's been a lot of tort reform blogosphere fuss over the June 22 Forbes article on the Institutional Investor Educational Foundation, which is securities law firm Grant & Eisenhofer's organization for hosting securities law conferences attended at discounted rates by public pension officials. [Overlawyered; American Courthouse]

I personally don't see what's the big deal.

Certainly the Forbes article makes it seem like something shadowy is happening: IIEF is a private LLC (presumably owned by Grant & Eisenhofer), and it thus doesn't have the same transparency as a non-profit charity that files public tax returns as part of its 501(c)(3) requirements. But my thoughts are colored from having gotten on the IIEF mailing list; it's quite clear to anyone who receives its brochures that IIEF conferences are Grant & Eisenhofer marketing devices, and quite clever ones since one pays for the privilege of being marketed to (even if at a discount).

Perhaps the panels are pure propaganda? Perhaps: one the one hand, I was invited to one conference panel, where I spoke freely (if without pay) about problems I perceived in the class action arena; on the other hand, I've never been invited back, so perhaps they made a mistake the first time. (My panel was in a New York hotel's distinctly unglamorous basement conference room.) The audience was, as best I can tell, almost entirely future plaintiffs, so I'm not even sure what my perspective would add to a panel other than entertainment value even if panels are generally stacked to be pro-plaintiff. Other law firms (including defense law firms) sponsor similarly educational gatherings for potential clients that are about as closed to the public than IIEF's, and for one of those that I attend almost every year, I've never seen a plaintiff's lawyer invited.

Don't get me wrong; I oppose pay-for-play. But this doesn't seem to me to come close to rising to that level. Just because the securities litigation system is rife with counterproductive problems and full of rent seeking doesn't mean that every marketing technique lawyers engage in to participate in that rent seeking is inherently evil. The appearance-of-appearance-of-impropriety standard being used to tarnish IIEF is much more likely to get used by the bad guys to undermine good causes like the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment's seminars educating judges about basic economic theory.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


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The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.