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Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Laura T. Starks

George Kozmetsky Centennial Distinguished University Chair and Professor of Finance,
McCombs School of Business,
University of Texas at Austin

Laura Starks is an expert on capital markets; financial institutions; investment management; corporate finance; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Her research covers a range of topics related to asset pricing, mutual funds, retirement plans, and corporate finance. Professor Starks’s ESG expertise includes ESG measurement, climate risk, board diversity, and impact investing. She was one of the first professors to develop courses on ESG investing, which she has been teaching for the past ten years to undergraduate and graduate students.

In her expert testimony, Professor Starks has addressed a variety of allegations. These issues have included retirement plan fees, institutional investing, mutual fund management and fees, employee stock options, spin-offs, investment prudence, board prudence, ESG-related issues including corporate governance, securities lending, and information effects on financial markets.

Professor Starks currently serves on the Academic Advisory Board of FTSE-Russell, the Academic Network Advisory Committee for Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the Academic Advisory Board for AIF Global, the Academic Advisory Council for the Pacific Center for Asset Management, and the Advisory Board of Texas Wall Street Women.

For many years, Professor Starks was an independent director for CREF Retirement Accounts and TIAA-CREF Mutual Funds. She served on the Investment Advisory Committee for the Employees Retirement System of Texas, the Board of Governors of the Investment Company Institute, and the Governing Council of the Independent Directors Council. In addition, she has been a member of the Strategy Council and the Expert Panel for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world).

Professor Starks is the current president of the American Finance Association, and has also served on its board of directors. In addition, she has been president and a member of the boards of directors for the Financial Management Association, the Society for Financial Studies, and the Western Finance Association. Professor Starks previously edited the Review of Financial Studies, and has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Finance, Financial Management, and the Journal of Financial Services Research, among others.

Professor Starks has published her research in leading journals. She has received numerous awards for her research, including the 2021 Moskowitz Prize, the premier global prize for research in sustainable finance. Professor Starks is also an award-winning educator, and has taught courses in corporate finance and investments, among other topics. She presents her research at academic and practitioner events all over the world.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Jules H. van Binsbergen

The Nippon Life Professor in Finance,
Professor of Finance,
The Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania

Jules van Binsbergen is a corporate finance expert who specializes in issues related to asset pricing, institutional investors, and investments. Professor van Binsbergen analyzes a range of topics arising in mutual funds and pension plans, as well as asset allocation; risk evaluation; capital structure; dividend pricing; environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing; and determinants of the cost of debt.

In his recent research, Professor van Binsbergen measured the organization, skill, and performance of asset managers in the mutual fund industry. He has published several articles measuring the skill of active managers and appropriate benchmarks for performance comparison. He has collaborated on machine learning models that construct a statistically optimal benchmark for firms’ earnings forecasts. In addition, Professor van Binsbergen has analyzed the effectiveness of monetary policy, discount rates, and stock return predictability.

Professor van Binsbergen has published award-winning articles in leading academic journals, such as the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, the American Economic Review, and the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance. He has coauthored book chapters on asset pricing and liability, the impact of regulations on pension plans, and decision-making in investment management.

Professor van Binsbergen is an associate editor at the Journal of Finance and the Journal of Financial Economics. He is a former editor of the Review of Finance. He also serves as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a research fellow at the U.K.’s Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

For more than a decade, Professor van Binsbergen has taught courses in corporate finance, econometrics, and financial markets. He has received multiple teaching honors, including successive recognitions for excellence and rigor in teaching the Wharton School’s M.B.A. core curriculum.

Before joining the Wharton School, Professor van Binsbergen served on the faculty at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and taught at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Justin Marlowe

Research Professor,
Harris School of Public Policy,
University of Chicago

Justin Marlowe is a prominent expert on public finance. He focuses on municipal securities markets, infrastructure finance, state and local budgeting, and financial disclosure.

An experienced expert witness, Professor Marlowe has testified on matters involving the municipal bond market; cost accounting for government services; state and local governmental accounting, taxation, and finance; and public-private partnerships (P3). He has provided testimony in federal and state cases, and in enforcement actions brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Professor Marlowe is a Certified Government Financial Manager and has experience with Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) issues.

Professor Marlowe has consulted to state and local governments, and public, private, and nonprofit entities. He was elected to the National Academy of Public Administration, a congressionally chartered organization that evaluates emerging trends in public policy and management. In addition, he serves as a senior fellow at the Center for Digital Government.

In his research, Professor Marlowe addresses issues related to municipal securities, governmental accounting, cost analysis, and fiscal policy. He has also studied the effects of climate change; environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing; and investor sentiment on municipal finance. Professor Marlowe has advised technical advisory bodies such as the Brookings Institution, the GASB, the Government Finance Officers Association, and the National Academies of Science.

Professor Marlowe has authored or edited four books, as well as book chapters on topics related to financial management in the public sector. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in leading municipal finance journals. Professor Marlowe serves as the editor-in-chief of Public Budgeting & Finance. His research has been cited in U.S. and international media.

An award-winning educator, Professor Marlowe teaches graduate-level courses on public finance and municipal securities at the University of Chicago. Previously, he held faculty positions at the University of Washington and at the University of Kansas.

Our extensive network includes top experts from academia and industry.

Lynnette Kelly

Former President and CEO,
Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB)

A recognized expert on municipal finance and governance, Lynnette Kelly has more than thirty years of legal, regulatory, governance, and technology experience in the fixed income markets.

Ms. Kelly’s expertise covers a range of municipal finance topics, including infrastructure finance, broker-dealer regulation, disclosures and investor protections, pricing and issuance of municipal debt, market practices, and FinTech. She has testified before Congress about market regulation and policies, and submitted written testimony to congressional committees.

Ms. Kelly has served on multiple boards of directors. In these roles, she has developed substantial expertise with ESG issues, FinTech, and regulatory and external audits and investigations. She holds Directorship Certification from the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and is an NACD Governance Fellow.

Ms. Kelly served as president and CEO of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) for over a decade. In that role, she developed strategic initiatives to respond to Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, and to advance the MSRB’s mission as the principal regulator of the municipal securities market. In particular, Ms. Kelly launched the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website, the official source of trade data and disclosure documents for the municipal securities market.

Prior to her tenure at the MSRB, Ms. Kelly served as senior vice president and associate general counsel at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). At both the MSRB and SIFMA, she worked on issues involving banks, broker-dealers, investment advisors, and other participants in the municipal market. Earlier in her career, Ms. Kelly served as general counsel of the Municipal Assistance Corporation for the City of New York.

Ms. Kelly has written articles for business and academic publications, and also serves as contributing editor to the Municipal Finance Journal. She speaks frequently at industry, business, and academic conferences and has been a guest lecturer at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. A variety of mainstream media outlets have cited her as an expert. Ms. Kelly has received several honors for her industry contributions, including the Municipal Forum of New York’s Public Service Award for leadership in the municipal market.

Ms. Kelly serves on the board of trustees of the Financial Accounting Foundation, which oversees the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). She was also a member of the audit committee of Common Securitization Solutions, a FinTech joint venture of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Ms. Kelly’s other board experience includes the Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets Excellence and Equity in Public Finance Advisory Council, and the University of Chicago Center for Municipal Finance. She has completed executive education programs at Harvard Business School; The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; and the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

ESG Capabilities

Shareholder derivative and other lawsuits have challenged the actions of corporate board members relating to ESG issues. For example, investors have brought derivative lawsuits against corporate boards alleging violations of fiduciary duties or other obligations by failing to fulfill commitments to diversity goals or by tolerating discrimination. In other cases, plaintiffs have alleged that executive compensation should be tied more closely to progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues.

In these matters, Cornerstone Research has evaluated the activities of officers and directors to determine whether they acted prudently and in a manner consistent with their roles and fiduciary duties. These analyses have addressed corporate decisions, marketing statements, and oversight of internal audits and processes, among other topics. We have also addressed the incentive structure of executive pay, and whether a company’s board or its compensation committee has acted appropriately in establishing compensation packages for corporate officers.

A number of recent government proposals would impose disclosure requirements regarding climate change, human capital management, and board diversity. Cornerstone Research has addressed the appropriateness and materiality of corporate disclosures in the context of mergers and acquisitions, annual proxy statements, and SEC filings.

The SEC is expected to exert heightened scrutiny on products focusing on sustainability, such as “green” investment funds. The SEC has raised concerns regarding “greenwashing,” disclosures of ESG investment processes, risks stemming from the implementation of ESG investment criteria, and proxy voting policies and procedures. Cornerstone Research has been retained on enforcement matters brought by the SEC that address investment management issues and has developed expertise with ESG ratings providers and investment criteria.

The investments selected for, fees charged for, or the performance of ESG funds may also be challenged by investors or participants in employer-sponsored retirement plans. Cornerstone Research has been retained in numerous 401(k) and 403(b) fee and investment cases involving plan sponsors and service providers. We have addressed investment management fees, investment performance, asset allocation, and investment selection and monitoring.

Plaintiffs in class actions and shareholder derivative lawsuits have alleged that companies tolerate or engage in gender or racial bias. Cornerstone Research staff and experts are well-versed in the statistical and econometric techniques used to evaluate alleged discrimination in a variety of contexts, including promotion and pay as well as pre-litigation consulting on pay equity issues. Similarly, our staff and experts have been retained to analyze corporate culture.

In a number of matters, consumers have made claims relating to products’ compliance with environmental regulations or the allegedly false marketing of products as “environmentally friendly.” We have experience addressing economic, marketing, and consumer behavior issues in matters involving alleged product defects associated with “environmentally friendly” claims as well as false advertising involving “greenwashing” or similar allegations.

Featured Cases

Featured Publications

17 March 2022

The Gensler SEC: What to Expect in 2022

Since Gary Gensler became chair of the SEC in April 2021, his agency has signaled an active agenda that many expect will be aggressively enforced.

14 March 2022

Professor Laura Starks Awarded Prize for Outstanding Research in Sustainable Finance

Professor Starks received the 2021 Moskowitz Prize, which recognizes academic papers with exceptional relevance to ESG investment practitioners.

9 April 2021

Former SEC Officials Predict SEC Priorities

The authors discuss potential changes to disclosure and enforcement policies at the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Biden administration.

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