Prof. Edward Morrison

speaker Prof. Edward Morrison

When you save a firm [in bankruptcy], what's critically important is knowing whether that firm has a future.

Edward Morrison is the Charles Evans Gerber Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. He specializes in corporate, business, and transactional Law. He is the faculty director of the Law School’s Executive LL.M. Program and co-director of Columbia University’s Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy. In 2018, he received the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching. His scholarship focuses on corporate reorganization, consumer bankruptcy, the regulation of systemic market risk, and foreclosure and mortgage modification. In his recent work, he studies patterns in racial disparities in Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings, inter-creditor agreements, valuation disputes in corporate bankruptcies, and the relationship between financial distress and mortality rates. Prior to joining the Columbia Law School faculty, Morrison taught Commercial Law at the University of Chicago and clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court and for Judge Richard A. Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a prolific author and speaker, and his work has been widely published in leading peer-review publications, including the American Economic Review and the Journal of Law & Economics, among others. His article “Dodd-Frank for Bankruptcy Lawyers,” co-written with Douglas Baird and published by the ABI Law Review, received the 2012 John Wesley Steen Law Review Writing Prize from the American Bankruptcy Institute. The bankruptcy bench and bar has cited his work and he has garnered support from the National Science Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts. Morrison is also the co-editor of the Journal of Legal Studies and a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, and formerly served as a director of the American Law & Economics Association, associate editor of the American & Economics Review, and member of the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules.

Talks by Prof. Edward Morrison

related talk Opioid Bankruptcy
Opioid Bankruptcy

In the unfolding legal drama between Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, and the victims of the opioid crisis, the stakes go beyond the billions of dollars in victim compensation. The case will establish important precedent when it comes to corporate responsibility, public perception of injustice, and the extent of bankruptcy courts’ powers. At the heart of this debate lies the contentious legal principle of "nonconsensual third-party releases," a concept now under review by the Supreme Court. Professor Edward Morrison of Columbia Law School elucidates the key issues at stake and discusses the unique authority that bankruptcy courts have to release liability more expansively than other judicial bodies. 

The ability of bankruptcy courts to grant nonconsensual third-party releases to entities that have not filed for bankruptcy themselves remains a subject of considerable legal debate that varies across jurisdictions. As Prof. Morrison notes, the U.S. Bankruptcy Code neither explicitly authorizes nor prohibits such releases, except in the context of asbestos liability, which is explicitly addressed in the code. Consequently this vagueness has led courts to interpret the code in disparate ways.

In certain jurisdictions, bankruptcy courts have relied on their broad powers under Section 105(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, taking measures they deem "necessary and appropriate." These courts frequently employ a six or seven-part test to gauge whether such releases are fair, appropriate, and essential to the debtor's reorganization plan. Additionally, these courts regularly assess whether affected parties have had the opportunity to object and if those who would be bound by the release are "adequately represented" during proceedings.

Conversely, some courts, including a few at the Circuit level, express skepticism regarding the legality of nonconsensual third-party releases, particularly when the entities in question are not directly involved in the bankruptcy case. These courts frequently cite concerns about infringing upon the legal rights of third parties who have not had their day in court. Professor Morrison suggests that the Supreme Court aims to clarify this issue by taking up the case and offers some predictions on how the case may be resolved