Remembering Lynn Stout

James Melchiorre

St. Paul’s Chapel will host a memorial service on Saturday, February 2, for Lynn Stout, Distinguished Professor of Corporate and Business Law at Cornell University Law School, who died last April at age 60.

Stout had spent more than three decades as a law professor and, before coming to Cornell in 2012, had taught at the law schools at George Washington University, Harvard, Georgetown, and UCLA.

She wrote and co-authored many books and scholarly articles. Two of them, The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public and Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People, are considered examples of Stout’s uncompromising ethics and morals.

“Lynn was, without a doubt, the most ethical person I ever met,” said Diogo Magalhaes of Cornell Law School. “She wanted to see how we could use corporate law to make a better world.”

Diogo, who said he and Lynn first met as “early morning weekend running buddies,” eventually collaborated with her on her Ethical Shareholder Initiative. Lynn spent the final months of her life finishing another important project, Citizen Capitalism: How a Universal Fund Can Provide Influence and Income to All, which Lynn co-authored with Tamara Belinfanti and Sergio Alberto Gramitto Ricci. 

Lynn Stout was one of almost forty law professors who signed on as “friends of the court” in the 2015 case brought by Trinity Church against Walmart. In that legal action Trinity, as a Walmart shareholder, asked that Walmart’s board of directors be required to consider whether selling high-capacity firearms might pose a threat to both public safety and Walmart’s reputation.

While a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Walmart and against Trinity’s position, Walmart announced in August 2015 that it would no longer sell high-capacity firearms.

Cornell Law School has scheduled a two-day Lynn Stout Memorial Conference on February 1-2 with the memorial service at St. Paul’s Chapel as the concluding event.