Photo of Eric W. Orts

Eric W. Orts

Guardsmark Professor

Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics and Management

Director, Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership

Research Interests: corporate governance, environmental management, environmental law and policy, securities regulation, theories of the firm, professional ethics

Links: CV, Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership

Contact Information

Address: 648 Jon M. Huntsman Hall, 3730 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: (215) 898-3018



JSD, Columbia University, 1994; JD, University of Michigan, 1988; MA, New School for Social Research, 1985; BA, Oberlin College, 1982.

Career and Recent Professional Awards; Teaching Awards

MBA Excellence in Teaching Award for an Elective Course, 2011.

Academic Positions Held

Wharton: 1991-present (named Guardsmark Professor in 2001); faculty director, Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, 2007 to present; faculty co-director, FINRA at Wharton Institute, 2000 to present.  Visiting appointments:  Harvard University (Eugene P. Beard Faculty Fellow, Center for Ethics and the Professions); INSEAD (Economics and Political Science); University of Leuven (Fulbright Visiting Professor, law faculty);  University of Michigan Law School; NYU School of Law; UCLA School of Law; University of California Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management; University of Sydney Law School; and Tsinghua University, School of Economics and Management (Freeman Foundation Visiting Professor).

Other Positions

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, associate attorney, 1988-90; Chemical Bank Fellow in Corporate Social Responsibility, Columbia University School of Law, 1990-91.

Professional Leadership

Founding board member, Alliance for Research in Corporate Sustainability, 2009-present; editorial board, Business Ethics Quarterly, 2011-present; consulting member, American Law Institute, 1997-present.



Current research focuses on several projects:  completing a book under contract with Oxford University Press on "Rethinking the Firm," an interdisciplinary sequel to "Business Persons:  A Legal Theory of the Firm" (OUP 2013); co-editing a book under contract also with OUP on "The Moral Responsibility of Firms;"  writing a book proposal with a co-author on "Climate Contracts" that expands on an article by the same name; co-writing an article with Sarah Light "Public and Private Parallels in Environmental Law," and co-writing an article with Amy Sepinwall on "Privacy and Organizational Persons."

  • Eric W. Orts, N. Craig Smith, eds., The Moral Responsibility of Firms (2016).
  • Eric W. Orts, Amy Sepinwall (2015), Privacy and Organizational Persons, University of Minnesota Law Review, 99 (6).
  • Sarah E. Light, Eric W. Orts (2015), Parallels in Public and Private Environmental Governance, Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law, 5, 1.
  • Eric W. Orts (2011), Climate Contracts, Virginia Environmental Law Journal, 29, 197 - 236.  
  • Eric W. Orts, Alan Strudler (2009), Putting a Stake in Stakeholder Theory, Business Ethics Quarterly, 88, 605 - 615.
  • Eric W. Orts, The Challenge of a New Environmental Contract    Description
  • Eric W. Orts, Cary Coglianese (2007), Collaborative Environmental Law: Pro and Con, University of Pennsylvania Law Review - PENNumbra, 156.  Related Materials
  • Eric W. Orts, "Ethics, Risk, Environmental Management, and Corporate Responsibility". In Environmental Protection and the Social Responsibility of Firms: Perspectives from Law, Economics, and Business , edited by Robert Stavins, Bruce Hay, (2005), 184 - 196.
  • Eric W. Orts, "From Corporate Social Responsibility to Global Citizenship". In The INSEAD-Wharton Alliance on Globalizing, edited by Hubert Gatignon, John Kimberly, (2004), 331 - 352.
  • Eric W. Orts, "War and the Corporation". In Financial Times Handbook of Management, edited by Stuart Crainer, Des Dearlove, (2004), 667 - 678.  Related Materials
  • Eric W. Orts (2003), Environmental Law with Chinese Characteristics, William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 11 (2).  
  • Eric W. Orts, Alan Strudler (2002), The Ethical and Environmental Limits of Stakeholder Theory, Business Ethics Quarterly, 12, 215 - 233.
  • Eric W. Orts (2002), War and the Business Corporation, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 35, 549 - 584.
  • Eric W. Orts (2002), War and the Corporation, business + strategy, 13, 44 - 51.
  • Eric W. Orts, "Autopoiesis and the Natural Environment". In Law’s New Boundaries, edited by Jiri Priban, David Nelken, (2001), 159 - 178.
  • Eric W. Orts, "Conflict of Interest on Corporate Boards". In Conflict of Interest and the Professions, edited by Michael Davis, Andrew Stark, (2001), 129 - 155.
  • Eric W. Orts, Kurt Deketelaere, eds., Environmental Contracts (2001).  Abstract  Related Materials
  • Eric W. Orts (2001), The Rule of Law in China, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 34, 44 - 115.
  • Eric W. Orts, Alan Strudler (1999), Moral Principle in the Law of Insider Trading, Texas Law Review, 78 (2).  
  • Eric W. Orts, "An American Perspective on Belgian and British Environmental Law within Europe". In Environmental Law in Belgium and the United Kingdom, edited by Kurt Deketelaere, (1999), 321 - 328.
  • Eric W. Orts, Paul Kleindorfer (1998), Informational Regulation of Environmental Risks, Risk Analysis, 18, 155 - 170.
  • Eric W. Orts (1998), Shirking and Sharking: A Legal Theory of the Firm, Yale Law and Policy Review, 16, 265 - 329 .  
  • Eric W. Orts (1998), The Future of Enterprise Organization, Michigan Law Review, 96, 1947 - 1974.  
  • Eric W. Orts, "A North American Legal Perspective on Stakeholder Management Theory". In Perspectives on Company Law: 2 , edited by Fiona Macmillan Patfield, (1997), 165 - 179.
  • Eric W. Orts (1997), Book Review: Bowman's 'The Modern Corporation and American Political Thought', American Journal of Sociology, 102, 1447 - 1448.
  • Eric W. Orts (1997), Environmental Disclosure and Evidentiary Privilege, University of Illinois Law Review, 1997, 1 - 69.
  • Eric W. Orts (1997), Quality Circles in Law Teaching, Journal of Legal Education, 47, 425 - 431.
  • Eric W. Orts (1995), Reflexive Environmental Law, Northwestern Law Review, 89, 1227 - 1340 .  
  • Eric W. Orts (1995), A Model of Reflexive Environmental Regulation, Business Ethics Quarterly, 5, 779 - 794.
  • Eric W. Orts (1995), Simple Rules and the Perils of Reductionist Legal Thought, Boston University Law Review, 75, 1441 - 1479.
  • Eric W. Orts, "The Legitimacy of Multinational Corporations". In Progressive Corporate Law, edited by Lawrence Mitchell, (1995), 247 - 279.
  • Eric W. Orts (1993), The Complexity and Legitimacy of Corporate Law, Washington and Lee Law Review, 50, 1565 - 1623 .  
  • Eric W. Orts (1993), Positive Law and Systemic Legitimacy, Ratio Juris
  • Eric W. Orts (1993), Towards an Ethics of Social Systems (book review), The Responsive Community: Rights and Responsibilities, 4, 60 - 64.
  • Eric W. Orts (1992), Beyond Shareholders, George Washington Law Review, 61, 14 - 135.

Awards And Honors

  • Excellence in Teaching Award for MBA Elective Course, 2011

In The News

Knowledge @ Wharton


MBA and undergraduate courses:  Responsibility in Professional Services; Environmental Management: Law and Policy; Law of Corporate Management and Finance.

Ph.D. courses:  Foundations of Business Law; Theories of the Business Enterprise.

Undergraduate honors courses:  Introduction to Law; Environmental Management: Law and Policy (seminar).

Executive education:  faculty director, Business Sustainability Leadership (Wharton-San Francisco); faculty co-director, FINRA Institute at Wharton, Certified Compliance and Regulatory Professional Program.



  • LGST202 - Law of Corporate Management and Finance

    This course provides an introduction to the law of corporate management and finance, focusing on large publicly held corporations. It is presented from the perspective that before too long virtually all students will serve on one or more corporate boards of directors and that each should, therefore, know about the duties owed by directors and officers to those toward whom they bear a fiduciary duty. The course covers the basic obligations of corporate directors and managers under state corporate law and the federal securities laws. It also considers the rights and responsibilities of other major stake holders in the governance of public corporations, including shareholders, creditors/bondholders, employees (including corporate executives), investment bankers, corporate lawyers, and accountants. Particular attention is given to the law of mergers and acquisitions. Important issues of social policy concerning large business corporations are also discussed.

  • LGST241 - Theories of the Business Enterprise

    What is a business firm? How did various forms of business, including the corporation, arise historically? How do contemporary economic and financial theories explain how business firms evolve, grow, and die? What are the legal underpinnings of the forms of business enterprise, ranging from sole proprietorships to partnerships to family-owned enterprises to multinational corporate groups? How do business firms relate to politics and government, as well as religion? What about the environment? This interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to pursuing answers to these questions. Students will gain perspective on the nature of business enterprises from different points of view that will be useful in further research, as well as having practical application. Ubiquitous economic concepts such as agency costs, principal-agent relationships, transaction costs, and influence costs will be studied. Different legal structures of firms will also be introduced, including new hybrid organizations such as benefit corporations, which seek to meld non-profit and profit objectives.

  • LGST299 - Seminar in Law and Society

    A study of the nature, functions, and limits of law as an agency of societal policy. Each semester an area of substantive law is studied for the purpose of examining the relationship between legal norms developed and developing in the area and societal problems and needs.

  • LGST612 - Responsibility in Business

    This course introduces students to important ethical and legal challenges they will face as leaders in business. The course materials will be useful to students preparing for managerial positions that are likely to place them in advisory and/or agency roles owing duties to employers, clients, suppliers, and customers. Although coverage will vary depending on instructor, the focus of the course will be on developing skills in ethical and legal analyses that can assist managers as they make both individual-level and firm-level decisions about the responsible courses of action when duties, loyalties, rules, norms, and interests are in conflict. For example, the rules of insider trading may form the basis for lessons in some sections.