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

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.


  • 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.

    In the course, we will read high-profile U.S. Supreme Court cases such as Citizens United and Hobby Lobby and debate appropriate boundaries (or not) between business and politics, as well as business and religion. Business ethics and the nature of any social responsibilities owed by business and business people will be topics too.

    LGST241401  ( Syllabus

    LGST641401  ( Syllabus

  • LGST612 - Responsibility in Professional Services

    This course uses a professional services context to introduce students to important ethical and legal challenges they will face as leaders in such fields as financial services, health care, real estate, and consulting. However, the scope is not limited to these contexts and will be equally useful to students preparing for any managerial position that is 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.

    Group assignments, role-plays, and case studies may, at the instructor's discretion, be used to help illustrate the basic theoretical frameworks. The type of thematic question the course may address is whether management can or should be considered a "profession" in the ways that law and medicine are. In some sections, students will form "industry groups" representing different service sectors. These groups will research and present critiques of existing ethical codes as well as draft their own individual "personal codes of conduct" based on course materials and industry norms, as well as personal and/or religious values

    Format: class participation, quiz, group report, and final paper. Materials: coursepack. Prerequisites: none.

    LGST612001  ( Syllabus

    LGST612002  ( Syllabus