The Conglomerate Bloggers



About Conglomerate

Conglomerate was created by Gordon Smith and Christine Hurt on November 16, 2004. At the time, Gordon was a Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and Christine was an Assistant Professor of Law at Marquette University Law School. Prior to joining forces on Conglomerate, Gordon blogged at Venturpreneur (some of the Venturpreneur archives remain on this site) and Christine had organized a blog of women corporate law professors called Biz Fems Speak! The first post at the new blog promised a "quirky mix of entries about business, law, Wisconsin, legal education, and whatever else strikes our fancy (including, of course, cheese for Gordon)."

Since that founding, Conglomerate has grown through a number of keen strategic acquisitions. Vic Fleischer, then an Acting Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, joined Gordon and Christine in July 2005. Vic cut his blogging teeth on A Taxing Blog. In May 2006, Fred Tung, then of Emory Law School, and Lisa Fairfax, now of the George Washington University Law School, joined the ranks. David Zaring of the Wharton School's Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department, hitched his blogging wagon to the Conglomerate star on July 10, 2007. And just over a year later, we were privileged to add Usha Rodrigues of the University of Georgia School of Law to our permanent roster. Most recently, we added Erik Gerding now of the University of Colorado Law School.

We have largely adhered to our original mission statement, even as we refined our marketing pitch with the pithy subtitle: "business, law, economics, and society." In addition to regular posts on all of these matters, we are proud to host the annual Junior Scholars Workshop each summer, as well as occasional "Conglomerate Fora" (see the Disney Forum or the Enron Forum) and the Conglomerate Book Club.

The Conglomerate passed a new threshold on August 25, 2009, when Vic and Fred took emeritus status. We greatly value their friendship and contributions to the blog, and we created a page in their honor.

Why "Conglomerate"?

When Gordon and Christine joined forces, one of their first tasks was selecting a name. They both agreed that Gordon's old blog name -- "Venturpreneur" -- was clunky and too hard to spell. Perhaps as a reaction to Venturpreneur, they immediately gravitated toward real words. "Corporate Conspiracy" was an initial favorite, but it seemed too much like a takeoff on The Volokh Conspiracy ... which it was.

The next proposal that caught their collective eye was "Punctilio." If you know corporate law, you recognize this as the key word in Cardozo's famous articulation of fiduciary duty in Meinhard v. Salmon:
Many forms of conduct permissible in a workaday world for those acting at arm's length are forbidden to those bound by fiduciary ties. A trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of the market place. Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior...Only thus has the level of conduct for fiduciaries been kept at a level higher than that trodden by the crowd."
That is a great passage, but the word "punctilio" is pretty obscure, and the allusion to Cardozo is even more obscure. Plus the word is easily misspellable as "punctillio."

How about "Peppercorn"? Another reference to law, but this time contract law. Remember the peppercorn theory of consideration? This was the idea that gifts could be turned into bargains by adding a peppercorn to the transaction. This is, of course, the height of formalism, and that is probably not a good launching pad for a blog. Plus a lot of other businesses call themselves "Peppercorn," so the risk of confusion was great.

Other names they considered and rejected for one reason or another include Random Walk, Noise Theory, Seamless Web, Proxy Fight, and Corporate Minutes. In the end, they preferred Conglomerate for several reasons:

1. "Conglomerate" sounds businessy, and despite the posts on movies and cheese, we are mostly about business.

2. The word "conglomerate" denotes the gathering of disparate parts into a whole. Christine and Gordon were blogging in separate places, and now they are blogging in the same place. With the addition of Vic, the word seems even more appropriate.

3. "Conglomerate" also denotes a rough assemblage of rocks and pebbles. If Slate is smooth and professional, we are more spontaneous and accidental.

4. Finally, "to conglomerate" is a verb about bringing together things to form a whole. What better description of a blog?


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