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2023 Spring Symposium: ESG & Blockchain, Seeking Clarity Through Radical Transparency

Published onFeb 21, 2023
2023 Spring Symposium: ESG & Blockchain, Seeking Clarity Through Radical Transparency

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March 17th at 9 AM - 5 PM, in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312.

Wake Forest Students, Staff, or Faculty: Use this LINK to register.

External Local Community: Use this LINK to register

Please reach out to one of our symposium editors with any questions:

Noelle Henry | [email protected]

Carlo Ballesteros-Flores| [email protected]

Environmental, Social, and Governance reporting has brought a new era of transparency to businesses and organizations throughout the world to all stakeholders. The development of blockchain technology allows users to have an active ledger of all transactions within its ecosystem, leading to system-wide transparency. Our student organization, the Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law (JBIPL), seeks to explore the intersection of ESG and blockchain as each continues to play a larger role throughout the global economy with this year’s annual symposium.

Within this broad and overarching topic, we intend to dissect ESG and blockchain into four subtopics in the form of four interactive panels: (1) Environmental; (2) Social; (3) Corporate Governance; and (4) Regulation of ESG and Blockchain Initiatives. The symposium will encompass a frank and insightful discussion of each sub-topic and will emphasize the role and prevalence of ESG and Blockchain at large. These topics are cutting-edge and growing in importance as the world adapts to emerging technologies and evolving consumer expectations. We hope to provide Wake Forest students with a chance to be a cut above the rest by getting to explore these topics with subject-matter experts who are nationally recognized and world-renowned.


Environmental & Blockchain: Environmental Policy and Energy Transition

This panel will address a variety of emerging environmental and energy transition topics. Panelists will discuss both state and federal-level environmental policy, as well as look at the tension between the two. Further, panelists will look at the move for corporations to transition to renewable energy and evaluate the hurdles that the movement faces. Additionally, this panel will look at emerging technologies, such as blockchain, that can support energy management and facilitate a corporation’s ability to accurately track its ESG data. We will discuss how blockchain can validate the sustainability of company supply chains as well.

With these considerations in mind, some questions our panelists will wrestle with include:

●      How is environmental and renewable energy policy evolving? What obstacles are there in the United States to having a comprehensive, national energy transition plan?

●      How can blockchain technology assist in sustainable supply chains and energy management?

●      With calls for corporations to accurately report and disclose their environmental impact, will companies be forced to be more aware of their environmental impact and energy use? Will they be held liable for negative environmental impacts in the future?

●      What are the biggest hurdles for the energy transition movement to overcome?

The panel’s conversation will expand beyond this list of sample questions and include wholesome debate among the panelists and questions from our moderator, Professor Mark Curtis.

Panelists will include:

Anne Austin

Anne Isdal Austin is a nationally recognized environmental lawyer who has held several federal and state regulatory roles and is an Environmental & Natural Resources partner at Pillsbury in its Washington, DC, and Austin, Texas offices. Anne helps clients navigate the dynamic regulatory and legal waters in an era of the energy transition, decarbonization, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) and an emphasis on ESG principles, where pragmatic, farsighted solutions to complex regulatory problems are essential to their business imperatives, continued sustainability and growth.

Before joining Pillsbury, Anne was the principal deputy assistant administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air & Radiation (OAR), where she had primary oversight over United States clean air policy and regulation. Before this role, Anne served as the EPA regional administrator for Region 6, overseeing all federal environmental programs in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Additionally, before her time at the EPA, Anne served in important roles in the Texas state government, shaping environmental and energy policy at the highest levels. She was the chief clerk and deputy land commissioner for the Texas General Land Office (GLO), which manages all public lands in the state,  a position to which she was promoted after serving as the agency’s general counsel. Previously, Anne was the general counsel for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas’s state environmental regulator.

Joshua Marks

Josh Marks has nearly three decades of experience with environmental policy and law. As Counsel at Parker Poe, he advises clients on environmental compliance, real estate, land use, conservation, and corporate legal needs. Josh has counseled clients on a broad range of environmental compliance issues, such as federal and state regulations impacting renewable energy, Clean Water Act/Clean Air Act compliance, and contaminated site analysis and remediation.

Josh has also advised corporations regarding environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, with a focus on environmental and social responsibility issues, renewable energy, and climate policy. Additionally, he has advised financial advisory firms and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on natural resource protection, climate change modeling, messaging, physical and transitional risk, and shareholder engagement.

Katie Heath

Katie Heath is the General Counsel and Head of Risk for Copia Power, a Carlyle Portfolio Company focused on the decarbonization of the energy sector through the development, construction, and operation of renewable energy and energy transition assets.

Before joining Copia Power, Katie was the Vice President of Strategic Development at AES Clean Energy (formerly sPower) where she led the teams responsible for the formation of development strategy, market intelligence, pipeline creation, strategic partnerships, and land acquisition. Under Katie's leadership, over 15 GW of new solar and battery storage projects were added to the development pipeline. Before that, Katie was Vice President of Business Development at Heelstone Energy where she originated pipeline acquisitions and formulated and executed a greenfield development strategy for the creation of utility-scale solar projects across the United States. Katie began her career in energy as counsel for renewable developers where she represented clients in over $1 billion of tax equity and debt financing transactions and assisted in the development, construction, and financing of over 100 projects representing more than 1 GW of renewable capacity.

Katie holds a J.D. from the Wake Forest University School of Law, where she serves as an adjunct professor of Energy Law. She is licensed to practice in North Carolina, South Carolina, and before the Supreme Court of the United States. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of South Carolina.

Mohan Venkataraman

​​Mohan is a Speaker and Contributor in Blockchain, Web3, IoT, ML, and Supply Chain. He is an Information Technology professional with 30+ years of proven experience, working in Nortel Networks, MCI, Deloitte Consulting, VMware, and Chainyard. He is passionate about advancing the adoption and application of Blockchain for Enterprise use cases. His interests include evangelizing blockchain ecosystem technologies around Hyperledger and Ethereum, IoT and AI/ML, and mentoring young professionals and leaders.

In his role as the CTO of Chainyard, Mohan has successfully supported the building of its consulting and advisory practice. He has enabled several blockchain solutions including Art Auction, Asset Management, Procurement Management, Business Compliance, Document Sharing, Trust Your Supplier, and Machine Vision among others in Hyperledger Fabric. He has supported Ethereum, Binance, and Hedera solutions such as electronic voting, tracking grants, real estate, software license management, and international shipping.

Mohan has helped the Chainyard practice build accelerators, tools, sample applications, best practices, and methods to augment, and enhance any customer’s blockchain experience and reduce the time to deliver their first minimum viable project (MVP).

As a speaker, he has presented at Hyperledger Global Forum, IBM Think, NCTA, BITA (Blockchain in Transport Association), IOT Slam, and World IOT Congress. Mohan holds dual Master’s degrees in Bio-Sciences and Management from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Rajasthan, India.

Social & Blockchain: NFTs, Consumer-Corporate Interactions, and the Balancing of IP Interests

This panel will focus on the social implications of blockchain technology, and consider consumer-corporate interactions and intellectual property law that serves a huge role in this industry. Panelists will discuss crypto-assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the IP issues that are implicated as these become more mainstream. Additionally, panelists will discuss emerging trends in blockchain and IP issues.

With these considerations in mind, some questions our panelists will wrestle with include:

●      Why should average consumers care about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and balancing IP interests?

●      What newfound legal issues are emerging with the development of distributed ledger technology?

●      How will blockchain change the interactions between consumers/investors and large financial institutions and corporations?

The panel’s conversation will expand beyond this list of sample questions and include wholesome debate among the panelists and questions from our moderator, Professor Keith Robinson.

Panelists will include:

Yasamin Parsafar

Yasamin Parsafar is a partner in the Intellectual Property Practice Group in the firm's San Francisco office and is Co-Leader of the firm’s Blockchain & Fintech team. Yasamin’s practice focuses on protecting her clients’ intellectual property rights through counseling, prosecution, enforcement, and litigation. Yasamin uses her litigation experience to strengthen and protect her clients’ intellectual property, manage risks, and position businesses to succeed in the event of a dispute. She frequently advises and protects brands on their journey into Web 3.0 and counsels various web 3.0 platforms, from games to marketplaces, on compliance and risk management.

Yasamin frequently advises companies venturing into the use of blockchain technology on various issues related to non-fungible tokens, metaverses, games, online marketplaces, and other platforms. These projects involve copyright, trademark, trade dress, and domain issues, which Yasamin regularly advises on, including in connection with minting agreements, license agreements, joint IP development agreements, and marketplace agreements. Additionally, Yasamin has experience protecting brands in the metaverse and other web 3.0 platforms and enforcing her clients’ rights against web 3.0 infringers and counterfeiters. Her practice includes successfully taking down infringing NFTs from exchanges and other platforms, shutting down infringing coin offerings, and recovering infringing domains. Yasamin manages intellectual property disputes on a global scale, including, when necessary, litigating complex commercial claims involving copyright, trademark, trade dress, false advertising, and patent disputes in federal courts nationwide.

John Lanza

John Lanza is a partner and intellectual property lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP where he excels at helping companies identify and maximize the corporate value of their intellectual property assets. He provides strategic advice to his clients regarding the acquisition, transfer, and enforcement of intellectual property rights and counsels them regarding their business operations in the face of adverse intellectual property rights. John is co-chair of the firm’s Manufacturing Sector, Smart Manufacturing. He is also a member of the firm's Electronics Practice, the Private Equity & Venture Capital Practice, and the Technology Industry Team.

John has counseled hundreds of start-ups and established companies in a wide range of matters. His past work experience includes: performing a comprehensive intellectual property landscape review on behalf of a manufacturer of entertainment software and counseling the company concerning final design before launching a product; developing technical strategy forming the basis for Citrix Systems, Inc.’s successful defense against claims that its Meta Frame networking product infringed a patent held by plaintiff; and successfully requested reexamination of United States patent directed to the use of multiple prime factors in public key cryptography. Additionally, John is an adjunct professor at Suffolk University School of Law, Boston University School of Law, and Northeastern University School of Law.

Chris Drymalla

Chris Drymalla is a partner in Pillsbury’s Intellectual Property practice. Chris focuses his practice on providing clients with comprehensive IP strategies to develop, manage and protect IP assets, including patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret rights. He has extensive expertise in strategic assessment and development of IP portfolios in the U.S. and abroad, as well as in asserting and defending IP rights in the U.S. court system and post-grant proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Chris’ practice leverages his experience as an engineer and across the entire IP life cycle to help clients effectively and efficiently identify and accomplish their IP goals.

Chris received his J.D. from Baylor University School of Law. He is eligible to practice in Texas. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University.

Corporate Governance & Blockchain: Boards of Directors, Corporate Management, Extending Liability

This panel will address the changing role of lawyers as in-house counsel and advisors to Boards of Directors. Panelists will look at the utilization of blockchain technology in firm governance and discuss DAO governance. Additionally, panelists will discuss the evolving role of in-house counsel as blockchain and AI technology become more prevalent. Panelists will also discuss how blockchain technology and ESG may be creating avenues for increased liability for both Boards and Officers as well as legal counsel.

With these considerations in mind, some questions our panelists will wrestle with include:

●      How are blockchain and other innovative technologies impacting firm governance in an ESG-focused era?

●      To what extent will firm governance be conducted over blockchains? What about DAO governance?

●      Has the role of in-house counsel changed with the increasing use of blockchain technology and AI?

●      How will legal counsel representing blockchain-based organizations ensure they have any required technological knowledge under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1.1 (see comment 8)?  How will legal counsel ensure they have the Rule 1.1 competence required to comply with applicable regulations in the ESG space?

The panel’s conversation will expand beyond this list of sample questions and include wholesome debate among the panelists and questions from our moderator[1] .

Panelists will include:

Joan Heminway

Joan MacLeod Heminway is the Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law and Interim Director of the Institute for Professional Leadership at The University of Tennessee College of Law and a fellow of the C. Warren Neel Corporate Governance Center, the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and the Center for the Study of Social Justice at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Professor Heminway joined the College of Law faculty in 2000 after completing nearly 15 years of corporate transactional legal practice (including work on public offerings, private placements, mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, and restructurings) in the Boston office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Professor Heminway’s scholarship focuses on securities disclosure law and policy (especially under Rule 10b-5, including insider trading) and incorporated and unincorporated business associations law in the United States (including entrepreneurial and social enterprise governance and finance). She has authored numerous articles and book chapters in domestic and international publications and is a coauthor (with Douglas M. Branson, Mark J. Loewenstein, Marc I. Steinberg & Manning G. Warren, III) of a business law text, Business Enterprises: Legal Structures, Governance, and Policy (Carolina Academic Press, 4th Ed. 2020). In addition, her edited/coauthored book, Martha Stewart’s Legal Troubles (Carolina Academic Press), was released in 2007. Professor Heminway is a member of the American Law Institute and is licensed to practice in Tennessee (where she currently serves as a member and former Chair of the Business Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association) and Massachusetts (where she is inactive and served as Chair of the Corporate Law Committee of the Boston Bar Association).

David Adlerstein

David M. Adlerstein is counsel in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. His practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, capital-raising transactions, corporate governance, and other corporate and securities law matters, with a focus on financial institutions and technology transactions. Mr. Adlerstein has worked on a broad array of public and private company acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures (including numerous credit card programs), securities offerings, and corporate governance matters. He is a member of the Firm’s Crypto Team and frequently writes and speaks about blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts. He also provides counsel to several nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis.

Select recent representations include United Technologies in its separation into three independent public companies, Cardworks in its announced $2.65 billion sale to Ally Financial, and Capital One in its credit card program with Walmart and sale of its $17 billion mortgage portfolio.

Born in Cambridge, England, Mr. Adlerstein received a B.A. cum laude in Philosophy and History from Brandeis University in 1994 and an M.A. in European Politics from Lund University in Lund, Sweden in 1999. He received his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2002, where he was a notes editor of the Columbia Law Review and a three-time Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.

Before joining Wachtell Lipton as a corporate associate in 2005, Mr. Adlerstein was an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Before beginning his legal career, Mr. Adlerstein served as a sergeant in the Paratroopers Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces.

Mr. Adlerstein is a member of The Economic Club of New York and The Wall Street Blockchain Alliance and is Chair of the Financial Services Technology Joint Subcommittee of the ABA Business Law Section’s Commercial Finance Committee and Private Equity & Venture Capital Committee.

Stuart Russell

Stuart Russell is an attorney with Truliant Federal Credit Union, where he provides advice on a variety of regulatory, contractual, litigation, and business matters. Stuart has been practicing law since 2004 and has written articles for Bitcoin Magazine and Cointelegraph Magazine. Stuart also serves on the North Carolina Blockchain Initiative Task Force, which was originally formed in 2019 by North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and continues its work under North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson. Stuart is a graduate of Duke University and the Duke University School of Law.

Fiammetta Piazza

Fiammetta Piazza is an attorney in the Capital Markets and Commercial Lending practice group at Polsinelli LLP in Los Angeles. She focuses her practice on commercial lending, securitization, and other structured finance transactions. Fiammetta regularly represents commercial loan servicers in commercial mortgage-backed securitization transactions and post-securitization servicing matters involving securitized assets, as well as issuers and depositors in CMBS securitization transactions.  She is also involved in the firm’s FinTech group and has been researching and developing her expertise in blockchain and related matters since law school

Government Regulation &Blockchain: How Agencies are Tackling Blockchain, Crypto, and ESG; How In-House Advises and Assesses Corporate ESG Disclosures

This panel will look at regulatory and compliance issues that are implicated with ESG and blockchain. Panelists will discuss the past standards utilized to assess ESG data and also delineate how these mechanisms have evolved. Additionally, panelists will evaluate the current regulatory framework for ESG disclosures, corporate climate impact, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology.

With these considerations in mind, some questions our panelists will wrestle with include:

●      How are the SEC, CFTC, and other agencies regulating the reporting of ESG and use of blockchain technology?

●      What obstacles do you see in agencies being able to regulate ESG data, ESG disclosures, and blockchain technology?

●      How is ESG assessed internally and externally? What past mechanisms have been used to interpret ESG data?

The panel’s conversation will expand beyond this list of sample questions and include wholesome debate among the panelists and questions from our moderator, Professor Raina Haque.

Panelists will include:

William Pleasant

William Pleasant leads the corporate sustainability strategy practice for Bridge House Advisors, a full-service sustainability and environmental advisory firm. He has more than 25 years of experience as a sustainability professional, ethics and compliance officer, and business lawyer. Before joining Bridge House Advisors, William co-founded a sustainability advisory business focused on investment firms and their portfolio companies. He previously served as Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Ethics and Compliance Officer at CommScope, a global Fortune 500 company, where he led the ethics, compliance, and sustainability function. William has experience helping companies across a wide variety of industries develop and increase the maturity of their sustainability/ESG programs. William is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Gary DeWaal

Gary DeWaal brings substantial experience from both industry and government to his practice counseling clients on exchange-traded derivatives and crypto-assets. He advises a worldwide client base on transactional and regulatory matters relating to those and other complex financial products. Gary's clients benefit from his deep well of contacts and practical knowledge from his prior work with the world's largest exchange-traded derivatives broker and, before that, as a senior trial attorney with the Division of Enforcement at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Gary led the Katten team that resulted in two Bitcoin derivatives trading platforms obtaining among the first registrations with the CFTC as derivatives clearing organizations, and in one case also a swap execution facility and later a designated contract market. More recently, he has orchestrated settlements with the CFTC, the National Futures Association, and CME Group on behalf of clients that included reasonable terms and language under the circumstances, and in some cases, persuaded regulators not to commence enforcement actions at all. On an ongoing basis, Gary advises clients on complex proposed trading and operational issues involving exchange-traded derivatives.

Gary previously taught derivatives regulation as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School. He currently serves on the adjunct faculty of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School's New York City Program on Finance & Law. He regularly speaks internationally at financial services and crypto asset-themed conferences and is frequently quoted in international publications for his views on topical issues involving financial markets and crypto-assets.

Gary Storr

Currently, Gary is the General Manager of Trust Your Supplier, a revolutionary new supplier information management marketplace that connects business partners through a trusted, validated, blockchain-based network. In his role Gary is responsible for all business operations, overseeing commercial solutions, product vision and direction, roadmap execution, and portfolio strategy.

 Gary has nearly 30 years of corporate experience at all levels of Information Technology.   He’s held senior executive IT roles with responsibilities that include enterprise solution delivery, corporate infrastructure operations, global application development, professional services integration, and global business strategy.

 Before joining Chainyard, Gary served as Chief Information Officer for Nortel Networks.  During the multi-billion dollar company’s recent liquidation, Gary led strategic initiatives necessary for wind-down, including;  business optimization, custodial data analytics, IT divestiture planning & execution, corporate computing infrastructure virtualization, and business application rationalization.

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