[caption id="attachment_216164" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Justin Klein, of Ballard Spahr, has been named the new director for the University of Delaware's Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance. | PHOTO COURTESY OF KATHY J. ATKINSON/UD[/caption]
NEWARK – Veteran securities lawyer Justin Klein, of Ballard Spahr, was recently named the new director of the University of Delaware's Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance, a key institution for policy study and discussion of corporate law in America.The 21-year-old center, which operates under the Lerner College of Business & Economics umbrella, had been without a permanent director for about a year since founding director and university finance professor Charles Elson stepped down from the role.An eight-member search committee of advisors and faculty, chaired by Lerner's Finance Department Chair Laura Field, who served as interim director after Elson's departure, ultimately chose Klein, who has been a Weinberg Center Advisory Board member since 2015. He took over the lead role effective Sept. 20.Klein was a Philadelphia-based partner at Ballard Spahr LLC, an AmLaw 100 firm, for 27 years, representing public and private companies and their boards and board committees in a variety of transactions, including securities offerings and mergers and acquisitions. He dialed back his practice in 2019 but continues to serve as a senior counsel at the firm.“When the position of director became open it was not something that was on my radar screen and some advisory board members asked whether I would consider it. I decided it would be fun to consider at this time in my career, but it was important to me to be able to stay affiliated with Ballard,” he told Delaware Business Times.Having known Elson for years throughout the industry and Weinberg Center Associate Director Ann Mule and Research and Marketing Advisor Louisa Kresson from their time as counselors at Sunoco, Klein said he knew that he was inheriting a well-run operation. “I think the compass of the Weinberg Center really is to provide a neutral forum for discussion of serious corporate governance issues,” he said of his approach to the role.With discussion of environmental, social and governance issues, or ESG, heating up in many boardrooms in recent years, the Weinberg Center will have no shortage of issues to explore, Klein added.“Essentially, the Weinberg Center is the G of ESG, but I also think the E and the S are real governance issues too,” he said, noting that the issue is driven by the White House, Congress, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), states, the industry, and advocates. “I think it's an obvious area to make sure that the constituencies that we serve are aware of those trends.”As director, Klein will also reprise a familiar role as fundraiser for the Weinberg Center. For many years, he chaired the board of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, an outdoor amphitheater in Philadelphia. He managed that venue’s fundraising through the fallout of the 2008-09 Great Recession.“It was quite a challenge, but I can tell you with some certainty that the Mann Center is in fine standing and putting on performances,” he said.Klein said that he expects the Weinberg Center to offer several virtual events over the next six months with the hope that in-person events would return next year. The center has long hosted federal officials and leading corporate practitioners to roundtables at the Newark campus.As the alma mater for President Joe Biden, Klein said that he would welcome visits from current administration officials to weigh in on policy trends.“The president is very vocal on climate change and that, from an ESG disclosure point of view, is something that is a focus of the Weinberg Center,” he added.It was a securities law course at George Washington University Law School that initially got Klein into his career-long field of expertise.“I thought that the cases were really, really fascinating, just in terms of how things other than stocks and bonds could be treated and regarded as securities depending upon how they were packaged and sold,” he recalled.After graduating he would go to work at the SEC for nine years, starting as a branch chief in the Division of Market Regulation regulating broker dealers, becoming the first head of the Office of Consumer Affairs, and finally ending as assistant director of the all-important Division of Corporation Finance.Klein parlayed that experience into private practice in the 1980s, starting at Philadelphia firm Dilworth Paxton before moving to his longtime home at Ballard Spahr.“I think that having an understanding of the way in which the SEC works, both on the corporate finance side and somewhat on the enforcement side, is really pretty helpful as a private practitioner,” he said.