September 11 and September 18, 2020
1 - 5 P.M. each day
Hosted virtually via Zoom

When private companies perform governmental functions and governments own companies, which acts should be attributed to the state? Which should be attributed to the corporation? And whose religious beliefs, speech rights, and moral standing can those entities claim?

In international law, scholars and practitioners struggle to attribute rights and responsibilities between state and private entities in areas as diverse as military contracting, environmental accountability, human rights, international investment, and cyber espionage and warfare. In the corporate governance realm, attributing responsibility to entities is increasingly challenging in the context of globally dispersed corporate families with intricate parent-subsidiary structures; identity attribution has also produced headlining debates.

While attribution questions fuel important conversations in both corporate and international law, the two literatures are not often in conversation. Questions of attribution in both domains nevertheless are becoming more complex and urgent, and the fields increasingly intersect: In some areas of law, attribution doctrines must determine the dividing line between states and firms. Doctrines of attribution construct the public domain, and thereby also the private. Attribution questions in both domains reinvigorate classic inquiries about the nature of a corporation, the relationship between private entities and the state, and the proper function of the law in mediating between the two.

This conference will draw together corporate and international legal scholars, as well as thinkers outside the law, in order to cross-pollinate these two fields and the questions at their intersection, and to unearth promising theoretical tools. It will consider theoretical and doctrinal approaches to attribution, potential consequences of these approaches, and whether they may reconcile the ambiguities and deficiencies that drive current debates. The project aims to offer a new point of entry to enduring theoretical and doctrinal questions about the nature of corporations, of states, and of the relationship between them. It is particularly relevant at a time where corporations are "jurisdictionally ambiguous and spatially diffuse," states are deferential, dependent or outflanked, and multilateralism is at an ebb.

The virtual forum is organized by Allen Post Professor Melissa J. ("MJ") Durkee, and co-sponsored by the American Society of International Law; the Society's Interest Group on International Legal Theory; and the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law.


Friday, September 11 - Identity & Responsibility Under International Law

  • 1:00-1:10 EST - Welcome and Introduction
    • MJ Durkee
  • 1:10-2:10 EST -- First session
    • Doreen Lustig - The Firm and the State in Historic Context
    • Kristen Boon - The Classic Control Tests
  • 2:10-2:25 EST - Brief break
  • 2:25-3:40 EST - Second session
    • Ingrid Wuerth - Identity Under Conditions of Common Ownership
    • Mikko Rajavuori - Regulating State-Owned Entities
    • James Gathii & Olabisi Akinkugbe - Attributing Illicit Financial Flows
  • 3:40-3:55 EST - Brief break
  • 3:55-4:55 EST -- Third session
    • Laura Dickinson - Attribution and Military Contracting
    • William Banks - Cyber Attribution

Friday, September 18 - Identity & Responsibility Beyond International Law

  • 1:00-1:05 EST - Welcome and Introduction
    • MJ Durkee
  • 1:05-2:05 EST - First session
    • Dalia Polombo - The Agency Gap in Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Kish Parella - Reputational Attribution
  • 2:05-2:15 EST - Brief break
  • 2:15-3:45 EST - Second session
    • Catherine Hardee - Moral Attribution: Who Is a Corporation?
    • Benjamin Edwards - Mental State Attribution
    • Sarah Haan - Speech Attribution
  • 3:45-4:00 EST - Brief break
  • 4:00-5:00 EST - Third session
    • David Ciepley, The Firm and the State in Contemporary Context
    • Joshua Barkan, The Fictions of Corporate Personhood

The event can accommodate a limited number of additional attendees. If interested, please email and note which session(s) you would like to join.


Olabisi Akinkugbe, Assistant Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University

William C. Banks, Board of Advisors Distinguished Professor, Syracuse University College of Law

Joshua Barkan, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Georgia

Kristen Boon, Miriam T. Rooney Professor of Law, Seton Hall School of Law

David Ciepley, Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Laura Dickinson, Oswald Symister Colclough Research Professor of Law, George Washington School of Law

Melissa J. Durkee, Allen Post Professor, University of Georgia School of Law

Benjamin Edwards, Associate Professor of Law, UNLV School of Law

James Gathii, Wing-Tat Lee Chair in International Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Sarah Haan, Professor of Law, Washington and Lee School of Law

Catherine Hardee, Associate Professor of Law, California Western School of Law

Doreen Lustig, Associate Professor, Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law

Dalia Palombo, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen

Kish Parella, Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Mikko Rajavuori, Academy of Finland Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Eastern Finland Law School

Ingrid Wuerth, Helen Strong Curry Chair in International Law, Vanderbilt School of Law

Sponsored by:

The American Society of International Law International Legal Theory Interest Group
University of Georgia School of Law
Dean Rusk International Law Center


The University of Georgia School of Law is committed to providing reasonable access and accommodations for people with disabilities upon request. For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations, contact Casey Graham at or 706-542-5167 at least three business days prior to the event.