Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Delaware Court of Chancery

Many people are aware that Delaware is a very popular place to to incorporate, with Delaware's Division bragging that 63% of the Fortune 500 are incorporated in Delaware.

Less commonly known, perhaps, is that Delaware retains a court of "equity". I read through Quillen and Hanrahan's (1992) A Short History of the Delaware Court of Chancery. They describe it as such:

The role of procedural and doctrinal inflexibility in the decline of England's Chancery Court contrasts with the determination of Delaware's Chancellors over two centuries to eschew broad rules in favor of specific holdings and carefully crafted remedies that address the particular circumstances of the case at hand. The secret of Delaware equity rests in two old concepts, both English in origin. First, equity is a moral sense of fairness based on conscience.(8) Second, equity is the recognition that the universal rule cannot always be justly applied to the special case.(9) Equity is the flexible application of broad moral principles (maxims) to fact specific situations for the sake of justice. Delaware has preserved the essence.(10)

Moral maxims and fairness based on concepts? Such an idea must sound quaint to most lawyers and particularly to legal positivists. And it seems somewhat ironic that corporations would choose to be located so near to such an ambiguous concept.

After reading the article, I can't say that it really seems that Court of Chancery has been revolutionary in applying moral principles. Certainly I haven't heard of its involvement in remedies for the frauds of the mortgage crisis. There was some mention that it had done some work to protect minority shareholders, although I'm a bit skeptical. It is noteworthy that it was a decision from it that was affirmed in Brown v. Board of Education (while other lower court decisions were involved, apparently the Chancery's was the one affirmed).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stage hypnotist Doug MacCraw

I'm skeptical but open-minded about most things, but when it came to hypnotism I was mostly skeptical. I figured it could have minor effects, but that anyone hypnotized could quickly break out of it. I got back from a vacation a couple weeks ago, and there was a "stage hypnotism" show by Doug MacCraw. You can see a bit of what it was like in this Youtube video. I also found an interview with Doug over at The Daily Orange. He says he "bores people into hypnosis". However he does it, I'd like to learn. He mentioned at the end that the medical applications of hypnosis are underrated, which, if that show is any indication, seems likely.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

TaxAct: best alternative to Turbo Tax?

I did my taxes the other night. At first, I used the Free Fillable Forms like I'd used last year - it is supposed to be the most basic "do-it-yourself" online method, similar to just filing electronically with the IRS. But it's not the same. It's run by a third-party (a tax accountant trade group), and it's crippled for that reason (see this interesting Fatwallet discussion). I quit when I found out that I wouldn't be able to import my capital gains but I would have to do them manually. Since my broker gives me free access to Gainskeeper, which automatically creates the capital gains information, I wasn't going to do it manually (it's only about a dozen trades).

The next thing I tried was "Complete Tax from E-Smart" (, which was a mistake - minor issues in how it accepted my input led me to skip past that. I glanced at Turbo Tax, but I try to avoid the market leader in many cases to stimulate competition - and it is obvious that Turbo Tax was using its position to impose higher costs, since it was charging me $50 for my return. I then tried H&R Block, although the company's legion of tax employees makes me wary that they would produce a crippled product - and it also required manual entry for capital gains.

I settled on TaxAct. To avoid manual entry of capital gains, I had to pay $10, and they also charged me $5 to save a backup copy, but that's a far cry from $50. I was satisfied with its interface, although I actually had to load up IE to import my .csv file with the capital gains.