Canadian Lawyer

September 2019

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 15 of 55

OPINION LEGAL ETHICS 16 AN ARTICLE in the New York Times caught my eye. It was a story about JAB Holding, a German private company worth more than US$20 billion (its best known brands are Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Pret A Manger and Keurig). JAB Holding is controlled by the Reimanns, one of Germany's wealthiest families. When the Nazis were in power, Albert Reimann Jr. was in charge of the family busi- ness. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Adolf Hitler and a practitioner of Nazi race theory. Peter Harf is the current chairman of JAB Holding. He acknowledges and profoundly regrets his company's sordid past. Interviewed for the New York Times article, reflecting on JAB's dubious history, Harf said capitalism could not be value neutral. Businesses, he said, do not operate in a value-free space. When business leaders make decisions, Harf said, they must ask, "What does this mean for our children?" He's right. Business leaders should worry about the fate of our descendants, for they control much of that fate. Concern for future generations will often demand the values and needs of society take precedence over business profits. This is particularly so in climate change, which has has recently been widely recharacterized as a "climate emergency" in recognition of the existential threat it presents. Only ideological outliers and deluded cranks deny this threat exists. The scientific evidence is overwhelming, and the world is already experiencing indications of the destruction we can expect if little or nothing is done. But not all business leaders and companies embrace this truth. What about those who show no concern for future generations, who do not ask, "What does this mean for our children?" What about lawyers who advise these insouciant business leaders and companies? Should a lawyer work for a company whose business clearly damages the environment — e.g., a coal mining company? Should a lawyer participate in a transaction they know will worsen the climate emergency? (I recognize that sometimes the effect on the environment of a particular business or The fate of our descendants Lawyers should avoid enabling harm to future generations but can also offer a vigorous defence for those who do transaction may not be clear, but often it is.) These questions are one expression of the legal profession's most important ethical issue. Should legal practice be value free? Should legal expertise be available to the wicked, the destructive, the dangerous, those who care not a whit for the general well-being, who are indifferent to society's basic values? Is representation of such people an essential ingredient of a free and fair society? Or does it

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