World Class Faculty & Research / April 29, 2024

Anenson Recognized as a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher

T. Leigh Anenson
T. Leigh Anenson, a business law professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, was awarded the 2023 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award by the University of Maryland.

Since joining the Robert H. Smith School of Business faculty in 2007, T. Leigh Anenson has been honored with the Smith School Distinguished Teaching Award thirteen times along with the Krowe Award for Teaching Excellence. Now, she can add the 2023 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher (DST) Award to that list.

Sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and administered by the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, the University of Maryland award honors a small number of faculty members each year who have demonstrated notable success in scholarship and teaching. To celebrate the achievement, Anenson, a business law professor and former Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Business Ethics, Regulation, and Crime, delivered an April 4 talk entitled “The National Pension Crisis and the Constitution.”

During his opening remarks, John Bertot, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, noted Anenson’s international recognition and contributions to business law. In the classroom, “she has contributed significantly to the university’s learning environment, engaging students in the courses she teaches and through her mentorship.”

Cristian Dezső, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Logistics, Business and Public Policy department, who joined the Smith faculty alongside Anenson in 2007, acknowledged her stellar service to the university throughout that time. He also recognized her distinction by Poet & Quants as one of the top fifty undergraduate business professors in 2018 and her status as the current president of the Academy of Legal Business Studies.

“Since then, Leigh has been a superstar contributor to the department, the school and the university,” he said. “Aside from her stellar record in teaching and mentoring undergrads, she’s not only been recognized at the Smith School but also nationally [for her research].”

Anenson thanked the DST Committee and the Provost's Office for her selection, and the Smith School and her department for the nomination. She then discussed excerpts from her forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press, titled “The National Pension Crisis and the Constitution.” Her book encompasses 13 articles written in collaboration with fellow scholars over ten years on state and local government pension reform and the legality of these laws under U.S. and state constitutional Contract Clauses.

Anenson said there are about 5,000 different pension plans at the state and local levels across the United States, and many of them are in crisis with serious “legal, economic and social consequences.”

Even for those without pensions, Anenson said they might be impacted “because governments don’t have money on hand to put into the funds to make them solvent,” adding that to fix the plans, states will likely have to raise taxes. Given the frequent calls for a federal bailout, she advised that citizens of states where pensions are not in financial trouble could be affected.

The book also discusses how governments that modify pensions promised to employees, a move referred to as “pension reform,” are just “pension cuts.” Employees have responded to the cuts with lawsuits, according to Anenson. “So there are lots of legal grounds for these challenges, and what I found is that the Contract Clause is the most significant barrier to the reform.”

After explaining the many meanings of a pension contract arising from these new landmark cases and their implications for reform, she offered certain solutions to the problem. Reconciling employer and employee interests in providing an equilibrium between the over and under-protection of pension benefits, her suggestions assist courts in defining contracts, guide policymakers in making informed decisions, and help unify the law. Anenson concluded her talk with the warning that “winter is coming” for government pension plans but expressed hope that research in this area “will enrich our larger social understanding of what contract means and thereby what retirement security signifies in this ongoing age of austerity.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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