New Faculty Member Quinn Curtis Focuses on Consumer Financial Markets

May 31, 2011

Quinn Curtis, a Yale law graduate and Ph.D. candidate who focuses on consumer financial markets, will join the University of Virginia law faculty starting this summer.

Quinn Curtis

"Quinn Curtis is an outstanding addition to our law and economics faculty," said Professor Rich Hynes, director of the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics. "Quinn has the legal knowledge and creativity needed to identify novel and important questions. He also has the empirical skills needed to answer them."

Curtis has tackled topics such as the variability of foreclosure procedures across different states, corporate litigation, and, in two papers co-authored with Associate Professor John Morley, the rights of mutual fund shareholders.

"For a lot of people, the main interfaces they're going to have with financial markets is saving for their retirement through their 401K and borrowing to purchase their home," Curtis said. "Those decisions and how skillfully people make them are going to have big consequences for the wealth people are going have when they retire."

Curtis said he entered Yale's Ph.D. program in finance at the start of his second year of law school, when the subprime mortgage market was beginning to collapse, which contributed to his interest in the field of consumer-facing financial markets.

"At the end of the day, a lot of these subprime loans made to vulnerable borrowers were being funded by money coming from hedge funds and investment banks," he said. "I was attracted to that tension between the really different levels of sophistication."

"I also like the fact that these are markets that most people are familiar with and that a very large portion of the population can participate in over their lifetime. That means there's a lot of opportunity to improve outcomes for a lot people by changing the way these markets operate."

An Ohio native, Curtis earned his undergraduate degrees in physics and philosophy from Ohio State University before joining Microsoft as a software engineer. But after three years he decided to pursue his interest in academia through law school.

Even then I had in mind that I wanted to be a law professor," he said. I was attracted to the empirical way of things and I really liked economics as a way to understand the law."

Curtis' dissertation contains three essays, including one examining how more foreclosures happen in states where the practice is less costly to banks.

One really concrete takeaway is that when you're thinking about foreclosure law, you can't just think about how we do we expedite this process to turn the house over and get it off the banks' books, you also have to think about the incentives you're giving banks at the origination stage," he said.

Curtis and Morley recently posted a paper on mutual fund fee litigation on SSRN.

"We found that the funds being sued often have moderate or even low fees," Curtis said. "We cast some doubt on how effectively this type of litigation is operating. We think that too many moderate and low-fee funds are being swept into these cases as defendants."

Curtis will start his teaching career at Virginia with Corporations and Real Estate Finance.

"Everyone just seems great and I'm really excited to work with the students," Curtis said. Charlottesville is lovely. I can't wait to get there and start working with all the great people."

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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