Auckland lawyer Johanna McDavitt has been awarded the 2017 New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarship.
The scholarship honours New Zealand's first woman lawyer, who was admitted to the bar on 10 May 1897. It is awarded annually to outstanding New Zealand women law graduates for post-graduate study. The award is worth up to $50,000.
Johanna studied at Victoria University and graduated with LLB(Hons) with first class honours and a BA in international relations. She completed her studies in 2013. She was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court in December 2014 and is a solicitor in the competition and regulatory team at Simpson Grierson in Auckland.
She plans to study towards an LLM at Harvard University. The focus of her study will be on antitrust (competition) law and financial markets regulation. In particular, she will write a research paper examining New Zealand's civil pecuniary penalties regime, which allows the courts to impose civil penalties for conduct that in many countries is dealt with as a criminal offence (for example, cartel conduct, market manipulation and insider trading).
“The stability and continued growth of New Zealand’s economy depends on a regulatory regime that encourages innovation and competition, while at the same time deters conduct that is anti-competitive or that may destabilise financial markets," she says.
"The penalty regime is an important part of achieving this delicate balance. My research will consider whether the level and nature of penalties imposed in the New Zealand regime is effective at deterring illicit conduct, without deterring legitimate business conduct; and whether regulatory defendants receive appropriate protection from the coercive powers of regulators.”