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eu jurisprudence problem March 30, 2009

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The House of Lords’ European Union Committee raises some perplexing jurisprudential issues in its recent report: The United Kingdom opt-in: problems with amendment and codification. Where the UK is not automatically bound by an EU directive, but decides to opt in, what happens if the EU institutions decide to amend or even repeal the original instrument? Do repealed EU measures cease to exist, or can they retain some life in Member States where they have been implemented? The Committee wrote:

In our view, where the United Kingdom has opted in to a measure but does not opt in to a subsequent measure which purports to repeal and replace it, there is at the very least some doubt as to whether the repeal of the initial measure will be effective in the United Kingdom, or whether the initial measure will continue to apply here, even though only the subsequent measure will apply in other Member States.

eu parliament election publicity March 24, 2009

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Here is an example of one of the postcards which is part of a package of materials to motivate people to vote in the election:


I think this post complies with the conditions of use, which include this provision limiting authorization of use:

such use is in no way associated with data or information that is of a racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, revisionist, defamatory, insulting, obscene, pornographic or paedophile nature or tending to incite violence, especially racial violence; likely by its vary nature to undermine respect for the dignity of the human being, equal rights of women and men and the protection of children and adolescents; inviting minors to commit illicit or dangerous acts; encouraging others to commit crimes or offences or to consume prohibited substances; inciting suicide; inciting discrimination or hatred of a person or a group of persons on grounds of their origin, membership or nonmembership of an ethnic group, a nation, a group, or a specific race or religion; excusing certain crimes (in particular, murder, rape, war crimes and crimes against humanity); contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality;

stoneridge critique March 20, 2009

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When even judges seem to be analogising claims about lawyers’ alleged acts in supporting frauds to hits by the Mafia, we’re in trouble (In re Refco Securities Litigation, SDNY, Mar. 17, 2009, footnote 15).

regulatory wish lists March 20, 2009

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The Turner Review was published by the FSA this week (along with a discussion paper on banking regulation). It makes for interesting reading. In contrast to many of the recent reports on what went wrong, the Turner Review explicitly raises some big questions about regulation. One of these is about how regulators should deal with irrational behaviour in the financial markets. For example:

the acceptance that financial markets are inherently susceptible to irrational momentum effects does imply that regulatory approaches should be based on striking a balance between the benefits of market completion and market liquidity and the potential disadvantages which may arise from inherent instabilities in liquid markets.

In other ways the report retreads old ground. Although the crisis originated primarily in supposedly well-regulated jurisdictions, the report calls for global agreements on regulatory standards to cover offshore financial centres (and this appears as number 10 in a list of 32 items). As the UK has historically often behaved like an offshore jurisdiction it is a bit odd (although not surprising) to see this emphasis in a UK published report. The rationale for the emphasis on offshore centers is partly that hedge funds are often based in offshore jurisdictions and partly that if regulation is strengthened everywhere but in offshore jurisdictions there could be opportunities for undesirable regulatory arbitrage.

representations of women in the context of policy March 13, 2009

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For the last couple of days or so the top item in the “In the Spotlight” section of the English Language version of the Europa front page has been Poll backs more women in politics but no quotas: tell us your views. The story links to the Parliament’s website.

Immediately to the left of this item is the following picture, apparently of women cheering or dancing:

women dancing

The story reports the results of a poll which showed that over two thirds of those polled thought that politics was male dominated, and that:

women are more concerned than men about the economic situation, risks of globalisation and its likely impact of the euro. Women also want the EP to push for time spent looking after children at home to be counted towards pension entitlements

However, although the story isn’t very positive, the same image appears on the Parliament’s website with the following text underneath:

28% of women polled said they would vote in the June European elections.

Note that this says 28% would vote not that only 28% planned to vote. Perhaps the women in the picture are really throwing up their hands in horror?

[March 16th: I had to edit this post after the link to the picture of women turned into a link to a picture of a tractor which went with a story about simplification of the CAP – apparently not an issue women get excited about.]

moral hazard and deposit insurance March 12, 2009

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The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the International Association of Deposit Insurers today published a Consultative Document on Core Principles for Effective Deposit Insurance Systems (comments due May 15). Unsurprisingly, it seems that deposit insurers aren’t completely happy about the ways in which recent events have transformed deposit insurance systems. For example, Principle 10 reads:

Transitioning from a blanket guarantee to a limited coverage deposit insurance system: When a country decides to transition from a blanket guarantee to a limited coverage deposit insurance system, or to change a given blanket guarantee, the transition should be as rapid as a country’s circumstances permit. Blanket guarantees can have a number of adverse effects if retained too long, notably moral hazard. Policymakers should pay particular attention to public attitudes and expectations during the transition period.

what's in a name? March 3, 2009

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Whereas the SEC has Edgar (the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system), the FSA now has Gabriel (GAthering Better Regulatory Information Electronically).

Behind the Name says that Edgar is:

Derived from the Old English elements ead “rich, blessed” and gar “spear”. This was the name of a 10th-century English king who is regarded as a saint. The name did not survive long after the Norman conquest, but it was revived in the 18th century, in part due to a character by this name in Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘The Bride of Lammermoor’ (1819).

Gabriel is:

From the Hebrew name גַבְרִיאֵל (Gavri’el) meaning “strong man of God”. Gabriel was one of the seven archangels in Hebrew tradition. He appears in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, where he serves as the announcer of the births of John to Zechariah and Jesus to Mary. According to Islamic tradition he was the angel who dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad.

I imagine the religious connotations were more obvious to those at the FSA who chose their name than was the case for the SEC. But just because the SEC chose a boy’s name for its data gathering system surely doesn’t mean that they are supposed to be named after boys? And does naming your system after an Archangel suggest it is in some way better than the SEC’s system?

trust and individual (ir)responsibility March 2, 2009

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I can’t help thinking that the big loss of trust which has hit the financial markets is related to lots of small recurrent losses of trust in all areas of life. Paul Krugman writes that:

you could say that American bankers, empowered by a quarter-century of deregulatory zeal, led the world in finding sophisticated ways to enrich themselves by hiding risk and fooling investors

There even seems to have been cheating in the UK’s University Challenge. Even though he had already graduated (and was therefore not at the time studying chemistry, but working for PriceWaterhoouseCoopers, one of the members of the winning team (from Oxford) apparently introduced himself as:

Sam Kay from Frimley in Surrey and I’m studying chemistry

Comments on the story posted to a BBC web page suggest that there is an inherent timing problem because it takes a long time to get from the initial audition to the final round of the competition, but it does seem that at some points when he said he was studying chemistry, Mr Kay was in fact working for an accounting firm.

(Update: The BBC disqualified the team).