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jubilee May 30, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : britishness , add a comment

I’m not quite sure what I think of the monarchy, but this picture is very cute:

little girl wearing crown

(from Mark Easton’s blog at the BBC).

brussels “fact-finding” conference on financial conglomerates May 24, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : governance , add a comment

Is to take place on June 28:

The conference is an integral part of fact-finding on the regulatory framework applicable to financial conglomerates. It will allow for a wide public hearing devoted to the review of financial conglomerates’ legislative framework. It aims to contribute to a fundamental review of the objectives and features of the current Financial Conglomerates Directive (FICOD). Depending on the final outcome of the FICOD review, a proposal for an amendment of the FICOD directive might be tabled in 2013 with a view to further harmonising the definition of conglomerates, the scope of supplementary supervision and the powers available to supervisory authorities.
Speakers will represent, among others, the international supervisory community from G20 and EU countries, expert lawyers in the financial sector and of course the conglomerates themselves.

Of course.

The system for registration suggests there will be some selectivity:

If you would like to attend the conference, please complete the on-line questionnaire.
You will receive a computer-generated acknowledgement immediately after you have completed the on-line questionnaire and, at a later date, those selected will receive an invitation to participate by email.

prayers at town meetings May 17, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : governance , add a comment

Much attention has been focused recently on the Greek state, and on the question of whether or when it will exit the euro area. The town of Greece in New York State has also been having some problems arising out of the fact that

Since 1999, the Town of Greece, New York, has begun its Town Board meetings with a short prayer.

Plaintiffs challenged the practice arguing a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Second Circuit found that the cases required an examination of the totality of the circumstances. The Court said:

In our view, whether a town’s prayer-selection process constitutes an establishment of religion depends on the extent to which the selection process results in a perspective that is substantially neutral amongst creeds. The town asserts, and there is no evidence to the contrary, that it would have accepted any and all volunteers who asked to give the prayer. But the town neither publicly solicited volunteers to deliver invocations nor informed members of the general public that volunteers would be considered or accepted, let alone welcomed, regardless of their religious beliefs or non-beliefs. Had the town publicly opened its prayer practice to volunteers in this way, its selection process could be defended more readily as random in the relevant sense…. we need not determine whether any single prayer at issue here suffices to give such an indication of establishment, since we find that on the totality of the circumstances presented the town’s prayer practice identified the town with Christianity in violation of the Establishment Clause

I recently noted an English decision that a town council did not have implied authority to have prayers as a formal part of council meetings. Clearly this is a complicated issue whether the state in question has an established religion (as England does – the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England) or not. The English judge seemed to prefer that prayers be separated from the formal part of council meetings whereas the Second Circuit requires complex balancing:

Ultimately, municipalities must consider their prayer practices in context and as a whole. A municipality must ask itself whether what it does, in context, reasonably can be seen as endorsing a particular faith or creed over others. That is the delicate balancing act required by the Establishment Clause and its jurisprudence.

fsa muscle-flexing: truthfulness matters May 16, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : lies , add a comment

In prohibiting Anthony Verrier from

performing any function in relation to any regulated activity carried on by any authorised or exempt person or exempt professional firm, because it appears to the FSA that Mr Verrier is not a fit and proper person due to concerns over his honesty, integrity and reputation

the FSA states:

In having regard to confidence in the UK’s financial industry, it is essential that confidence is maintained in the honesty, integrity and reputation of persons occupying senior positions within the management of UK authorised financial institutions.

The decision was based on findings (in the High Court and Court of Appeal) that Mr Verrier had engaged in a conspiracy to induce brokers at one form of inter-dealer brokers to move to another firm, breaching their contracts with the first firm. The judgments describe the conduct as illegal and as dishonest. In The Court of Appeal, for example, Lord Justice Maurice Kay described Mr Verrier as having the intention

to overstep legal boundaries to the extent necessary to achieve his conspiratorial aim

The FSA press release contains a quote from Tracy McDermott, the FSA’s acting director of enforcement and financial crime

One of our fundamental requirements for approved persons is that they must act with honesty and integrity. This is to ensure not only that their customers and clients are treated properly but also that the regulator can have trust and confidence in what we are being told about the way businesses are being run. In light of the High Court’s findings about Verrier’s conduct, we have concluded that he is not fit and proper to be in the UK financial services industry.

iosco money market fund consultation May 14, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment

At the end of last week three SEC Commissioners issued a statement that IOSCO’s recent consultation document on Money Market Funds had been issued without their agreement:

On April 27, 2012, IOSCO published the … Consultation Report without the concurrence of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the Commission).
We feel that it is important to state for the record that the Consultation Report does not reflect the views and input of a majority of the Commission. In fact, a majority of the Commission expressed its unequivocal view that the Commission’s representatives should oppose publication of the Consultation Report and that the Commission’s representatives should urge IOSCO to withdraw it for further consideration and revision. Accordingly, the Consultation Report cannot be considered to represent the views of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The statement is a little ambiguous as to whether the Commissioners are complaining that the SEC’s representatives who attended the IOSCO technical committee meeting which approved the issuance of the consultation document were not effective enough or that the other members of the committee did not pay enough attention to their views. And the statement is silent as to the substance of the disagreement with the consultation document. Presumably the couple of weeks between the publication of the consultation document and the statement was a period of lobbying for withdrawal of the consultation. IOSCO is supposed to operate through consensus, and does not explain the views of its members. Presumably the point of the public statement is to show that there was a lack of consensus about the document, making the document appear less legitimate. But IOSCO doesn’t operate according to clear public process standards anyway, and doesn’t publish minutes of meetings of its committees. And the document is after all merely a consultation document:

The objective of this consultation paper is to share with market participants IOSCO’s preliminary analysis regarding the possible risks MMFs may pose to systemic stability, as well as possible policy options to address these risks.

Making IOSCO look less legitimate may harm confidence in the transnational standards system. I’m not sure if that would be a good or a bad thing.

eu banking consultation May 9, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : consultation , add a comment

The “High Level Expert Group” on reforming the structure of the EU banking sector began a consultation nearly a week ago which has now hit the Commission’s “Your Voice in Europe” page. The closing date is June 1. The announcement states that:

We welcome contributions from citizens, organisations and public authorities.

But whereas the consultation document phrases the questions to banks and to corporate customers as direct questions to the entities themselves, the questions supposedly asked of retail customers are phrased rather differently. For example, one of the questions to corporate customers is:

What are the main banking services and products that you seek from your bank?

There is no such question for retail customers. The document asks corporate customers:

What are your views with respect to structural reform of banking in general and in particular with respect to the structural reform proposals to date (e.g. US Volcker Rule, UK ICB proposal)?

In the retail customers section of the document there is a similar question but it is drafted very differently:

What are the views of retail customers with respect to structural reform of banking in general and in particular with respect to the structural reform proposals to date (e.g. US Volcker Rule, UK ICB proposal)? What structural reforms would be desirable from their point of view?

Retail customers are not interrogated directly, others are to speak on their behalf. And the phrasing of the questions seems to imply that those who wish to speak on behalf of retail customers should only bother responding if they are able to speak about the views and situation of retail customers generally.

Perhaps we should have some low level expert groups on this sort of issue.

europe day: citizens’ initiative, citizens rights consultation May 9, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : consultation, governance , add a comment

As European citizens are grumbling about austerity measures, the Commission consults citizens on the issues that concern them:

In 2013, EU citizenship will celebrate its 20th birthday since its introduction with the entry into force of the Treaty of Maastricht. The European Commission wants to mark this occasion by further developing and strengthening the Citizens’ Agenda and making sure you can enjoy your EU rights in your daily life. The European Commission will present a new EU Citizenship Report in 2013 with further measures responding to issues raised by EU citizens. The Commission has also proposed to make 2013 the European Year of Citizens and intends to take a series of initiatives, putting the citizen at the heart of its action.
We want to hear from you!
Your contribution to the 2013 Citizenship Report is paramount. The European Commission would like to hear your views about the issues that concern you.
You can send us your views from 9 May until 9 September 2012. The Commission will prepare a consolidated and anonymous analysis of all responses to the questionnaire and publish it online.

And there’s an open citizens’ initiative: Fraternité 2020.

scottish referendum question May 8, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : consultation , add a comment

The Scottish Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament writes:

Based on the evidence, we have no choice but to conclude that the question:
Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?
is biased. Experts told us that this was a leading question, biased towards a ‘yes’ answer.