lough erne declaration June 18, 2013Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
The G8 made a declaration about tax transparency and trade. In addition to a number of statements about improving the ability of governments to impose and collect taxes, the declaration states:
Private enterprise drives growth, reduces poverty, and creates jobs and prosperity for people around the world. Governments have a special responsibility to make proper rules and promote good governance. Fair taxes, increased transparency and open trade are vital drivers of this….
Governments should roll back protectionism and agree new trade deals that boost jobs and growth worldwide.
Governments should cut wasteful bureaucracy at borders and make it easier and quicker to move goods between developing countries.
Governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account.
This is a very limited version of what transparency might mean, and not nearly all of what citizens should be able to expect in order to hold governments to account.
announcement of eu-us trade negotiations June 17, 2013Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
Happened today. The Council of the EU approved the beginning of negotiations on Friday. Regulatory convergence is an important aspect of the proposed FTA, and, although SIFMA worried recently that financial services regulation wouldn’t be part of the negotiations, that doesn’t seem so clear. The EU Commission says it’s not just about regulation of goods:
The need for regulatory convergence is not limited to trade in goods. With regards to financial services, for instance, negotiations should consider creating common frameworks for prudential cooperation. Stakeholders on both sides have provided guidance on where the most significant barriers lie.
I have been examining the consultations that produced “stakeholder” comments. Unsurprisingly the “stakeholders” most concerned to comment in the lead-up to the decision to begin negotiations were businesses and trade associations. And the official narrative is relentlessly positive about the advantages of these negotiations and ignores the discomfort of a range of groups concerned with issues of privacy, extravagant IP protections, the lives of workers, and the environment.
english only financial regulation June 14, 2013Posted by Bradley in : multilingualism , add a comment
Yesterday the EU Ombudsman’s website published a Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 1363/2012/BEH against the European Banking Authority. A German citizen:
submitted a petition to the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament (henceforth the ‘Committee on Petitions’) concerning the use of official languages on the website of the European Banking Authority (‘EBA’). Specifically, he pointed out that, contrary to Article 73(1) of Regulation 1093/2010 in conjunction with Article 4 of Regulation 1/58, the EBA’s website provides information exclusively in the English language. The complainant considered this practice also to amount to an instance of language discrimination. He stated that this was particularly serious, considering that the EBA’s activities affect the entire EU, including European bank customers, who should be able to grasp EBA guidelines without facing any language barriers. The complainant asked the Committee on Petitions to prevail upon the EBA to comply with Article 73(1) of Regulation 1093/2010. Referring to Parliament’s role as legislator, he also suggested that the Committee include in its assessment the other “European supervisory authorities” likely to give rise to the same concerns.
The Ombudsman found no maladministration although the Decision states:
As far as the external communication of EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies with citizens is concerned, it has been the Ombudsman’s longstanding position that it would be ideal for the material intended for such purposes to be published in all official languages. This position is based on the rationale that, in order for such communication to be effective, it is necessary that citizens can understand the information provided to them…. transparency and accessibility have a very important role to play in building citizen trust in EU institutions, while also constituting essential parts of the citizens’ right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. It follows from the above that it is of paramount importance for citizens to be able to access information concerning the EBA’s work in a language they can understand.
However, the Ombudsman noted that the EBA had not been in existence for very long, that it had limited resources, and that it was making progress in translating documents. Nevertheless, the EBA’s Annual Report for 2012 is today published only in English. The announcement of the publication of the Annual Report states:
A separate publication summarising the key features of the 2012 Annual Report is also published and it will soon be available in all EU languages.
This doesn’t look like a real commitment to multilingualism: a multilingual summary of the real document will be provided to those who don’t read English – and are therefore not included in a real sense in debates about EU financial regulation.
fairness? transparency? June 14, 2013Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
The European Council’s press release about the forthcoming G8 summit states:
Promoting fairness and sustainable growth, jobs and development will be at the heart of the EU’s ambition for this G8 summit under UK with a special focus on the three T’s: trade, tax and transparency.
A quotation from José Manuael Barroso in the press release elucidates (?):
The European Union is coming to this G8 summit to promote global fairness: through unimpeded international trade as a vital engine for growth, jobs and development; by stepping up the global fight against tax evasion and avoidance, through automatic exchange of information; and through stronger transparency on revenue streams from extractive industries and forestry, on land governance and on government data.
I think they have a different understanding of fairness and transparency from mine, especially when it comes to the linkages between transparency and trade. A week ago the EU’s General Court held in Stichting Corporate Europe Observatory v Commission (Case T-93/11) that the Commission was entitled to respond to a request for access to documents by withholding documents relating to trade negotiations between the EU and India which were shared with trade associations which had participated in meetings as experts with respect to market access. Corporate Europe Observatory claimed:
that the documents at issue were sent, in full and without indication that they were in any way of a confidential nature, to trade associations with very large memberships and, therefore, to a very large, possibly indeterminate, number of persons, which effectively amounted to publishing or releasing those documents into the public domain.
The General Court adopted a rather formalistic approach. For example:
the Commission’s dissemination of the documents at issue cannot be regarded as having been intended to, and liable to, make those documents known to the public, that is to say, to an indeterminate group of persons, considered in general and in the abstract..Nor can the group of putative recipients of the documents requested, namely the members of the trade associations participating in the work of the advisory committee and of the working groups on market access, be treated as synonymous with the ‘public’. Those members also represent a specific group of persons defined according to a predetermined criterion, in this case membership of a trade association whose expertise is required in connection with the provision of assistance to the Commission for the purpose of deciding upon a strategy for access to the markets of a third State.
Not fair. Not transparent.
iosco investor education gateway June 4, 2013Posted by Bradley in : financial education , add a comment
Is here. IOSCO investor education materials are available via the gateway and there is a search function which provides some information about IOSCO members’ activities with respect to investor education and some links to their materials.
eu access to documents May 16, 2013Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
Advocate General Cruz Villalón opined today that the Court of Justice should follow the General Court’s judgment in Access Info Europe v Council: where the Council acts in its legislative capacity “the identity of the Member States submitting ‘amendments’ in a ‘legislative procedure’” does not “constitute information that may be refused under the exception provided for in Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001.” The Advocate General wrote:
‘Legislating’ is, by definition, a law-making activity that in a democratic society can only occur through the use of a procedure that is public in nature and, in that sense, ‘transparent’. Otherwise, it would not be possible to ascribe to ‘law’ the virtue of being the expression of the will of those that must obey it, which is the very foundation of its legitimacy as an indisputable edict. In a representative democracy, and this term must apply to the EU, it must be possible for citizens to find out about the legislative procedure, since if this were not so, citizens would be unable to hold their representatives politically accountable, as they must be by virtue of their electoral mandate…Inconvenient though transparency may be, when carrying out legislative as well as non-legislative functions, it must be said that it has never been claimed that democracy made legislation ‘easier’, if easy is taken to mean ‘hidden from public scrutiny’, as public scrutiny places serious constraints on those involved in legislating… to hide from public view the identity of those making the proposals being discussed during one of the stages in the legislative procedure is to deprive the citizen of an item of evidence that is necessary for the effective exercise of a fundamental democratic right, namely the ability effectively to hold politically accountable the participants in the process of shaping the public will into the form of a piece of legislation…. Democratic political debate involves, above all, accountability; and to have accountability it is essential to know the identity of those participating in the debate and, in particular, the terms on which they are doing so.
This is all good stuff, but he also makes some comments about the difference between EU states co-operating to legislate through the Council (where they are acting like a national legislature) and other circumstances where sovereign states negotiate and where a “mind-set of discretion and even secrecy… is justified.”
eu citizenship report 2013 May 8, 2013Posted by Bradley in : governance , add a comment
Bolstering EU citizens’ full participation in the democratic life of the EU, at all levels, is the very essence of EU citizenship.
How are they going to do this? The Commission is looking into barriers to voting (disenfranchisement when citizens leave their Member State of origin, lack of an EU right to vote in national elections in a host state). And it plans develop a European public space and to publish a handbook:
To raise awareness about EU citizenship and the concrete rights it confers to all EU citizens, in particular their electoral rights, and about the possibilities to participate in the decision-making process of the EU, the Commission will produce and promote the dissemination of a hand-book presenting in a clear, concise and readable way, the rights attached to EU citizenship. The handbook could be distributed by national authorities to every young EU citizen reaching voting age, but also on other occasions, such as the registration of new births, the issuing of passports, the acquisition of a Member State’s nationality,or as material to be included in school curricula, in particular on citizenship education.
That’s really likely to work.
eu citizen participation and the european ombudsman April 19, 2013Posted by Bradley in : eu , add a comment
On April 23 the European Ombudsman is organizing an event (focusing on solving the economic crisis and building a clean and healthy Europe) at the European Parliament:
to help focus on European citizens and how they can concretely contribute to shaping the European Union, either by using the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), by turning to the European Ombudsman, or by mobilising large groups of citizens to carry out grassroots initiatives.
The event will be streamed live.
strange wording of disclaimer on burford capital website April 18, 2013Posted by Bradley in : language , add a comment
The beginning of the disclaimer (a pop-up on the investor relations section of the website) reads:
Viewing the information contained on this site may not be lawful in certain jurisdictions. In certain jurisdictions only certain categories of person may be permitted to view this information. The information published or made available via this site is not intended to be published or made available in any jurisdiction where to do so would result in the breach of any applicable law or regulation in that jurisdiction or would subject the manager, adviser, distribution adviser, placing agent or broker to any registration or licensing requirement in that jurisdiction.
Surely what they mean to say is that making the information available may not be lawful. But this is written to suggest that reading it may not be lawful.
Meanwhile the annual report, which notes they had a “splendid year” is generally available.consultation , add a comment
Specifically, the SEC is requesting data and other information from the public and interested parties about the benefits and costs of the current standards of conduct for broker-dealers and investment advisers when providing advice to retail customers, as well as alternative approaches to the standards of conduct.
While the SEC is particularly interested in receiving empirical and quantitative data and other information, all interested parties are encouraged to submit comments, including qualitative and descriptive analysis of the benefits and costs of potential approaches and guidance.
The SEC recognizes that retail investors are unlikely to have significant empirical and quantitative information, and welcomes any information they would like to provide. Commenters should only submit information that they wish to make publicly available.