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seals 2009 July 19, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : events , comments closed

I’m going to the SEALS conference in Palm Beach this year. I have written a very short paper on governmental market manipulation for this conference.

eu financial regulation in english July 17, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : translation , comments closed

More recent EU policy-making in English: this week’s proposed amendments to capital requirements are available in English (only), with translations of the citizens’ summaries. The citizens’ summaries are pretty basic. For example, they have a section on who will benefit and how which states under the heading financial system, “more stable” and “climate of confidence on the market”. The consultations which preceded this proposal were also carried out in English and, according to the proposal, produced limited numbers of responses (18 on trading book and securitization provisions and 23 on remuneration). The Commission doesn’t seem to be publishing the text of these responses, although it did publish the text of responses to earlier consultations on regulatory capital.

eu funding for consumer organizations July 9, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : consumers , comments closed

The EU’s Executive Agency for Health and Consumers (EAHC) has issued a call for applications for funding for consumer organizations:

Financial support may be awarded towards the functioning of two types of European organisations:
- those which have as their primary objectives and activities the promotion and protection of the health, safety and economic interests of consumers in the Community…
- those which have as their primary objectives and activities to represent consumer interests in the standardisation process at Community level…

uk financial regulation (building britain’s future) July 8, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : financial regulation , comments closed

As part of the ongoing restructuring of financial regulation, the Chancellor announced new proposals for changing financial regulation (the full document is here (with the Building Britain’s Future logo on the front)). The Chancellor wants:

better informed consumers, who have greater choices, in a more competitive market

In order to help consumers there’s a proposal to consolidate existing FSA resources to provide separate independent consumer education. It’s not clear exactly what this means. But it’s supposed to “empower” consumers. The full document says there is to be a national money guidance service (more of what is being done already, but there is a consultation in an annex to the document which asks for reactions) and that there are to be simple financial products available:

so that there is always an easy-to understand option for consumers who are not looking for potentially complex or
sophisticated products.

Of course this doesn’t guarantee that consumers will choose the simpler products (tellingly, in the consultation section there’s a question asking why some simpler products don’t sell well), or that they will be more suitable to any particular consumer than more complex products. And strikingly to someone based in the US, the section of the report dealing with remedies for consumers states:

The Government believes that the emphasis should remain on ensuring that firms compensate the consumer voluntarily.

There’s a lot more, including proposals for more effective (not better) regulation (in the report there are some references to the idea of better (in the sense of more effective) regulation), and a new proposal for a Council for Financial Stability – which will bring together the Bank of England, the FSA and the Treasury, with some references to governance arrangements (interesting in the light of the IMF’s recently published working paper on financial regulator governance arrangements). The FSA is to be given a new statutory duty to promote sound international regulation and supervision, and there’s a promise to propose to the G20 in the fall arrangements for workouts for large multinational banks.

befriending consumers July 3, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : consumers , comments closed

As people are finding it harder to be consumers, everyone wants to (seem to) be nice to them: the US Treasury published a bill to establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the UK published a Consumer White Paper (A Better Deal for Consumers), and the EU Commission published a Communication which adopted a “consumer enforcement package” to strengthen EU-wide enforcement of consumer rules. The FSA announced that the new Chairman of the Financial Services Consumer Panel is to be Adam Phillips, who has been the Vice Chair. The previous Chair, Lord Lipsey, apparently thought the Panel should be more aggressive than did others at the FSA. I’m not sure how much of a champion of consumer rights Adam Phillips is – he is in the business of market research after all – but the Panel has been quite active in the last 6 months or so (under Phillips’ leadership) and has pushed the FSA to take consumer interests seriously.

eurospeak July 1, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : language , comments closed

Most of the media response to the EU Commission’s announcement of a removal of some restrictions on shapes and sizes of various types of produce which can be sold in the EU focuses on how long it took for the Commission to see sense and how consumers will benefit from access to cheaper (though uglier) produce. But the words used to describe what can now be sold are interesting.

The Commission’s press release had the title: The return of the bendy cucumber: ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables back on sale from 1st July. The French equivalent for “wonky” in the press release is “hors normes”.

EUobserver picks up the terminology of the Commission in its headline on the story: Wonky fruit to return to EU shops. The BBC reports the story briefly using wonky in single quotation marks, but other UK media and the Australian media leave them out.

We don’t know which version was the translation – the French term fits pretty well with the whole idea of non-conformity to standards whereas the English, slangier, term suggests not just non-conformity, but oddness or weirdness or even, according to urban dictionary, not working. So, was the use of the English slang expression tactical, designed to resonate with media which are often critical of the EU and gain publicity for eliminating red tape? Perhaps there was a bit more play for the story in English language media than in francophone media where there were some stories but perhaps not as many. But the reactions in English language media were perhaps more mixed than the Commission might have hoped. The Times Online says:

Brussels has for years complained of “Euro myths” over bans on climbing ladders, playing pub darts or drinking shandy. But even the barmiest of bureaucrats was forced to accept that its Byzantine rulebook for fruit and veg required revision.