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.”
sec transparency: advisory committee on small and emerging companies January 17, 2013Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
The SEC has published draft recommendations from the advisory committee on small and emerging companies to be considered at a meeting on February 1. As with the investor advisory committee’s meeting tomorrow public comment is invited. But in this case the public can actually see in advance what the committee plans to discuss at the meeting. Some of the recommendations (addressed to Congress, rather than to the SEC) relate to conflict minerals:
Congress should not use the federal securities laws and the Commission’s disclosure requirements as a vehicle to further humanitarian, social or foreign policy objectives.
Meanwhile, this week the Derivatives Project took the opportunity to reiterate its September 2012 submission to the investor advisory committee (so far the only public statement posted since the announcement of tomorrow’s meeting).
efsa allows more transparency with respect to risk assessments January 14, 2013Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, has announced a major initiative to increase transparency with respect to risk assessment, making available on its website data on genetically modified (GM) maize NK603:
The project is part of EFSA’s continuing commitment to openness and addresses recommendations made by an independent evaluation report of the Authority’s performance to further enhance transparency in its decision-making processes. EFSA’s Science Strategy also highlights the importance of the Authority playing a leading role in making relevant scientific data more accessible to all interested parties.
high level experts agree on separation of trading from banking October 2, 2012Posted by Bradley in : financial regulation, transparency , add a comment
The Report of the High-level Expert Group on reforming the structure of the EU banking sector is out. The Report states:
We organised hearings with a large number of stakeholders who represented providers of banking services, consumers of such services, investors in banks, policymakers and academics. The Group has furthermore held a public consultation of stakeholders, the responses to which are published together with this report.
But the report does not give details of any of the hearings. And, as of this morning, responses to the Consultation are still not available at the consultation page, nor is there a link to responses from the press release. There is a long bibliography at the back of the Report and many citations to academic literature throughout.
Here’s the conclusion of the Report:
The Group´s conclusion is that it is necessary to require legal separation of certain particularly risky financial activities from deposit-taking banks within a banking group.
The central objectives of the separation are to make banking groups, especially their socially most vital parts (mainly deposit-taking and providing financial services to the non-financial sectors in the economy), safer and less connected to high-risk trading activities and to limit the implicit or explicit stake of taxpayer in the trading parts of banking groups. The Group’s recommendations regarding separation concern businesses which are considered to represent the riskiest parts of trading activities and where risk positions can change most rapidly.
There are five recommendations: separation of risky business from deposit-taking, a requirement for banks to have effective and realistic recovery and resolution plans, the use of designated bail-in instruments (to be held outside the banking system), more robust risk weights in the determination of minimum capital standards and more consistent treatment of risk in internal models, and corporate governance reforms. There’s some more detail in the report about how to ensure the insulation of the deposit-taking part of a bank from proprietary trading, but there are some questions. For example:
The use of derivatives for own asset and liability management purposes, as well as sales and purchases of assets to manage the assets in the liquidity portfolio, would also be permitted for deposit banks.
The authors of the report are limited in what they can recommend by the need to allow for the continued existence of universal banking in the EU, and by the idea that the proposals had to be sufficiently simple to be able to be implemented throughout the EU. The Group endorses the Commission’s European Banking Union proposals and states that its own proposals for the single market “can help the establishment of a banking union.”
It’s not clear what will happen to the recommendations. They aren’t evidently either very politically nuanced, or drafted with the sort of detail lawyers like (and we know how complicated the details of separating out proprietary trading from banking are in the US (the authors of the Liikanen Report seem to think the Volcker rules are in place as of July 2012 but if this is what they think they are mistaken)).
transparency defects can harm people September 22, 2012Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
I did everything a doctor is supposed to do. I read all the papers, I critically appraised them, I understood them, I discussed them with the patient and we made a decision together, based on the evidence. In the published data, reboxetine was a safe and effective drug. In reality, it was no better than a sugar pill and, worse, it does more harm than good. As a doctor, I did something that, on the balance of all the evidence, harmed my patient, simply because unflattering data was left unpublished.
imagining better transparency September 21, 2012Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
Corporate Europe Observatory critiques the EU’s policy processes in this video.
The video focuses on participation in expert groups, but there’s an imbalance in participation in later consultations also. Comments to the European Parliament’s consultation on market manipulation : lessons and reform post LIBOR/EURIBOR have been published here. As usual there are a large number of comments from trade associations and a small number from groups representing consumers.
There are some transparency issues (defects) with respect to the publication of these responses. There are three anonymous submissions. Although the GFMA seems to have tried to contribute to this consultation with its global principles document, which was addressed to Arlene McCarthy, the Committee’s rapporteur among others, and AFME clearly thinks the GFMA document was responsive to this consultation, the GFMA document does not appear in the list of comments. Also, the response of the Association of Foreign Banks states in answer to a number of the consultation questions “Please see our response to the UK Wheatley Review of LIBOR: initial discussion paper.” Presumably this was provided to the Committee, but it is not on the consultation page and is not accessible from the AFB’s website (which is generally opaque to non-members), or from the Wheatley Review web page which does not (yet?) show the comments made to that Review.
From the perspective of public transparency this isn’t ideal. In some ways I do have a preference for consultations where the full responses are published (if in fact they are), but this method of providing access to the comments does require a lot of time to wade through the responses. And this is made worse by the fact that some of the responses contain padding , are not precisely geared to this consultation (for example the response from Transparency International, although it does have some good stuff in it) or are designed not so much to provide information useful for the consultation as to create a good impression – pr rather than policy. But the fact of providing online access to comments does suggest that much more could be done. The consultation could link to the Transparency Register, and, in turn that Register could link to all representations the registered entities have made to EU institutions.
eu banking regulation August 28, 2012Posted by Bradley in : consultation, transparency , add a comment
As the Commission is soon to publish proposals for a European Banking Union, I notice that more than a month after I noted that the web page for the Consultation by the High-level Expert Group on Reforming the structure of the EU banking sector did not display any comments (and wondered where there had in fact been any) there are still no comments posted to the web page, nor any publication of the results of the consultation. But there were comments, for example from the Financial Services Users Group, from Finance Watch, from the CBI, from AFME, from the Swedish Bankers Association, from the European Association of Co-operative Banks, from Deloitte, from the European Banking Federation…… AIMA says its response “is for AIMA members only” (I guess they have no interest in regulatory transparency).
On Saturday it will be three months since the consultation ended. Some of the responding organizations will have shared their comments with each other and with their members and friends. Meanwhile, citizens have to search to find what they have been saying.
transparency? August 3, 2012Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
Transparency is complicated.. Two recent reports illustrate this.
An IMF paper on Key Trends in Implementation of the Fund’s Transparency Policy shows some disparities in publication of IMF documents. A smaller percentage of ROSCs are published than of other documents (61% in 2011), though a note explains that the ROSC category
Includes initial ROSC assessments and reassessments produced by the IMF, as well as the World Bank and, in the case of AML/CFT ROSCs, by FATF and FSRB, issued on a stand-alone basis or in FSSAs. Does not include assessments done under detailed standards assessments.
This isn’t terrbly clear. The document is not drafted to make it easy for readers to understand the data. This note implies that the initial assessments included in the total have an impact on the percentage publication rate. But is that a good or a bad thing from the perspective of transparency? There’s a table which shows the percentage of Article IV/UFR Staff Reports which are published with deletions (but there’s no information on how extensive the deletions are). The document lists those IMF Members which did not publish any Article IV/UFR Staff Reports in 2011 (Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan and Vietnam).
The UK Parliament’s House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a report on Implementing the Transparency Agenda which states that more needs to be done to realize transparency. But the report notes that the Government does not understand the costs and benefits of transparency. And there are other criticisms:
It does not help government to meet the objectives of the transparency agenda when large quantities of raw data are released without ensuring that the data are fit for purpose. Some data are very difficult to interpret, such as on local government spending, and there are important gaps in information, such as incomplete price and performance information on adult social care. We are also concerned about some information not being presented on a consistent basis, again for example in local government.
Poor or incomplete data hinders the ability of users to exercise effective choice, for example on care providers. It also undermines the ability of service deliverers and policy makers to focus on improving quality.
The committee also suggests that there should be more information available about contracts whereby private entities agree to provide public services. And especially in the light of recent problems with GS4′s underprovision of security personnel for the Olympics, and questions about ATOS’ administration of disability assessments this seems like a good idea.
more on transparency (in the eu) June 25, 2012Posted by Bradley in : transparency , add a comment
I have an article coming out in the Fordham International Law Journal with the title Transparency and Financial Regulation in the European Union: Crisis and Complexity. It’s available from SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The Lisbon Treaty came into force in the European Union as the global financial crisis developed into a European sovereign debt crisis. Transparency is a component of accountability, and a means of addressing the EU’s democratic deficit. The Lisbon Treaty established a new commitment to transparency within the EU. However, urgency and complexity make transparency harder to achieve, and the European Union has not achieved transparency with respect to urgent matters such as the financial and sovereign debt crises and complex issues such as financial regulation. The EU has made significant structural changes to financial regulation, and the increasing institutional complexity of the EU means that sources of information about the EU’s policies have increased in number, adding to problems of information overload. In response to the financial crisis the EU has introduced many new rules of financial regulation. At the same time, although multilingualism is a core feature of the EU, the EU’s new financial authorities issue technical consultations only in English. Because the EU has committed itself to transparency in the Treaties the EU’s institutions must work to increase citizens’ ability to navigate the information which is available to them. And the EU’s institutions should do more to increase access to information about the development of EU policy, by implementing the EU commitment to multilingualism more effectively, and by not allowing crises and technical matters to divert them from the imperatives of transparency.
consultation: public libraries? June 22, 2012Posted by Bradley in : consultation, transparency , add a comment
The Manchester Central Library’s website describes the library as “[o]ne of Manchester’s most famous and best-loved landmarks”. But the library is now being criticized for a programme of book-pulping which has been going on for some time and seems to be related to the renovation of the library buildings (“designed to give the city a flagship library of which it can be proud”). The library’s description of its policy (accessible here) is not very informative. A letter criticizing the pulping policy complains of a lack of transparency and argues that subject specialists and the people of Manchester should have been consulted. The letter thus advocates two seemingly rather distinct ideas of consultation, although expert and citizen consultation are often lumped together. The argument for consulting citizens is rather eloquent:
The books at central library are not owned by the council; they are owned by the people of Manchester. It is they, not politicians and bureaucrats, who need to have a say in what happens to this valuable Mancunian treasure.