I've seen hard lobbying before, but this literal love letter from the Chamber of Commerce to the Trans-Pacific Partnership is pretty next level. The big finish:
I love your trade promotion authority as if she were my own family. I’m ready to adopt her today if that would fast-track me to your heart. I can’t wait to call you my own and make sweet sweet economic progress with you.
Please be mine. I will be yours.
The American Business Community
Over at Opinio Juris, the international law blog, they are marking their tenth anniversary with some ruminations about blogging and the blogosphere. See here, here, here, and here, and others thereabouts. Do go celebrate with them, contemplate law blogs more generally, and observe that they don't look one bit older than they did when they began their epic blogojourney. Congratulations, Opinio Juris!
The Basel committee enforces through peer pressure, rather than through resort to a formal dispute settlement process, and the peer pressure is increasingly institutionalized through IMF-like reviews of the implementation of Basel commitments. The US just had its review, and Basel just released the report.
The big problem with the US embrace of global rules has come through its treatment of securitizations. Perhaps most notably:
a number of divergences were identified that for some US core banks lead to materially lower securitisation RWA [risk-weighted assets, the stuff against which you have to hold capital] outcomes than the Basel standard. These differences are mainly related to the prohibition on the use of ratings in the US rules. Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the US rules cannot include provisions related to the Basel framework’s Ratings-Based Approach (RBA) for securitisations, so the rules provide alternative treatments.
The US is not Basel compliant because its regulators are explicitly not permitted to use a tool - credit ratings - that Basel requires. It looks like the committee may fix this not by forcing credit ratings down America's throat, but by coming up with some equivalence standard, which tells you that when Congress speaks clearly, global regulatory harmonizers must listen. Another admission of note:
In carrying out this review, the Committee's assessment team held discussions with senior officials and technical staff of the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The team also met with a select group of US banks.
This meet with regulated industry thing is one of the features of peer regulatory review, and it presumably gives industry yet another opportunity to make a case for its preferred version of regulation. But then, it is also a feature of international regulation, where the cross-border parties may sometimes also play roles as representatives of the domestically regulated.
In the American Journal of International Law, Dick Stewart has an excellent piece on Remedying Disregard In Global Regulatory Governance: Accountability, Participation, and Responsiveness. I've got a commentary on it over at AJIL Unbound. A taste:
It may also be the case that as these bodies weave increasingly elaborate cross-border regulatory webs, they have no choice but to resort to something that looks quite law-like. In financial regulation, I view global administration as a sort of administration that has increasingly adopted stable bedrock principles that would be familiar to any international economic lawyer; indeed, given the importance of the cross-border work done to oversee financial institutions, it would be surprising if a measure of consistently applied rules, reason-giving, and transparency were not adopted. The banks being supervised would certainly find it arbitrary if done differently.
Do give the rest a look.
I've been on a bit of an international and administrative law kick these days, but as always, the case study is financial regulation. If you're interested in Sovereignty Mismatch And The New Administrative Law, available from the Washington University Law Review and here, you know what to do. Here's the abstract:
In the United States, making international policymaking work with domestic administrative law poses one of the thorniest of modern legal problems — the problem of sovereignty mismatch. Purely domestic regulation, which is a bureaucratic exercise of sovereignty, cannot solve the most challenging issues that regulators now face, and so agencies have started cooperating with their foreign counterparts, which is a negotiated form of sovereignty. But the way they cooperate threatens to undermine all of the values that domestic administrative law, especially its American variant, stands for. International and domestic regulation differ in almost every important way: procedural requirements, substantive remits, method of legitimation, and even in basic policy goals. Even worse, the delegation of power away from the United States is something that our constitutional, international, and administrative law traditions all look upon with great suspicion. The resulting effort to merge international and domestic regulatory styles has been uneven at best. As the globalization of policymaking is the likely future of environmental, business conduct, and consumer protection regulation — and the new paradigm-setting present of financial regulation — the sovereignty mismatch problem must be addressed; this Article shows how Congress can do so.
Comments and concerns welcome.
I want to draw your attention to this, now out in the Cornell Law Review. As regular readers know, I do a great deal of research on the international regulatory networks that increasingly set the standards for financial and securities regulation. This paper is an effort to connect the shaky legitimacy of that sensible impulse to a stronger body of doctrine, and so it touches more on foreign relations and administrative law than on pure financial regulation - and it is co-authored with a foreign relations and international law expert, Jean Galbraith. You should download it. The abstract:
The United States increasingly relies on “soft law” and, in particular, on cooperation with foreign regulators to make domestic policy. The implementation of soft law at home is typically understood to depend on administrative law, as it is American agencies that implement the deals they conclude with their foreign counterparts. But that understanding has led courts and scholars to raise questions about whether soft law made abroad can possibly meet the doctrinal requirements of the domestic discipline. This Article proposes a new doctrinal understanding of soft law implementation. It argues that, properly understood, soft law implementation lies at the intersection of foreign relations law and administrative law. In light of the strong powers accorded to the executive under foreign relations law, this new understanding will strengthen the legitimacy and legality of soft law implementation and make it less subject to judicial challenge. Understanding that soft law is foreign relations law will further the domestic implementation of informal international agreements in areas as different as conflict diamonds, international financial regulation, and climate change.
Please don't hesitate to send along your comments, concerns, etc.....
I took a look at a panel at the American Society of International Law and wrote up some thoughts in an ASIL Cable. A taste:
The [UN Guiding] Principles [on Business and Human Rights] are an achievement and an agenda setter, but the text – that “states must protect against human rights abuse within their territory and/or jurisdiction by third parties, including business enterprises,” and that “business enterprises should respect human rights” – is hardly specific. And indeed, if a theme was running through the views of the panelists, it was that the guiding principles achieved progress as part of a palette of incentives. These could induce businesses to think about, say, resettlement practices where large public works and mineral extraction projects were being pursued, worker and other protections could be built into supply contracts to ensure that the groups most affected by large investments should be able to profit from those investments.
Do give it a look.
By now, the risk that a distressed European nation such as Greece might leave the Eurozone and thereby spark global economic calamity is well known. Regular readers of this blog may even privately relish the prominence of the issue. Not since the days of the gold standard has international monetary policy come so close to being a socially acceptable topic of dinner conversation.
As I noted in my first post, observers rightly perceive the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis to be driven by political and economic forces. But many consequences of a euro breakup would be determined by law, including sources of American (specifically New York) private law.
This is a complex issue. I try to address it more fully in a new article, "Boilerplate Shock," which I've just posted on SSRN.
In brief, and to continue picking on Greece, one key question in the event of a euro breakup would be: would a court recognize an attempt by Greece to convert its euro-denominated debt into its new currency, or would it instead insist that Greece pay in euros, the currency of contract? The answer is important because, as a practical matter, requiring payment in euro would be tantamount to forcing a default.
That's the familiar narrative, anyway. And I agree. But I believe that the ubiquity of boilerplate terms in these bonds—specifically, clauses selecting governing law (usually foreign) and currency of payment (euro)—is likely to make any dispute over redenomination even more damaging than this suggests.
In the article, I argue that the sparse literature on the question of redenominating sovereign bonds overlooks some sources—especially cases interpreting New York contract law and private international law—that, if extended to Eurozone sovereign bonds, could surprise the market and cause serious global repercussions. I argue that the reason for this is not only that the dominant view overlooks what are likely controlling sources of law. It is that standardization of contract terms across the Eurozone sovereign lending market makes the stakes of surprise that much higher.
If Greece's attempt to redenominate its bonds is declared a default, then the fact that the operative terms in Italian, Spanish, Irish, etc. sovereign bonds are the same or similar makes markets likely to demand unsustainable premiums from those countries. Capital and investor flight could be very rapid. We have seen several previews of this movie over the past few years in the Eurozone, and each time official-sector bailout institutions have saved the day. But the European Union/European Central Bank and IMF probably do not have the resources to stop a broad-based bank run of this nature, to say nothing of the political support necessary to attempt it.
Maybe none of that will happen. Nevertheless, the potential for uniform contract terms to create risk not just to individual third parties but to securities markets seems likely to grow at least as fast as those markets. Using Eurozone sovereign bonds as a case study, I introduce the term "boilerplate shock" to describe the potential for standardized contract terms—when they come to govern the entire market for a given security—to transform an isolated default on a single contract into a threat to the market of which it is a part, and, possibly, to the economy in general. My larger objective here is to foster a discussion of the potential for securities law and private-sector securities lawyers to manage (or alternatively, to contribute to) systemic risk.
I've posted an abstract below and will be returning to the subject. I look forward your comments.
Boilerplate Shock abstract:
No nation was spared in the recent global downturn, but several Eurozone countries arguably took the hardest punch, and they are still down. Doubts about the solvency of Greece, Spain, and some of their neighbors are making it more likely that the euro will break up. Observers fear a single departure and sovereign debt default might set off a “bank run” on the common European currency, with devastating regional and global consequences.
What mechanisms are available to address—or ideally, to prevent—such a disaster?
One unlikely candidate is boilerplate language in the contracts that govern sovereign bonds. As suggested by the term “boilerplate,” these are provisions that have not been given a great deal of thought. And yet they have the potential to be a powerful tool in confronting the threat of a global economic conflagration—or in fanning the flames.
Scholars currently believe that a country departing the Eurozone could convert its debt obligations to a new currency, thereby rendering its debt burden manageable and staving off default. However, this Article argues that these boilerplate terms—specifically, clauses specifying the law that governs the bond and the currency in which it will be paid—would likely prevent such a result. Instead, the courts most likely to interpret these terms would probably declare a departing country’s effort to repay a sovereign bond in its new currency a default.
A default would inflict damage far beyond the immediate parties. Not only would it surprise the market, it would be taken to predict the future of other struggling European countries’ debt obligations, because they are largely governed by the same boilerplate terms. The possibility of such a result therefore increases the risk that a single nation’s departure from the euro will bring down the currency and trigger a global meltdown.
To mitigate this risk, this Article proposes a new rule of contract interpretation that would allow a sovereign bond to be paid in the borrower’s new currency under certain circumstances. It also introduces the phrase “boilerplate shock” to describe the potential for standardized contract terms drafted by lawyers—when they come to dominate the entire market for a given security—to transform an isolated default on a single contract into a threat to the broader economy. Beyond the immediate crisis in the Eurozone, the Article urges scholars, policymakers, and practitioners to address the potential for boilerplate shock in securities markets to damage the global economy.
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Greetings, Glommers! (and hello, Janet and Mario*!)
It’s an honor to join this extremely sharp and thoughtful community of corporate and commercial law scholars for the next two weeks. The Conglomerate has long been one of my favorite law blogs and it’s truly a privilege to walk among these folks for a time (if a bit daunting to follow not just them but Urska Velikonja and her excellent guest posts). Thanks to Gordon, David, and their Glom partners for inviting me to contribute.
By way of biographical introduction, I’m currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where I teach International Business Transactions and International Commercial Arbitration. Last year, I did a VAP at Hofstra Law School (and taught Bus Orgs and Contracts).
In the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring a number of issues related to law and global finance. I have a particular interest in currencies and monetary law, or the law governing monetary policy. Two of my current projects (on which more soon) address legal aspects of critical macroeconomic policy questions that have emerged since 2008: U.S. monetary policy and the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Without further ado, I will take a page from Urska and kick off my residency here with a somewhat meta question: should scholars refrain from writing about legal issues in macroeconomics, specifically monetary policy?
One thinks of monetary policy decisions—whether or not to raise interest rates, purchase billions of dollars of securities on the secondary market ("quantitative easing"), devalue or change a currency—as fundamentally driven by political and economic factors, not law. And of course they are. But the law has a lot to say about them and their consequences, and legal scholarship has been pretty quiet on this.
Some concrete examples of the types of questions I’m talking about would be:
- Pursuant to its dual mandate (to maintain price stability and full employment), what kinds of measures can the Federal Reserve legally undertake for the purpose of promoting full employment? More generally, what are the Fed’s legal constraints?
- What recognition should American courts extend to an attempt by a departing Eurozone member state to redenominate its sovereign debt into a new currency?
When it comes to issues like these, it is probably even more true than usual that law defines the boundaries of policy. Legal constraints in the context of U.S. monetary policy appear fairly robust even in times of crisis. For example, policymakers themselves often cite law as a major constraint when speaking of the tools available to the Federal Reserve in combating unemployment and deflation post-2008. Leading economics commentators do too. Yet commentary on “Fed law” is grossly underdeveloped. With the exception of a handful of impressive works (e.g., by Colleen Baker and Peter Conti-Brown), legal academics have largely left commentary on the Fed and macroeconomics to the econ crowd.
A different sort of abstention characterizes legal scholarship on the euro crisis. Unlike the question of Fed power, there is a burgeoning literature on various “what-if” euro break-up scenarios. But this writing tends to focus on the impact on individual debtors and creditors, not on the cumulative impact on the global financial system. Again, the macro element is missing.
It is curious that so many legal scholars would voluntarily absent themselves from monetary policy debates. The subtext is that monetary policy questions are either normatively or descriptively beyond the realm of law. If that is scholars’ actual view, I think it is misguided. But maybe the silence is not as revealing as all that.
- One issue is sources. You will not find a lot of useful caselaw on the Fed’s mandate or the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and the relevant statutes and regulations are not very illuminating. Further, it’s a secretive institution and that makes any research (legal or otherwise) on its inner workings challenging.
- Another issue is focus. Arguably the natural home of legal scholarship on domestic monetary issues, for example, should be administrative law. But the admin scholarly gestalt is not generally as econ-centric as, say, securities law. Meanwhile, securities scholars tend to focus on microeconomic issues like management-shareholder dynamics.
- A final possibility, at least in the international realm, is historical. After World War II, Bretton Woods established a legal framework intended to minimize the chance that monetary policy would again be used as a weapon of war. The Bretton Woods system collapsed over forty years ago, the giants of international monetary law (Frederick Mann, Arthur Nussbaum) wrote (and died) during the twentieth century, and now even some of the leading scholars who followed in their footsteps have passed away. At the same time, capital now flows freely across borders and global financial regulation has become less legalized in general. These factors plus the decline of exchange-rate regulations (most countries let their currencies float) may have undermined scholars’ interest in monetary law. But as the ongoing euro saga demonstrates, international monetary law and institutions remain as critical as ever.
These are some possible explanations for why legal scholars have largely neglected questions of monetary law, but I’m sure I’ve overlooked others. What do you think?
*Pictured are Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi, chiefs, respectively, of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank.
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It is after the jump, and it is at Wharton in November....abstract deadline June 25, hope to see you there!
The American Society of International Law’s International Economic Law Interest Group (ASIL IEcLIG) is pleased to issue a Call for Proposals for its inaugural Junior Scholars Research Forum, to be held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, in Philadelphia, on November 22, 2013. This one-day Research Forum will provide junior international economic law scholars with a supportive and constructive environment in which to present and receive feedback on their works-in-progress. Participation in the Forum is by invitation only. IEcLIG is inviting untenured international economic law scholars, including academics in tenure-track or non-tenure track positions, scholars with temporary academic appointments (e.g. VAPs, Fellows) and practitioners looking to enter legal academia in the near future to submit proposals for the Research Forum. Only authors of approved works-in-progress and a select group of established international law scholars will be invited to attend. Participants will present their work to a panel of other junior scholars and to a select group of established international law scholars, and will receive helpful and friendly suggestions on their work. Established scholars in international economic law will be assigned to each paper to provide helpful comments and suggestions. All topics concerning international economic law, (broadly defined to include areas related to but not limited to trade, investment, finance, international intellectual property) will be considered. Lunch and dinner will be provided. A registration fee of $75.00 is required for ASIL non-members. Becoming an ASIL member is strongly encouraged if you plan to attend this event. If you are a junior scholar working in the area of International Economic Law and are interested in participating in the Research Forum, please email a title and short abstract (no more than 500 words) detailing the subject of your intended paper, and a current CV to the Co-Chairs of ASIL-IEcLIG, Jason Yackee at email@example.com and Elizabeth Trujillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. The selection committee, made up of active scholars in international economic law, will review the submissions by blind review. Please do not include your name on the submission, but please do include an email so we can contact you. The deadline for receipt of proposals is June 25th, 2013. Invited participants must be committed to circulating a full draft paper to the Forum organizers at least three weeks prior to the Research Forum. Unfortunately, the IEcLIG budget does not allow for any travel or other financial assistance for participants. The IEcLIG leadership will make its selection decisions by July 25th, 2013 and authors of selected proposals will be contacted by that date.
In a trade-in-services dispute that looks quite a bit like pre-WTO trade in goods disputes, Indonesia is conditioning the sale of one of its banks to a Singaporean company on access to the Singaporean market:
Difi A. Johansyah, a spokesman for Bank Indonesia, said it would be “unfair” if Indonesian state-owned banks like Bank Mandiri, Bank Negara Indonesia and Bank Rakyat Indonesia could not expand in neighboring Singapore while DBS could expand in Indonesia because of the country’s more open ownership regulations.
“We will still open the door if they want to increase the stake up to 67 percent, but it’s conditional on whether M.A.S. grants access to our national banks to enter Singapore, which is still under negotiation,” he said in an interview.
This sort dynamic is a point of modest tension between economists and business people. The former would surely insist on unilateral surrender by Indonesia on the access issue. Who wouldn't prefer a big foreign investment in your country's infrastructure to no foreign investment? But businesses often look to leverage access on access, it is one of the things, ironically, that keeps some commitment among export-oriented industries to trade barriers - so their government can have something to give up.
If you'll excuse the outsource, and personal stake, I find the efforts to bridge the gaps betrween international law and business law to be interesting, partly because the gaps are so big. International law basically stops thinking about business after it starts thinking about the WTO and investor-state arbitrations. There are many efforts to change that, however, and Friday's post was part of my bit to spread the news about the economic law panels at the American Society of International Law's annual meeting. Here's some other recaps of portions of that meeting that might interest you, if you're interested in that sort of thing:Anti-Corruption Initiatives in a Multi-Polar World
I do international financial regulation, but you really have to turn to others for sovereign debt. Here's Buchheit and Gulati's three page long solution to the Cypriot debt crisis. Here's Felix Salmon on it:
Their plan is simple:
First, leave all deposits under €100,000 untouched. Hitting those deposits was by far the biggest mistake of the Cyprus plan as originally envisaged, and everybody would be extremely happy if guaranteed depositors could be kept whole.
Second, term out everybody else by five years, or ten if they prefer.
That’s it! That’s the whole plan, and it’s kinda genius. If you have bank deposits of more than €100,000, they will be converted into bank CDs, with a maturity of either five years or 10 years — your choice. If you pick the longer maturity, then your CD will be secured by future Cypriot gas revenues, which could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.
And if you have sovereign bonds, they too will be termed out by five years, giving Cyprus a bit of breathing room to get its act together.
Do that, say Buchheit and Gulati, and you manage to reduce the size of the needed bailout bymore than the €5.8 billion that Cyprus is currently planning to raise with its tax on bank deposits — and you don’t touch anybody’s principal at all. To be sure, the new CDs, which would be tradable, would surely trade at less than par: there would be a present-value haircut on deposits over €100,000. But that’s going to happen anyway. And at least in this case patient depositors will have a chance of getting all their money back in full — with interest. And, most importantly, guaranteed depositors will remain unscathed.
And here's Matt Levine on how the crisis is so strange.
The various reasons to object to this boil down to its violations of absolute priority; the way things are supposed to work is more or less:
- When a bank goes bad its equity holders lose,
- If zeroing the equity holders doesn’t cover the losses, then the bondholders lose,
- If zeroing the bondholders doesn’t cover the losses, then the depositors lose,
- But even there deposits under €100,000 shouldn’t lose, since they’re government guaranteed under the EU deposit insurance scheme.
In Cyprus sort of the opposite happened: equity holders are being diluted but not confiscated,1bondholders weren’t touched (there are essentially no bonds),2 and depositors under €100,000 were haircut in order to limit the damage to depositors over €100,000. The reasoning for this is unclear; a leading theory is that softening the blow on over-€100,000 deposits was viewed as necessary to retain Cyprus’s status as a haven for offshore deposits by tax-dodging Russian oligarchs. This is an odd theory; losing 9.9% of their money is no doubt a more pleasant proposition than losing 15% though it’s not what you’d call absolutely pleasant and they don’t seem particularly pleased with it.
It is strange, but I agree with Andrew Sorkin that haircuts, in this case, aren't supremely terrible to contemplate.
By the way, if you’re wondering why investors left so much money in troubled Cypriot banks, here’s a trivia question: Would you have been better off leaving your money in a bank in the United States or in Cyprus over the last five years?
The answer: You would have been better off in Cyprus, even after the bailout, when your money was “confiscated.” If you had 100,000 euros in a Cypriot bank account over the last five years, where the interest rate has averaged about 5 percent, you would have about 127,600 euros today. Even after the bailout, which would require you to give up 10 percent of your deposit — 12,760 euros — you would be left with 114,840 euros. The American bank? The $100,000 you deposited at Bank of America five years ago is about $105,100, at the going rate of about 1 percent interest a year.
The Post says that international financial regulatory reform is grinding to a halt, and Mark Carney, who, as Bank of Canada supremo got so active in the subject that the Bank of England hired him to be its supremo, filed a report to the G-20 that was positive, but observed that only 8 of 27 rich jurisdictions have issued final Basel III regulations.
Dan Drezner concludes that travail and intermittent progress is all you can expect from IFR, and most things, presumably. I only sort of agree. Carney's report to the G-20 is way better than the sort of mealy-mouthed declarations that characterize much international missive-writing. Europe is going to implement something substantially stronger than Basel III - call it Basel III plus a Tobin tax - and that will add a bunch more jurisdictions to the total. And anyway, the deadline for the accord is not yet upon us.
But nobody promised you a rose garden. If you put your trust in international process, as financial regulators must, you expect backsliding, inconsistency, and progress at extremely ponderous speeds. You might even characterize is as the worst way to regulate - except for all the others that have been tried.
Elizabeth Trujillo, Jason Yackee, Sonia Rolland, and yours truly are the new leadership of the American Society of International Law's International Economic Law Group, Sonia and I in the vice-chair role. So hurrah and all that.
The historiography of this group is a bit different from that of the usual business law outfits. Corporate and securities regulation academics have been thinking about Delaware and the SEC for a very long time, and it seems to me that the new areas of research - executive compensation, what to do about private equity, and so on - fit within the Delaware and SEC framework. International economic law meant, until about 2000, one thing, and one thing only: the WTO (well, maybe also letters of credit, not that there's a lot of research on that). Then it meant two things that don't really overlap - the WTO and investment arbitration. Now there is a third group of financial regulation scholars in the mix, and the next emerging outfit will likely be one focusing on debt instruments. So what you see on the committees, and at the conferences, are trade specialists, investment specialists, and financial regulatory specialists, with sovereign debt to come. It isn't easy to knit those research interests together. But that is why we have the IELG.
So I'm excited to add VCASILIELG to my already impressive acronymic title roster (see also CCABAALSILC)
Anyway, the official announcement follows.
Elizabeth Trujillo from Suffolk University Law School and Jason Yackee from University of Wisconsin School of Law have been elected to be Co-Chairs of the International Economic Law Interest Group for ASIL. Jason and Elizabeth are stepping in after 2 years as being Co-Vice Chairs under the wonderful leadership of Sungjoon Cho and Claire Kelly. New Co-Vice-Chairs are David Zaring and Sonia Rolland. The election took place at the ASIL-IEcLIG Biennial conference held at George Washington Law School in Washington DC on Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2012. The new leadership will be assuming their positions at the ASIL 2013 Annual Meeting in April. The ASIL-IEcLIG Biennial, in cooperation with George Washington University School of Law and the Federal Trade Commission, was on "Re-Conceptualizing International Economic Law: Bridging the Public/Private Divide." Keynote speakers included Professor Ralph Steinhardt from GW Law School, the Honorable Donald C. Pogue, Chief Judge United States Court of International Trade, and Amelia Porges from the Law Offices of Amelia Porges. There were over 100 registered participants from all over the world including the U.S., Europe, Latin America, New Zealand, and Asia.