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The Basel Committee on banking supervision issues regularly a monitoring report on the implementation of Basel III regulatory reforms.

In August 2016, the seventh issue was published by the Committee as to be taken into account for the upcoming G20 meeting: Implementation of Basel standards. A report to G20 Leaders on implementation of the Basel III regulatory reforms.

In this report, the Committee mesures how national systems gradually implement the prudential reforms they have informally elaborated in common. 

All the power derived from the Basel System stems indeed from the fact that it is concentrated; however, it still has to face a 'hard law' issue, as it is necessary to implement the reforms within the national systems in identical terms and in a constrained timeframe. 

The Committee indicates in its reports that some countries still face a number of issues regarding this implementation, whether these issues arise from the rules themselves or from the transposition period that the countries are given to implement them. Those same countries tend to justify themselves by saying that banks are to blame for these issues, since they report having trouble adjusting their information system as to satisfy the new requirements.

The Committee underlines the fact that this delay occurs in some countries whereas others are already compliant creates a situation of unfair 'jurisdiction' competition between them, which is all the more concerning since these national systems host international banks: "Delayed implementation may have implications for the level playing field, and puts unnecessary pressure on jurisdictions that have implemented the standards based on the agreed timelines. A concurrent implementation of global standards is all the more important, as many jurisdictions serve as hosts to internationally active banks.".

In order to improve an effective implementation of the whole system, the Committee proposed to implement instead a calculus method that would be less complex: "These proposals would constrain banks’ use of internal models and would reduce the complexity of the regulatory framework.".

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A few general observations can be drawn from this very specific Basel III issue underlined in the aforementioned report:

  • soft law needs at some point to get concrete (which is closely monitored since the rules do need to be implemented), otherwise it is not law at all;   
  • it is through implementation that the weight and the contours of common rules are actually being felt;
  • this situation is a good reminder of the fact that competing jurisdictions are an actual thing and a issue to deal with;
  • what is an argument based of complexity, or even impossibility, of the technical implementation of a requirement worth? 

This last question is crucial. Those who impose the requirement may consider that the non-enforcement for technical reasons cannot be accepted!footnote-68. Here, however, maybe since it is not a formal requirement as this is all soft law, and since there is a good communication between the supervisor and the executing agent (who is, at the same time, the one that is subject to the requirement, the one who elaborated it and the one who proposes to review it as to make it less complex).

Cass. R. Sunstein's last book was entitled Simpler. French Conseil d’État  (French administrative supreme court) conducts thorough work on the quality of laws and on their simplicity, both qualities that probably go hand in hand. The Basel Committee steps in the same directions...

Aug. 1, 2016

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Cass R. Sunstein is a prominent Law & Economics teacher (first at the University of Chicago, then at Harvard). Not only has he written reference handbooks on Regulation, he was also the one who inspired the Regulation policies of Obama. In his 2013 book Simpler, he expresses his stance: to be better, public policies need to be simpler. 

In this essay, Sunstein explores how behavorial economics might lead to improve public decision-making processes. He bases its stances upon his experience as the Administrator, from 2009 to 2012, of the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; that is why anyone who cares about Regulation should read it and ask themselves if simplicity, as the author states, may or may not be an actual leading principle for an effective government. 

The OIRA, under the supervision of the Office of Management and Budget placed within the Executive Office, reviews the draft Regulations that are prepared by the cabinets of various rulemaking agencies. In this view, the OIRA can be regarded as a sort of custodian of the quality of Regulation throughout the US; conversely to the mainly consultative functions granted to the Conseil d'Etat in France, the OIRA's opinions are binding. Hence, a draft project shall not be issued nor be enforced without its prior consent. Part of OIRA's defining mission is also to centralize all the information held by diverse people within the executive branch, as to enable its access and circulation between all the rulemaking agencies responsible for elaborating and producing binding regulations. 

Simpler is dedicated to the detailed study of the main decisions taken under Sunstein's decisive influence by the OIRA in the Regulation field during Obama's first mandate (2009-2012). Before taking up government functions, Sunstein focused part of his academic work on the interactions that are the most likely to occur between behavioral economics, law and public policy. To him, "a general lesson is that small, inexpensive policy initiatives, informed by behavioral economics, can have big benefits" (p. 41). He namely provides that "without a massive reduction in its current functions, government can be far more effective, far less confusing, far less counterproductive, and far more helpful if it opts, wherever it can, for greater simplicity" (p. 11).

This reference to 'simplicity', from which the name of Sunstein's essay stems, aims at translating all the efforts done by public authorities, under the supervision of the OIRA, to issue rules that were clearer and more accessible than before and that provided their subjects (whether they are citizens, companies, or federal administrations) a greater freedom in the choices they were able to make.

Throughout his book and with a little help from the various situations he had to face during his term at the OIRA, Sunstein shows that there is a virtuous relationship between a better information of the agents (whether they are the authors or the subjects of the norms at stake), a greater simplicity in public decision-making process and a better quality of the regulations  meilleure qualité de la réglementation in force in a State. This paper hence aims to sum up the main points of the essay (I.), before making a few comments about it (II.). 

(See below)