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Forms and Paradoxes of Principles Based Regulation

37 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2008  

Julia Black

London School of Economics - Law Department

Date Written: September 23, 2008


Principles-based regulation is high on the regulatory agenda in a number of regulatory domains, most particularly financial regulation. Its supporters argue that it provides a flexible regulatory regime which can facilitate innovation; its detractors argue that it simply lax regulation. This article explores the political rhetoric surrounding principles-based regulation. It identifies four forms of principles-based regulation: formal, substantive, full and polycentric principles-based regulation. It also identifies and explores seven paradoxes which principles-based regulation may encounter in its various forms. These relate to interpretation, communication, compliance, enforcement, internal management, ethics, and above all trust. PBR, in its full form, can provide an effective, durable, resilient and goal based regulatory regime; but at the same time its paradoxical nature means that it is vulnerable in many respects. Unfortunately for the detractors of principles-based regulation, many of these paradoxes are not necessarily avoided by using detailed rules instead of principles. Rather their resolution lies in trust. Yet, it is argued, trust is the ultimate paradox. Principles-based regulation can help to create trust, but the core elements of that trust have to already exist if principles-based regulation is ever to operate effectively, if indeed at all.

Suggested Citation

Black, Julia, Forms and Paradoxes of Principles Based Regulation (September 23, 2008). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 13/2008. Available at SSRN: or

Julia Black (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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