Sovereignty, Accountability, and the Wealth Fund Governance Conundrum

Asian Journal of International Law, Forthcoming

American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2010-21

61 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2010 Last revised: 21 Jul 2010

See all articles by Anna Gelpern

Anna Gelpern

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: July 19, 2010


Sovereign wealth funds – state-controlled transnational portfolio investment vehicles – began as an externally imposed category in search of a definition. SWFs from different countries had little in common and no particular desire to collaborate. But SWFs as a group implicated the triple challenge of securing cooperation between deficit and surplus states, designing a legal framework for global capital flows, and integrating state actors in the transnational marketplace. This Article describes how an apparently artificial grouping of investors, made salient by the historical and political circumstances of their host states in the mid-2000s, became a vehicle for addressing some of the hardest policy problems of the past century and a site for innovation in international law-making and institution-building. I suggest that the funds’ hybrid public-private and transnational character makes them hard to define and govern, but also makes them exceptionally apt reflections of contemporary global finance and its multiple constituents. I elaborate this character in a four-part accountability matrix. The task of governing SWFs, just like the task of governing global finance, is about negotiating among public, private, internal and external demands for accountability in the absence of a stable hierarchy among them.

Keywords: Sovereign wealth, international finance, International Monetary Fund, global legal pluralism, soft law, new governance, financial globalization

JEL Classification: F01, F33, F42, G15, K20, K33

Suggested Citation

Gelpern, Anna, Sovereignty, Accountability, and the Wealth Fund Governance Conundrum (July 19, 2010). Asian Journal of International Law, Forthcoming; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2010-21. Available at SSRN:

Anna Gelpern (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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