Understanding Financial Regulation

50 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2011

See all articles by Eric J. Pan

Eric J. Pan

Columbia University - Center for Law and Economic Studies; Investment Company Institute

Date Written: January 1, 2011


This paper offers an account of financial regulation that is focused on the types of regulatory strategies employed by financial regulators. Noting the lack of prior academic work in this area, the paper presents a taxonomy of strategies, consisting of rulemaking, supervision, certification and enforcement, and argues that regulators actively choose between versions of strategies that require their direct input and immediate expenditure of regulatory resources (“public regulatory strategies”) and strategies that delegate the burden of regulation onto private actors (“private regulatory strategies”). This choice affects the nature and effectiveness of financial regulation, both in terms of the degree to which financial regulation relies on self-regulation, gatekeepers, private rights of action and other private strategies and the manner in which the interests of private parties involved in private strategies are aligned with those of the public. As the primary difference between public and private regulatory strategies is the immediate cost to the regulator, the paper further argues that the availability of resources is the primary determinant of the types of regulatory strategies selected by financial regulators.

The paper then explores two implications of the role of resource constraints on financial regulation. The first is an explanation for the oft-noted “sine curve of regulatory activity,” a cyclical pattern of lighter to heavier regulatory activity before and after a financial crisis or scandal. In the aftermath of any such financial crisis or scandal, regulators face intense pressure to demonstrate they are in control of the financial markets and, therefore, rely more on public strategies - strategies that give the regulator greater visibility and command. Eventually, however, resource constraints force regulators to seek more cost effective regulatory strategies, driving them to rely more on private strategies. The second is what happens when regulators cannot easily access private strategies, such as in the case of systemic risk regulation. Under resource constraints, regulators resort to “blunter” public strategies that are less costly but are not as fine-tuned, such as the Volcker Rule, or abandon traditional financial regulatory strategies in favor of extra-regulatory solutions, such as bank fees and size limitations on financial institutions.

Keywords: financial regulation, rulemaking, supervision, regulatory design, regulatory strategies, financial crisis, SEC, securities, enforcement

Suggested Citation

Pan, Eric J., Understanding Financial Regulation (January 1, 2011). Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 329, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1805018 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1805018

Eric J. Pan (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Center for Law and Economic Studies ( email )

435 W. 116th Street, Box A-22A
New York, NY 10027
United States

Investment Company Institute ( email )

1401 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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