Blog: Survey: Retirement Savers Concerned About Financial Harm Under Fiduciary-Only Government Regulation – PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A majority of moderate-income savers who are in or near retirement are concerned that a fiduciary-only regulation would keep them from the professional financial guidance they want and need, especially during difficult economic times. This finding is from a new survey by Greenwald Research for the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI).

A fiduciary-only regulation would eliminate the help moderate-income retirement savers receive from financial professionals who receive one-time commissions. Only those with substantial savings and higher incomes who can afford to pay ongoing fees for fiduciary services would have access to help from financial professionals. In 2018, a federal appeals court struck down a fiduciary-only regulation that was adopted by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2016. An effort to resurrect the regulation is now underway.

The Greenwald survey examined views on access to financial professionals for those ages 55 to 70, with life savings in the lower half of financial wealth when compared to all Americans of their age. They are either working with a financial professional receiving compensation based on commissions or are planning to start working with a financial professional within a year.

“These savers are not very confident that they can do key tasks to ensure financial security throughout retirement without the help of a financial professional,” said Mathew Greenwald, founder & managing director, strategic initiatives at Greenwald Research. “Those who receive financial guidance overwhelmingly trust and depend on the professionals they work with, feel they are worth the cost, and would be adversely impacted if they could not work with their financial professional.”

Moderate-income savers-– who tend to be more financially vulnerable – overwhelmingly value access to financial professionals who receive compensation by commission and feel they would be negatively affected without the guidance. Fully 85% believe they have at least a somewhat great need for financial guidance from a professional. And 81% feel the guidance they receive helps them feel reassured during difficult economic times.

Of those without a financial professional, almost all believe it would be important to work with one to feel reassured through difficult economic times (97%) and during times of high inflation (97%).

A strong majority of survey respondents (71%) viewed the guaranteed lifetime income from annuities as valuable and a majority also expressed strong interest in these products. Since annuities are sold on a commission basis, a fiduciary-only regulation would make this product unavailable to retirees who could benefit from them.

“The survey found that moderate-income retirement savers strongly oppose government regulations that would discourage or prohibit financial professionals from being compensated by commission,” Greenwald said. “They feel that compensation by commission is sometimes preferable to ongoing fees.”

The survey results can be found here.

The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) is the leading trade association driving public policy and advocacy on behalf of the life insurance industry. 90 million American families rely on the life insurance industry for financial protection and retirement security. ACLI’s member companies are dedicated to protecting consumers’ financial wellbeing through life insurance, annuities, retirement plans, long-term care insurance, disability income insurance, reinsurance, and dental, vision and other supplemental benefits. ACLI’s 280 member companies represent 94 percent of industry assets in the United States.

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SOURCE American Council of Life Insurers

Blog: Cruz Case Aside, Opportunity Remains for Expanded Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws in New Jersey – InsiderNJ

A federal campaign finance law preventing federal candidates from repaying personal loans of more than $250,000 with money raised after the election was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 16, 2022.

The law was challenged by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.  Cruz objected to a provision in federal campaign finance law that blocked federal candidates from loaning themselves more than $250,000.

Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), 2002, limits a candidate who makes a personal loan to his or her campaign from raising money post-election to reimburse more than $250,000.

Senator Cruz believed the provision infringed upon First Amendment rights.  The case, Federal Election Commission (FEC) v. Ted Cruz for Senate, constituted another in a line of legal challenges to BCRA, otherwise  known as McCain/Feingold.

Admittedly, there was a bit of gamesmanship on the part of the Senator. On the eve of the 2018 Election Day, he loaned his campaign $260,000; $5,000 from his personal bank account and $255,000 from a loan backed by his personal assets.

Nevertheless, the objective exposed a legitimate grievance by testing the law against First Amendment constitutional standards. This included Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations that had established a 20-day window post-election during which personal loans up to $250,000 could be reimbursed using donations received prior to, on, or after Election Day.

In other words, once the 20-day period ends, candidates can no longer use their campaign accounts to pay-off loans of more than $250,000, though loans less than that amount may be repaid.

 

Federal Election Commission Rules for Repayment of Federal Candidate Loans

Candidate Loan Amount Within 20 Days After Election More than 20 days After Election
  Repayment Options
$250,000 or Less Can Use Contributions Raised Before, On, or After Election
More than $250,000 Can Use Contributions Raised Before the Election Repayment No Longer Allowed

In its ruling, the Supreme Court decided 6-3 that the law, by imposing major restrictions on reimbursement over the $250,000 threshold, discouraged candidates from taking out personal loans in furtherance of their candidacies, thereby violating their First Amendment Free Speech rights.

In Senator Cruz’s case, the 20-day window prevented him from recouping $10,000 of his personal money.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was the fifth since John Roberts was confirmed as Chief Justice in 2005 to strike down sections of BCRA.

The case stoked fears among individuals and organizations who favor strict regulation of campaign finances that the Supreme Court might overturn what remains of the law.

These concerns were understandable given that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, no friend of campaign finance regulation, had submitted an amicus brief seeking to scrap what remained of BCRA.

A lawsuit filed in McConnell’s name shortly after enactment of the law resulted in a December 10, 2003 ruling that narrowly upheld its main provisions. But it also included the first two declarations that parts of the BCRA were unconstitutional- one provision banning contributions by minors and another that restricted the ability of parties to make independent expenditures on behalf of candidates.

Several pro-regulation groups were so concerned with what the Supreme Court might do in the Cruz case that they intervened on behalf of the FEC.  They defended the constitutionality of Section 304, contending that allowing unlimited reimbursement for candidate loans could be corrupting.

The Cruz case confronted the Supreme Court with two main issues:  whether Senator Cruz had standing to challenge the law and whether the limit violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

A previous column of mine authored about the case published on January 24, 2022 maintained that both the pro-regulation groups and Senator McConnell would be “disappointed.”

It accurately predicted that the Court would rule that the Senator has standing, that Section 304 of BCRA would be ruled unconstitutional, and that the Court would not invalidate what remains of BCRA.

“The Court is likely to accept Senator Cruz’s argument that the $250,000 cap places a burden on a candidate to not loan more than $250,000, thus infringing on the candidate’s First Amendment rights,’’ said the earlier column.

One takeaway from this case is that the New Jersey Legislature displayed considerable wisdom in its approach toward regulating a similar question under this state’s campaign finance laws.

The Legislature permitted non-gubernatorial candidates for office to personally loan their campaigns unlimited amounts and to have the loans paid back after the election with post-election contributions.

Under New Jersey law, contributors are prevented from exerting undue influence on candidates because contributions before or after the election are subject to contribution limits and reimbursement can be made only up to the amount of the loan.

Whether this provision influenced the Supreme Court, who knows.  But the Cruz ruling seems to reflect New Jersey’s common-sense approach.

No doubt many learned individuals whose focus is campaign finance law breathed a sigh of relief that the Supreme Court did not fully undo BCRA or target other campaign finance laws.

With respect to those sentiments, this columnist has consistently argued that the Supreme Court, despite its free speech concerns and relying both on precedent and good political sense, would continue to uphold cornerstone campaign finance laws such as contribution limits and disclosure.

So far, that has been the case, as indicated by an April 22, 2022 Supreme Court decision to let stand a Rhode Island independent expenditure disclosure law.

The court’s long-time support for disclosure signals an opening for the state Legislature to undertake once again to pass legislation that would, like Rhode Island’s law, require disclosure by independent groups engaged in electioneering in New Jersey.

Recently, independent groups have spent tens of millions attempting, with considerable success, to influence election outcomes in New Jersey.  It is time that these groups be lawfully placed on a par with candidates and political parties, which are required to fully disclose their financial activity, to return balance to the state’s electoral system.

Jeff Brindle is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. 

The opinions presented here are his own and not necessarily those of the Commission.

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Blog: Will the US Take a Strong Stance on Bitcoin Regulation? – Investing.com India

  • Tech industry contributes 9.3% to the US economy.  
  • 33257 (BTC) ATMs are installed in the nation.

The United States is the largest base for numerous tech companies, making the nation the giant tech base. As per the report from CompTIA, an American trade association, the US tech industry raised revenue of $1.8 trillion USD. The nation now harbors nearly 507,000 tech businesses.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell raised up the interest rates to combat the hyperinflation and thereby the monthly inflation rate rose up to 8.3% in April. Moreover, the overall interest rate recorded is the highest in the past 22 years. 

The policymakers have prioritized the need to stabilize the prices and the market volatility.  When it comes to crypto adoption, the government prefers the stable Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) over the private sector-administered digital assets.

Federal organizations such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) continue to scrutinize the adoption of the high-risk crypto coin, Bitcoin. 

Gearing Up for Crypto Regulation

The US, the leading ‘crypto-ready’ country, reported the first real-time bitcoin transaction in 2010. A Bitcoin miner from Florida purchased pizzas with 10,000 BTC. According to Coin ATM Radar, an online directory of BTC ATMs, 33261 Bitcoin (BTC) ATMs reside in the country with Los Angeles holding the highest number (1952).

On March 10, regulatory guidance from the US Department of Labor (DOL) warned the citizens about crypto investments. On Friday, a Floridian Representative, Byron Donalds, released the “House Companion” of Senator Tommy Tuberville’s Financial Freedom Act to allow investors to invest cryptocurrencies in 401(k), private-sponsored retirement accounts.

From establishing Texas Blockchain Council to transforming Dallas into the epicenter of the US for bitcoin mining, the native crypto-community has been pro-bitcoin.

Bruce Fenton, a running candidate for the US Senate commented: 

“If you have $100, $50 or $20…don’t send it to me, buy Bitcoin! No politician can save you from the melting ice cube of fiat and I can’t either.”

A famous bitcoin advocate, Dennis Porter, added that providing a potential regulatory environment for the Bitcoin industry can power up the nation’s recovering economy.

Blog: Listening up to level up – regulating finance for the whole of the UK – FCA

Speaker: Charles Randell, Chair
Event: Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London
Delivered: 20 May 2022
Note: this is the speech as drafted and may differ from the delivered version

Highlights:

  • The consumer’s voice needs to be front and centre in our regulation and in every Boardroom.
  • Policy partnerships between Government and regulators are crucial to deliver good outcomes for consumers.
  • It’s essential for the Future Regulatory Framework to follow the Government’s stated aims of respecting the FCA’s independence and primary objectives, to ensure that the financial services industry continues to act in the interest of all people and communities of the United Kingdom.

Meeting people across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom is the greatest privilege of my job as Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority.

In Solihull, I met a single mother. When her father was dying, she gave up her job to care for him. She couldn’t meet her everyday costs and started taking on debt. She did seek help – but at her lowest ebb, she was sold a plan that charged her fees but didn’t reduce the debt. It didn’t even leave her enough money for food. It was only when she went to the voluntary sector – in her case, Christians Against Poverty – that she started to turn the corner. She got a new plan which meant she could keep her home.

You are who you meet

This and the many other meetings I’ve had up and down the country in the last four years are hugely motivating – farmers in Aberaeron, credit unions in Belfast, sixth form students in Blackpool, high street merchants in Cambuslang, StepChange debt advisors and their clients in Leeds and the Citizens Advice Bureau in Penrith, to name just a few.

They add faces and personal stories to the issues which the FCA has to tackle. They bring purpose and urgency to our work. Most of all, they show the gap which often exists between people’s real-life experiences and the liberal theories that have shaped financial regulation: theories that giving people more information is enough to protect them from harm; that the market always adapts to provide essential financial services to vulnerable people at an affordable price; and that self-regulation can be made to work if only the incentives are right.

All the major parties say they’re committed to levelling up the UK. At the FCA we need to play our part. But policy inputs based on received theories mean nothing if they don’t deliver better outcomes for people across the UK. That’s what we need to hold ourselves and financial businesses to account for.

An independent regulator for the whole of the UK

Parliament has given the FCA the task of authorising and supervising financial businesses, so it’s natural that we spend a lot of our time talking to them.

But listening to the users of financial services across the UK – particularly consumers and small businesses, whose voices may not be as loud as others – is an essential part of balanced and effective regulation. We have clear statutory objectives to protect consumers of financial services and promote competition in their interests.

We already have a range of different ways of listening to the users of financial services – including our Financial Services Consumer Panel, our consumer network and our own consumer research.

But we need to make sure that our culture is even more outward facing, that our meetings with people outside the FCA reflect the diversity of the UK, and that we are diverse ourselves. That’s why the FCA is growing its office in Edinburgh and opening a significant office in Leeds, as well as establishing a presence in Belfast and Cardiff.

The diversity of the views we listen to is an essential foundation of our legitimacy as an independent financial regulator. As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said:

‘Regulators have a crucial role to play in the economy and society. They ensure that clean water runs in our taps, the lights remain on, and that financial markets are sound. However, they can fail to deliver these public services if their activities are unduly influenced, whether by the regulated industry, government, politicians or outside interest groups.’

Importance of partnerships

Of course, regulatory independence doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work closely and effectively with others. In fact, it’s essential that we do. We simply can’t address many of the issues we care about on our own.

People need to be able to understand the decisions they have to take about spending, borrowing and saving and be confident to make them. People need support to avoid problem debt. People need access to broadband and devices in a world where more and more services are only online. And people need incentives to use suitable financial products, and protection from fraud and scams.

To tackle these issues, the FCA needs to partner with a range of other actors – including the Government, Parliament and other regulators.

Partnerships to promote understanding of financial decisions, from school to the point of sale; partnerships to address digital exclusion; and partnerships to fight financial crime more effectively.

During my time as Chair, I’ve seen some very effective partnerships with the Government. We worked closely together to ensure that the transition to life outside the EU didn’t disrupt financial markets or the supply of financial services to consumers. We responded to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in partnership, taking swift actions to give people breathing space for their mortgage and other debt payments when they needed it. Most recently, we’ve been playing our part in implementing the Government’s financial sanctions following the start of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. We’ve done all of these things in the spirit of partnership, without compromising our independence.

At the same time, we have been strengthening our partnerships with other regulators and public bodies, including the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, the Money and Pensions Service and The Pensions Regulator, and digital regulators through the Digital Regulators Cooperation Forum.

Importance of policy coherence

But I’ve also seen examples where partnering with the Government and others wasn’t as strong as it needed to be.

Let’s take pension freedoms.

As I’ve previously said, the speed with which pension freedoms were introduced in 2015 gave rise to a very big execution challenge for everybody: trustees, The Pensions Regulator, the FCA and the Money and Pensions Service, or Pension Wise, as it then was. The policies and procedures necessary to mitigate the potential harm to consumers from the pension freedoms were still being retrofitted six years later.

With hindsight, more could have been done to protect people from risks introduced by the pension freedoms policy, particularly if more time had been given to prepare. It’s clear from the steps taken since 2015 that the policy itself and the broader system to implement it were found wanting.

Another case study is high-risk investments.

We’ve accepted the recommendations of an independent review into the case of London Capital & Finance, and we’re implementing them in full.

But combatting the huge number of unsuitable and sometimes fraudulent investments which are out there, particularly online, requires a much broader set of measures. It’s simply not something the FCA can do its own.

Closing the loopholes that enable these investments to be marketed to people who are neither sophisticated nor wealthy enough to take the risk.

Preventing these investments from being marketed online.

Restricting government incentives, like the Innovative Finance ISA, to investments which have an appropriate level of oversight and are likely to be suitable for consumers.

Providing consumer education and information to counter the lure of high returns which so often turn out to be an illusion.

The lesson from these case studies – both where partnerships have worked well and where they haven’t been as strong as they needed to be – is that addressing many issues in financial regulation requires not just more effective regulators, but also more collaborative action across policymakers to deliver the right outcomes in the real world – policies that are based on real human behaviour. And policies that are only introduced when the system is ready to put them into practice.

We need to apply this lesson to the future.

Let’s take crypto. The Government has recently announced that it will consult on a world-leading regime for the crypto-market, including the trading of tokens like Bitcoin.

I’ve previously said that stablecoins – but only if they are strongly regulated to stay truly stable – may have the potential to reduce costs and frictions in certain types of payment transaction, and to challenge the very strong position occupied by a small number of players in the payments market. I’ve also said that distributed ledger technologies have the potential to produce efficiencies in various parts of the financial system. The FCA is already engaging successfully with these innovations.

But what would success look like if we also took on regulation of the issue and trading of purely speculative crypto tokens? Should people be encouraged to believe that these are investments, when they have no underlying value? When the price of Bitcoin can readily halve within six months, as it has done recently, and some other speculative crypto tokens have gone to zero? Should a couple with retirement savings of £250,000, which would buy them an annuity of perhaps £6,000 at age 65, be treated as ‘high net worth’ and encouraged or permitted to speculate on crypto or other high-risk products with these savings? Should people without any significant savings or financial experience be encouraged or permitted to buy speculative crypto at all?

If the success of the FCA in regulating speculative crypto is going to be judged, and in due course no doubt it will be, these fundamental questions need to be properly and openly debated and answered well before responsibility passes to the FCA, rather than afterwards.

The project to bring speculative crypto into regulation also needs a workable operational plan which the FCA – and other regulators where appropriate – are fully signed up to delivering. That means realism about how long we need to prepare. Realism about how far many crypto firms will have to improve before they can be authorised. Realism about how consumers will actually behave online, supported by testing. And realism about the challenges of supervising a decentralised global activity which is an increasingly attractive conduit for organised financial criminals and money launderers.

Regulating crypto also means deciding how the FCA will raise the money to pay for the very significant costs of this additional regulation, including the question of whether the financial services industry as a whole should be exposed to the costs of failing crypto firms through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. I think it shouldn’t, and that consumers should have to acknowledge that fact before an adviser helps them to buy crypto.

Last month I met a group of year eight and nine students at one of the academies in Newham near our Stratford office. They acknowledged that crypto was like gambling, but some of them had also been convinced by the internet that they could predict price movements and make money from them. They were very able students, but the hope of getting rich was stronger than any facts or rational arguments I could give them.

With celebrities as varied as Kim Kardashian and Larry David willing to take money to promote speculative crypto, how do we curb people’s enthusiasm to do something that may seriously harm their financial lives?

To summarise: just like the challenges of financial literacy, digital inclusion and financial crime, a challenge like crypto demands a well-functioning partnership between Government, Parliament and regulators. A partnership where all the partners deliver consistent policy and action to achieve defined and measurable outcomes.

And it’s critical that within that partnership there are strong safeguards to ensure that all interests – not just the interests of people making money from pushing crypto products, but also the interests of the people whose savings will be put at risk – are heard.

That requires a strong and independent financial conduct regulator.

Future Regulatory Framework

Which brings me to the Financial Services and Markets Bill which Parliament will be debating in the coming months.

This Bill will make significant changes to the relationships between the Government, Parliament and the financial regulators. Changes are needed, because the power to make some financial regulations is passing to the regulators, when previously it sat with the EU institutions, with accountability through the European and national parliaments. So it’s important that Parliament has more effective oversight of our work. Appearing before the Treasury Committee is not always a comfortable experience, but it’s an essential part of our accountability and we should provide as much support as we can to enable Parliament to scrutinise our work.

Because Parliamentary accountability is central to our role. But so is independence from the Government, which put the position very well in its October 2020 consultation document on the Future Regulatory Framework:

‘When combined with the valuable experience that comes from the supervision of financial services firms and markets, policy-making and the design of regulatory standards can be informed by the ’real-world‘ conditions and developments closely observed by supervisors. As observed by IMF studies, when regulators make these judgments independently from government, they are likely to deliver more predictable and stable regulatory approaches over time. IMF studies have also found that the response to financial crises has been less effective in countries without independent regulators.’

These views were echoed in the IMF’s assessment of UK financial regulation a few months ago, which stressed the importance of ensuring that the independence of the FCA continues to be preserved and of ensuring that the final set of accountability mechanisms adopted under the Future Regulatory Framework review will pose no constraints for independent and effective oversight of entities and financial markets.

The independence of the FCA not only makes us more effective domestically; it’s a crucial part of our global reputation, enabling us to play a leadership role in the international standard-setting process. 
It’s also a key part of strengthening a culture of confidence and agile and assertive action at the FCA, which we’re determined to continue to build.

So although I recognise that the relationship between the FCA, Government and Parliament must change as a result of Brexit, and that decisions about the changes are for Parliament rather than me, I have some thoughts on how to make sure that the Bill achieves its aim as set out in the Queen’s Speech: ensuring that the financial services industry continues to act in the interest of all people and communities of the United Kingdom.

Growth and competitiveness objective

First, there’s a growing debate about one of the proposals which the Government is taking forward after its consultation on the Future Regulatory Framework: to ‘make provision for the regulators to facilitate the long-term growth of the UK economy, including through the lens of international competitiveness.’

I’ve spoken in the past about a competitiveness objective. We’ve shown how we can pursue our existing primary objectives – of protecting consumers, market integrity and competition in the interests of consumers – in a way which supports growth and competitiveness: through Innovate and the Sandbox; through moving swiftly to implement reforms to UK equity markets; through the pursuit of open global markets following Brexit. We’re embracing the suggestion to establish a ’Scalebox‘ to further help good businesses with innovative ideas to grow.

But I very much welcome the fact that the proposal on which the Government has consulted would be clearly secondary to our three primary objectives. In February, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury said:

‘I am very clear that this new objective must not conflict with the regulators’ primary focus: the need to ensure safe and sound firms, well-functioning markets and to protect consumers and promote competition.’

These are wise words, with which I agree.

I don’t think that we can achieve long term economic growth if we put the interests of the financial services industry ahead of the interests of other people in our society – producing an island of prosperous financial services professionals in a sea of inequality. That type of growth would be the opposite of levelling up. We saw that type of growth in Ireland and Iceland before the financial crisis – and to only a somewhat lesser extent here in the UK. It leads to economic and social instability and damage. The damage is often borne by those least able to bear it, not by those who inflict it.

The cost of living crisis brings this into focus. People will get into difficulty with their debts. People will be at risk of taking poor financial decisions about their savings. People will be more vulnerable to scams. We need a regulator focussed on protecting them.

It’s now essential to follow the Government’s stated aims of respecting the FCA’s primary objectives to ensure that the financial services industry continues to act in the interest of all people and communities of the United Kingdom.

Government powers of intervention

The Government has also proposed taking new powers to intervene in the FCA’s processes. These include a power to direct the FCA to review areas of its rules and submitting FCA policy proposals to a new panel which would scrutinise in advance the cost-benefit analysis which the FCA already undertakes.

These proposals could be more difficult to get right than the proposed secondary growth and competitiveness objective. Difficult not just for the FCA, given the loss of independence and agility they could involve, but also difficult for the Government and Parliament.

The Government has said that it would only use a power to direct the FCA to review rules in exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless, there is always the risk that ‘exceptional circumstances’ turn out to be surprisingly frequent, or that the mere existence of the power could bring pressure to bear on the FCA to change its priorities. We have a very broad remit and limited resources. We currently set our priorities and allocate our resources based on our public interest objectives. If Ministers direct us to prioritise other areas, we may have to take resources away from issues which we consider to be more important. That would undermine our independent judgment and accountability. So it’s important to be very clear that these interventions really will only happen in exceptional circumstances.

The risk that the Government and Parliament need to guard against is creating a strong channel for lobbying by vested interests who want to bypass our public interest objectives of protecting consumers and promoting competition, using politicians to get the rules changed in their favour.

Similar risks arise with the proposed advance scrutiny of cost-benefit analysis. The FCA already has a published framework for both ex ante cost-benefit analysis and ex post evaluation of our policies and is committed to continuously improving these. We are ready to hear any suggestions for further improvement and transparency. However, we also need to ensure that we can continue to be agile in responding to harm in a fast-changing world, as we’ve shown during Covid-19 that we can be. So any measures relating to cost-benefit analysis should be designed with that in mind.

As I have said, we have enjoyed strong and effective partnerships with current Treasury Ministers to address issues of EU withdrawal, Covid-19 and the financial sanctions to respond to Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. But legislation should be robust enough to cope with the political cycle, which can bring changes of Ministers and changes of government. In the current framework, the FCA as an independent regulator with a strong consumer focus provides the balance that is needed to reduce the risk of lobbying and interference. The Future Regulatory Framework must preserve that balance and reinforce the ability of Parliament to play its role in holding regulators and the Government to account.

Conclusion

The last four years have been a challenging time to chair the FCA, accounting for a series of events that started more than a decade ago, at the same time as the FCA has been given more and more responsibilities. Not to mention the major change of the UK’s relationship with its largest and closest trading partners, a global pandemic and a war in Europe.

Despite those challenges, we’ve successfully made the transition to a new board and management team and launched our strategy for fundamental change of the organisation.

In the last four years I’ve been energised to drive this change by meeting people across the UK. These meetings have been humbling and inspiring, helping me to understand what financial regulation needs to deliver if the financial system is to better serve the needs of all people and communities of the United Kingdom.

I’ve also been fortunate to work with some exceptional colleagues at the FCA in the last four years whose public service values and resilience have contributed to what the organisation has managed to achieve in this challenging period, including three outstanding chief executives.

I’m optimistic that the changes that we have put in train at the FCA will ensure we play our part as best we can. We are already taking a more assertive approach to rejecting unfit businesses seeking authorisation. We are already acting faster to eject businesses that are no longer fit. We are already taking and succeeding in difficult enforcement cases against businesses that fall short. And I’m confident that in the coming years we can be even faster, more assertive and more successful.

But we can’t achieve our full potential on our own. We also need stronger partnerships with the Government, Parliament and other regulators and coherent and consistent policy action from everyone involved in regulation, to deliver measurable outcomes in the real world.

As Parliament debates some critical changes to these relationships, we must ensure that the UK financial services industry is the servant of the people of the United Kingdom, not their master. It should prosper, but it should do so by providing the services that people across the UK need at fair value. Delivering that outcome requires fair competition, including innovation and market access. And that means strong and independent regulation with clear public interest objectives. Consistent regulation which endures longer than the political cycle. And regulation which is ready and willing to take on powerful vested interests.

Above all, regulation that listens up to the diverse needs of people across the nations and regions. That’s how we can play our part in levelling up the UK.

Blog: Scottish cities face ‘toxic’ cocktail of Brexit and Covid and need new powers, says study – The National

SCOTLAND’S largest cities need new devolved powers to deal with the “toxic” cocktail of Brexit, Covid and climate change, according to a new report.

The study commissioned by the Aberdeen and Glasgow chambers of commerce has urged the devolution of major new powers so that Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh (AGE) can adapt to a changing urban landscape.

Professor Brian Evans, head of urbanism at the Glasgow School of Art and an advisor to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, led the research and says that Scotland needs the city regions “at the top of their game” if it is to remain globally competitive.

“Cities need to be dynamic, or they decline,” he warns.

READ MORE: Tories launch investigation over ‘evil’ tweet about young girls smelling ‘creamy’

However, with an ageing population and the end to freedom of movement brought about by Brexit, one of the key issues that AGE are facing is decreased workforce mobility, the report says.

The study notes that Brexit was motivated by negative public perception of increasing international migration but that “[Brexit] perversely exacerbates the effects of falling birth rates and ageing”.

As a result, one of the study’s key recommendations is that “immigration policy is devolved to ensure our cities and regions have access to the workforce they need to prosper”.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

Meanwhile, the study also warns that the shift to more flexible working could have a negative effect on city centres as office requirements could drop by 30%.

The report states: “If 3-4 day in-office working weeks become the norm, the impact on footfall, the viability of businesses serving office workers, the office property market and the public transport system could be profound, especially if it is accompanied by long-term changes in shopping, entertainment and leisure.”

The study recommends that a major focus be put on regenerating residential populations in city centres “to replace the critical mass lost due to technological advances and other social changes”.

READ MORE: Scotland in new era of ‘Westminster override’, says top academic Dr Aileen McHarg

The report also found that cities have taken the brunt of the impact of Covid on Scotland since despite accounting for just 22% of Scotland’s land mass, they house 68% of the population and account for 73% of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA).

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce said: “The updated report considers what has changed in light of the pandemic and the accelerating net zero carbon agenda, and also the many fundamentals which have not.

READ MORE: Sue Gray report ‘to unveil photos proving Boris Johnson lied to MPs and police’

“It must be used to provide the launchpad to propel Scotland forward in the century of the city. And we ask Scotland’s policy makers to urgently work together with business communities to make the necessary interventions that will shape the next chapter for our AGE cities – and it must happen at pace.

“As agents of positive change, Chambers of Commerce and our project partners stand ready to play our part. Doing, not just talking.”

Blog: How did the Dutch government handle Brexit? Have your say in a new survey – DutchNews.nl – DutchNews.nl

Illustration: Depositphotos.com

British nationals who lived in the Netherlands before Brexit are being asked to take part in an independent survey to assess the Dutch government’s handling of the issue – particularly their residency rights.

The aim is to make sure that the perspective of British nationals living in the Netherlands is taken into account in the final report which will also look at the impact on industry.

The survey, which is anonymous, focuses on the Dutch government and the IND’s handling of British nationals’ residency rights.

Everyone over the age of 18 who has British citizenship and lived in the Netherlands for at least a year after June 23, 2016 is being invited to take part.

Take part in the survey

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Blog: Brexit betrayal: EU forces British scientist out of £2.4million project: ‘Heartbreaking’ – Express

Nicholas Walton, research fellow at the Institute of Astronomy, has had to pass on his leadership role in the European Space Agency’s Marie Curie Network research project. The researcher was told by the bloc that he had to either move to an EU country or pass on the role as Britain is not an associated member of Horizon Europe. This is the bloc’s £80billion flagship research programme.

While the UK was promised it could participate as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the bloc told Britain it could no longer take part unless it resolves the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Now, researchers claim the delay is harming British science as they continue to be left in the dark as to whether they will receive funding.

And they are relying on negotiators to strike a deal, leaving work hanging in the balance.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has threatened to rip up the Protocol in recent weeks as relations turn more soar, so it is perhaps not surprising UK-based scientists are bowing out.

Prof Walton, the Cambridge University astrophysicist, passed on his leadership role to a colleague in the Netherlands.

Carsten Welsch, a physicist at Liverpool University who won €2.6million (£2.2million) grant for a leadership role in a research project, is also considering following Prof Walton’s lead.

He told the Guardian: “As the UK’s association to Horizon Europe isn’t completed, we are now at real risk of losing our leadership in this consortium and to be marginalised.

“This is really heartbreaking, given the long and extremely successful track record in scientific collaboration between the UK and EU.”

But these two scientists are not alone.

The European Research Council (ERC) had promised 150 UK-based applicants Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme for Horizon Europe.

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He told the Guardian: “As the UK’s association to Horizon Europe isn’t completed, we are now at real risk of losing our leadership in this consortium and to be marginalised.

“This is really heartbreaking, given the long and extremely successful track record in scientific collaboration between the UK and EU.”

But these two scientists are not alone.

The European Research Council (ERC) had promised 150 UK-based applicants Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme for Horizon Europe.

The ERC is the bloc’s main funding agency for basic research and is a part of the Horizon Europe budget.

Despite the ban, the EU still appeared to be offering the 150 applicants grants under Horizon’s 2021 work programme, which need to be signed by December 2022.

But the ERC has warned it will replace these UK-based researchers if they do not move to an EU or Horizon-associated country.

An ERC spokesperson said it will have to “reach a bit deeper” into the back-up lists, adding that “we are not going to fund bad proposals because of this”.

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Back in March, the European Affairs Committee claimed that the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe was being used as a pawn in negotiations around unrelated areas of the post-Brexit UK–EU relationship.

They said: “The apparent politicisation of mutually beneficial scientific cooperation is a deeply regrettable development.”

The European Union’s ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida has warned that British scientists face becoming “collateral damage” in the ongoing dispute.

Calling the situation “very regrettable”, he added that Britain’s place in Horizon Europe is at increasing risk of becoming a “victim of the political impasse”.

Blog: Advancing human rights in a post-Brexit era: Global or Wavering Britain? – London School of Economics

The UK has traditionally exerted significant influence on the global human rights agenda through diplomacy. Sean Molloy and Rhona Smith explore the future of this influence, particularly in the context of Brexit. Their analysis casts doubt on the unfettered optimism of ‘Global Britain’ – the idea that the UK can emerge from its ties with the EU as an influential actor in the field of human rights.

The UK has been at the forefront of developing human rights law and norms and exporting them globally. One way to do so is through diplomatic efforts. Human rights diplomacy, as it is often termed, refers to the utilisation of diplomatic activities channelled towards the promotion and protection of human rights to alter the practices of those capable of impacting them.

In our latest research, we examined the UK contributions to human rights mechanisms within the Human Rights Council (HRC) – those initiatives which, at their core, exist to help promote the improvement of human rights around the globe. We suggested that these mechanisms, which include the Universal Periodic Review, interactions with Special Procedures of the HRC, and the drafting and adoption of HRC Resolutions, can be understood as specific opportunities for diplomatic efforts. We also found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that countries like the UK do not use HRC mechanisms to promote human rights more generally but rather to further their own individual human rights priorities.

None of this is, however, particularly ground-breaking or nuanced: countries have their own priorities and a large part of international relations is about how states seek to persuade, induce, demand and inspire others to adopt their values and ideas. What we were more interested in was the extent to which the UK might be able to continue to exert this type of influence going forward. At the core of ‘Global Britain’- arguably the flagship project of the UK’s post-Brexit foreign affairs – is a sense of optimism that the break with the EU offers new opportunities, due to increased flexibility, autonomy, and leadership. The strengthening of human rights is a fundamental pillar of this project, one that reflects the belief that not only will the UK continue to export human rights abroad, but that it will be better at doing so. We examined three interrelated shifts that might undermine this optimism.

The challenges for ‘Global Britain’

Firstly, there are growing examples of the UK drawing back on its support for, and compliance with, human rights norms. If part of the ability to influence other states is the result of a perception of legitimacy of the state deploying its human rights diplomacy, reputational damage could impact the potency of the UK’s human rights diplomacy.

Secondly, historically there has been a distinct direction of travel in the international human rights field. Notwithstanding long-confirmed ideological differences between East and West or North and South, frequently liberal democratic and often economically powerful states like the UK have sought to induce other, less liberal and often economically inferior states to take up the human rights mantle. Today, however, wider geopolitical changes have seen a rise of new powers capable of staving off such demands, and a corresponding lessening of this influence. Often adopting very different ideas and priorities about rights in general, the specific rights to be prioritised and the countries deemed to require intervention, the ability of countries like the UK to exert influence is changing with the emergence of other influential actors.

Finally, while the UK has benefitted from its membership of the powerful EU, withdrawing from it raises questions regarding the UK’s international policies generally, and specifically in the HRC.

A convergence of issues

The extent of each of these changes is, as of yet, uncertain. Moreover, questions arise as to which particular shift is likely to have the greatest impact. We suggest that it is the convergence of these changes that is likely to have the greatest effect on the UK’s ability to exert influence. For instance, the UK’s double standards in the area of human rights are longstanding.

Examples include the role of UK security actors in such places as Iraq and Northern Ireland. However, previously, the UK, as a member of the EU, could point to human rights developments brought about by the supranational organization as an example of its own human rights record, regularly aligning with the EU position on human rights issues in the HRC. Without this cover, the UK is less able to negate negative human rights interventions by pointing to the human rights progress elsewhere.

Similarly, the pandemic has heightened awareness of human rights more generally, particularly of how each country is able to guarantee individual rights and liberties. This increased societal consciousness in the area of human rights has been brought about by, amongst other things, wide claims of disproportionate and unnecessary infringements on human rights as a response to COVID-19.

While there has long been opposition to human rights as a universal concept, there has always been a strong rebuttal of claims to cultural relativism, in particular by the UK. Yet, the UK’s departure from the EU has rendered building trade alliances much more of a preference (arguably necessity) than when operating within the single market community. This could not only mean that less attention is afforded to promoting human rights but also that the UK will develop trade relationships with countries previously side-lined as a result of their human rights record and reputation. Thus, the aforementioned shifts cannot be viewed in isolation or weighed independently from wider geopolitical global shifts and developments.

Uncertain futures

Underpinning the ability of the UK to act as a leader is its continuing influence. We suggest that the UK’s influence in HRC mechanisms is bound up in a combination of its power, its perception as a human rights-compliant country and its geopolitical position and allegiances. Understood as such, the optimism associated with the opportunities that will emerge post-Brexit cannot be detached from the sources of this influence and the wider context and shifts threatening the status quo.

For more information, see the authors’ accompanying paper in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs


Note: This article first appeared at our sister site, British Politics and Policy at LSE. It gives the views of the author, not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics. Featured image credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash


Blog: AMERICAN TOWER CORP /MA/ : Regulation FD Disclosure, Financial Statements and Exhibits (form 8-K) – Marketscreener.com

Item 7.01 Regulation FD Disclosure.

On May 23, 2022, American Tower Corporation (the “Company”) issued a press
release (the “Press Release”) announcing that the Company has joined the United
Nations Global Compact and has adopted the United Nations Women’s Empowerment
Principles. A copy of the Press Release is furnished herewith as Exhibit 99.1.

The information in this Current Report on Form 8-K and Exhibit 99.1 are being
furnished and shall not be deemed to be “filed” for purposes of Section 18 of
the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), or
otherwise subject to the liabilities of that section, nor shall such information
or exhibit be deemed incorporated by reference in any filing made by the Company
under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Exchange Act, except as
shall be expressly set forth by specific reference in such a filing.

Item 9.01 Financial Statements and Exhibits.

(d)  Exhibits
Exhibit No.               Description

99.1                        Press Release, dated May 23, 2022 (Furnished herewith).

                          Cover Page Interactive Data File (embedded within the Inline XBRL
104                       document).



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