The Strange Case of the Disappearing Consumer

In November 2004 IOSCO (the International Organisation of Securities Commissions), which promulgates international standards for securities regulation, published a consultation document about its consultation procedures. The document contained a set of general objectives. The second of these stated that IOSCO would conduct public consultations:

To benefit from the expertise of market intermediaries, exchanges and other market operators, securities clearing and settlement system service providers, endusers and consumers, auditors and auditing companies, and other public authorities, international standard setters, international financial institutions, and regional development banks, when assessing and analyzing regulatory issues

IOSCO received a very limited number of public comments on this document. It is unclear how many private comments it received. The April 2005 Executive Committee Report on IOSCO Consultation Policy and Procedure does not mention consumers at all. Where the inclusive stakeholder paragraph appeared in the draft there now appears the following language:

To benefit from the expertise of the international financial community when assessing and analyzing regulatory issues.

What happened to the consumers? Is IOSCO just responding to the lack of comments by consumer groups or does the change in language reflect a change in policy? It's worth noting here that the International Bar Association's comments on the November draft emphasised that transparency in rule-making at the supranational level is important because:

It seems increasingly clear that the essential discussion of standards will take place at the IOSCO level rather than later at the home country level and that home country regulators will increasingly take the position that the standards adopted by IOSCO foreclose further discussion in the home country of the topics covered by these standards. This process is legitimate in democratic rulemaking when, and only when, those same principles have been fully vetted in a public manner at an international level.

In the same way, if IOSCO decides not to seek consumer input, then the consumer voice may be lost at the domestic level as well.

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