Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cunningham on Principles-Based Regulation

As we ponder Secretary Paulson's call for "principles-based" regulation and what that means, Larry Cunningham (Boston College) provides us with scholarly insight.  He has just posted his article, A Prescription to Retire the Rhetoric of "Principles-Based Systems" in Corporate Law, Securities Regulation and Accounting, on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article corrects widespread misconception about whether complex regulatory systems can be fairly described as either “rules-based” or “principles-based” (also called “standards-based”). Promiscuous use of these labels has proliferated in the years since the implosion of Enron Corp. While the concepts of rules and principles (or standards) are useful to classify individual provisions, they are not scalable to the level of complex regulatory systems. The Article uses examples from corporate law, securities regulation and accounting to illustrate this problematic phenomenon before turning to a series of possible explanations for the widespread use of these misleading labels. The piece contributes to the substantive fields it uses to animate the inquiry and to more general jurisprudential literature on the rules-standards question.

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