Soft Law in Central Bank Accountability Frameworks

Camila Duran, a law professor at Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil), writes in the European Journal of Legal Studies about the importance of soft law in central bank accountability frameworks, comparing the Fed, the ECB and the Central Bank of Brazil.

EJLS[1](1)“Central banks are not traditionally thought of as being socially accountable. In fact, the main innovation of central banks in the 20th century was to make them largely independent from political influence. Thus, the prevailing (economic) analyses of central bank accountability have examined the formal relationships of accountability to political bodies such as the legislature and the executive. However, this article argues that trends in monetary policy-making beginning in the 1990s inadvertently led to the potential for greater social accountability of central banks. Driven by a shifting economic consensus, central banks moved from an approach of secretive currency management to transparent communication with the market. This transformation was prompted by new beliefs aboutthe efficiency of monetary policy. This article argues that the current ‘hard law’ framework for central bank accountability does not reveal all of the social mechanisms in place. In fact, ‘soft law’ instruments are causing more and faster institutional changes in the legal framework for the central bank accountability. The role of law is changing accordingly: central banks have their actions controlled in an ex postmodel of supervision rather than an ex anteform. This study explores the institutional development of accountability mechanisms in two central banks in advanced economies (the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank) and in a monetary authority in an emerging economic power(the Brazilian Central Bank). All the three central banks had the same institutional development, despite the significant differences in terms of political, social and economic contexts in which they operate.”

Read the full article at

Reforming or Deforming the Fed?

Maintaining a fixed dollar price for gold, imposing a Taylor rule for monetary policy, barring private bankers from being directors of the Fed’s regional reserve banks, releasing full transcripts six months after the Fed’s meetings – Barry Eichengreen comments on US presidential candidates’ proposals for reforming the Fed.

“The fact that three of the nine directors of the Fed’s regional reserve banks are private bankers is an anachronism that creates the appearance, and potentially the reality, of a conflict of interest. [Bernie] Sanders’ suggestion that the US president, rather than their own directors, nominate the regional reserve banks’ presidents is also worthy of consideration.

It is important to recall that the peculiar arrangements prevailing today were designed to overcome the financial sector’s opposition to the establishment of a central bank when the Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913. This, clearly, is no longer the problem; on the contrary, the financial sector today is one of the Fed’s last staunch defenders.”

Read the full article here.