Established in April 2009 by the Group of 20 (G20) leaders, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) has been described by US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in very ambitious terms as a new “fourth pillar” of the architecture of global economic governance alongside the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO). Its basic structure and mandate build directly on those of its predecessor, the Financial Stability Forum (FSF), an institution that did not live up to the hopes of many of its founders. Will the FSB meet the same fate in its efforts to strengthen international prudential standards?
Three features of the FSB will help it overcome some of the FSF's weaknesses: its larger membership addresses some of the FSF's legitimacy problems; it has been assigned more effective mechanisms to encourage compliance with international standards; and the FSB has been given a stronger capacity to tackle macroprudential issues. Each of these features also raises new challenges and priorities to be addressed:
- With the FSB’s larger membership, the following should be encouraged: more focus on principles-based international standards rather than detailed rule-based ones; the strengthening of the voice of new developing country members within the institution; and further efforts to address its lack of accountability to non-members.
- Each of the FSB’s four new mechanisms to strengthen compliance with international standards could be improved: the mandatory regular Financial Sector Assessment Programs (FSAPs) and publication of the detailed IMF/WB assessments related to the ROCSs for members; the new membership obligations to implement international standards; the new peer review process for FSB members; and the new FSB-led process to tackle non-cooperating jurisdictions.
- The FSB’s capacity to tackle macroprudential issues could be strengthened 'by: clarifying the standard setting bodies’ (SSBs) accountability to the FSB; continuing to prioritize the creation of international standards for counter-cyclical regulation and the treatment of systematically important institutions, markets and instruments; and devoting more attention to the task of minimizing the risk of private sector capture of financial regulatory policy making.
If these challenges and priorities are met successfully, the FSB will strengthen the institutional foundation of international regulatory cooperation. Rather than becoming a powerful international body, however, its role would remain primarily focused on facilitating transgovernmental networks, with ultimate responsibility for financial regulation and supervision still resting firmly at the national level (or perhaps at the regional level in the case of Europe).