Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Call for papers on Sovereign Wealth Funds

Just a quick note to flag a call for papers that is being circulated for a conference in Singapore in September this year on Sovereign Wealth Funds. Much of interest from a global administrative law perspective, in particular relating to transparency and accountability requirements for the management of such funds. Anyone wanting an introduction to the issues involved could do much worse than read this excellent IILJ Working Paper by Simon Chesterman on this very topic. Anyway, here's the conference blurb:

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Asian Society of International Law (AsianSIL) are pleased to invite applications to attend the NUS Law School-AsianSIL Conference on Sovereign Wealth Funds: Governance and Regulation. This will be held at the NUS Law School in Singapore from Wednesday to Friday, 9-11 September 2009. Paper-givers who are selected through a competitive process will have their reasonable expenses covered.

Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) played an important role in the economic crisis of 2007-2009, incidentally acquiring large stakes in some financial giants. Yet that role has also raised questions about the influence of these state-owned investment vehicles. The United States and the European Union have expressed concerns that SWFs — coming largely from developing nations such as China, Russia and the Gulf states — have more than commercial aims. In particular, there are concerns that SWFs seek political and strategic leverage on top of financial gain. Such anxieties have been exacerbated by the relative opacity of these large investors.

Current discussion about these issues tends to concentrate on policy and economic matters rather than law. The aim of this conference — Sovereign Wealth Funds: Governance and Regulation — is to clarify the role that norms and law may play in future governance and regulation, including analysis of the governance potential of self-regulation and voluntary regimes.

A variety of processes have been initiated by both investor and investee countries, as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, intended to bring a measure of clarity to the situation. In particular, the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IWG-SWF) has drafted a set of Generally Accepted Principles and Practices (GAPP) — the “Santiago Principles” — in the hope that this voluntary regime will help maintain the free flow of cross-border investment and open and stable financial systems.

The Santiago Principles define SWFs as “special purpose investment funds” owned and created by the general government for macroeconomic purposes. Generally established from the balance of payments surpluses, official foreign currency operations, proceeds of privatizations, fiscal surpluses, and/or receipts resulting from commodity exports, SWFs invest largely in foreign financial assets to achieve financial objectives.

Abstracts for new and unpublished papers are invited on these and related issues. All conference papers will be published as "working papers" on the AsianSIL website. A select number of accepted papers will subsequently be considered for formal publication in a special section of the Singapore Year Book of International Law.

The following subject areas are intended to be illustrative of possible topics that might be considered, but other approaches are welcome:

1. Regulation at home (for example, transparency and accountability requirements for SWFs; processes for determining appropriate allocation of assets)
2. Regulation abroad (for example, restriction on foreign SWF investment in “sensitive yet capital-intensive” industries)
3. Self-regulation and voluntary regimes (for example, the likely impact of the GAPP on SWF investment practices, corporate social responsibility)
4. SWFs and international trade (for example, the relationship between bilateral investment treaties and SWF capital investments, and the possibility of including regulatory clauses in future treaties)
5. Best practices in corporate governance (for example, emerging standards for risk management and rates of return on investment)
6. Avoiding conflicts of interest (for example, a government taking stakes in an entity that it is regulating)
7. Stakeholders and the lines of accountability (for example, who the stakeholders in such a fund are and to whom accountability for its activities should be directed)
8. The impact of the financial crisis on prospects for regulation of SWFs.
9. What is “sovereign wealth” anyway?

Proposals should be submitted on the attached Abstract Submission Form available here.

Please ensure that you include an abstract of not more than 250 words, indicating the relationship of the proposed paper to the conference theme and identifying one or more of the subject areas listed above to which the paper relates.

Completed forms must be emailed to by Friday, 24 April 2009. Those selected to participate in the conference will be notified by Friday, 1 May 2009. Further details about the conference will be made available at that time. Participation will be dependent on producing a draft of the paper (in the order of 8,000 words) by Friday, 31 July 2009.

For more details on the Conference, please refer to our conference website.

Best wishes,

Simon Chesterman
Global Professor and Director, NYU School of Law Singapore Programme Associate Professor, NUS Faculty of Law

Tan Hsien-Li
Asian Society of International Law Research Fellow, NUS Faculty of Law

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