White Paper No. 77

Captured by financial institutions? New academic insights for European policymakers

This policy white paper shows, using data on European Commission (EC) lobby meetings, that financial institutions and finance trade associations have substantial access to EC policymakers. While lobbying could transfer policy-relevant information and expertise to policymakers, it could also result in the capture of policymakers by the industry, which could harm consumers and taxpayers. How could policymakers prevent regulatory capture, but retain the benefits of the sector expertise in policy decisions? Awareness of regulatory capture by policymakers is one of the most important remedies. This paper provides an overview of the origins of the regulatory capture theory and recent academic evidence. The paper shows that regulatory capture could emerge in a variety of institutions and policy areas but is not ubiquitous and depends on the incentives of policymakers and the policy environment. Subsequently, the paper discusses various measures to prevent regulatory capture, such as more transparency, diverse expert groups, and cooling-off periods.