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During the Values at Stake in Regulatory Practice: Managing Discretion & Governing Choices two-part seminar we will be discussing several different types of discretion involved in regulatory decision-making and exploring the set of values that we trust to govern such decision-making in order to protect against bias, corruption, and improper influence.

We will also take notice of, and consider the ramifications of, current pressures on regulatory agencies to be more accommodative, flexible, “agile”, and supportive of industrial innovation and disruptive technologies.

Many regulatory agencies publish “value statements,” or list in their public strategy documents the values they espouse, not only as a means of guiding and governing their employees’ behaviour, but also as a standard against which the agency is prepared to be evaluated. Values nominated in this way frequently include consistency, proportionality, fairness, transparency, equity, uniformity, effectiveness, resource-efficiency, integrity, accountability and predictability.

However, professional regulators find themselves vaguely uneasy with the notion that these values are absolute, or that they necessarily align nicely with each other. Regulators must focus and target their efforts, which means sacrificing uniformity. In some areas, they need to retain the element of surprise, which means deliberately not being predictable. Transparency before the fact is quite different from accountability after the fact. Do we always expect both? Regulatory and enforcement operations sometimes involve deception, such as with covert surveillance and undercover operations. If requirements for transparency and openness were absolute, such operations would never be allowed.

This seminar is designed to allow participants to explore the range of obligations that act on them: as public officials, as professional regulators, and as individuals with their own consciences, beliefs, and loyalties. We will explore together different types of regulatory discretion and decision-making , working towards a clearer vision of the range of values that impinge, and the practical challenge of navigating the tensions and dilemmas that arise when legitimate pressures pull in different directions.

These seminars provide an opportunity for attendees to assess (a) their own organisation’s practises in declaring their governing values and seeking to use them to govern operational decision making, and (b) their agency’s ability to explain and defend the more complex and nuanced judgments that regulatory decision-making inevitably requires.