Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2014


The global financial crisis caused widespread harm not just to the financial system, but also to millions of households and businesses, and to the global economy.1 The crisis revealed substantive, fundamental weaknesses in global financial regulation, and raised serious questions about whether national regulators and the international financial regulatory system could ever be up to the task of overseeing global finance. The Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization) were never really equipped to deal with the growing complexity, breadth, and size of the global financial system, and instead left rulemaking and supervision largely to the domestic arena. The cross-border rules that were developed—essentially by national regulators and the international standard-setting bodies that took root in this global institutional lacuna in the 1980s— proved woefully ineffective. Despite strategies to increase the accountability and legitimacy of these hybrid standard-setting bodies,2 the rules failed substantively, and overwhelmingly. Global finance, and a ‘‘soft-law’’ architecture left unchecked by a decades-long regulatory race to the bottom, proved weak in the face of global financial institutions and crushed the real economy.


Reproduced with permission. Copyright © American Society of International Law 2015. Originally published as Barr, Michael S. "Global Administrative Law and the Post-Crisis Financial Order." The Effectiveness of International Law 108 (2014): 31-33.