Capture Risks of Regulatory Agencies in Portugal

Capture Risks of Regulatory Agencies in Portugal (Susana Coroado)

My PhD research is on Capture Risks of Regulatory Agencies in Portugal. Independent regulatory agencies are the most visible institutional outcome of the rise of the Regulatory State. The reasoning behind their establishment was the need for separation of highly technical expertise from the interference of political officials, but simultaneously maintaining a public supervision of public interest markets, such as energy or telecommunication Although not a new phenomenon anymore, regulatory agencies still poses challenges to the democratic regime. If during the peak of the diffusion in Europe and Latin America, the main concern was the independence from the political power, which could undermine their legitimacy, the recent regulatory failures in several markets, including the financial ones, have raised questions about their actual degree of independence and accountability and have brought back the literature on regulatory capture.

This project aims at identifying the risks of capture among regulatory agencies, both by their political principals and by business interests, by measuring their degree of de jure and de facto independence and accountability, as well as explaining variation. It looks into the eleven legally recognized independent regulatory agencies in Portugal, a country with a étatism administrative tradition, but which was an early adopter of these bodies, mostly common in anglo-saxon settings.

The existing research on regulatory agencies has explained national and sectorial, based on the varieties of capitalism literature. However, it is yet to explain differences through other variables. This project’s contribution to the literature on regulatory agencies is two-fold. First, it aims to explain cross-sectorial variation within the same national political, economic and administrative setting. Second, it analysis the life-cycle of agencies, by identifying variation through time.