Tag Archives: Law on Trial

Law on Trial 2016: Can the EU Regulate a Financial Crisis?

This post was contributed by Daniele D’Alvia, MPhil Law student in Birkbeck’s School of Law. Here, Daniele considers the central question of a Law on Trial 2016 event being held on Thursday 16 June: “Can the EU Regulate a Financial Crisis?”

This year, Law on Trial – the School of Law’s l week-long programme of free-to-attend public lectures and panel discussions – will focus on the EU referendum. The annual showcase will run from Monday 13 to Friday 17 June 2016 and will bring together academic staff, recognised internationally as authorities in their field. Find out more

Law on Trial 2016

On the 23rd of May 2016 the international credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded – for the second time this year – Deutsche Bank’s ratings for unsecured senior debt to Baa2 two notches above junk status, and it has also cut the long-term deposit rating one notch from A2 to A3. The cut has occurred after the heavy loss that the German Bank has faced last year and its impossibility to guarantee internal capital generation by 2018.

In addition, since the 1st of January 2016 Europe has seen the implementation of a new ‘bail-in’ regime for banks (namely, the new rules are a result of the EU Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive), which requires the writing down of senior debt (bond instruments in particular) in case of a possible default or financial distress of banks. This circumstance has surely affected those assessments provided by Moody’s too.

Furthermore, the German Council of Economic Experts has recently proposed a new sovereign insolvency mechanism in order to overturn the financial principles of the post-war order in Europe. The proposal is centred on new ‘haircuts’ on holders of Eurozone sovereign debt and aims at matching the new-implemented rules enacted for banks under the EU Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive that have been mentioned above.

This has been done to restore the credibility of the ‘no-bailout’ clause in the Maastricht Treaty. The tax-payer does not have to suffer any loss under the new ‘bail-in’ culture, but what about the markets and the senior creditors? Indeed, under the new scheme bondholders will suffer losses in any future sovereign debt crisis before there can be any bail-out of the Eurozone by the European Stability Mechanism. The negative effects of such reforms have just manifested this year in January 2016 when the bondholders (i.e. senior debt) of the Portuguese bank Novo Banco have been written down under the new implemented scheme of ‘bail-in’ for banks in distress.

Indeed, these reforms are contributing to a ‘bond-running’ effect because the senior debt under these regimes is the first one to be written down. To this end, a new possible aggressive speculation by investors and economic crisis is just ready to start in Europe.

It really seems that currently in Europe the real question has shifted from how to stay in Europe to how to stay in the market. In other words, nowadays it is the politics of financial markets that governs politics at national governments level and not the other way round.

Hence, the rhetoric but essential question that Prof Michelle Everson has posed for the panel discussion that will be held this year at Law on Trial: “Can the EU Regulate a Financial Crisis?” Indeed, the panel discussion is focused on providing a possible answer by taking into account the global nature of financial risk, the limits of financial regulation as well as its effects in relation to both the management of risk (i.e. the sovereign and bank insolvency mechanisms) and its pricing (i.e. a bank in default).

Law on Trial 2016: The European Union at the Crossroads, runs at Birkbeck from Monday 13 to Friday 17 June. Book a free place here.

Find out more


New Foundations: Re-designing the Academic Stage of Legal Training

This post was contributed by Joanna Hartl, a first-year student on Birkbeck’s three-year LLB.

Day three of Law on Trial made me think:  “Why do lawyers spend so much time arguing ?” The answer is obvious: “Because they can’t help it!” Besides which –  how do you define an argument? Is it a heated discussion, or just people who have different views, perhaps the word “debate” would be better. Or is it because in the heart of every lawyer there lies the innate desire to always challenge the person with the opposing viewpoint, yes perhaps there we have it! The adversarial technique… is it genetically inherited? /environmentally cultivated? /developed through peer pressure? /caught like a virus? / or does it infect you like a Trojan Worm, so that once it has got itself into your system, it seems to be self-perpetuating forever and ever? A lawyer’s lot is not a happy one it seems, when they are studying or teaching something which they would rather not be.

The Alternative Law Degree

I thought I was already following a pretty alternative course. Since coming to Birkbeck I seem to have spent more time studying history, politics, economics and the welfare state, than it seems I have spent on studying the law itself, but then the law is purely a product of all those anyway. I don ‘t know about anyone else, but I think I ‘m already on the Alternative Law Degree. So at the end I may well end up getting an LLA (LLAlternativa!) But to be honest with you, I have totally enjoyed myself in the process, and like somebody said tonight, no one has yet dared to actually lay down what categorically comprises the content material/exact syllabus of the core subjects. We ‘re all going to be happy with “violence” and “environment” instead of criminal and land law.  In any case, it’s only the words you choose to define things. The things you are defining will still be there, whatever words you use. Your job as teachers is to instill in the student the ability to think critically, and for this Birkbeck deserves a FIRST PRIZE and a GOLD STAR. Education is not about just getting a first,  it’s also about discovering your own abilities and developing them, in order to change society, and I think that Birkbeck is doing its level best to make that happen.


Legal Education: Socialist Survivors

This post was contributed by Joanna Hartl, a first-year student on Birkbeck’s three-year LLB.

On the second day of Law On Trial, things livened up a bit, with quite a lot of audience participation. Professor Bill Bowring chaired the panel, consisting of two young, dynamic and recently qualified lawyers, Stephen and Natalie. Both gave excellent punchy presentations, putting their point across as Socialist Lawyers, and trying to show that the Legal Education System which exists in the Northern Hemisphere is very much supporting the continuity of the established capitalist status quo. The inadequacies and irrelevancy of the professional training courses necessary to practise law in the UK i.e. the B.P.T.C and the L.P.C were highlighted, and the cost of the B.P.T.C. in particular was seen as prohibitive to the majority of those present, so much so that one aspiring young lawyer has already decided to continue her studies in Nigeria, where the whole course equivalent to the B.P.T.C. costs only £4000 and no pupillage is required. Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera was happy that such an interchange should take place, but the student felt that it was for the wrong reasons, as it was not an economic option for her to continue in the UK! As well as highlighting the plight of individual impoverished Law students, and their fight for the right to continue their studies amidst continuing funding difficulties and  economic barriers; other key areas were also explored, which are of current topical and political interest, in particular the government’s legal aid cuts, and the pending impact this will have on many high street law firms. It will mean closure for many, as well as an end to the funding of neighbourhood law centres. Strike action was encouraged, which has already taken place, with both barristers and solicitors on strike against Legal Aid Cuts. We were exhorted to sign the petition against the cuts, which is called “saveukjustice”, and to join The Haldane Society, which is open to anyone interested in Law (you don’t need to be a qualified lawyer) and Socialism. The ideas of Peter Kropotkin were espoused by Stephen, and women were encouraged by Natalie to read the book by Baroness Helena Kennedy ” Eve Was Framed “, which will form the subject of discussion of a reading group at the Haldane Society. The evening was rounded off by Bill Bowring with a call to the Bar (on the 4th floor) for anyone wishing to continue the lively discussion. It was an extremely thought provoking, and stimulating evening, and well worth the effort of attending. I wil certainly be there again tomorrow!


The Utopian Law School and the Fate of the University

This post was contributed by Joanna Hartl, a first-year student on Birkbeck’s three-year LLB.

The first day of  Law on Trial was well attended, with an impressive line up of academics on the panel. With Dr Adam Gearey in the chair, we were led into the first presentation by Jane Holder from UCL, which was about opening us up to Environmental Law and Ecology. We were told that it would be good if students and academics alike could walk the talk by becoming self-sustaining economic units, similar to monastic units, by fundamentally getting back to nature and living in a utopian ecological paradise experiencing a series of diverse ecosystems first-hand and learning how to manage them, while studying at the same time. It called to my mind an image of people becoming a modern day Diggers Group, led by Adam, spade in one hand, and photocopied earth stained seminar texts in the other, growing carrots and lettuces in Torrington Square, with Patricia Tuitt complete with trowel and compost planting tomato seedlings in pots on the roof garden of the 5th floor eatery! I was left waiting for the announcement as to when the work was to commence……..!?! Certainly food for thought, and with the rapid increase of community gardens, who knows what the result may be….it is up to us as students to be the movers, if anything is to be done!

The idea of running a self-sustaining academic unit, where all became involved was further developed through the second presentation from Maia Pal of Sussex University. Maia recounted the occupation of Sussex University in 2012 which lasted for approximately two months. A cross section of about 300 people from the university got together from diverse areas, taking over the conference centre – not only students but also security guards, administration staff and academics, together with cleaners and catering staff who joined forces to support a joint effort of protest against the management of the university, who had decided among other things to privatise, in order to try and save money, and outsource approximately 250 jobs. They managed to successfully occupy the university until a 2000-strong group of supporters somehow smashed the door of the main entrance, and then legal proceedings were taken to evict them, with five students being arrested. It is now illegal to stage a protest if the management haven’t given their consent! The slogan painted on the wall that summed it up was “A University Is Nothing Without Dialogue”. Maia energetically encouraged us all to think about who owns the University, is it the management? Is it the students? Is it the people who work there? The academics, and/or the non- faculty staff? Maia told us that she had learnt from her experiences in Quebec where both faculty and non-faculty could bind together successfully. She challenged us to think about the use of space and ownership, and that thinking about law should be a part of our education, especially where we are exposed to “Jurisdictional Struggles” which in themselves question the existence of the law, and the use of space.

From this pragmatic stance we were guided back into the realms of literature by the next speaker, Thomas Docherty of Warwick University, who told us that the poet Shelley stated “….Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world…..” But he then went on to give a very cogent account of the political history behind the introduction of tuition fees for higher education, and critiqued Cameron ‘s ” something for nothing ” gripe about people who don’t have any resources wanting a share of the cake, making a comparison with those business-minded types who seek to enforce this culture into academic fields, and business, whereby someone will be expected to bring more results for less funding year after year until finally there is nothing left! Ultimately leading to THEFT! He covered also how the teaching accreditation techniques were becoming increasingly meaningless, causing an administrative overload, and not much else. He threw out pertinent questions to the audience about student debt, and taxation, and the possible privatisation of the student loan book, which the government would like to sell off. He told us that this increase in debt (poetic reference here to debt being like a “….shadow that is cast…”) is adding to social injustice, and ultimately would create yet more inequality. What we need to aspire to is a just university where …”crisis decision making “… at the heart of the university can be seen to be effective in extending justice out into the community, rather than allowing injustices (of all sorts) to continue.Thomas then summed up, saying that what we often get is quantity not quality, proving that he is obviously a poet and a literary man at heart!

Plenty of ideas and information came from this meeting, we just need to decide what course of action to pursue now, as the ball is in our court.