AI and the Financial Markets: Accountability and Risk Management with Legal Tools

This project explores AI-related risks in the financial markets. Situated at the intersection between law and business, it examines the management of risks (real or perceived) that emerge from the use of AI algorithms in the financial sector. At an individual level, this relates to the risk for individual harm related to the use of AI. At a societal level, could the use of AI in the financial sector augment systemic risk on the financial markets?

While law-making is always reactive, and therefore intrinsically behind technological developments, financial sector businesses need to manage risks connected to their use of AI proactively. To do this, they also need to understand the legal allocation of accountability connected to AI solutions. This project can contribute to such an understanding. We will unravel the existing “accountability infrastructure” regarding AI in the financial sector, including its gaps and inconsistencies. The project also aims to clarify, by empirical study, how the affected actors actually do try to manage risk connected to their use of AI. Finally, our aims include an endeavour to find more precise and more effective ways to design the “accountability infrastructure” regarding AI, as well as scrutinising the salience of business theories on risk management in the context of risk management with legal tools such as contracting.

The project will be carried out by a team of 3 senior researchers and 2 young researchers, using a combination of traditional legal research methods and empirical research methods. Legal materials and contracts will be analysed with legal methods. Such analyses will be complemented with qualitative interviews with key players in the industry. There will be a reference group including industry and public agency representatives, as well as researchers from social sciences. Results will be disseminated through scientific publications, seminars and conferences, but also through popular and industry media.

This project includes Magnus Strand (Pl), Annina H. Persson, Malou Larsson Klevhill, Jason Crawford, Johanna Chamberlain, Andreas Kotsios and Ensieh Mahi.

Project leader: Magnus Strand
Duration: 2021–2023
Financed by: Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation

AI-based RegTech

Businesses in the financial markets are in the midst of overwhelming legislative activity from multiple levels of norm-making in Europe and internationally. The tendency in new legislation has been to introduce ever more detailed control, supervision and enforcement. Indeed, the level of detail in rules and the amount of reporting with which finance businesses must comply has become too vast to survey without automated assistance for the purposes of reporting and compliance management.

This situation has created a surge in the market for advanced data services for compliance management. Applications for compliance with regulation (but also with business codes, contracts, and ethical standards) have become known as RegTech. The most advanced of these applications include artificial intelligence algorithms that make use of machine learning and natural language processing; indeed a 2018 IBM report indicated that these are the most commonly used RegTech products. The most common fields of application for AI-based RegTech are (according to a Deloitte survey) compliance management, risk management, transaction monitoring, mandatory reporting, and identification.

AI-based RegTech is very attractive to businesses struggling to cope with abundant reporting and monitoring. It increases efficiency and reduces costs, serving e.g. bank officers with big data analyses that would otherwise be tremendously time-consuming. For instance, AI-based RegTech helps detect suspicious transactions that could form part of financial crime such as money laundering.

However, AI-based RegTech also raises questions and concerns, perhaps most importantly with regard to the very purpose of reporting standards and internal monitoring. Such measures are primarily intended to raise ethical awareness in organizations and to educate leaders on how to maintain the standards set to protect investors, consumers, and taxpayers. We know that already a significant portion of compliance efforts are handled by algorithms. It may therefore be legitimately asked; are the people in the organizations actually learning anything, or are the algorithms the only ones learning? Some critics even say that the algorithms have been taught how to tick all the boxes and to report impeccable but potentially misleading data, thus covering a reality of decision-making that may (again) grow increasingly reckless. Such concerns serve to illustrate that it is crucial to study the use of AI-based RegTech in the financial sector, to set its uses into the theoretical contexts of risk management and compliance management, and to trace in what ways it actually contributes to (or reduces) transparency and accountability. We will be able to produce empirical results for an informed discussion on what uses of AI-based RegTech in the financial markets do indeed serve the purposes of legislative and ethical policies, and what uses do not. We can also contribute to designing more efficient means of promoting transparency, accountability, and ethical stringency in the financial markets.

Moreover, we recognize that the phenomena we have identified are not confined to the financial sector, but are present in algorithm-based reporting to e.g. tax authorities and in accounting; uses that are relevant to more complex business structures notwithstanding to which industry they belong. AI has an impact on the organization of any complex business. Consequently, this project has broad theoretical implications for management and organizational theory, making it a crucial research and teaching topic.

This project includes Donal Casey (Pl), Magnus Strand, Peter Thilenius, Subhalagna Choudhury and Karim Nasr.

Project leader: Donal Casey
Duration: 2021–2026
Financed by: WASP-HS

Book project: Legal Accountability in EU Markets for Financial Instruments – The Dual Role of Investment Firms

This book is one of several publications resulting from an interdisciplinary research project carried out in collaboration between Uppsala University and European University Institute in Florence. In the project we have studied modern patterns of centralised rulemaking in the EU internal market, focusing at the financial market(s); a set of sectors within the internal market where the development of rulemaking and accountability has general relevance and offers generous opportunities for both legal and political science.

The book concentrates on the legal consequences of centralised rulemaking for the EU system of governance, considering, in particular, accountability. To enable deepening of our study we have the regulatory framework on markets in financial instruments at the center of study. The book does not assert any fixed notion of ‘accountability’ (or, indeed ‘governance’) upon its authors. This is its main strength. There are many ideas about the meaning of accountability and the context in which it belongs. But, clearly, at the root lies the question if someone is responsible for what they do and able to give satisfactory reasons for their actions. Specifically with regard to legal accountability and, in particular, judicial control, the questions which are discussed in this book relate inter alia to the level and the nature of adjudication, the criteria for locus standi (for what actor), the type of remedies available (annulment or repeal type of action, infringement type of action, non-contractual liability and the like) and the intensity of the review of legality. The proper functioning of the EU financial market is protected by public actors – both national and supranational – responsible for rulemaking and supervision of investment firms. But the EU legal system is dependent on the vigilance of private actors; such as investment firms and their clients, invoking EU law before national authorities and courts. This means that the investment firms have a dual role within the financial accountability system, turning them into subjects of control and enforcement but also into agents in the maintenance of the rule of law.

The book is published on Oxford University Press. The editorial team has consisted of Magnus Strand (Commercial law at the Dept of Business Studies) and Professor Carl Fredrik Bergström (Dept of Law). Authors include commercial law colleagues Annina H. Persson, Malou Larsson Klevhill, and Magnus Strand.

Last modified: 2022-02-04