Spring 2011 Recap: Risk Regulation Seminar Series

The Penn Program on Regulation's Spring 2011 Risk Regulation seminar series brought together leading scholars to focus on issues related to catastrophic risk, health care, and financial reform. In March, Professors William Wilson Bratton and Michael L. Wachter, co-directors of the Institute for Law and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, presented their paper The Political Economy of Fraud on the Market, They questioned the continued acceptance of fraud on the market class action litigation, analyzing the hurdles standing in the way of its abolition and mapping out a plausible route to a superior enforcement strategy. They argued that better securities fraud deterrence would come from increased funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) public enforcement capabilities rather than private sector securities class actions. In fact, they argued that private securities fraud litigation should be made more difficult by requiring plaintiffs to meet an actual reliance standard. The February seminar focused on issues raised by section 2705 of the 2010 Patient Protection Affordable Health Care Act, which seeks to promote corporate wellness programs by expanding the insurance discounts that companies can offer their employees. Penn Law Professor Tom Baker discussed his paper, Health Insurance, Risk, and Responsibility after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Kevin Volpp, Professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at Penn, presented his study, A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Financial Incentives for Smoking Cessation. Volpp showed how financial incentives can be used to promote healthy behavior, but he also noted that these incentives can raise both ethical and efficacy issues. Professor Baker then discussed how the Affordable Care Act directs the federal government to encourage public and private health insurance systems to expand their use of health incentives. The spring term started off with a seminar in January on "Induced Development in Risky Locations: Fire Suppression and Land Use in the American West," featuring Sheila Olmstead, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF). Olmstead presented a study, co-authored with Carolyn Kousky (also with RFF), suggesting that government forest-fire fighting policy may have led to an increase in fire damage to homes near federal lands. Her study examined events from 1970 to 2000, taking statistical advantage of a shift in federal fire suppression policy that followed the Yellowstone fires on 1988. Olmstead argued that the government's fire fighting efforts have effectively subsidized and encouraged development in regions that are at greater risk for fire damage.

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