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Fernández-i-Marín, Xavier; Jordana, Jacint and Bianculli, Andrea C. (September 2016): Are regulatory agencies independent in practice? Evidence from board members in Spain. In: Regulation and Governance, Vol. 10, No. 3: pp. 230-247

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Are the board members of regulatory agencies (regulators), taken as a particular cluster within the public sphere, independent of elected politicians and tenured bureaucrats? How can we assess their independence in practice, beyond formal rules? To address these questions, this paper delves into two key dimensions: board members' social connections and their security of tenure in office. Firstly, we focus on regulators' identity as policy adjudicators and examine their political and administrative relations. In doing so, we expect to understand better how regulators' social and political situations may influence their behavior. Secondly, we assess their political vulnerability through political cycles in order to measure their de facto independence over time. Additionally, variations in these two dimensions are compared with respect to the effect of different de jure appointment rules. We contrast these expectations with the empirical evaluation of board members of regulatory agencies in Spain (1979–2010). Thus, we confirm that regulators who have an administrative profile are more vulnerable to political changes than those with political ties, while appointment rules have an influence on their political vulnerability.

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