Volatile economic conditions push regulators in new directions.
(November 2009) Regulators are in the unenviable position of determining an allowance for ROE that’s fair to consumers and investors in a volatile economy. The cases that stand out this year are those in which regulators explored the limits of their discretion.
A review of the rate cases decided over the past year indicates that the economy remains at the forefront in the news, and on the minds of regulators in rate-case proceedings. The issue has taken a new twist, however, as regulators are now placed in the unenviable position of determining an allowance for return on equity (ROE) that’s fair to consumers and investors in a volatile economy. When Fortnightly presented this feature last year, we reported that regulators were seeking to determine the effect the dip in the stock market, falling interest rates and tightening credit might have on financial modeling, as well as subjective views of the return necessary to attract investors. This time, the cases that stand out are those in which regulators are exploring the limits of their discretion under the regulatory compact to balance the interests of consumers and shareholders in the face of a severe economic downturn.