A Conversation with Professor Lauren Willis, Fulbright Scholar Award

LLS Professor Lauren Willis

Fulbright Scholar awards are more than just a prestigious notch in the cap – they take you to another part of the world for research and sometimes teaching, too:  When did you first start thinking a Fulbright made sense for you and your work?

Several years ago, regulators in Australia wanted to modernize and strengthen their regulation of consumer credit, savings, investment, and insurance products. They read an article I published in the University of Chicago Law Review, Performance-Based Consumer Law, and reached out to me for help applying my ideas to their remit. After I had assisted in developing their new regulatory scheme, I wanted to return to Australia to evaluate how it was working on the ground.  This is a completely new approach to consumer protection, and I wanted to discover the successes, roadblocks, and any unintended effects of the new law (and ways they were surmounting the roadblocks and ameliorating unintended effects). With release from teaching for an upcoming sabbatical, it was the perfect time to apply for a Fulbright to go to Australia and perform research needed to assess the operation of their new law. 

Fulbright Scholar awards are awarded to a small number of US faculty for specific proposed projects in identified host countries, aiming to allow talented scholars to “inspire, innovate, and contribute to finding solutions to challenges facing our communities and our world”:  What makes your Fulbright award hosting country the right fit for your project?

In addition to assisting the Australian regulator, I have worked with the Financial Conduct Authority on the UK to develop a performance-based regulatory scheme there. The UK law just went into effect, so I hope to bring lessons from the Australian experience to the UK, and lessons from the experience of both countries to others that are interested in a more effective approach to consumer protection. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority in South Africa and regulators here in the U.S. have also expressed interest. Consumer financial protection regulators in particular are discovering that ex ante disclosure and product design mandates are not enough in the digital age. I hope they all can add a performance-based approach to their regulatory toolboxes.     

In addition to supporting innovative research, Fulbright Scholar awards are designed for cross-cultural advancement, benefiting the host institution and the home institution.  What do you expect your experience as a Fulbright Scholar will allow you to bring back to LLS?

I will be working at Melbourne Law School, with the incredible research faculty at the University of Melbourne.  I have projects planned with faculty at the law school and in the Finance Department. I hope to bring back insights from their innovative work, and to have them guest lecture (remotely!) in my Consumer Law class.