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Prof Johann Scholtz holds South Africa's first Chair in Financial Regulation Law
Author: Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Anél Lewis]
Published: 22/01/2024

​​​​Professor Johann Scholtz, an internationally recognised expert in financial services law and regulation, has been appointed to the Gys Steyn Chair in Financial Regulation Law at Stellenbosch University (SU). The research chair, which will focus on various aspects of financial regulation as a prerequisite for economic stability and growth, is the first of its kind in South Africa.

“This latest research chair places SU in a prime position to make a substantive and lasting contribution towards the improved regulation of the financial sector," says Prof Nicola Smit, Dean of SU's Faculty of Law. “It is fitting that Scholtz, who has extensive experience in this field both locally and internationally, will pioneer a research chair that will have a significant impact on economic stability, and society in general." 

Multidisciplinary in scope 

The Chair will incorporate aspects such as the economics of the financial sector, models of regulation, regulation of different risks in the financial sector, and regional and international financial regulation law. “Given the scope of this field, it was important to appoint a senior expert who is able to create a knowledge hub, around which more focused expertise may be co-opted as needed," adds Smit.

Scholtz agrees that the Chair is a multidisciplinary position that will provide linkages between various fields – law, accounting, economics, banking, governance, and risk management – as well as between various entities – regulators, financial institutions, law firms, exchanges, intermediaries, prosecuting authorities and academic institutions. “While no one person can be an expert in everything (and I certainly am not), I see my extensive network in the legal, regulatory and academic world as one of the assets I can contribute to this position," says Scholtz.

He is an alumnus of the University of Pretoria where he graduated in 1986 with an LLB cum laude, and Cambridge University, where he completed his LLM in 1988. He has represented clients before various tribunals and regulators as well as the High Court, Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court, and was an acting judge in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg during the third term of 2023. 

Scholtz has been involved in the management and governance of Webber Wentzel in various capacities since being elected to the management board in 1996. Last year he became an executive consultant to the firm. A steadfast commitment to transformation has seen Scholtz support various mentoring initiatives at Webber Wentzel and the broader legal profession.

He specialises in all aspects of financial services law and regulation, with expertise that extends to banking law and regulation, stock exchange and securities law, consumer protection law and anti-bribery and corruption law. His competency is highlighted by his inclusion in several international legal directories, including Chambers and Partners Global guide, IFLR1000 and Who's Who Legal. 

Addressing a 'real need' 

Scholtz, who assumed his new position on 22 January, says the development of a regulatory framework for the use of generative AI (artificial intelligence) by financial institutions needs to be addressed as the fintech landscape evolves. With recent figures from the Financial Sector Conduct Authority indicating that nearly 10% of South Africans own crypto assets, there is a definite need for protection and enhanced regulation of these digital products, he adds.

One of the Chair's focal areas is therefore the monitoring of global developments in regulations for digital currencies, open banking, blockchain, consumer protection, sustainable financing, the regulation of carbon markets, ESG (environmental, social and governance criteria in regulation and investment) and the regulation of climate risk management by banks and insurers. “We live in a global society and our financial markets are largely interlinked. Financial regulation can no longer be approached on a parochial basis." 

Bolstering SA's international standing 

Recent events, such as the grey listing of SA by the Financial Action Task Force last year (meaning there are strategic deficiencies in regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing), have affected the country's international reputation for prudent and effective financial regulation. This Chair, as hub of expertise, will play a key role in bolstering SA's position through impactful research publications, focused high-quality teaching, industry relevant short courses, thought leadership, high-level conferences, and colloquia, explains Scholtz.

Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, says Scholtz's appointment as the inaugural Gys Steyn Chair is a significant boost for research at SU, and aligns with its vision of being Africa's leading research institution. “SU's number of research chairs has increased significantly in recent years, and this latest chair – a first in the country – will help the Faculty of Law deepen its understanding of financial regulatory systems. It will also position SU as having a globally recognised centre of learning and expertise in financial regulatory matters." 

Additional notes: 

  • Read more about the Gys Steyn Chair.
  • The Law Faculty Trust, created in 2013, supports several projects in the SU Faculty of Law, including but not limited to bursaries for postgraduate students that enrol for LLM (research) and LLD degrees. The Trust also provides support to academic staff, including funding for study opportunities. A further important focus is the recruitment and retention of academic staff, with the establishment of the Chair in Social Justice (2018) with Prof Thuli Madonsela as first incumbent an example.