Shearman & Sterling LLP | Financial Regulatory Developments Focus
Financial Regulatory Developments Focus
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The following posts provide a snapshot of the principal U.S., European and global financial regulatory developments of interest to banks, investment firms, broker-dealers, market infrastructures, asset managers and corporates.

  • EU Supervisory Authority Issues Call for Evidence on Periodic Auctions for Equity Instruments
    11/09/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a call for evidence on periodic auctions for equity instruments. ESMA wishes to gather more information on the functioning of so-called frequent batch auction trading systems. Frequent batch auctions for equities have rapidly gained market share since the introduction of the Double Volume Cap mechanism under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments package. This has given rise to concerns that this trading may be used as alternative to trading under the DVC waivers and/or as a way to avoid the pre-trade transparency requirements of systematic internalisers. ESMA has conducted a stock-take, assessing seven frequent batch auction systems operating in the EU and sets out its findings in the call for evidence.

    In the call for evidence, ESMA distinguishes conventional periodic auctions from frequent batch auctions and outlines the key characteristics of frequent batch auction systems operating in the EU. ESMA sets out its observation of a rising market share for equity trading on frequent batch auctions and considers developments in equity trading since the application of MiFID II. It seeks input on a range of questions focused on these issues.

    Responses to the call for evidence are invited by January 11, 2019. The call for evidence will be of particular interest to trading venues and investment firms trading in equity instruments, but ESMA also welcomes responses from any other market participants including trade associations and industry bodies, institutional and retail investors.

    ESMA will use the feedback to the call for evidence to assess whether and to what extent frequent batch auction systems can be used to circumvent the MiFID II transparency requirements and will develop appropriate policy measures if necessary.

    View the call for evidence.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • EU Supervisory Authority Will Extend Binary Options Ban Into 2019
    11/09/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has announced that it proposes to renew the prohibition on the marketing, distribution or sale of binary options to retail clients for a further three months from January 2, 2019. ESMA's product intervention powers under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation allow it to impose temporary prohibitions or restrictions on certain financial instruments, financial activities or practices to address a significant investor protection concern in the EU. ESMA is renewing the prohibition on binary options because it considers that a significant investor protection concern remains. The measure will be renewed on the same terms as the previous renewal decision that has applied from October 2, 2018 and that will expire on January 1, 2019.

    ESMA's Board of Supervisors agreed on the renewal of intervention measures on November 7, 2018. ESMA will publish an official notice on its website in the coming weeks. The new Decision will then be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will start to apply from January 2, 2019 for a period of three months.

    View ESMA's announcement.

    View details of the prohibition expiring on January 1, 2019.
  • EU National Regulators To Confirm If They Intend to Comply With MiFID II Suitability Guidelines
    11/06/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published on its website the official translations of its revised Guidelines on aspects of the suitability requirements under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

    ESMA published the finalized Guidelines in May 2018, following a consultation between July and December 2017. The finalized Guidelines largely confirm ESMA's previous 2012 Guidelines on MiFID I, but have a broader scope and ESMA has added clarifications and refinements where necessary.

    Now that the Guidelines have been translated into the official EU languages and published on ESMA's website, national regulators will have a two-month period (expiring on January 6, 2019) in which to notify ESMA whether they comply or intend to comply with the guidelines. National regulators should state their reasons for non-compliance where they do not comply or do not intend to comply.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • EU Authority Calls for Non-Enforcement of Impending Clearing Obligation for Intragroup Transactions and Non-Financial Counterparties
    10/31/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has issued a statement on the impending clearing obligation under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation. The statement is also relevant to the trading obligation under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation which is triggered by the EMIR clearing obligation.

    EMIR provides an exemption from the clearing obligation for intragroup transactions with a third-country group entity where one of the counterparties is a third-country group entity and there is an equivalence decision in respect of the third country in which it is situated. An equivalence decision would enable parties that are subject to both the EU and a third country's clearing obligation to comply only with one jurisdiction's requirements, but no equivalence decisions have been made to date for these purposes.

    Read more.
    TOPICS: DerivativesMiFID II
  • EU Contracts for Differences Product Intervention Measures Extended
    10/31/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority Decision renewing and amending the temporary restriction on the marketing, distribution or sale of contracts for differences to retail clients has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union. ESMA announced on September 28, 2018 that the existing restriction would be extended and would include an additional reduced character risk warning because CFD providers have experienced technical difficulties in using the risk warnings due to the character limitations imposed by third-party marketing providers. The CFD Decision applies directly across the EU from November 1, 2018 for three months.

    ESMA extended the temporary product intervention prohibiting the marketing, distribution and sale of binary options to retail investors for a further three months from October 2, 2018, although certain types of binary options were excluded from the scope of the prohibition because ESMA considers that those binary options are less likely to present a significant investor protection concern. Both of ESMA's product intervention measures are made using powers under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation.

    View the Decision.

    View details of the extension of the ban relating to binary options.
  • Draft UK Post-Brexit Legislation to Onshore the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Package
    10/11/2018

    HM Treasury has published a draft of the Markets in Financial Instruments (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018, along with explanatory information. The draft Regulations are primarily relevant for MiFID II-authorized firms including investment banks, stock and futures exchanges, broker-dealers, investment advisers and investment managers.

    The draft Regulations have been prepared in preparation for a "no-deal" scenario, in which the U.K. exits the EU on March 29, 2019 without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement. The no-deal scenario would mean that there would be no transitional period following Brexit and that the U.K. would be treated as a third-country after exit day. The changes set out in the draft Regulations will not take effect if the U.K. enters a transition period.

    Read more.
  • European Supervisory Authority Issues Opinion on Position Limits for UK Natural Gas Derivatives
    10/05/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published an Opinion (dated September 24, 2018) on position limits for U.K. Natural Gas Contracts, for the purposes of the position limit regime established by the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. MiFID II and its secondary legislation establish the position limits regime for commodity derivatives. For illiquid contracts, the position limits are set in the legislation. However, where contracts are liquid, position limits are set by the relevant national regulator and notified to ESMA. Secondary legislation under MiFID II sets out Regulatory Technical Standards for the methodology national regulators should use and the factors they should consider when setting position limits.

    The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority notified ESMA in February 2018 of the position limits the FCA intends to set for U.K. Natural Gas commodity futures and options contracts. In its Opinion, ESMA confirms that the spot month position limit and the other months' position limit are consistent with the objectives of MiFID II and compliant with the methodology established by the relevant RTS.

    Read more.
    TOPICS: DerivativesMiFID II
  • European Supervisory Authority Withdraws Guidelines for Algorithmic Trading Controls
    10/03/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a decision (dated September 26, 2018) of its Board of Supervisors to withdraw its existing Guidelines for trading platforms, investment firms and national regulators on systems and controls in an automated trading environment.

    The Guidelines were published by ESMA in 2011 to provide important clarifications to ensure a common, uniform and consistent application of the original Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and its secondary legislation (MiFID I). The content of the Guidelines has now been incorporated within, and consequently superseded by, detailed provisions in the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and its secondary legislation (MiFID II) and the Market Abuse Regulation.

    The Guidelines have been withdrawn effective from September 26, 2018.

    View the ESMA decision.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • EU Opinion Attempts to Clarify the Market Size Calculation for Ancillary Activity Exemption under MiFID II
    10/02/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has issued an opinion addressed to EU national regulators on the market size calculation for the ancillary activity exemption under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

    MiFID II provides an exemption from the requirement for authorization as an investment firm when dealing on own account, or providing investment services to clients in commodity derivatives, emission allowances or derivatives thereof, provided that the activity is an ancillary activity to their main business at group level and the main business is not the provision of investment services within the meaning of MiFID II or banking activities under the Capital Requirements Directive. Delegated Regulation (EU 2017/592) sets out the criteria for establishing when an activity should be considered as ancillary to the main business at group level, including the rules for calculating the overall market trading activity of a firm.

    ESMA's opinion provides guidance to market participants and national regulators on determining market size figures, since there is no centralized, publicly available record of transactions for commodity derivatives and emission allowances. ESMA acknowledges that the data it has used for the guidance may have limitations in terms of accuracy and completeness and states that national regulators may use alternative data provided by market participants for the calculation.

    View the opinion.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Recommends Tightening of Third-Country Requirements
    10/01/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a letter (dated September 26, 2018) from ESMA Chair Steven Maijoor addressed to Valdis Dombrovskis, the Vice President of the European Commission. The purpose of the letter is to contribute to any further work the Commission may undertake on the investor protection and intermediaries-related requirements under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation.

    Read more.
  • EU Ban Relating to Binary Options Extended
    10/01/2018

    Following its announcement in August 2018, the European Securities and Markets Authority has published notice of the extension of the prohibition on the marketing, distribution and sale of binary options to retail investors for a further three-month period from October 2, 2018. ESMA is extending the ban because the threat to investor protection has not been addressed yet through a change in EU legislation and national regulators have either taken no action or have taken insufficient action to address the potential harm.

    Read more.
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Publishes Its 2019 Priorities
    10/01/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published its Annual Work Programme for 2019, dated September 26, 2018. ESMA sets out its focus areas for 2019 and provides details of expected outputs within each of the areas. ESMA also indicates that a number of pieces of EU legislation may be reviewed. These include the Market Abuse Regulation and the clearing obligation under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation, in addition to the reviews that have already been announced.

    Read more.
  • EU Contracts for Difference Product Intervention Measures to be Extended
    09/28/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has announced that its various restrictions on the sale, distribution and marketing of Contracts for Difference to retail investors will be extended from November 1, 2018 for a further three months.

    ESMA adopted two temporary product intervention Decisions under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation in June this year, one relating to binary options and another to CFDs. ESMA has powers under MiFIR to impose prohibitions or restrictions on certain financial instruments, financial activities or practices to address a significant investor protection concern in the Union. Product intervention measures imposed by ESMA under MiFIR must be reviewed at appropriate intervals and at least every three months. If a measure is not renewed after three months, it will expire and it would then fall to member states to impose similar restrictions at a national level, if they so wish. The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority is expected to consult before the end of the year on whether to make permanent the EU's temporary prohibition on marketing, distribution and sale of binary options to retail investors. The International Organization of Securities Commissions recently published a report on retail OTC leveraged products, alongside a statement warning retail investors of the risks of investing in illegal or fraudulent binary options.

    Read more.
  • New Data Completeness Indicators to be Published for EU Trading Venues
    09/27/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has announced that it will publish two new data completeness indicators for trading venues, detailing how venues are performing on the delivery of Double Volume Cap and bond liquidity data in compliance with their obligations under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation. ESMA has been working with national regulators to improve the timeliness and completeness of the data underpinning the monthly DVC and quarterly bond liquidity assessment publications. ESMA believes that the new indicators will incentivize trading venues to provide timely and complete data. For both DVC and bond liquidity data, ESMA will introduce the following completeness indicators:
     
    1. The Completeness Ratio, to provide information on the completeness of each particular venue, irrespective of the performance of other venues.
    2. The Completeness Shortfall, which will give an indication of a venue’s performance in terms of completeness compared to other trading venues and reflect the percentage of missing data for which a particular venue is responsible.
    ESMA will publish the DVC completeness indicators on October 8, 2018 with the next DVC update and then on a monthly basis. It will publish bond liquidity completeness indicators from the next bond liquidity quarterly assessment publication by November 1, 2018 and then on a quarterly basis.

    View the ESMA press release.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • Further Amendments to Technical Standards on EU Systematic Internalisers' Quote Rules
    09/20/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published an Opinion and revised draft amendments to the Regulatory Technical Standard on the equity transparency obligations of trading venues and investment firms. The RTS, known as RTS 1, is set out in Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/587, supplementing the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Supervisory Authorities Report on Automation in Financial Advice
    09/05/2018

    The Joint Committee of the European Supervisory Authorities has published a joint report on automation in financial advice. The Report follows the ESA's 2015 joint discussion paper and follow-up report in 2016. The Report provides a summary of recent sectoral work by the ESAs in this area and the main findings of a survey with national regulators on the evolution of automation in financial advice in the securities, banking and insurance sectors. The ESAs observed that automated services are more often offered through partnerships between established financial intermediaries and FinTech firms than by FinTech firms alone. The ESAs also found that automation in financial advice has grown slowly and that the number of firms and customers involved is still limited. As a result, the ESAs do not consider that any of the previously identified risks have materialized and therefore that further action is unnecessary at this stage. The ESAs will conduct a new monitoring exercise if and when market developments and risks merit the work.

    View the report.
    TOPICS: FinTechMiFID II
  • European Commission Communication on Proposed Amendments to Technical Standards on Systematic Internalisers' Quote Rules
    09/03/2018

    The European Commission has published a Communication (dated August 10, 2018) on proposed amendments by the European Securities and Markets Authority to a Regulatory Technical Standard, known as "RTS1," supplementing the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation.

    Under MiFIR, Systematic Internalisers must make public firm quotes in equity instruments. The quotes must: (i) be at least equivalent of 10% of the standard market size for the quoted instrument; (ii) include both a bid and offer price; and (iii) reflect the prevailing market conditions for that instrument. RTS 1 specifies the concept of "prices reflecting prevailing market conditions" as being "close in price, at the time of publication, to quotes of equivalent sizes for the same financial instrument on the most relevant market in terms of liquidity." ESMA submitted final draft amendments to RTS 1 in March 2018, which provided that, where a financial instrument is subject to the "minimum tick size" regime, the quotes of an SI can only adequately reflect prevailing market conditions when those quotes reflect the minimum price increments ("tick sizes") quoted by EU trading venues trading the instrument.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Intends to Extend Product Intervention Measures for Binary Options for a Further Three Months
    08/24/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has announced its intention to adopt a Decision to extend the prohibition on the marketing, distribution and sale of binary options to retail investors for a further three-month period from October 2, 2018. ESMA has previously adopted intervention measures for binary options, with the current Decision set to expire on October 1, 2018.

    ESMA has power under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation to impose prohibitions or restrictions on certain financial instruments, financial activities or practices. This may be done when, among other conditions, the exercise of ESMA's power addresses a significant investor protection concern in the Union. Product intervention measures imposed by ESMA under MiFIR must be reviewed at appropriate intervals and at least every three months. If a measure is not renewed after three months, it will expire. In reviewing the current Decision, ESMA has agreed to exclude from the scope of product intervention certain types of binary option that are less likely to lead to a significant investor protection concern.

    Read more.
  • EU and UK Authorities Clarify Trading Obligation Expectations for Pension Schemes
    08/08/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a further statement on the transitional exemption from the clearing obligation for pension scheme arrangements under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation and delegated regulations. Transitional provisions provide for PSAs to be exempt from the clearing obligation until August 16, 2018. There is no provision in EMIR that would allow for a further extension of this exemption period. It is proposed that this exemption will be further extended under the proposal to amend EMIR, known as EMIR Refit. ESMA issued a statement on July 3, 2018 stating that national regulators are expected not to prioritize "their supervisory actions towards entities that are expected to be exempted again in a relatively short period of time and to generally apply their risk-based supervisory powers in their day-to-day enforcement of applicable legislation in a proportionate manner."

    This new statement clarifies that ESMA does not expect national regulators to focus on any non-compliance by PSAs with the related trading obligation under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation. Financial counterparties that are exempt from the clearing obligation under EMIR are also exempt from the trading obligation under MiFIR. It is likely that the clearing obligation exemption will expire before it is extended under EMIR Refit and therefore the trading obligation exemption would also lapse.

    Read more.
    TOPICS: DerivativesMiFID II
  • UK Conduct Regulator Reminds Firms of Obligations on Selling High-Risk Products to Retail Clients
    08/01/2018

    The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has issued a statement on selling high-risk speculative investments to retail clients following the European Securities and Markets Authority's product intervention on contracts for difference products.

    ESMA issued decisions in March and June 2018 to temporarily prohibit the marketing, distribution or sale of binary options and to impose restrictions on the marketing, distribution or sale of CFDs to retail clients. In the CFD decision, ESMA had clarified that turbo certificates were outside the scope of the CFD restrictions. However, in its recently updated Q&A on its product intervention, ESMA acknowledges that turbo certificates have comparable features to CFDs, such as leverage.

    Read more.
  • Global Recommendations for Trading Venues to Manage Extreme Volatility
    08/01/2018

    The International Organization of Securities Commissions has published a report on mechanisms used by trading venues to manage extreme volatility and preserve orderly trading. Following its consultation earlier this year, IOSCO is making eight recommendations for trading venues and their regulators to consider when implementing, operating and monitoring volatility control mechanisms to preserve orderly trading.

    Read more.
  • UK Financial Conduct Authority Proposes Changes to Rules Governing Peer-to-Peer Lending Platforms
    07/27/2018

    The Financial Conduct Authority has launched a consultation on new rules for loan-based crowdfunding platforms, also known as peer-to-peer lending platforms. The FCA implemented rules regulating FCA-authorized firms operating investment-based and loan-based crowdfunding platforms on April 1, 2014. Investment-based crowdfunding is governed by the Markets in Financial Instruments package and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, as transposed into U.K. law. The regime for P2P lending is a national one and is less detailed and prescriptive.

    The FCA began a post-implementation review of the crowdfunding sector and the applicable regimes in 2016. In the post-implementation review, the FCA identified that harm may be caused to investors as a result of poor business practices and due to the business models that some platforms have adopted. The consultation paper summarizes the FCA's findings from that review and sets out the FCA's proposals to change certain rules and guidance.

    Read more.
  • UK Conduct Regulator Publishes Interim Report on Investment Platforms Market Study
    07/16/2018

    The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has published an Interim report as part of its market study to ascertain whether competition between investment platforms is working in the interests of consumers. The FCA launched the investment platforms market study in July 2017 after potential competition issues in the sector were highlighted in the course of its asset management market study, on which it issued its final report in June 2017.

    The FCA has been assessing competition in the sector by exploring a range of areas, namely: barriers to entry and expansion; business models; platform profitability; the impact of financial advisers; and consumer preferences and behaviour. Noting the increasing vertical integration in the sector, the FCA has also been examining commercial relationships between platforms, asset managers, discretionary investment managers and financial advisers.

    The FCA has found that the market appears largely to be working well for both advised and non-advised consumers and that customer satisfaction is currently high. However, the FCA has found that there are some customers for whom the market is not working as well as it should. The interim report highlights the issues the FCA has identified and consults on proposed remedies. The report is supported by eight annexes covering elements of the FCA's research and findings so far.

    Read more.
    TOPICS: CompetitionFundsMiFID II
  • EU Proposals to Amend MiFID II's Tick Size Regime
    07/13/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has launched a consultation on proposed amendments to the Regulatory Technical Standards (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/588, also known as RTS 11) providing for the tick size regime under the Markets in Financial Instruments package, known as MiFID II. The tick size regime subjects orders in shares and depositary receipts to minimum tick sizes that are determined according to both the: (i) average daily number of transactions on the most relevant market in terms of liquidity; and (ii) price of the order. RTS 11 calibrates the minimum tick size based on the most liquid market in the EU, without any consideration being given to the liquidity on non-EU trading venues. The result is that EU trading venues have experienced a drop in market share in third-country financial instruments since January 3, 2018 when MiFID II came into effect. The trading venues have highlighted that the decrease in market share is because the RTS 11 methodology requires them to have in place larger price increments than those of their third-country competitor trading venues.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • FICC Markets Standards Board Consults on Statement of Good Practice on Algorithmic Trading
    07/11/2018

    The FICC Markets Standards Board has launched a consultation on a transparency draft of a Statement of Good Practice on algorithmic trading in the wholesale fixed income, commodity and currency markets. The draft SGP forms part of the FMSB's work to build up a body of Standards and Statements of Good Practice to improve conduct and raise standards in the wholesale FICC markets. The FMSB Standards and SGPs do not impose legal or regulatory obligations on FMSB members, nor do they take the place of regulation. Instead, an SGP is intended to be considered to the extent it is possible to follow it in compliance with applicable laws.

    For the purposes of the consultation paper, "algorithmic trading" is defined as trading in instruments where a computer algorithm, with limited or no human intervention, automatically determines individual parameters of orders, such as whether to initiate the order, the timing, price or quantity of the order or how to manage the order after its submission.

    Read more.
  • UK Regulations Implementing Parts of the Prospectus Regulation Published
    06/29/2018

    The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Prospectus and Markets in Financial Instruments) Regulations 2018, dated June 27, 2018, have been laid before Parliament. The U.K. Regulations will come into force on July 21, 2018, implementing parts of the Prospectus Regulation that will apply from that date. The Prospectus Regulation will replace the existing Prospectus Directive and sets out the requirements for a prospectus to be published when securities are offered to the public or admitted to trading on a regulated market. The Prospectus Regulation aims to simplify the rules and administrative obligations for companies wishing to issue shares or debt on the market and reducing the costs of preparing a prospectus, thus fostering cross-border investments in the single market, while at the same time still enabling investors to make informed investment decisions. The remainder of its provisions take effect on July 21, 2019.

    U.K. law is not needed to transpose the Prospectus Regulation, which will be directly applicable across the EU. However, certain U.K. legislation will need to be amended to ensure that there is no conflict of laws. The U.K. Regulations amend the Financial Services and Markets Act by increasing the threshold, from €5 million to €8 million, for which a prospectus is required for an offer of securities to the public within the U.K. The U.K. Regulations also amend the U.K. legislation that implemented the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, including by correcting the definition of a MiFID investment firm.

    View the U.K. Regulations (S.I. 2018/786).

    View the explanatory memorandum.
    TOPICS: MiFID IISecurities
  • European Banking Authority Proposes Updated Guidelines on Outsourcing by Financial Institutions
    06/22/2018

    The European Banking Authority has launched a consultation on draft Guidelines on outsourcing arrangements. The proposed Guidelines are intended to update and replace the outsourcing guidelines issued in 2006 (by the EBA's predecessor, the Committee of European Banking Supervisors) that applied to outsourcing by credit institutions. The proposed Guidelines will have a wider scope, applying to all financial institutions that are within the scope of the EBA's mandate, namely credit institutions and investment firms subject to the Capital Requirements Directive, payment institutions and electronic money institutions. The proposed Guidelines also integrate the recommendation on outsourcing to cloud service providers that was published by the EBA in December 2017.

    The proposed Guidelines set out a definition of outsourcing in line with delegated legislation under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. They cover: (i) proportionality and group application; (ii) the nature of outsourcing arrangements; (iii) the applicable governance framework; (iv) the outsourcing process; and (v) guidelines on outsourcing addressed to competent authorities. A separate Annex provides an illustrative template that could be used for complying with the requirement in the proposed Guidelines to maintain a register of all outsourcing arrangements at institution and group level where applicable.

    Read more.
  • European Commission Clarifies Ancillary Activity Exemption Under MiFID II
    06/22/2018

    The European Commission has published a letter, dated May 31, 2018, from the President of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, to Steven Maijoor, Chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority, following ESMA's request in April for clarification on how to interpret the ancillary activity exemption under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

    MiFID II exempts non-financial entities that deal on own account, or provide investment services to clients, in commodity derivatives from having to obtain authorization as an investment firm under MiFID II provided that, among other things, this activity is ancillary to their main business. The wording of both MiFID II and related Regulatory Technical Standards suggests that the tests for whether an activity is ancillary to the main business should be carried out at the level of the entity's group. However, ESMA stated in its letter to the Commission that some drafting amendments that were introduced by the Commission have led to uncertainty as to whether the tests should be carried out at the level of the entity rather than at group level.

    The Commission has confirmed that MiFID II requires that the ancillary activities test needs to be calculated by each entity within a group that engages in either of the two relevant MiFID activities for which the exemption is available. In consequence, the ancillary activities test must be calculated as many times as necessary for each separate entity which trades in commodity derivatives within a group.

    View the letter to ESMA.

    View ESMA's request for clarification.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Securities and Markets Authority and UK Financial Conduct Authority End Concessionary Period for Legal Entity Identifier Requirements
    06/20/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a statement on the requirements under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation for a Legal Entity Identifier. In response to concerns that institutions would not all be able to obtain LEI codes in time for MiFIR's effective date, January 3, 2018, ESMA had issued a statement in December 2017 providing temporary concessions for a period of six months. Those temporary concessions permitted investment firms to provide a service triggering the obligation to submit a transaction report to a client from which they had not obtained an LEI code, provided that, before providing the service, they obtain the necessary documentation from the client to apply for an LEI code on the client's behalf. Trading venues were also permitted to report their own LEI codes instead of LEI codes of non-EU issuers while reaching out to those non-EU issuers.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • UK Prudential Regulator Confirms Algorithmic Trading Expectations
    06/15/2018

    Following its consultation in February 2018, the Prudential Regulation Authority has published a Policy Statement and final new Supervisory Statement on Algorithmic Trading. The Supervisory Statement sets out the PRA's supervisory expectations of firms in relation to their algorithmic trading activities and covers: (i) governance; (ii) a firm's algorithmic approval process; (iii) testing and deployment; (iv) inventories and documentation; and (v) risk management and other systems and controls functions.

    The Supervisory Statement applies to firms that engage in algorithmic trading and that are subject to the PRA's rules on algorithmic trading as well as the Regulatory Technical Standards on the organizational requirements of investment firms engaged in algorithmic trading (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/589) under the Markets in Financial Instruments package. The Supervisory Statement applies to all of a firm's algorithmic trading activities, including those related to unregulated financial instruments.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Adopts First Product Intervention Measures for Contracts for Difference and Binary Options
    06/01/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has adopted two Decisions on the provision of Contracts for Difference and binary options to retail investors. The effect of the Decisions is to prohibit the marketing, distribution and sale of binary options to retail investors and to impose a number of restrictions on the marketing, distribution and sale of Contracts for Difference to retail investors. Both CFDs and binary options are considered to have given rise to significant investor protection concerns, due to their complexity, the lack of transparent information at the point of sale, the risk of significant loss for investors and the deployment of aggressive marketing techniques by providers and distributors of the products.

    Read more.
  • EU Authorities Highlight Importance of Bail-In Risk Disclosures for Retail Investors in Bank Debt Liabilities
    05/30/2018

    The European Banking Authority and the European Securities and Markets Authority have published a joint statement on the treatment of retail holdings of debt financial instruments under the EU Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive and the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. The EBA and ESMA highlight that care is needed when bail-in is implemented in relation to debt liabilities held by retail customers. There have been a number of mis-selling cases as a result of firms not complying with the investor protection requirements at the point of sale of banks' debt liabilities to retail investors.

    The EBA and ESMA emphasize that to ensure that debt instruments are distributed to clients for whom they are suitable, firms must properly implement the MiFID II investor protection requirements. Those requirements oblige firms to, among other things, act honestly, fairly, professionally and in the best interests of clients, disclose certain information to potential and existing clients and conduct suitability assessments. In addition, the product governance framework requires manufacturers and distributors of financial products to act in the client's best interests at all stages of the life-cycle of products or services. In particular, firms must identify the target market for complex products to a greater level of detail than other products. Instruments subject to bail-in must be classified as complex products.

    Read more.
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Issues Final Guidelines on MiFID II Suitability
    05/28/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a Final Report setting out finalized Guidelines on aspects of the suitability requirements under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. ESMA consulted previously on a draft version of the Guidelines between July and October 2017.

    The finalized Guidelines largely confirm ESMA's previous 2012 guidelines on MiFID I, but have a broader scope and ESMA has added clarifications and refinements where necessary.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Commission Proposes Legislative Package on Sustainable Finance
    05/24/2018

    The European Commission has published a package of legislative reforms on sustainable finance. The aim of the package of reforms, which form part of the Commission's broader Capital Markets Union initiative, is to ensure that environmental, social and governance considerations are consistently integrated into the investment and advisory process across sectors. The proposed measures comprise:

    (i) a proposed Regulation on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment. This will establish an EU-wide classification system for environmentally sustainable economic activities and ensure that investment strategies are oriented towards economic activities that genuinely contribute to achieving environmental objectives. The proposed Regulation will empower the European Commission to adopt delegated acts to specify technical screening criteria to assess the contribution of a given economic activity to a particular environmental objective as substantial. A list of six environmental objectives is set out in the proposed regulation, namely: climate change mitigation; climate change adaptation; sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources; transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling; pollution prevention and control; and protection of healthy ecosystems (which includes biodiversity conservation).

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  • European Commission Proposes Legislation to Promote SME Growth Markets
    05/24/2018

    The European Commission has published a proposal for a Regulation to amend the Market Abuse Regulation and the new Prospectus Regulation. The aim of the proposed Regulation is to promote the use of SME Growth Markets by making technical adjustments to the MAR and the new PR to make the regulatory framework applying to listed Small and Medium-sized Enterprises more proportionate and to foster the liquidity of equity instruments listed on SME Growth Markets, while maintaining a high level of investor protection and market integrity. The proposed Regulation is in line with the objectives of the EU Capital Markets Union of reducing the overreliance on bank funding and diversifying market-based sources of financing for European companies.

    SME Growth Markets are a new sub-category of multilateral trading facility introduced by the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive in January 2018. Companies listed on an SME Growth Market are required to comply with MAR and the PR and are impacted by some aspects of MiFID II. The adjustments in the proposal for a Regulation are designed to lower the administrative burden and costs for issuers on SME Growth Markets stemming from compliance with MAR and the PR and to address regulatory shortcomings in MAR that can affect the liquidity of SME financial instruments. The European Commission has also published a separate proposal for a regulation amending delegated legislation under MiFID II to address regulatory barriers to the take-up of the SME Growth Markets.

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  • European Commission Proposes MiFID II Amendments to Promote SME Growth Markets
    05/24/2018

    The European Commission has published for consultation a draft Delegated Regulation on registration conditions to promote the use of SME Growth Markets for the purposes of the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. MiFID II introduced SME Growth Markets as a new sub-category of multilateral trading facility in January 2018 to facilitate access to capital for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. The proposed delegated regulation will amend existing delegated legislation under MiFID II to address regulatory barriers to the take-up of SME Growth Markets. The European Commission has also published separately a legislative proposal to make adjustments to the Market Abuse Regulation and the Prospectus Regulation is to promote the use of SME Growth Markets.

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    TOPICS: MiFID IISecurities
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Seeks Clarity on the Ancillary Activity Exemption under MiFID II
    04/09/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a letter from its Chair, Steven Maijoor, to the European Commission seeking clarification on how to interpret the ancillary activity exemption under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

    MiFID II exempts non-financial entities that deal on own account, or provide investment services to clients, in commodity derivatives from having to obtain authorization as an investment firm under MiFID II provided that, among other things, this activity is ancillary to their main business. The provisions of MiFID II are supplemented by a Commission Delegated Regulation setting out the Regulatory Technical Standard on the criteria to establish when an activity is considered to be ancillary to the main business. The wording of both MiFID II and the RTS suggest that the tests for whether activity is ancillary should be carried out at the level of the entity's group. However, some drafting amendments that were introduced by the Commission have led to uncertainty as to whether the tests should be carried out at the level of the entity rather than at group level.

    ESMA states that it would not be appropriate for it to address this uncertainty through its usual Questions and Answers and invites the Commission to provide further guidance on the interpretation and implementation of the ancillary activity criteria, in particular on the level at which the tests should be applied.

    View the ESMA letter.

    View the Commission Delegated Regulation (2017/592).
    TOPICS: DerivativesMiFID II
  • UK Financial Conduct Authority Publishes its 2018/19 Business Plan
    04/09/2018

    The Financial Conduct Authority has published its Business Plan for 2018/19 which sets out its key priorities for the coming year. The FCA confirms that it will continue to focus on issues relating to the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU by working with the Government, ensuring appropriate transition measures for EEA firms, working towards operational readiness and cooperating at international level.

    The FCA divides the remainder of its priorities into cross-sector priorities and sector priorities. There are seven cross-sector priorities: firms' culture and governance; financial crime and anti-money laundering; data security, resilience and outsourcing; innovation, big data, technology and competition; treatment of existing customers; long-term savings, pensions and intergenerational differences; and high-cost credit. There are seven sector priority areas: wholesale financial markets; investment management; retail lending; pensions and retirement income; retail investments; retail banking; and general insurance and protection. The FCA also published Sector Views for each of these sectors which provide an FCA view of how each sector was performing as of mid-2017.

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  • UK Financial Conduct Authority Confirms Regulatory Status of Cryptocurrency Derivatives
    04/06/2018

    The Financial Conduct Authority has published a statement confirming the regulatory requirements applicable to firms engaged in cryptocurrency derivatives. The FCA does not regulate cryptocurrencies, provided that they do not form part of other regulated services or products. However, the FCA states that cryptocurrency derivatives may be categorized as financial instruments under the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II and that firms carrying out regulated activities in cryptocurrency derivatives should comply with the FCA's Handbook rules as well as the directly applicable EU provisions. The FCA points out that dealing in, arranging transactions in, advising on or providing other services that are regulated activities in relation to derivatives that reference cryptocurrencies or tokens issued through an Initial Coin Offering will require FCA authorization.

    View the FCA's statement.
  • International Standards Body Recommendations for Secondary Corporate Bond Market Transparency and Regulatory Reporting
    04/05/2018

    The International Organization of Securities Commissions has published a final report on regulatory reporting and public transparency in the secondary corporate bond markets. The report discusses the importance to robust capital markets of making information accessible to regulators and the public via regulatory reporting requirements and pre- and post-trade transparency requirements respectively. The report discusses the approach taken in various jurisdictions to impose these requirements before setting out seven recommendations for national regulators.

    The recommendations update IOSCO's 2004 report, "Transparency of Corporate Bond Markets," which discussed the then-existing transparency arrangements for corporate bond markets, as well as the regulatory regimes that were in place in member jurisdictions and set out Core Measures for national regulators to consider to ensure adequate transparency and regulatory reporting arrangements. The recommendations also take into account IOSCO's 2017 report, "Examination of the Liquidity of the Secondary Corporate Bond Markets," which set out the findings of an evidence-based examination of the state of secondary corporate bond markets from 2004 until approximately 2015 and provided a detailed overview and discussion of the markets and how they had evolved since 2004.

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    TOPICS: MiFID IISecurities
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Confirms Product Intervention for Contracts for Difference and Binary Options
    03/27/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has confirmed that it will use its product intervention powers under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation to prohibit the marketing, distribution and sale of binary options to retail investors. It will also impose a number of restrictions on the marketing, distribution and sale of Contracts for Difference to retail investors. Both CFDs and binary options have given rise to significant investor protection concerns, due to their complexity, the lack of transparent information at the point of sale, the risk of significant loss for investors and the deployment of aggressive marketing techniques by providers and distributors of the products.

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  • Final Draft EU Technical Standards Amending Systematic Internalisers' Quote Rules
    03/26/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published a final report and final draft amending Regulatory Technical Standards to amend the RTS on the equity transparency obligations of trading venues and investment firms (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/587, known as RTS 1). The Markets for Financial Instruments Regulation requires Systematic Internalisers to make public firm quotes in equity instruments. The quotes must: (i) be at least equivalent of 10% of the standard market size for the quoted instrument; (ii) include both a bid and offer price; and (iii) reflect the prevailing market conditions for that instrument. RTS 1 specifies the concept of "prices reflecting prevailing market conditions" as being "close in price, at the time of publication, to quotes of equivalent sizes for the same financial instrument on the most relevant market in terms of liquidity".

    ESMA considers that this concept needs to be further elaborated and consulted on proposed amendments last year. ESMA has not made any changes to its proposal.  The final draft amending RTS provide that the quotes of an SI can only adequately reflect prevailing market conditions when the quotes reflect the minimum price increments ('tick sizes') quoted for a financial instrument on a trading venue.

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    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Issues Opinion on Application of MiFIR Trading Obligation to Package Orders
    03/21/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published an Opinion on the treatment of package orders in the context of the trading obligation for derivatives under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation. The trading obligation requires that the trading of certain derivatives must take place on a regulated market, multilateral trading facility, organised trading facility or on an equivalent third-country trading venue.

    Package orders are used by investment firms and their clients to conduct trades for risk management and hedging purposes. They are composed of two or more financial instruments that are priced as a single unit. The execution of each component is simultaneous and contingent upon on the execution of all the other components. Under MiFIR, the trading obligation is designed to apply at instrument level, not package level – the obligation attaches to the components of a package, but not to the package as a whole. Difficulties may arise where a package order contains a mixture of instruments, where some are subject to the trading obligation while others are not. ESMA considers that the components of a package need to be executed on a trading venue only where it is feasible to do so without creating undue operational or execution risk.

    Read more.
    TOPICS: DerivativesMiFID II
  • European Commission Proposed Legislation to Regulate Cross-Border Crowdfunding Service Providers
    03/08/2018

    The European Commission has published a proposed Regulation on European Crowdfunding Service Providers for Business. The proposed ECSP Regulation is part of the EU Capital Markets Union initiative and the Commission's FinTech Action Plan. It aims to increase access to finance through crowdfunding for innovative companies, start-ups and SMEs.

    The Commission is seeking to introduce an "EU label for crowdfunding service providers" which would be authorized and supervised by the European Securities and Markets Authority and able to passport their services across the EU. Currently, different EU Member States apply different levels of regulatory requirements to CSPs. Some Member States require CSPs to comply with onerous obligations under the Markets in Financial Instruments package, some apply more lenient regimes, while others allow CSPs to benefit from exemptions and remain unregulated. The Commission's view is that this divergence hampers the potential scaling-up of crowdfunding activity, because CSPs need to comply with different legal and regulatory requirements and adjust their business models accordingly if they want to provide services in more than one EU Member State. The Commission is not proposing that current national frameworks be repealed. Instead, those frameworks can continue to exist, which will allow CSPs to choose to either provide or continue providing services on a domestic basis under national laws or to provide services under the proposed ECSP Regulation. However, the Commission is proposing that the MiFID II Directive be amended to exclude CSPs from its obligations.

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  • European Commission Calls for Acceleration of Completion of the Capital Markets Union
    03/08/2018

    The European Commission has published a Communication on completing the Capital Markets Union by 2019. The Communication confirms the Commissions commitment to completing the CMU by mid-2019 and announces the publication of the FinTech Action Plan, including a proposed Regulation on Crowdfunding, and the Sustainable Finance Action Plan. Legislative proposals on covered bonds, the cross-border distribution of collective investment funds and the law applicable to third-party effects of assignment are expected to be published on March 12, 2018. In May 2018, the Commission intends to publish a proposed Directive on credit servicers, credit purchasers and the recovery of collateral as well as impact assessments on the SME listing regime and the resolution of investment disputes.

    The Commission states that completion of the CMU is more urgent due to the impending exit by the UK from the EU because the UK is currently the EUs largest financial centre. The Commission notes that an effective CMU will need to "open-up markets to give better access to finance for EU businesses and more and innovative investment opportunities for savers." 

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  • European Securities and Markets Authority Releases Double Volume Cap Data for Dark Pool Trading
    03/07/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published on its website trading volumes and calculations for the purposes of the Double Volume Cap under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation. The published data covers the periods January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017 and February 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018.

    The DVC has been introduced under MiFIR as a measure to limit the amount of dark pool trading, which can harm price formation in equity markets. The DVC places a cap on the volume of equities trading using two of the available waivers from the pre-trade transparency obligations of the MiFIR, namely the negotiated transaction waiver and the reference price waiver. The double cap comprises a per-venue cap of 4% of the total volume of trading in a particular financial instrument on all EU trading venues across over the previous 12 months and an EU-wide cap of 8%. ESMA is required to publish reports on the volume of trades that have relied on the waivers.  National regulators must suspend, for six months, trading under the waivers that exceeds either of the caps.

    The publication of the data follows a delay announced by ESMA in January 2018 due to issues with the quality and completeness of data that had been submitted.

    View the ESMA press release.
    TOPICS: MiFID IISecurities
  • International Standards Body Proposes Recommendations for Trading Venues on Managing Extreme Market Volatility
    03/07/2018

    The International Organization of Securities Commissions has launched a consultation on proposed recommendations for trading venues and their regulators to consider when implementing, operating and monitoring volatility control mechanisms to preserve orderly trading. The consultation supports IOSCO’s objective of ensuring that markets are fair, efficient and transparent and focuses on automatic volatility interruptions and mechanisms to halt trading or reject orders.

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  • UK Regulators Highlight Expectations and Consult on Algorithmic Trading Supervision
    02/12/2018

    The UK Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority have published co-ordinated papers on their expectations around firms' use of algorithmic trading strategies in wholesale markets. Firms have had to comply, since January 3, 2018, with new requirements introduced by the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and related Regulatory Technical Standards. The FCA's paper sets out the applicable regulatory requirements and provides examples of good and poor practice for firms regulated by the FCA. Firms that are dual-regulated by the FCA and the PRA should also review the PRA paper, which takes the form of a formal consultation on a proposed Supervisory Statement, covering the PRA's expectations regarding firms' governance and risk management. The PRA consultation runs until May 7, 2018.

    Read more.
    TOPIC: MiFID II
  • European Securities and Markets Authority Outlines 2018 Plans for EU Supervisory Convergence
    02/07/2018


    The European Securities and Markets Authority has published its Supervisory Convergence Work Programme for 2018. It highlights a total of five key priorities for its work on supervisory convergence in 2018, comprised of three ongoing priorities (application of the revised Markets in Financial Instruments framework, data quality and investor protection) and two new priorities (Brexit and financial innovation).

    In addition to the key priorities, the 2018 programme also sets out ESMA key objectives and main planned outputs in relation to a number of thematic and cross-cutting issues, including: investor protection and intermediaries; secondary markets; investment management; market integrity (including market abuse and benchmarks); post-trading (including CCPs, securities financing and settlement); corporate finance (in particular the new prospectus regime); corporate reporting; market data; financial innovation; IT infrastructure; and peer reviews.

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  • European Securities and Markets Authority Considers Product Intervention for Contracts for Difference and Binary Options
    01/18/2018

    The European Securities and Markets Authority has issued a call for evidence on the possible use of its product intervention powers under the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation to impose restrictions and/or prohibitions on the marketing, distribution and sale of contracts for difference and binary options to retail investors.

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