This annual publication explores some of the core focus areas for UK-regulated financial services firms in the year ahead. 2023 saw significant progress on the regulatory reform agenda, and many measures consulted on or reviewed as part of the Edinburgh Reforms will be finalised and/or implemented in the course of 2024.

We also saw the passing of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, many provisions of which have already come into effect and have made important changes to the

The consultation paper confirms a radical approach to bolster the international competitiveness of the UK markets and return to a disclosure-based listing framework.

By Mark Austin, Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

The FCA today published consultation paper CP23/31 setting out detailed draft rules for the new UK listing regime. The publication represents the final stage of the journey to reshape the UK Listing Rules which started with the launch of Lord Hill’s UK Listings Review in 2020. Most of the key changes reflect proposals in the FCA’s preceding consultation paper CP23/10 published in May 2023 (see this Latham Client Alert for further details).

The FRC’s future work will be assessed through the lens of the UK’s economic growth and international competitiveness.

By Mark Austin, Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

On 7 November 2023, the FRC announced a significant and wide-ranging policy update which included a material change of direction in relation to how it will approach its work in the future and a significant recalibration of how it will take forward its consultation on proposed changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code. That consultation, which ran from 24 May 2023 to 13 September 2023, sought to implement certain proposals in the UK government’s paper, “Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance”. The vast majority of those proposals will no longer be taken forward.

SFC proposes guidelines for intermediaries conducting and receiving market soundings in securities and capital market transactions.

By Simon Hawkins and Adrian Fong

On 11 October 2023, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) issued a consultation paper (Consultation Paper) proposing new “Guidelines for Market Soundings” (Guidelines) for Hong Kong intermediaries conducting market soundings for securities and capital market transactions (such as private placements and block trades). Market participants will welcome this development, as the absence of specific guidance on market soundings has caused some inconsistencies in market practice, as the SFC noted following its thematic review of market soundings in 2022. 

SFC-licensed intermediaries should review the Guidelines and consider whether and to what extent their existing market sounding procedures should be adjusted to comply with the Guidelines.

Companies had raised serious concerns about the additional red tape that the proposed reporting obligations would require.

By Mark Austin, Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

On 16 October 2023, the UK government withdrew the draft Companies (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) (Amendment) Regulations.

The regulations, which formed part of the wider proposals to reform the UK audit and corporate governance regulatory landscape, were laid in Parliament on 19 July 2023. They

As the pace of reform increases, we take a look at key developments and the timeline ahead.

Significant progress has been made on the Edinburgh Reforms since they were announced in December 2022, with developments gathering pace before the summer break. Given the breadth and speed of the reforms, now is a good time to take stock of where things stand and what we can expect in the months ahead. In this publication, we highlight some of the key developments and set out expected dates for future progress.

The FCA reveals its initial thinking on the regulatory framework for primary multilateral trading facilities and public offer platforms.

By Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

On 13 July 2023, the FCA published its fifth and sixth engagement papers to solicit discussion and feedback on the regulation of public offer platforms and primary multilateral trading facilities (MTFs) under the new regime for public offers and admissions to trading.

The Review recommends scrapping research unbundling, but also proposes a range of other changes to the UK research landscape.

By Rob Moulton, Chris Horton, Sean Wells, Charlotte Collins, and Johannes Poon

On 10 July 2023, HM Treasury published the final report produced by the independent UK Investment Research Review (Review). The Review was launched on 9 March 2023 to examine the link between levels of research and the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for companies to access capital (please see Latham’s previous blog post for the background to the Review).

The report makes seven recommendations which the government has committed to taking forward. While the recommendation to remove the research unbundling requirements was expected, the Review has taken a more holistic approach and the report puts forward wide-ranging suggestions for improving the UK investment research landscape. The recommendations are summarised below.

The narrower M&A broker exemption supersedes the 2014 M&A broker no-action letter while leaving state-level restrictions and foreign M&A broker relief unaffected.

By Marlon Q. Paz, Stephen P. Wink, Naim Culhaci, Donald Thompson, and Deric Behar

On March 29, 2023, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) was amended to exempt certain “M&A brokers” from registration as broker-dealers with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The amendment, Exchange Act Section 15(b)(13), signed into law on December 29, 2022, as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2617), largely codifies previously granted SEC Staff no-action relief, albeit with certain limitations. Like the prior no-action relief, the new legislation does not preempt state or territorial laws concerning broker-dealer registration.

Persons previously relying on the M&A broker no-action letter should carefully examine the new exemption and related existing state and foreign relief to determine what, if any, implications the new law poses with regard to continued reliance.

FCA takes an innovative approach to obtain feedback from industry and stakeholder groups.

By Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

In May 2023, the FCA launched a process of engagement and dialogue on how the UK’s future prospectus regime could operate. The FCA’s first thematic engagement papers, published on 18 May, aim to solicit discussion and feedback on: (i) whether or how to set prospectus requirements for issuers seeking admission to trading on UK regulated markets; (ii) whether or how to set prospectus requirements for issuers raising further capital; and (iii) how forward-looking information should be covered in prospectuses.