Global Financial Regulatory Blog

FCA’s 2022/23 Business Plan: Key Highlights

Posted in Conduct of Business, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

As the FCA’s remit continues to grow, the regulator pledges flexibility in the face of global financial and geopolitical headwinds.

By Rob Moulton, Anne Mainwaring, Jaime O’Connell, and Dianne Bell

On 7 April 2022, the FCA released its new Business Plan as part of a package including  a three-year strategy document setting out the outcomes it expects all firms to deliver across UK markets. In his introductory message, FCA Chief Executive Nikhil Rathi noted that the regulator’s broad and growing remit means “prioritisation is inevitable”. The FCA’s more outcomes-based approach means its commitments for the next three years fall into three stated areas of focus:

  1. Reducing and preventing serious harm: for example, protecting consumers from harm caused by authorised firms, including tackling fraud and poor treatment. The FCA expects to “harness data to assess problems more quickly”, with the aim of preventing harm from happening in the first place.
  2. Setting and testing higher standards: for example, focusing on the impact authorised firms’ actions have on consumers and markets. The FCA expects the new Consumer Duty to give firms greater certainty about how they should treat consumers as well as flexibility on how they deliver good outcomes.
  3. Promoting competition and positive change: greater regulatory open-mindedness, for example, by building on the globally copied “sandbox” and introducing a “scalebox”.

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When Are CCOs on the Hook? FINRA Offers Guidance on CCO Liability

Posted in Securities Regulation

Guidance clarifies assessment of liability under Rule 3110, including designation as supervisor, application of reasonableness standard, and factors for and against charging compliance officials.

By Marlon Q. Paz, John J. Sikora Jr., Stephen P. Wink, and Deric Behar

On March 17, 2022, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) published Regulatory Notice 22-10 (Reg. Notice 22-10), reminding broker-dealers of the scope of liability for chief compliance officers (CCOs) under FINRA’s Supervision Rule (Rule 3110). The role of compliance, and that of the CCO in particular, which is often characterized as “vital” in helping to prevent, detect, and remediate potential violations of internal policies and procedures and the securities laws, has been the subject of policy debate for some time.[1] In Reg. Notice 22-10, FINRA outlines a blueprint to assess the potential liability of CCOs under Rule 3110.

Rule 3110 imposes various supervisory obligations on member firms, such as the obligation to “establish and maintain a system, including written procedures, to supervise the activities of each associated person that is reasonably designed to achieve compliance with applicable securities laws and regulations, and with applicable FINRA rules.” Firms are also required to designate registered principals as supervisors for these responsibilities. The express or implied designation of supervisory authority is the basis for individual liability under Rule 3110. Continue Reading

Wholesale Markets Review Consultation Response Aims for “Tailored” UK Approach

Posted in Derivatives, Markets and Investments

The consultation response heralds innovation-friendly reform to the UK wholesale capital markets regime.

By Rob Moulton and Dianne Bell

On 1 March 2022, HM Treasury published its response to the July 2021 consultation on the Wholesale Markets Review after considering the feedback received. The consultation response sets out changes that are expected to “liberate businesses from unwieldy and stifling rules that hold back their ability to grow and innovate”, according to Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen. Continue Reading

Expanded Definition of “Exchange” and SEC Regulation of Crypto Platforms

Posted in Securities Regulation

The amended definition could provide a new means for the SEC to regulate crypto platforms.

By Stephen P. Wink, Marlon Q. Paz, Naim Culhaci, Ian Irlander, and Deric Behar

We previously published a blog post on the set of proposed amendments (Proposal) issued on January 26, 2022, by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding the regulation of alternative trading systems (ATSs) that would, among other things, substantially expand the activities covered by the definition of an “exchange” as interpreted by Rule 3b-16 under the Exchange Act to capture “Communication Protocol Systems”. Whereas we previously offered our general views on the proposed expansion of definitions and resulting potential impact on the securities industry, now we turn specifically to the potential impact of the Proposal on platforms trading digital assets. Continue Reading

UK Government Announces Fundamental Overhaul of the UK Prospectus Regime

Posted in Markets and Investments

The changes indicate a more dynamic and flexible UK prospectus regime with the FCA to play a central role through enhanced rule-making powers.

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

On 1 March 2022, the UK government (through HM Treasury (HMT)) announced the outcome of its consultation to reform the UK prospectus regime. The consultation was published in response to recommendations from Lord Hill’s UK Listing Review to enhance the competitiveness of the UK capital markets. Broadly, the announced changes indicate a more dynamic and flexible UK prospectus regime with the FCA to play a central role through enhanced rule-making powers.

The HMT’s announcement essentially indicates a direction of travel. The impact of these changes will not be fully understood until the publication of the legislative changes and the FCA’s consultation papers. HMT states that the government will legislate to replace the existing prospectus regime when parliamentary time allows. Continue Reading

SEC Proposes to Expand the Definition of an “Exchange”

Posted in Securities Regulation

Updated on May 9, 2022.

The proposal would require certain systems and platforms currently not subject to any registration requirements to register as broker-dealers and ATSs.

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

On January 26, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a set of proposed amendments (Proposal) regarding the regulation of alternative trading systems (ATSs) that would, among other things, substantially expand the definition of an “exchange” as interpreted by Rule 3b-16 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the Exchange Act) to capture “Communication Protocol Systems.” Specifically, Rule 3b-16’s interpretation of the “exchange” definition would be broadened in several meaningful aspects, including by removing the current requirement that a platform needs to bring together “firm orders” to be deemed an “exchange.” Continue Reading

ESMA Consults on ESG-Related Amendments to Its Suitability Guidelines

Posted in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

Proposed changes seek to reflect the integration of sustainability considerations into MiFID II.

By Nicola Higgs, Anne Mainwaring, Dianne Bell, and Charlotte Collins

ESMA is consulting on updates to its Guidelines on the MiFID II suitability requirements, in light of upcoming changes that will embed sustainability considerations into the MiFID II framework. These changes will require firms to consider sustainability preferences as part of the suitability process when providing advisory and portfolio management services. ESMA is considering how it needs to update its Guidelines to reflect these new requirements, in order to assist firms in understanding what is expected of them in an area potentially difficult to navigate given that many clients may have limited understanding of sustainability factors and ESG or sustainability-related products, and that the availability of such products is still reasonably limited. Continue Reading

Hong Kong’s New Crypto Regulatory Framework to Facilitate Greater Institutional Participation

Posted in Fintech and Cryptocurrency

Regulators released comprehensive guidance to banks, intermediaries, and insurers on virtual asset-related activities.

By Simon Hawkins and Adrian Fong

On 28 January 2022, Hong Kong’s principal financial services regulators issued much-anticipated guidance to banks, securities firms, and insurers looking to undertake activities related to virtual assets (VAs). In particular:

  • The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued a circular to banks on “Regulatory approaches to Authorized Institutions’ interface with Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers” (HKMA Circular).
  • The HKMA and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) issued a joint circular to banks and SFC-licensed intermediaries on “Intermediaries’ Virtual Asset-Related Activities” (Joint Circular).
  • The Insurance Authority (IA) issued a circular to insurers on “Regulatory Approaches of the Insurance Authority in Relation to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers” (IA Circular).

This Client Alert analyses how, with the guidance, financial services industry participants can move towards engaging in VA proprietary investments and client services. The guidance will also impact existing crypto firms, as the regulators stressed that financial services intermediaries are required to use SFC-licensed VA trading platforms. For those not already licensed or seeking to be licensed, this stipulation may serve as the impetus to obtain a license in order to serve Hong Kong customers.

Top 5 Focus Areas for UK Equity Capital Markets in 2022

Posted in Markets and Investments, Regulatory Reform, Uncategorized

Broad reform to listing regimes, growing ESG scrutiny, and increasing retail participation in fundraisings are among the areas to watch.

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

Last year was memorable for UK equity capital markets (ECM). The IPO market was at its busiest since 2014, and we encountered innovative deal structures such as the emergence of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) in the UK, direct listings, and growing retail participation in fundraisings. In addition, the government and regulators embraced a radical and dynamic reform agenda, bolstering prospects for UK ECM.

Many of these trends are expected to continue in 2022. This Client Alert examines the top five legal and regulatory issues that will most likely impact ECM and listed companies and provides a timeline for the key regulatory developments. Continue Reading

UK to Regulate Cryptoasset Promotions

Posted in Fintech and Cryptocurrency

HM Treasury has confirmed that it will bring certain unregulated cryptoassets within scope of the financial promotions regime.

By Stuart Davis, Rob Moulton, and Charlotte Collins

On 18 January 2022, the UK government confirmed its intention to bring the promotion of certain cryptoassets into scope of regulation. HM Treasury has been considering for some time whether, and if so how, to bring unregulated cryptoassets within the regulatory perimeter, having originally consulted on these proposals in 2020. Continue Reading