The closely watched elections in Holland returned the liberal VVD party to a majority, in a result that Angela Merkel described as “very pro-European”. The bill giving the Government the right to trigger Article 50 received royal ascent in Britain, but a rough week saw the British Government perform a U-turn on budget plans to raise national insurance and face a demand for a second Scottish referendum. President Trump held the traditional jovial St. Patrick’s Day meeting with Irish leaders, but found a meeting with Angela Merkel less straightforward; meanwhile he continued to assert that he was subject to surveillance by Barack Obama’s White House. Here are the mains stories in finance and regulation for the last two weeks.
The Central Bank issued Consultation Paper 107 on the Protection of Retail Investors in relation to the Distribution of CFDs. As well as contracts for difference, the regulator includes spread bets and rolling spot forex contracts in its scope. The Central Bank notes the high risk of unlimited losses which arise from these products and the aggressive marketing of some providers in this area. Responses are requested for 29th May 2017.
The Central Bank entered into a settlement agreement with Drimnagh Credit Union, which included a €125,000 fine for breaches of the Credit Union Act 1997 and the money laundering regulations. The union made payments to directors prohibited by Section 68 of the Act, and showed failings in controls around officers’ expenses. The union was found to have committed a number of breaches of the 2010 Criminal Justice Act, including customer due diligence and monitoring dealings with members.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission issued 40 actions in 2016 against 33 traders who were in breach of consumer protection legislation. The actions included 27 Fixed Payment Notices for breaches of price display legislation. Other cases included failings around the notification of consumer rights to refunds and rights to cancel distance contracts.
The European Parliament supported proposals for public access to Beneficial Ownership Registers under a fifth money laundering directive. The money laundering regulation currently provides for limited access rights to enforcement and tax authorities and persons who can demonstrate a legitimate interest, such as journalists. The new proposals would allow access without demonstrating a legitimate interest. The Parliament also approved the Shareholders’ Rights Directive, which includes provisions for shareholders to influence directors’ pay.
The Italian Data Protection Authority issued the largest fine recorded in the European Union against five money transfer companies in relation to illegal data use of over 1,000 people. An English company and four Italian companies collected money for transfer to China. In an effort to avoid money laundering regulations the companies split transactions across customer accounts without their consent.
The Financial Conduct Authority updated its pensions redress methodology, issuing proposals on how to calculate losses for consumers who were given unsuitable advice on defined benefit pension transfers. The changes are to apply to future claims only, but the regulator advised that any existing claims should not be settled until the consultation on the changes is completed. The proposals include updating inflation rates and mortality assumptions.
Japanese and UK financial regulators exchanged letters of cooperation to support innovative FinTech companies. The Japanese Financial Services Agency and the Financial Conduct Authority agreed on a regulatory referral system allowing innovator businesses to enter each other’s markets. The letters encourage the sharing of information on financial services innovation and aim to reduce barriers and encourage innovation.
The Financial Conduct Authority published a consultation on the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD). The UK will need to be compliant with the Directive for February 2018. The IDD is designed to strengthen the Insurance Mediation Directive, introduced in 2005. A further consultation paper will be published later in the year on matters which are not yet finalised by the European Commission. Responses are requested for 5th June 2017.
President Trump nominated Chris Giancarlo, acting Chairman of the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission, for the permanent position as the head of the regulator. The nomination signalled that reform of CFTC rules is likely but may also be a step back from significant overturn on the current regime. Mr. Giancarlo had previously expressed concern that CFTC rules went further than required by legislation, and has also supported high speed trading firms’ activities.
The International Organisation of Securities Commissions found no evidence that liquidity in the secondary corporate bond markets had deteriorated markedly from historic norms for non-crisis periods. The ‘Examination of Liquidity of the Secondary Corporate Bond Markets’, analysed markets between 2004 and 2015. Whilst there had been meaningful changes to the characteristics and structure of corporate bond markets due to new technology, growth of electronic trading venues, and changes to execution models and dealer inventory levels, the report confirmed that corporate bond markets remain fragmented among national and regional markets, and differ substantially across jurisdictions.