This edition covers UK developments between 1 December 2009 and 31 January 2010
UK Government Publishes Supplementary Market Abuse Regulations
On 1 December 2009, the UK Government published additional regulations relating to some of the Market Abuse provisions of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). The effect of the regulations is to extend the effect of two provisions of FSMA which relate to “misuse of information” (Section 118(4)) and “behaviour likely to give rise to false or misleading impressions or to distort the market” (Section 118(8)), so that they remain in force until 31 December 2011.
The UK currently has a wider definition of market abuse than many other European countries, reflecting the FSMA market abuse regime that existed before the implementation of European market abuse legislation. FSMA contained “sunset” clauses under which sections 118(4) and 118(8) were due to expire on 31 December 2009. It was anticipated that a review by the UK Treasury would be completed before the expiration date based in part on the outcome of the Europe-wide review of the Market Abuse regime. Since the European review has been delayed, the UK Government has extended the sunset date until 31 December 2011.
Corporate Governance Code Changes Proposed
On 1 December 2009, the UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC) published a report on the findings of its review of the impact and effectiveness of the Combined Code of Corporate Governance. The Code sets out standards of good practice in relation to issues such as board composition and development, remuneration, accountability and audit and relations with shareholders.
As a result of the review the FRC is proposing a number of changes which include:
Consultation on the draft revised Code ends on 5 March 2010, and it is intended that the revised Code will apply to accounting periods beginning on or after 29 June 2010.
To read the report, click here.
JMLSG Publishes Revised Money Laundering Guidance
On 3 December 2009, the UK Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG) published its revised Money Laundering Guidance for the Financial Sector. The proposed amendments have been made following a review by the JMLSG of its guidance which looked at:
This revised guidance has been submitted to the UK Treasury for approval.
To read the guidance in full, click here.
FSA Publishes Feedback Statement on Remuneration
On 8 December 2009, the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) published a feedback statement on the main issues arising from its March consultation on reforming remuneration practices in financial services (as reported in the April 2009 edition of London Update). The FSA’s Remuneration Code came into force for large banks, building societies and broker dealers on 1 January 2010. It applies to any remuneration awards made by these firms for 2009.
Part of the March consultation paper invited discussion on whether the Remuneration Code should be extended to other FSA authorised firms. At this stage the FSA has decided not to introduce any new rules and will not extend the rules to other sectors. The FSA does not think it is beneficial to make changes now as adjustments will need to be made in 2010 because of the many pending European directives that contain remuneration provisions.
To read the feedback statement in full, click here.
UK Government Announces One-Off Bank Payroll Tax
In its 9 December Pre-Budget Report, the UK Government announced a new one-off bank payroll tax (BPT) payable by banks and certain other financial services firms. The BPT will be chargeable at 50% on bonuses exceeding £25,000 per employee between 9 December 2009 and 5 April 2010, although certain payments (including some existing contractual entitlements) are excluded. The BPT will also apply to the UK branches of foreign banks and financial services firms. The draft rules include carefully drafted anti-avoidance provisions, but independent asset managers and investment advisers and asset management and investment adviser subsidiaries of banks appear to be excluded from the BPT.
The UK IRS issued a further press release, clarifying that, for a non-deposit taker, the definitions of a bank will apply only to a person which is a full scope BIPRU 730k investment firm or who would be a full scope BIPRU 730k investment firm if its head office was in the UK. A BIPRU 730k investment firm is an investment firm whose FSA scope of permission authorises it to deal in investments as principal without the imposition of certain specific limitations and which accordingly is subject to the highest level base capital requirement of € 730,000.
To read the UK Government summary, click here.
To read the technical note, with draft legislation, click here.
FSA Publishes Policy Statement on Stress and Scenario Testing
On 11 December 2009, the FSA published a policy statement entitled “Stress and Scenario Testing”. It outlines the FSA’s policy on stress testing and includes a new “reverse stress testing” requirement.
The strengthened integrated stress testing regime is made up of three main elements:
The FSA has set out its view of good practices in stress and scenario testing in an annex to the statement. Firms subject to the new reverse stress testing requirement will have 12 months to implement the new requirements. In the first quarter of 2010, the FSA plans to issue an implementation timetable for firms to submit to the FSA to explain how they plan to incorporate reverse stress testing into their current risk management.
Click here to read the policy statement in full.
UK Government Sets Out Plans to Manage Investment Bank Failures
On 16 December 2009, the UK Government published a report entitled “Establishing resolution arrangements for investment banks”, in which it set out proposals to strengthen the UK’s ability to deal with any future failure of an investment bank. The report builds on ideas outlined by the UK Government in a May 2009 discussion paper (as reported in the August 2009 edition of London Update).
The UK Financial Services Secretary, Paul Myners, said: “The collapse of Lehman Brothers last October had a major impact on financial centers across the world. It is important that the government acts to ensure that any future failure of an investment bank does not cause the same degree of damage to markets or investors.”
The core of the proposals is a set of measures designed to enable the managed wind-down of an investment bank. This includes the development of a new administration (insolvency) regime for a failed investment bank. Specific initiatives set out in the report expressed to be designed to achieve better outcomes for key groups affected by the failure of an investment bank include measures to speed up the return of client money and assets, address counterparty exposures to the firm and ensure creditors are sufficiently protected.
The report recognises the need for proposals such as these to be taken forward in an international context.
The UK Government aims to continue a period of consultation before publishing a final report in the second quarter of 2010 setting out firm proposals and a timetable for action.
Click here to read the report in full.
FSA and UK Treasury Publish Joint Paper on Reforming OTC Derivative Markets
On 16 December 2009, the FSA and the UK Treasury published a joint paper entitled “Reforming OTC Derivative Markets” in which they set out the steps required to address the deficiencies with the over-the-counter (OTC) derivative markets highlighted
by the financial crisis.
In summary, the paper sets out the following measures to be implemented and/or developed to address perceived systematic shortcomings in OTC derivative markets:
Click here to read the paper in full.
Research Analyst and Investment Manager Found Guilty of Market Abuse
On 11 January 2009, the FSA announced that a former research analyst and a friend of his who worked for another regulated firm have been found to have committed market abuse by using inside information to carry out a series of profitable spread bets.
During the summer of 2004, Mr. Chhabra was a research analyst at Evolution Securities Limited, a stockbroker. His friend, Mr. Patel, who worked as an investment manager at General Motors Asset Management, was an experienced spread better who regularly placed bets on FTSE indices. Following a thorough investigation into the activities of the two friends, both of whom were FSA Approved Persons, the FSA found that on three separate occasions Mr. Chhabra had become aware of important confidential information relating to listed companies. Mr. Chhabra had then contacted Mr. Patel, often within minutes of receiving the information, and shortly afterwards Mr. Patel had placed bets on the stocks of the listed companies concerned. The total benefit to Mr. Patel was found to be £85,541.
The FSA found that they had committed market abuse and proposed to ban and fine them both. The pair referred the FSA’s findings to the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal (FSMT). The FSMT confirmed the FSA’s findings of market abuse. A separate hearing will take place to establish the penalties to be imposed on each of Mr. Chhabra and Mr. Patel.
FSA Fines Standard Life £2.45M for Systems and Controls Failures
On 20 January 2010, the FSA announced that it had fined Standard Life Assurance Limited (SLAL) £2.45 million for systems and control failures which had led to SLAL circulating misleading marketing material about one of its funds.
The FSA ruled that SLAL had breached two of the FSA’s Principles for Businesses—Principle 3 (management and control) and Principle 7 (communications with clients). The FSA concluded that:
The fine was discounted from £3.5 million, since SLAL had cooperated fully with the FSA and had agreed to settle at an early stage in the investigation. Margaret Cole, the FSA Director of Enforcement and Financial Crime, said, “The FSA takes the issue of misleading financial promotions very seriously and the fine announced today demonstrates our commitment to the principle of credible deterrence. It is critical that consumers are given an accurate understanding of the nature of investment products and the risks involved.”