An attempt to hold a referendum for Catalan independence from Spain generated a violent police response, as separatists hailed overwhelming support. In the UK economic figures showed that the country’s low productivity would impact government budgeting and reduce the size of the Chancellor’s reserves put aside to cover the impact of Brexit. The US government pushed ahead with its planned tax cuts, but arguments continued as to the extent that they would mainly benefit the already wealthy; Donald Trump’s stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement was condemned by the US Chamber of Commerce as ‘highly dangerous’. The European Union ordered Amazon to pay €250m in back taxes to Luxembourg where it had enjoyed a ‘sweetheart deal’ for almost a decade which amounted to state aid. Below we round up the main stories in finance and regulation for the last two weeks.
The Minister for Finance issued a public consultation of the application of stamp duty on share transactions for Irish incorporated companies. The review is part of ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ published as part of the budget 2017. The paper addresses the questions of whether stamp duty should continue, and to what extent Brexit developments should influence the policy on that duty. Responses are requested for 31st October 2017.
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published a consultation on the review of provisions in the Competition Act 2002 relating to mergers and acquisitions. The paper concerns the rules relating to financial thresholds and number of days in which the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission must make a determination. It notes that the rules have been in place for 3 years and the thresholds should be reviewed in light of the recovery of the Irish economy. Responses are requested for 30th November 2017. Meanwhile the Commission called for input into its next Strategy Statement, with submissions requested for 18th October.
The Central Bank and the Department of Finance published a joint feedback statement on Consultation Paper 95, Funding the Cost of Financial Regulation. The Central Bank also published its feedback statement to Consultation Paper 108 on funding levies for credit institutions, investment firms, fund services providers and EEA insurers.
The European Commission referred Ireland to the European Court of Justice for its failure to recover €13bn in illegal state aid to Apple, the computer company. The referral follows the Commission’s decision in 2016 that Ireland’s reduced tax rate for Apple was contrary to EU law and should be recovered from the company. The Department of Finance issued a statement expressing deep disappointment that the EU had chosen to refer the matter, noting that recovery proceedings were being undertaken.
The European Securities and Markets Authority and the European Banking Authority published joint guidelines on assessment of suitability of members of management bodies and key function holders under the Capital Requirements Directive. The Guidelines highlight the need for institutions to consider whether candidates have the required knowledge, qualification and skills to safeguard proper and prudent management of credit institutions and foster more diverse management bodies contributing to improved risk oversight and resilience of institutions.
The European Banking Authority published its work programme for 2018. The focus on capital regulations and bank resolution will continue, and attention will be given to monitoring and evaluating the impact of Britain leaving the EU. The European Securities and Markets Authority’s work plan will focus on supervisory convergence and risk assessments following on from the creation of the single rulebook. It will provide continued focus the implementation of MiFID II and work on the prospectus regime, credit rating agencies and trade repositories.
The European Commission proposed a far-reaching reform of the EU VAT regime in a call for changes to the current system which is estimated to lose €150bn in revenue each year. The reform, which is part of the action plan outlined in 2016, centres on four cornerstones: tackling fraud, a ‘one-stop shop’ for compliance for cross border transactions, consistent application of the destination principle as to which member state should receive the tax payments and a reduction of red tape. The proposal will be submitted for consideration by Member States in the Council.
Financial Conduct Authority chief executive Andrew Bailey spoke to the City Banquet on the issues of consumer credit, long term saving and retirement and ageing and financial services. He noted that the FCA alone could not create an appropriate system for the sustainable supply of credit but was in discussions with other stakeholders as to what might be possible. He also highlighted the importance of high standard of financial conduct when applied to older consumers. The regulator is due to publish its pensions strategy later in the year.
Theresa May struggled through her party conference keynote speech, hampered by a cough and interrupted by a prankster handing her a P45. She faced rumours of a challenge to her leadership but received the backing of cabinet colleagues. In Brexit talks, her recent policy announcement to seek a two-year transition period was resisted by a coalition of countries led by Germany who insisted that the terms of the UK’s ‘divorce’ must be agreed before any extension of the Article 50 period could be discussed.
The US government’s preference for deregulation of financial services was reportedly reversed with respect to the regulation of clearing houses, when a senior Treasury official identified Brexit as a reason to establish a global clearing regime. A report by the Treasury recommended that, given their importance, clearing houses should be subjected to ‘heightened regulatory and supervisory scrutiny’. The future regulation of the clearing house LCH after Britain leaves the EU was highlighted as an issue which is in need of resolution.
U.S. Federal Trade Commission charged three American companies with making false claims that they were in compliance with the Privacy Shield. three companies settled claims with the Commission, which are the first prosecutions under the agreement with the U.S and the EU on data transfer across borders. Companies violating the regulations can be fined about $40,000 per violation, or the same amount each day for continuing violations.
The Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructure set out its strategy to improve the security of wholesale payments through banks, financial markets infrastructure and other financial institutions. A discussion note - ‘Reducing the risk of wholesale payments fraud related to endpoint security’ - identifies knowledge gaps and inconsistent approaches as well as opportunities to strengthen the international ecosystem in an effort to avoid a loss of confidence. The paper invites responses by 28th November 2017.
The complexities of world trade were highlighted in two high profile stories. Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombadier was hit with significant tariffs of over 220% by the United States, aiming to protecting its domestic airline Boeing. Boeing had complained that Bombadier, which has significant manufacturing operations in Northern Ireland, was selling its aircraft at ‘absurdly low’ prices. The United States further objected to an arrangement between Britain and the EU to maintain existing farm quotas after Brexit. The arrangement, the US argued, would prevent World Trading Organisation members from selling their products into the gap left by Britain’s exit from EU membership. The issue is subject to further WTO membership agreement.