President Trump risked a global trade war in introducing tariffs on steel imports, following allegations of Chinese dumping on US markets, prompting reprisals from the European Union. President Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson and announced television pundit Larry Kudlow would be Gary Cohn’s replacement as head of the White House National Economic Council. Tensions with Russia increased as the United Kingdom blamed it for a chemical poisoning of a former spy in Salisbury. The British government drew up a direct budget for Northern Ireland, which was described as moving a step closer to direct rule, following the collapse of power sharing talks. Vladimir Putin was comfortably returned to power in Russian elections. Below are the main stories on finance and regulation for the last two weeks.
The Central Bank also launched a thematic inspection of performance fees for UCITS funds, which will include on-site visits of depositories and administrators. It is expected to focus on whether fees are calculated in line with prospectuses and whether they are properly checked by depositories. The analysis is expected to be completed by the end of May.
The Central Bank published the Credit Union Supervisory Commentary which detailed the findings of on-site inspections in relation to its Risk Mitigation Programme for the sector. The report focused on governance, risk management and operational risks. The Central Bank published its Thematic Review of Prize Draws in Credit Unions following concerns that many prizes were going to staff and directors.
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner published its annual report for 2017, highlighting an increased number of complaints, most of which related to data access requests. The report also contains a call for a review of the law in relation to the retention of data. The resources of the Commissioner are to be focused on the upcoming GDPR implementation in May.
An administrator was appointed to CBL Insurance Europe DAC on application to the courts by the Central Bank, following reports that the company was in breach of a number of regulations and in a perilous financial position.
The Department for Finance published a Credit Demand Survey, showing that demand for credit in Ireland was low whilst SME profits increased for a sixth year in a row. Between April and October 2017 a reported 85% of credit applications requested by respondents were accepted. The Credit Register will go live on 31st March 2018, requiring lenders to report advances to non-consumer borrowers to the Central Bank.
Danish insurance firm Alpha Insurance A/S was ordered to stop writing new business for renewing existing contracts. Alpha Insurance operated across a number of European countries on a freedom of services basis. Insurance Europe issued a call for the modernisation of VAT rules in the EU to reflect market realities.
The European Central Bank issued a second consultation on the publication by the ECB of an unsecured overnight interest rate, which deals with data sufficiency and quality checks, calculation and methodology and ensuring a broad-based adoption. Responses are requested for 20th April 2018.
The European Commission presented a set of measures to reduce non-performing loans in the banking sector. A Directive on Credit Servicers, an amendment to the Credit Requirement Regulation and a technical blueprint on setting up national Asset Management Companies and a performance report on progress were published. The European Central Bank also issued non-binding guidance on how lenders should allocate capital for non-performing loans and advised the Commission on the use of prudential backstops to prevent the build-up of NPLs.
Regulatory technical standards for strong customer authentication and secure open standards under the Payment Services Directive were published in the Official Journal, meaning that the payments industry now has an 18-month implementation period. The European Payments Council launched a public consultation on changes to the SEPA Credit Transfer and Direct Debit rule books.
In Brexit news, the European Commission and the United Kingdom announced substantial agreement on the terms of a transition period to run up to December 2020, although key political items such as the Northern Ireland border were still awaiting resolution. Insurance Europe issued a paper outlining the impact of Brexit on insurance contracts. The Bank of England warned that regulators and politicians were not doing enough to prevent material risks to the £26 trillion derivatives market after Brexit. The Office of Budget Responsibility warned that Brexit’s financial gains could be dwarfed by a negative impact on trade. A study by consulting firm Oliver Wyman listed five industries it believed to be most at risk from the impact of Brexit: financial services, automotive, agriculture, food and drink and chemicals and plastics.
The Financial Conduct Authority banned Paul Flowers, former Chair of the Co-operative Bank, from financial services due to a lack of fitness and probity. Mr Flowers was found to have disregarded FCA requirements, in particular in relation to his drug use and sexual behaviour in the workplace. A former LIBOR submitter at Deutsche Bank, Guillaume Adolph, was banned from financial services and fined £180,000 for his part in manipulating the interest rate through false submissions. Convicted fraudster Alex Hope pleaded guilty to further accusations of perverting the course of justice in respect of non-compliance with a confiscation order.
The Bank for International Settlements issued a report warning central banks that digital currencies could negatively impact payments, monetary policy and financial stability. The European Commission published its Fintech Action Plan, which includes the EU regulation on crowdfunding, an assessment of current regulatory coverage of initial coin offerings and a review of obstacles to financial innovation. Roisin Benham, a commissioner at the United States Commodity Futures and Trading Commission, called on the US Treasury to intensify efforts to fill the regulatory vacuum for cryptocurrencies. The Japanese exchange Coincheck fulfilled its promise to repay 260,000 customers for fraud losses and resumed trading.
The Financial Stability Board published guidelines for reporting for Securities Financing Transactions as part of its work on shadow banking. The Board also published its 2017 Global Shadow Banking Monitoring Report, which shows global trends and risks from shadow banking activities, across 29 jurisdictions. The report estimates the shadow banking market to be worth $45 trillion or 13% of total financial system assets across those jurisdictions.