European Commission Plans to Vet Gas and Energy Contracts and Its Approach to Russian Suppliers

A proposal to grant the European Commission a role in vetting gas supply contracts across the EU has been met with fierce resistance from the member states. The current proposal is another element of the EU’s broader initiative to create an “energy union,” as recommended by the Commission in its framework strategy in late February this year and initially approved on Thursday, March 19, 2015 to lower prices and improve the security of its gas and electricity supplies. The latest draft proposal suggests involving the Commission in all agreements with external suppliers that may affect EU energy security.

European Commission Unveils Tax Transparency Package

The European Commission has laid out its plans in a new Tax Transparency Package to clamp down on tax deals made between EU governments and multi-national corporations. As of next year, EU members would have to declare their cross border tax rulings every three months, as well as divulging information on existing deals. The Package comes during ongoing investigations into a number of member states’ tax regimes, and concerns that tax rulings which give a low level of taxation in one member state can entice companies to shift profits there artificially, leading to serious erosion of possible tax revenues for other member states.

In particular, the Commission is investigating deals between multinationals and governments in Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and whether some of these agreements amounted to state aid. Last year, allegations emerged that around 340 multinational companies had tax avoidance deals with Luxembourg.

Prospectus Directive: Commission Consultation

On February 18, 2015, the European Commission published a consultation paper on the review of the Prospectus Directive (2003/71/EC). Matters on which the Commission seeks views include:

When a prospectus is needed. In particular, views are sought as to whether the current exemption thresholds should be adjusted so that a larger number of offers can be carried out without a prospectus; whether there should be an exemption for secondary issues under certain conditions, in addition to the proportionate disclosure regime for rights issues; and whether a prospectus should be required when securities are admitted to trading on an MTF.

The information that a prospectus should contain. Questions include whether the proportionate disclosure regime should be modified or extended; whether there should be a simplified prospectus for SMEs and companies with reduced market capitalization admitted to trading on an SME growth market; and whether there should be a maximum length for prospectuses.

How prospectuses are approved, including the role of national competent authorities in the approval process of prospectuses and the equivalence of third-country prospectus regimes. In particular, the Commission asks whether the scrutiny and approval procedure should be made more transparent to the public and flexible for issuers, for example by making public the first draft prospectus filed with a competent authority for review and by allowing the issuer to carry out certain marketing activities, going beyond advertising, in the period between the first submission of a draft prospectus and the approval of the final version.

Responses must be received by May 13, 2015. The Commission intends to decide in the next months how the Prospectus Directive should be amended. It plans to prepare amendment proposals in the second half of 2015, to be presented to the European Parliament and Council of the EU, together with its review of the application of the Directive, in early 2016 at the latest.

European Commission Publishes Green Paper on Building a Capital Markets Union

On February 18, the European Commission published a green paper on building a Capital Markets Union.

The green paper identifies a number of key priorities to create a fully integrated single market for capital. The early action priorities include relaxing rules around securitization, reviewing the prospectus regime, widening the small and medium-sized investor base by ensuring comparable cross-border credit information and credit-scoring, developing private placement markets by introducing common market practices, principles and standardizes documentation and boosting long-term investment through the European Fund for Strategic Investment and the European Long-Term Investment Funds regulatory framework.

The Commission will publish an action plan later in 2015 to identify and remove barriers for the free movement of capital, and aims to have in place a fully functioning Capital Markets Union by 2019.  Green Paper.

 

FMLC Publishes Letter to European Commission on Reporting and Transparency of Securities Financing Transactions

On February 10, the UK Financial Markets Law Committee (FMLC) published a letter to the Director-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union of the European Commission.

The letter discusses the proposed Regulation on Reporting and Transparency of Securities Financing Transactions. The proposed regulation would introduce a transparency regime in the context of securities financing transactions (typically repurchase agreements (repos), securities lending activities, and sell/buy-back transactions) by requiring their reporting to trade repositories and disclosure to fund investors.

The FMLC is concerned that the proposed regulation fails adequately to reflect the difference between a title transfer financial collateral arrangement (TTFCA) and a security financial collateral arrangement (SFCA), pointing out that such failure adequately to differentiate had been flagged in comments by the ECB. To allay these concerns the FMLC recommends that the proposed regulation is amended to make it explicit that TTFCAs are excluded from Article 15 of the proposed regulation which states that counterparties shall have the right to rehypothecation only if the counterparty is informed in writing of the potential risks and has granted its prior express consent. Since a TTFCA (unlike a SFCA) involves the transfer to the receiving counterparty of the ownership of the assets in question, it is incongruous to say that the receiving counterparty has the right to use the assets transferred to him only if certain conditions are satisfied because the right to use them is a necessary incident of the ownership of the assets. Similarly, the FMLC points out that only assets transferred by means of a SFCA constitute “client assets” for the purposes of the receiving party as the transferor retains an equitable interest.  Letter.

ESMA Publishes an Opinion on Draft RTS on Clearing of Interest Rate Swaps under EMIR

Article 5(2) of Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 (EMIR) requires the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) to develop draft regulatory technical standards specifying, inter alia, the class of OTC derivatives that should be subject to the clearing obligation, the date or dates from which the clearing obligation takes effect, including any phase in and the categories of counterparties to which the obligation applies.

In October 2014, ESMA submitted a draft regulatory technical standard (RTS) on the clearing obligation in respect of interest rate swaps to the European Commission. On 18 December 2014, the Commission submitted to ESMA a modified version of the RTS (the “modified RTS”) introducing, among others, (1) amendments to the date on which the frontloading obligation starts to apply and (2) a new provision on the treatment of non-EU intragroup transactions. In the modified RTS, the Commission proposed that for a period of maximum three years, any third country shall be deemed equivalent within the meaning of Article 13(2) of EMIR. The effect would be to allow, for a period of three years, financial counterparties to apply for the intra-group exemption in respect of their transactions with any third-country entity in the absence of decisions on equivalence.

On January 29, ESMA published an opinion on the modified RTS stating that ESMA considers that the Commission’s proposal in relation to non-EU intra group transactions is not appropriate from a legal perspective. ESMA noted that (i) the adoption by the Commission of implementing acts on equivalence under Article 13 is the only procedure envisaged under EMIR to establish whether third-countries can be considered as having legal, supervisory and enforcement frameworks equivalent to EMIR; and (ii)any provision that has an effect equivalent to that of an implementing act on equivalence under Article 13, although limited in time and scope, but without the examination procedure referred to in Article 13(2), may have unintended consequences and therefore requires a very careful review. ESMA will explore, in coordination with the Commission, a different manner to incorporate that provision.  Opinion.

ECON Publishes Draft Report on MMF Regulation

On November 17, the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) published a draft report on the proposed Regulation on Money Market Funds (the MMF Regulation).

Money market funds are a type of investment fund that invests in short-term debt such as money market instruments issued by banks, governments and companies (MMFs).  If adopted, the MMF Regulation will introduce a general framework of requirements to enhance the liquidity and stability of MMF funds.

The draft report sets out suggested amendments to the European Commission’s original proposal and an explanatory statement. The statement comments that:

  • there is still significant scope for improvement relating to liquidity and maturity transformation and in making MMFs more stable;
  • a new category of EU government constant net assets value money market fund (CNAV MMF) should be established, which would invest a majority of assets into EU government debt; and
  • the net asset value of CNAVs should be subject to daily disclosure requirements, stress tests should take place on a quarterly basis and there should be stronger investor warnings.

The Parliament is scheduled to consider the MMF Regulation at its plenary session on March 25, 2015. Draft report.

Q&As and FAQs Updated by the Basel Committee, the FCA, the European Commission and the European Banking Authority

On October 7, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision issued frequently asked questions on the Basel III leverage ratio framework.

On October 6, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a Q&A paper for alternative investment fund managers (AIFM) on reporting transparency information to the FCA.

On October 3, the European Commission published a frequently asked questions paper on the Regulation on improving securities settlement and regulating central securities depositories (CSDR).

On October 3, the European Banking Authority updated its Q&As on the single rulebook, publishing 16 new answers to questions largely relating to supervisory reporting and credit risk. Basel FAQs. FCA Q&As. European Commission FAQs. EBA Q&As.

Draft Regulatory Technical Standards on Supplementary Prospectuses Published

The European Commission has published a draft of regulatory technical standards on the issue of secondary prospectuses which, minor drafting amendments aside, match those published by the European Securities and Markets Authority in December 2013.

Currently, under article 16(1) of the European Prospectus Directive, a supplemental prospectus must be issued if any new factor arises (or a material inaccuracy in a prospectus is detected) between the approval of a prospectus and the closing of the offer or commencement of trading of the relevant securities to which it relates.  The draft regulatory technical standards set out the specific triggers for and contents of supplementary prospectuses.

Having now cleared the European Commission, the next step is for the regulations to be put before the European Parliament and Council for their consideration prior to their eventual enactment.  Draft Regulatory Technical Standards.

CFTC and EC Statement on Regulatory Framework

On February 12, the CFTC and the European Commission announced jointly that the two agencies have made significant progress in their collaboration on the regulatory frameworks for CFTC-regulated swap execution facilities (SEFs) and EU-regulated multilateral trading facilities (MTFs).  Joint Release.