Financial Regulatory Forum

Firms must prepare for UK approved persons grilling

Joanne Wallen

LONDON, May 31 (ThomsonReuters Accelus)

Corporate executives and directors in Britain must be prepared for increasingly rigorous interviews by the Financial Services Authority to be accepted as “approved persons” eligible to hold positions of significant responsibility in their firms.

Nadia Swann, a partner in Linklaters’ financial regulation group, told a briefing that the Financial Services Authority’s interview process had become more formal after the government-commissionerd Walker Review on Corporate Governance in late 2009 recommended an overhaul of the FSA’s approved persons oversight. Now there is an increased focus on the competence of approved persons and those in significant influence functions.

The first to be called to the FSA panel for interviews hadn’t expected the grilling, Swann said. Interviewees now face detailed practical questions to assess their competence. Questions included: “What have you failed to achieve for this company?” or “What are your greatest weaknesses?” and even “What are you personal development plans?”

Firms should have seen the warning signs in speeches from the FSA over the past year or so in which the regulator talked about looking at the judgments being made by senior managers, she said. It essential to prepare people to answer the FSA’s questions.

This increased scrutiny shows how approved persons and senior management will be held accountable by the regulator. The FSA now inquires about candidates’ level of autonomy within the firm and their accountability. She suggested candidates might need two or three mock interviews to prepare for the real thing.

Global regulators raise fears over exchange traded funds

By Christopher Elias

LONDON, May 24 (Business Law Currents) Promising low tax and returns from even the most unlikely of assets, the market in exchange traded funds (ETFs) shows no sign of slowing down. Fears of systemic risk are, however, causing some global regulators to rethink the growth of synthetic ETFs.

With ETFs having all the hallmarks of a troubling financial innovation, regulators are raising concerns over the growth of exchange traded funds and their ability to have unintended consequences for the financial industry. As ETFs are capable of taking the form of derivatives on derivatives, a comparison with collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) is not unwarranted, leading many to conclude that exchange traded funds might have the same explosive potential as CDOs had in the subprime crisis.

(more…)

Foreign private equity braces for rough ride to China -ANALYSIS

Helen H. Chan

HONG KONG, May 20 (Business Law Currents) Foreign-invested private equity firms are rallying in Shanghai, eagerly awaiting the results of a second round of applications for the Qualified Foreign Limited Partners (QFLP) scheme. In recent weeks, large international buyout firms such as Blackstone and the Carlyle Group have rejoiced over being some of the first to be awarded a QFLP license.

Although the QFLP seems to have gone one step further in liberalizing private equity deals between foreign investors and domestic targets, perks of the scheme come with a tangle of very sticky red tape. Recently, financial authorities in Shanghai have published several guidelines to facilitate the second round of approvals for QFLP licenses. Aiming to aid domestic entrepreneurial efforts, the newly-issued requirements appear to favor applicants with connections to government-backed funds and homegrown Chinese enterprises.

Established in early 2011, the QFLP permits licensed non-Chinese private equity firms to convert foreign currency into renminbi for onshore investment in China. Once approved, a firm may convert foreign currency, up to a quota permitted by its license, without approval by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).

The Rajaratnam Verdict: Tip of the Iceberg – ANALYSIS

NEW YORK, May 18 (Business Law Currents) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s trophy case gets a new addition with the conviction of Raj Rajaratnam, but shelf room is still available.

For all its publicity, the Rajaratnam case was merely one of many; since late 2009, insider trading probes related to Galleon have resulted in 13 additional guilty pleas. In recent months, some of the country’s most prestigious names have been linked to what appears to be a widening net of scandals. Fallout from these and others yet to be named should continue to generate headlines for the foreseeable future. (more…)

Private placements and conflicts of interest: do consenting adults need more protection? – COLUMN

By Helen Parry, Thomson Reuters Accelus regulatory intelligence expert. The views expressed are her own.

LONDON, May 16 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) -

“The first private placement memorandum disclosed the possibility that new investors may help pay distributions to old investors but this was not a risk; it was a certainty.” (US Securities and Exchange Commission v Bravata 2011 WL 339458.)

“This disclosure indicates that GSI may invest in securities that are ‘adverse to’ the Hudson investments … Goldman had already determined to keep 100 per cent of the short side of the Hudson CDO.” U.S.  Senate Investigations Subcommittee Levin-Coburn Report on the Financial Crisis.

COLUMN: British bankers give up payment-protection appeal – the implications

By Adam Samuel, Thomson Reuters Accelus contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.

LONDON, May 13 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The British Bankers’ Association left it until the day before the last available one to appeal against its defeat in the Administrative Court, to throw in the towel in its payment protection insurance judicial review application.

Having lost on every point in front of Mr Justice Ouseley, the BBA’s undignified judicial review challenge to both the Financial Services Authority and the Financial Ombudsman Service’s material on PPI complaint handling is over.

Is the Financial Stability Board the regulator to rule them all?

By Susannah Hammond, Thomson Reuters’  regulatory intelligence team. The views expressed are her own

LONDON, May 9 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The Financial Stability Board, regulatory policy maker of choice for the G20, has started to show its teeth. From its roots as the supranational setter of standards, guidance, policies and principles in the wake of the financial crisis, the FSB has started to clarify how it will monitor compliance with its requirements as well as deal forcefully with breaches.

A progress report on one of its strands of work regarding promoting global adherence to regulatory and supervisory standards on international cooperation and information exchange highlights how the FSB uses the International Monetary Fund as its objective reviewer of compliance with international standards. Critically, it shows how the FSB has taken the first steps in setting out the implications for what are called non-cooperative jurisdictions.

U.S. insider cases reshape policy for U.S. companies, enforcers

David Sokol, Chairman, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, and Chairman, President, and CEO of NetJets, listens to a question during the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in Dana Point, California in this April 13, 2010 file photograph. Former Berkshire Hathaway executive David Sokol has said he did nothing wrong in buying stock in a company that he then suggested Berkshire acquire.By Erik Krusch

NEW YORK  (Business Law Currents) Inside information seems to be making its way out of the office and boardroom and onto the Street where it is parlayed into lucrative stock trades. From former hedge fund mogul Raj Rajaratnam to erstwhile Berkshire Hathaway executive and reputed Warren Buffett successor David Sokol, individuals alleged to have traded on inside information are sweating in the proverbial hot seat.

Rajaratnam’s alleged violation of insider trading laws and Sokol’s alleged violation of Berkshire policy, and possibly state and federal law, are helping to shape current market norms and the future behavior of investors in U.S. capital markets. These corporate dramas are unfolding before our very eyes and today’s events offer a possible window into what post-Sokol and Rajaratnam corporate policy and insider trading enforcement may look like.

(more…)

U.S. chases elusive currency-detection technology

By Brett Wolf

ST. LOUIS, May 4 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – To combat money laundering and contain the drug war raging along the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. authorities are seeking technology that can detect the hoards of cash that smugglers try to spirit abroad.

But as results come in on initial development efforts, it is uncertain whether the technology is within reach.

“Right now we don’t know if it’s even feasible to make it work,” said John Verrico, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s and Technology Directorate. “There is a whole lot that has to be considered before we can say we have viable technology.”

Dodd-Frank and SEC blaze new trail for credit ratings

NEW YORK, April 19 (Westlaw Business) – Dodd-Frank’s credit-rating provisions do more than just hamstring ratings agencies; they also open new frontiers of opportunity.

Already on the wane as a result of their collective role in the world financial crisis, the influence of the big ratings agencies will soon take another hit as the Dodd-Frank financial regulation overhaul formally strips these analysts of their aura of omniscience. Obscured in the conversation is what collateral effects may spring from this new regulation. (more…)

  •