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FCA fines UK bank £108 million over AML controls
On December 9, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) fined a UK bank more than £107.7 million for allegedly maintaining inadequate anti-money laundering (AML) controls at its business banking division. The bank’s AML controls and attempts to correct the problems were inadequate according to the FCA and “created a prolonged and severe risk of money laundering and financial crime.” The FCA further claimed that these alleged “serious and persistent gaps” prevented the bank from adequately overseeing more than 560,000 business customers between December 2012 and October 2017. According to the FCA, due to the alleged deficiencies, the bank was purportedly unable to verify information provided by customers about their business intentions and was unable to properly monitor the money that customers claimed would be going through their accounts compared with what was actually being deposited. The FCA’s investigation also identified several other mismanaged accounts that left the bank vulnerable to money laundering risk and found examples where the bank failed to promptly address “red flags” associated with suspicious activity. As a result, more than £298 million was routed through the bank before the accounts were closed.
The FCA noted, however, that the fine was reduced from nearly £154 million (a 30 percent discount) due to the bank not disputing the findings. The bank, which has fully cooperated with the FCA’s investigation, released a statement emphasizing that while it took action to address the AML issues once they were identified, it accepts that its “AML framework at the time should have been stronger.” The bank has since implemented significant changes to address these issues by overhauling its financial crime technology, systems, and processes.
CFTC revises LIBOR transition no-action letters
On December 22, the CFTC announced that the Division of Clearing and Risk (DCR), Division of Market Oversight (DMO), and Market Participants Division each issued revised no-action letters (see 21-26, 21-27, and 21-28) to swap dealers and other market participants associated with the transition from swaps that reference LIBOR and other interbank rates to swaps that reference alternative benchmarks. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority announced the dates that all LIBOR settings will cease to be provided by any administrator and will no longer be representative. All sterling, euro, Swiss franc and Japanese yen settings, and one-week and two-month U.S. dollar settings ceased immediately after December 31, 2021, while all remaining U.S. dollar settings will cease immediately after June 30, 2023. Therefore, according to the recent CFTC announcement, the DMO and the DCR letters are effective until June 30, 2023 “for swaps otherwise covered by such letters to the extent such swaps reference one of the 2023 USD LIBOR Settings.”
U.S.-UK financial regulators discuss bilateral issues
On December 17, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a joint statement covering the recently held fifth meeting of the U.S.-UK Financial Regulatory Working Group (Working Group). Participants included officials and senior staff from both countries’ treasury departments, as well as regulatory agencies including the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, OCC, SEC, the Bank of England, and the Financial Conduct Authority. The Working Group discussed, among other things, (i) international and bilateral cooperation; (ii) “emerging regulatory approaches and the need to promote multilateral cooperation and alignment given that a number of third-party providers operate cross-border to provide services to the financial sector and there are potential risks of regulatory fragmentation”; (iii) “risks associated with regulatory driven fragmentation in derivatives clearing and banking markets”; (iv) “efforts in relation to the LIBOR transition, market developments, the risks associated with newly created credit-sensitive rates, and transition implications for other jurisdictions;” and (v) the management of climate-related financial risks and other sustainable finance issues. According to the statement, Working Group participants will continue to engage bilaterally on these issues and others ahead of the next meeting planned for this spring.
UK FCA announces LIBOR cessation dates
On March 5, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the dates that all LIBOR settings will cease to be provided by any administrator and will no longer be representative. All sterling, euro, Swiss franc and Japanese yen settings, and one-week and two-month U.S. dollar settings will cease immediately after December 31, 2021, while all remaining U.S. dollar settings will cease immediately after June 30, 2023. Following these dates, representative LIBOR rates will be unavailable and publication of most LIBOR settings will immediately end. The FCA stated it does not expect that any LIBOR settings will become unrepresentative prior to the aforementioned dates, noting that the announcement is intended to “provide certainty on when the LIBOR panels will end. Publication of most of the LIBOR benchmarks will cease at the same time as the panels end. Market participants must now complete their transition plans.”
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
UK FCA extends LIBOR benchmark deadline
On April 29, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a follow-up statement that allows firms the ability to use the LIBOR interest rate benchmark in new sterling LIBOR linked loans for an addition six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The FCA acknowledges that due to challenges presented by the current operating environment, it is not feasible for lenders to complete the transition from LIBOR across all new sterling LIBOR linked loans before the original Q3 2020 target end date. The FCA provides several recommendations including: (i) lenders should be in a position to offer non-LIBOR linked products by the end of Q3; (ii) from Q3 onward, lenders and borrowers should agree on a process to facilitate conversion to an alternative rate prior to the end of 2021; and (iii) all new issuances of sterling LIBOR-referencing loan products that expire after the end of 2021 should cease by the end of Q1 2021. The announcement also reiterates the FCA’s previously stated position that the central assumption that firms cannot rely on LIBOR being published after the end of 2021 remains unchanged (covered by InfoBytes here).
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
UK FCA discusses impact of Covid-19 on firms’ LIBOR transition plans
On March 25, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a statement addressing the potential impact of Covid-19 on firms’ LIBOR transition plans. While the FCA states that the assumption that firms cannot rely on LIBOR being published after the end of 2021 is unchanged, it acknowledges that Covid-19 has impacted the timing of some aspects of the transition programs for many firms. The FCA states that it will continue to assess the impact on transition timelines and will update the market as soon as possible.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
CFPB requests comments on using Tech Sprints
On September 18, the CFPB published a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on the use of Tech Sprints—forums which gather “regulators, technologists, financial institutions, and subject matter experts from key stakeholders for several days to work together to develop innovative solutions to clearly-identified challenges”—as a means to encourage regulatory innovation and collaborate with stakeholders on forming solutions to regulatory compliance challenges. The Bureau notes that Tech Sprints have been successfully used by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, which has organized seven Tech Sprints since 2016, resulting in a pilot project on digital regulatory reporting. The Bureau is interested in using Tech Sprints to, among other things: (i) leverage cloud solutions and other developments that may reduce or modify the need for regulated entities to transfer data to the Bureau; (ii) continue to innovate the HMDA data submission process; (iii) identify new technologies and approaches that can be used by the Bureau to provide more cost-effective oversight of supervised entities; and (iv) reduce other unwarranted regulatory compliance burdens. Comments must be received by November 8.
SEC, UK FCA update cooperation agreements
On March 29, the SEC and the United Kingdom (UK) Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) signed two updated Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to continue their cooperation and information sharing with respect to the “effective and efficient oversight of regulated entities across national borders.” The MOUs will come into force on the date EU legislation ceases to have direct effect in the UK, should the UK withdraw from the EU.
The first MOU is a supervisory arrangement covering regulated entities operating across national borders. The MOU—originally signed in 2006—includes updates to increase the scope of covered firms under the MOU to include firms that carry out derivatives, credit rating, and derivatives trading repository businesses. The update will reflect “the FCA’s assumption of responsibility from the European Securities and Markets authority for overseeing credit rating agencies and trade repositories in the event of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.”
The second MOU—originally signed in 2013—provides a supervisory cooperation and exchange of information framework related to the supervision of covered entities operating within the alternative investment fund industry. The updates ensure that covered entities including investment advisers, fund managers, and private funds “will be able to continue to operate on a cross-border basis without interruption” in the event of a withdrawal.
Global Financial Innovation Network seeking cross-border testing applications
On January 31, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) officially launched and is now seeking cross-border testing applications. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in August 2018, the FCA announced the creation of the GFIN in collaboration with 11 other global financial regulators. The network has now expanded to include 29 organizations, including financial regulators and other related entities, committed to supporting financial innovation. The GFIN has three primary functions: (i) to collaborate on innovation and to provide accessible regulatory contact information for firms; (ii) to provide a forum for joint regulation technology work; and (iii) to provide firms with an environment in which to trial cross-border solutions.
The announcement states that the network has opened a one month application window for firms interested in joining a pilot cohort for cross-border testing for new technologies. Firms interested in participating are required to meet the application requirements of all the jurisdictions in which they would like to test. Each applicable regulator will decide whether the firm’s proposed test meets the screening criteria and ensure safeguards are in place in their jurisdiction for testing. The deadline for testing applications is February 28.
Regulators create Global Financial Innovation Network
On August 7, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the creation of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) in collaboration with 11 global financial regulators, including the CFPB. As set forth in the GFIN Consultation Document, the three major functions of the initiative are: (i) information sharing among regulators on topics including emerging technologies and business models; (ii) providing a forum for joint policy work; and (iii) instituting “cross-border trials” to create a testing environment for companies as they deal with global regulatory challenges. GFIN’s intention is to serve as an efficient way for innovative fintech firms to interact with regulators and promote transparency, and plans to explore the concept of a “global sandbox” to create opportunities for these firms to test new financial services and products such as artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology, and initial coin offerings in multiple jurisdictions.
In a press release issued the same day, the Bureau noted that the decision to join the group is a demonstration of its “commitment to promoting innovation by coordinating with state, federal and international regulators.” Acting Director Mick Mulvaney further commented, “We look forward to working closely with other regulatory authorities—whether in the United States or abroad—to facilitate innovation and promote regulatory best practices in consumer financial services.”
The working group seeks multi-jurisdictional comments on the Consultation Document to assess feedback on its proposed mission, function, and priorities. U.S. persons can submit comments through the Bureau’s Office of Innovation or through the FCA and other regulators. Comments must be received by October 14.