Since the Macri administration took office in December 2015, several resolutions have been passed to encourage and simplify foreign investments in Argentina. Two recent Central Bank regulations relate to the relaxation of additional foreign exchange restrictions and a new bank account regime which makes it easier for foreign financial institutions to invest in Argentina.
In 2016 there were several regulatory developments regarding the use of technology in the financial sector. The Central Bank of Argentina issued regulations aiming to integrate technological innovations in the financial sector to promote greater formalisation of the economy, increase access to banking services and facilitate access to and use of digital tools. These regulations highlight the Central Bank's intention to promote the use of new technologies for legal and financial transactions.
Since December 2015, a series of measures have been implemented to deregulate and implement progressively more flexible regulations regarding foreign exchange controls. Among other things, the changes relate to the acquisition of foreign currency, financial indebtedness and the repatriation of direct and portfolio investments by non-Argentine residents.
The Supreme Court recently rendered its first judgment on the admissibility of the use of electronic mailboxes, which are exclusively incorporated and only accessible via the e-banking system of a credit institution for serving client account notices and statements to consumers. This ruling will significantly affect Austrian banking practice.
Following the Fourth Anti-money Laundering (AML) Directive coming into force, Austria transposed the directive into law through two major legislative acts. This update provides an overview of the effects and obligations arising from the implementation of the Fourth AML Directive – in particular, the due diligence that banks will have to undertake on prospective clients.
Following a period of legal uncertainty and controversy, the Supreme Court has provided answers to the question of whether, against the backdrop of negative reference interest rates, a bank can unilaterally floor an overall floating interest rate at 0.00001%. Although the Supreme Court's decision is disappointing, it held that a decision rendered on an individual basis may come to other conclusions. Thus, this decision is unlikely to be the final word on this issue.
New almost EU-wide rules recently entered into force to support businesses in the recovery of debt from debtors in other EU countries. The regulation established a new procedure for creditors by providing common rules regarding jurisdiction and the procedure and conditions for freezing funds held by debtors in bank accounts located in the European Union. Austria has amended its Enforcement Code in order to provide the necessary framework for the procedures set out in the EU regulation.
Over the decades Austria has remained faithful to its banking secrecy by being a late adopter, if at all, of international standards for exchanging information regarding bank accounts. However, the recent amendments to the legal framework have put an end to this and led to a material softening of banking secrecy in Austria. Among other things, the legislature introduced new laws carefully tailored to remove legal obstacles based on banking secrecy that prevented – or at least impeded – tax collection.
Interest in the setting up and distribution of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore locations has increased rapidly during 2017, and this is expected to continue. No ICO or blockchain-specific rules or guidelines have yet been issued by the government or regulator; however, there are several important issues for parties in the British Virgin Islands to consider, including the key laws and regulations surrounding the issue.
As the Islamic finance market grows and matures, international financial centres such as the British Virgin Islands are being used to facilitate the structuring of Islamic finance products and transactions such as sukuk and musharakah and the incorporation of investment funds and corporate structures. BVI companies are also used by Islamic high-net-worth individuals and families as holding companies for assets in developed markets.
Some jurisdictions' laws make it a criminal offence for banks to disclose client information. If a bank becomes involved in Canadian proceedings, those foreign laws may conflict with the disclosure obligations imposed on litigants in Canada. This raises questions about when foreign law can provide a basis to excuse production or refuse the answering of a question in Canadian proceedings, and under what circumstances a Canadian court will compel disclosure despite potential foreign legal jeopardy.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has issued a statement and a new compliance bulletin in response to recent allegations that certain employees of banks were pressured to upsell to consumers. The bulletin states that its purpose is to reinforce FCAC expectations that federally regulated financial institutions obtain consumers' express consent for new products and services in accordance with regulatory requirements.
The government recently tabled its 2017 Budget. The financial services proposals are aimed at facilitating a more resilient financial sector, a modernised deposit insurance framework that continues to protect the deposits of Canadians and promote financial stability and increased powers to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
In April 2016 the Financial Transactions Reports Analysis Centre (FinTRAC) levied a penalty of over C$1 million against a Canadian bank, but failed to name the bank in question. The director of FinTRAC recently released a statement expressing that the message of deterrence was effective despite the decision not to publicise the bank's name. However, he acknowledged that withholding the name of the bank may not have met public expectations in relation to openness and transparency.
Financial services regulation continued to be busy in Canada in 2016. Pending changes, developments and consultations to watch in 2017 include the new draft guidelines from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, draft guidance from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada and the possible review and revision of the Bank Act financial consumer protection framework.
It seems that 2017 will be remembered as the year of the initial coin offering (ICO). The Cayman Islands is witnessing an upsurge in ICO-related business and structuring an ICO through the territory remains an attractive proposition. However, ICO-specific guidance is yet to be issued by the government or the regulator, and a number of legal uncertainties remain. Existing statutory and regulatory regimes must therefore be considered when structuring an ICO.