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The government recently issued Decree-Law 22/2019, which is aimed at ensuring the security, financial stability and integrity of financial markets in the event of a so-called 'hard Brexit'. Under the decree-law, UK banks that carry out activities subject to mutual recognition on the United Kingdom's withdrawal date can continue carrying out their activities in Italy by serving notice to the Bank of Italy. Further, Italian branches of UK banks may continue to carry out their activities by serving notice to the Bank of Italy.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance recently published a press release announcing the measures which the Italian government, in close consultation with the regulatory authorities and following discussions with trade associations, intends to take in order to avoid a hard Brexit having a cliff-edge effect on financial activities. During the transitional period provided by the temporary measures, banking intermediaries will be able to continue to operate according to existing laws and regulations.
Virtual currencies represent uncharted territory in Italy for various reasons, and the current rules and restrictions will likely need structural adjustments to make them work. The fact that the issuer of virtual currencies for investment purposes is in most cases based in a foreign country (often outside the European Union) could make the scope of current exemptions under the Securities Act too broad.
The Bank of Italy recently commenced a public consultation on the proposed amendments to Regulation 285/2013 on remuneration policies in the banking sector, the main aim of which is to align the regulation with the European Banking Authority Guidelines of December 2015 and ensure compliance with Articles 74(3) and 75(2) of the EU Capital Requirements Directive. The consultation will end on May 14 2018.
With the Competition Law's recent entry into force, the legislature has finally established a clear legal framework by defining the concept of a 'financial lease' and the consequences for banks (or leasing companies) and clients following a breach of contract. These provisions make financial leases a more transparent tool with the aim of boosting their appeal and increasing investment by Italian companies, thus fostering economic growth.
The Italian courts, as well as scholars and legal practitioners, have debated the concept of supervening usury for many years. Until recently, it was unclear whether interest stipulated below the usury threshold at the time of contract, but exceeding such threshold at the time of payment, was usurious. The Supreme Court finally addressed this issue in a recent decision, which ruled out supervening usury entirely.
The Bank of Italy recently opened a public consultation on certain regulatory provisions to be enacted in order to bring forward the implementation of the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation. The proposed provisions aim to supplement the Italian legal framework regarding the organisational duties of regulated intermediaries that provide investment services and activities, including banks.
Securitisation & Structured Finance
Decree-Law 34 of 30 April 2019 introduced important amendments to the Italian securitisation framework. Securitisation special purpose vehicles can now play a more active role in the context of non-performing or unlikely-to-pay exposures. Further, a new breed of securitisation has been introduced, where the issuer's obligations are backed by real estate properties (or registered moveable assets) and related cash flows, as opposed to a portfolio of monetary claims.
The government recently extended the duration of the guarantee on the securitisation of non-performing loans, subject to European Commission clearance. The extension represents a welcome measure to strengthen the stability of the Italian banking system and support, without interruption, the process of reducing the stock of non-performing loans and developing a secondary market for them.
Parliament recently approved Law 145/2018 within the context of the Budget Law 2019 and introduced some notable changes to the Italian securitisation framework. Among other things, Law 145/2018 allows the securitisation of proceeds that arise from the ownership of real estate or registered movable assets, as well as other ancillary rights. The amendments are effective as of 1 January 2019 and aim to further develop Italy's securitisation market by offering new tools and refining existing ones.
New business opportunities have emerged following recent changes to the Securitisation Law. Until recently, securitisation special purpose vehicles (SPVs) were prohibited from playing an active role in the management of distressed debts which they purchased in the context of a securitisation transaction. The new rules offer securitisation SPVs a wider set of tools and foster the growth of the market for non-performing loans across various asset classes.