To mark the new year, registered investment advisers and funds should take a look back at the activity undertaken by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and its staff during 2019 and carefully consider steps to be taken to implement new and amended regulations adopted by the SEC throughout the year. The start of a new year is also a good time to evaluate what remains on the SEC's regulatory agenda.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently released its 2019 Report on Examination Findings and Observations. The report intends to reflect key findings and observations identified in FINRA's recent examinations of broker-dealers. The report also describes practices that FINRA has deemed to be effective and that could help firms to improve their compliance and risk management programmes.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently charged a Switzerland-based securities dealer for offering and selling unregistered security-based swaps to US investors using bitcoins and for failing to transact its swaps on a registered national exchange. This case illustrates that the use of new technology and terminology does not exempt investment-product dealers from having to comply with US federal securities laws.
Interest rates applicable to loans made in Japan are subject to the Interest Rate Restriction Act, which is Japan's usury law. For decades, legal experts and others questioned whether this regulation also applied to corporate bonds, thereby affording bond issuers the same protections against high interest rates as those enjoyed by borrowers. This longstanding question appears to have been resolved by a recent Tokyo District Court judgment.
The Supreme Court recently granted a writ of certiorari to address whether the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may obtain disgorgement in civil injunctive actions filed in the federal courts. How the court resolves this question may have a significant impact not only on the SEC's enforcement programme, but also on a wide array of other federal regulators that rely on courts invoking similar equitable authority to fashion remedies.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority recently censured and fined a Florida-based broker-dealer, including for failing to reasonably supervise sales of complex securities such as structured products and leveraged, inverse and inverse-leveraged exchange-traded funds. This case illustrates the need for broker-dealers to establish and enforce proper surveillance systems and written procedures to ensure the suitability of their sale recommendations.
The North American Securities Administrators Association recently issued a report that provided a warning as to the risks of leveraged or inverse exchange-traded funds. The report urges broker-dealers to tailor their supervisory procedures if they allow exchange-traded fund (ETF) transactions in these products. Among other things, the report concludes that broker-dealers should carefully consider whether to permit purchases of leveraged or inverse ETFs in retail customer accounts.
To address the risk that the London Interbank Offered Rate may be discontinued, the Cross-Industry Committee on Japanese Yen Interest Rate Benchmarks was established to recommend the appropriate choice and use of Japanese yen interest rate benchmarks depending on the type of financial transaction involved and develop transition plans for a new framework enabling the use of Japanese yen interest rate benchmarks. The committee recently published a consultation paper in this regard.
As part of its effort to meet EU-equivalent standards, Switzerland is in the process of implementing a comprehensive reform package which will fundamentally change the Swiss financial market regulatory framework and introduce the country's first harmonised and coherent prospectus regulation. The new regime will ensure that bond issuers will continue to have efficient and quick access to the Swiss debt capital market – one of the legislature's key goals.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently proposed amendments to the description of business, legal proceeding and risk factor disclosures that are required pursuant to Regulation S-K. While the SEC's concept release dealt with a wide variety of topics, these latest proposals represent a more measured approach towards modernising and simplifying such disclosure requirements.
On the back of its new electoral mandate, the Modi Sarkar 2.0 government recently presented its first budget. The budget focuses primarily on infrastructure spending and boosting investment from private and foreign investors, with the government forecasting that the Indian economy will grow to $5 trillion by 2025. Following the budget announcement, a slew of reforms and policies are expected in the coming months. This article highlights some of the key capital market-related amendments.
Blockstack Token LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delaware public benefit corporation Blockstack PBC, recently became the first company to have an offering of digital assets qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission under Regulation A. Although Blockstack's is the first Regulation A token offering to be qualified, it demonstrates the potential for other blockchain-based companies to use Regulation A as a viable capital-raising tool.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently requested public comment on ways to simplify, harmonise and improve the registration exemptions under the Securities Act. In its concept release, the SEC identified numerous topics to be addressed, such as evaluating the framework and coverage of existing registration exemptions. Any developments in this area will be of interest to the structured products industry.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently issued an interpretive release designed to reaffirm, and in some cases clarify, the standard of conduct that investment advisers owe to their clients. While the interpretive release includes no new regulation, it clarifies the type of disclosure, policies and procedures that advisers should adopt to ensure that they continue to operate in a manner that is consistent with their fiduciary obligations.
The Federal Department of Finance recently announced that it was activating the measures adopted by the Swiss Federal Council to protect the Swiss stock exchange infrastructure in anticipation of the expiration of the stock market equivalence granted by the European Commission. Notably, the protective measures do not affect companies with registered offices in Switzerland that are listed and traded exclusively on exchanges outside Switzerland.
The second half of 2018 was characterised by a sharp decrease in the number of equity and debt initial public offerings in Israel and a significant rise in bond yields. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and the Israeli Securities Authority continue to promote various initiatives to encourage non-Israeli issuers to list on the TASE, including the publication of a bulletin clarifying the rules that apply to the public offering of securities, listing and delisting and ongoing disclosures by dual-listed companies.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently proposed amendments to the 'accelerated filer' and 'large accelerated filer' definitions adopted under the Securities Exchange Act 1934. The SEC believes that it can promote capital formation for smaller reporting issuers by more appropriately tailoring the types of issuer that are included and revising the transition thresholds for accelerated and large accelerated filers.
If everything goes according to plan, on 1 January 2020 Switzerland will have successfully overhauled its financial market legislation with the entry into force of the Financial Services Act and the Financial Institutions Act. An important element of the overhaul is the introduction of a new comprehensive and harmonised prospectus regime. However, the question remains as to whether non-public offerings as a species will survive in Switzerland.
Cabinet recently submitted a bill to the 198th session of the Diet to amend, among other acts, the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act and the Payment Services Act. Among other things, the amendments introduce new regulations for security-type digital tokens (ie, initial coin offerings and security token offerings) and clarify that digital tokens issued in consideration for crypto assets will be regarded as deemed securities.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently adopted rule amendments to modernise and simplify certain disclosure requirements in Regulation S-K and related rules and forms. These amendments were adopted pursuant to a 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) directive and are based in part on the SEC's report to congress under the FAST Act. The amendments will require issuers' immediate attention as they prepare for upcoming filings.