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07/04/2016 2016/582 ESMA finds room for improvement in national supervision of investment advice to retail clients , , Press Release PDF
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04/04/2016 2016/566 ESMA not to exempt ETD under MiFID II , Press Release PDF
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05/02/2016 2016/247 ESMA to focus on governance, strategy, data and fees in 2016 supervision , , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has today published its 2016 supervisory priorities for credit rating agencies (CRAs) and trade repositories (TRs), as well as its annual report summarising the key supervisory work and actions undertaken during 2015.

2016 Supervisory Priorities

ESMA has seen a number of changes in the CRA and TR industries during 2015, with new applicants for registration in both sectors, and current authorised entities seeking to develop their businesses. This has included CRAs providing credit ratings on new asset classes or in new geographic areas, and TRs offering trade reporting services for other instrument types.

ESMA identifies its supervisory priorities on the basis of risk assessment exercises conducted throughout the year. In 2015 these identified high levels of governance and strategy risk, and operational risk in the CRA industry and high levels of risk associated with TRs’ data and systems. Therefore, in 2016 ESMA will focus its supervisory activities on:

  • CRA governance and strategy and the quality of credit ratings;
  • TR data quality and data access;
  • Fees charged and information security for all supervised entities.

Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said:

“The credit rating and trade repository industries continue to evolve and develop. We are receiving new applications for registration and existing entities are seeking to develop their businesses by expanding into new areas. ESMA supports these developments where they contribute to the maintenance of stable and orderly financial markets.

“For this reason, in 2016 ESMA will focus its work on the quality of the services being provided by supervised entities. This means we will concentrate on issues surrounding CRA governance, strategy and ratings quality, along with data quality and access to TRs’ data with a broad focus on the fee structures and information security in both industries.”

2015 Annual Supervisory Review – CRAs and TRs

In 2015, following its risk-based approach, ESMA focused its supervisory efforts on CRAs’ governance, risk management and internal decision making and on CRAs’ business development processes. Some notable achievements were:

  • investigating the techniques being applied to validate credit rating methodologies by some CRAs and using the differences identified to encourage industry-wide debate about appropriate validation standards;
  • conducting an IT risk assessment which identified that CRAs are facing serious risks in several areas including IT operations and information security;
  • investigating the process of issuing credit ratings followed by one CRA and raising concerns about the preparation of issue ratings, the workloads of credit rating analysts and their involvement in the provision of ancillary services; and
  • concluding an enforcement case against DBRS Ratings Ltd for internal control failings and imposing a €30,000 fine for past record-keeping breaches. The case highlighted the need for CRAs to establish clear decision-making procedures, organisational structures and effective compliance functions.

The key risks TR supervision focused on in 2015 related to the quality of TRs’ data, access to data held by TRs and the operation and performance of TRs’ systems. In 2015, ESMA continued working with TRs to implement the data quality action plan established in September 2014 including:

  • harmonising TRs’ data validation;
  • monitoring the inter-TR reconciliation process; and
  • ensuring the harmonisation of the aggregate data made available on TRs’ websites.

ESMA has also been monitoring National Competent Authorities’ (NCAs) access to TR data. It has entered into a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) to help third country regulatory authorities access TR data and is developing an IT system to allow NCAs to submit data queries through a centralised web portal.

22/12/2015 2015/1872 Press Release Cross Selling Guidelines Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published its Guidelines on Cross-Selling Practices under MiFID II (guidelines) to ensure investors are treated fairly when an investment firm offers two or more financial products or services as part of a package.

The guidelines include principles on:

  • improving disclosures when different products are cross-sold with one another;
  • requiring firms to provide investors with all relevant information in a timely and clear manner;
  • addressing conflicts of interest arising from remuneration models; and
  • improving client understanding on whether purchasing the individual products offered in a package is possible.

The European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) – EBA, EIOPA and ESMA - initially intended to issue joint guidelines covering all cross-selling practices taking place in the banking, insurance and securities sectors given that cross-selling is often cross-sectoral, and had consulted the stakeholders previously on this basis.

However, in light of legal concerns, the ESAs decided not to issue joint guidelines on cross-selling practices but agreed that ESMA should issue ESMA-only guidelines under MiFID II in order to meet its 3 January 2016 deadline.

While ESMA’s guidelines take into account the results of the ESAs’ joint consultation, the final report focuses on the feedback regarding cross-selling practices under MIFID II. Further, the guidelines are addressed to national regulators supervising the firms which provide MiFID services, when they engage in cross-selling practices.

The ESAs intend to inform the European Commission about the issues encountered and raise the possibility of legislative change to provide a foundation for future joint guidelines.

The guidelines will apply from 3 January 2017.

02/10/2015 2015/1483 ESMA sees progress in reform of EU credit rating industry , Press Release PDF
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29/06/2015 2015/1050 Press Release- ESMA fines DBRS Ratings Ltd. for internal control failings , Press Release PDF
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01/04/2015 2015/674 Press release- ESMA launches centralised data projects for MiFIR and EMIR , Press Release PDF
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25/02/2015 2015/495 ESMA publishes review on best execution supervisory practices under MiFID , , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has conducted a peer review on how national regulators (national competent authorities or NCAs) supervise and enforce the MiFID provisions relating to investment firms’ obligation to provide best execution, or obtain the best possible result, for their clients when executing their orders. ESMA found that the level of implementation of best execution provisions, as well as the level of convergence of supervisory practices by NCAs, is relatively low. In order to address this situation a number of improvements were identified, including: . prioritisation of best execution as a key conduct of business supervisory issue; . the allocation of sufficient resources to best execution supervision; and . a more proactive supervisory approach to monitoring compliance with best execution requirements, both desk-based and onsite inspections. The review was conducted on the basis of information provided by 29 NCAs and complemented by on-site visits to the NCAs of France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and Spain.
16/02/2015 2015/281 Press Release- ESMA publishes annual report and supervisory focus for CRAs and TRs , , , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published today an annual report (Report) on its direct supervisory activities in 2014 regarding credit rating agencies (CRAs) and trade repositories (TR). The report summarises the key actions taken during 2014 and outlines ESMA’s supervisory work plans for both sectors for 2015.
19/12/2014 2014/1574 ESMA provides implementing rules for MiFID II , , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published today its final technical advice (TA) and launches a consultation on its draft regulatory technical and implementing standards (RTS/ ITS) regarding the implementation of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) and Regulation (MiFIR). Both ESMA’s TA and draft RTS translate the MiFID II/MiFIR requirements into practically applicable rules for market participants and national supervisors. The new regulatory framework aims at ensuring that secondary markets are fair, transparent and safe and that investors’ interests are safeguarded when being sold investment products. Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said:“Today’s implementing rules on both secondary markets and investor protection issues reflect ESMA’s desire to achieve the best outcome for market users and investors, taking into account the extensive submissions received from our stakeholders. The advice now goes to the European Commission to use in preparation of its delegated legislation, while our technical standards are open for a second round of consultation. “Once fully implemented, MiFID II will have a significant impact on the EU’s securities markets, its users and infrastructure providers. It will bring greater transparency and improve the overall functioning of markets thus strengthening investors’ trust in the financial sector.”MiFID II to include most financial instruments, trading venues and techniquesMiFID II/MiFIR introduces changes to the functioning of secondary markets, including transparency requirements for a broad range of asset classes; the obligation to trade derivatives on trading venues; requirements for algorithmic and high-frequency-trading and new supervisory tools for commodity derivatives. The key proposals stemming from ESMA’s TA/draft RTS cover the following issues: •    increased trade transparency, for non-equity instruments, in particular bonds, derivatives, structured finance products and emission allowances;•    a trading obligation for shares and a double volume cap mechanism for shares and equity-like instruments, introducing a major change to the framework for trading these instruments in the Union;•    an obligation to trade derivatives on MiFID venues (regulated markets, multilateral (MTFs) or organised trading facilities (OTFs)) only, in line with G20 requirements;•    newly introduced position limits and reporting requirements for commodity derivatives;•    rules governing high frequency trading, imposing a strict set of organisational requirements on investment firms and trading venues;•    provisions regulating access to central counterparties (CCPs), trading venues and benchmarks, designed to increase competition in the Union; and•    requirements for a consolidated tape of trading data, including rules for tape providers, reporting,  publication and sales of data.MiFID II to improve investor protection ESMA’s TA proposes that the Commission adopts a number of measures that will further the protection of investors across the EU. The main proposals relating to the improved protection of investors, especially retail, include:•    clarifications about the circumstances in which portfolio managers can receive research from third parties;•    clarifications under which circumstances inducements meet the quality enhancement requirement for the provision of advice;•    requirements for investment firms manufacturing and/or distributing financial instruments and structured deposits to have product governance arrangements in place in order to assess the robustness of their manufacture and/or distribution;•    requirements for firms to provide clients with details of all costs and charges related to their investment, including cost aggregations, the timing of disclosure (ex-ante and ex-post); information to non-retail clients; the scope of firms subject to this obligation; information on the cumulative effect of costs on the return; •    organisational requirements for firms providing investments advice on an independent basis; and•    specification of powers for ESMA and national regulators with regards to prohibiting or restricting the marketing and distribution of financial instruments. Next stepsThe TA has been finalised following extensive consultations with stakeholders and will now be sent to the European Commission. ESMA’s draft RTS/ITS, already previously consulted upon, are open for public comment until 2 March 2015. In addition, an open hearing will be held in Paris on 19 February 2015. ESMA will use the input received from the consultations to finalise its draft RTS which will be sent for endorsement to the European Commission by mid-2015, its ITS by January 2016. MiFID II/ MiFIR and its implementing measures will be applicable from 3 January 2017.
16/12/2014 2014/1525 Press Release- Improvements needed in CRAs surveillance of structured finance credit ratings , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published a report on the findings of its investigation into the way credit rating agencies (CRA) conduct surveillance of their structured finance credit ratings. The investigation, which took place between October 2013 and September 2014, was prompted by the continued relevance of structured finance products and the high outstanding volume in issuance. It focused on the four largest CRAs providing credit ratings on these finance instruments in the EU – DBRS Ratings, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s – which account for almost 100% of the total outstanding credit ratings on EU structured finance instruments. In its investigation ESMA identified a number of shortcomings in several areas affecting the surveillance of structured finance ratings for the CRAs investigated. ESMA also identified weaknesses on the level of disclosure and transparency which could be detrimental to investor protection. ESMA has not determined whether any of the Report’s findings constitute a breach of the CRA Regulation, and may take action as appropriate in due course.Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said: “ESMA’s investigation has found shortcomings in CRAs’ processes for the surveillance of structured finance credit ratings which could affect the quality of the ratings. These concerns centred on information quality controls, the application of CRAs’ methodologies and the related disclosure as well as the timely completion of the credit ratings annual review.  Issues were also identified in relation to the role and independence of the internal review function. “The high volume of issued structured finance instruments and renewed interest in securitisation as an alternative funding source make the results of this review all the more timely. “All registered CRAs should take note of the problems identified and ensure that they properly incorporate the requirements and objectives of the CRA Regulation into their working practices in order to ensure the quality of credit ratings and maintain investor confidence. The good practices identified in the Report can help with that improvement.”   ESMA has requested that CRAs put in place the remedial action plans to solve the individual concerns identified. ESMA will follow up with each of the CRAs subject to this investigation. Likewise, ESMA will monitor all other registered CRAs as part of its on-going supervision.
24/06/2014 2014/689 ESMA publishes draft RTS on CRA3 transparency requirements , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published its Final Report on draft Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) required under the Credit Rating Agencies (CRA3) Regulation regarding information on transparency of structured finance instruments, the European Rating Platform and periodic reporting of fees charged by credit rating agencies. The draft RTS, which complement the existing regulatory framework for credit rating agencies (CRAs), cover: • disclosure requirements on structured finance instruments (SFIs); • the European Rating Platform (ERP); and • the periodic reporting on fees charged by CRAs. Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said: “The enhanced transparency requirements set out in these draft Regulatory Technical Standards regarding structured finance instruments, CRAs’ fees and ratings will improve the information available to both investors and supervisors. “Their implementation will contribute to a reduction in conflicts of interest, improved investor protection and market stability, and greater competition between CRAs.”
03/06/2014 2014/596 ESMA censures Standard & Poor’s for internal control failings , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has issued a public notice censuring Standard & Poor’s Credit Market Services France SAS and Standard & Poor’s Credit Market Services Europe Limited (S&P) for breaches of Regulation 1060/2009 (CRA Regulation). The decision by ESMA to issue a public notice results from its investigation into the erroneous publication on 10 November 2011 by S&P, to the subscribers of its Global Credit Portal, of an email stating “France (Republic of) (Unsolicited Ratings): DOWNGRADE”, although S&P’s rating of France had not been downgraded. ESMA found that this incident was the result of a failure by S&P to meet certain organisational requirements set out in the CRA Regulation, relating to sound internal control mechanisms, effective control and safeguard arrangements for information processing systems and decision-making procedures and organisational structures. ESMA, based on the provisions of the CRA Regulation, decided that the relevant breaches warranted a supervisory measure in the form of a public notice. The final decision on the supervisory measure took into account the steps taken by S&P to end the infringement and was considered proportionate to the seriousness of the breach. Case Background S&P, on 10 November 2011 at 15:57 CET, erroneously released to subscribers of its web-based Global Credit Portal (GCP) an email alert which stated in its header “France (Republic of) (Unsolicited Ratings): DOWNGRADE”, although S&P’s credit rating of France had not changed. GCP is one of the methods used by S&P to disseminate its credit ratings and other financial information products. Among other services, it provides an email alert function that a subscriber can customise in order to receive alerts when certain information changes on GCP, e.g. in case S&P decides to change a credit rating on a particular issuer. S&P’s internal database, where it maintained its credit ratings, was also used to store its Banking Industry Country Risk Assessments (BICRAs). BICRAs are not credit ratings but assessments of the banking systems in particular countries and have been published since 2006. S&P later decided to maintain BICRAs in the same centralised internal database as its credit ratings and to display BICRAs on GCP. The relevant technical specifications for this project treated BICRAs as ratings and no effective action was taken to address the implications this could have. This eventually led to the erroneous release when an attempt to change an incorrect display of France’s BICRA on GCP triggered an email alert stating in its header that the rating of France had been downgraded. ESMA’s Role Since July 2011 ESMA has been responsible for the regulation of credit rating agencies in the European Union including their registration and supervision in line with the requirements of the CRA Regulation. ESMA has the power to take appropriate enforcement action where it discovers a breach of the CRA Regulation, ranging from the issuance of public notices to the withdrawal of registration and imposition of fines.
22/05/2014 2014/557 ESMA consults on MiFID reforms , , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has launched the consultation process for the implementation of the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) and Regulation (MiFIR). This is the first step in the process of translating the MiFID II/MiFIR requirements into practically applicable rules and regulations to address the effects of the financial crisis and to improve financial market transparency and strengthen investor protection.MiFID II/MiFIR introduces changes that will have a large impact on the EU’s financial markets, these include transparency requirements for a broader range of asset classes; the obligation to trade derivatives on-exchange; requirements on algorithmic and high-frequency-trading and new supervisory tools for commodity derivatives. It will also strengthen protection for retail investors through limits on the use of commissions; conditions for the provision of independent investment advice; stricter organisational requirements for product design and distribution; product intervention powers; and the disclosure of costs and charges.MiFID II/MiFIR contains over 100 requirements for ESMA to draft Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) and Implementing Technical Standards (ITS), and to provide Technical Advice to the European Commission to allow it to adopt delegated acts. In order to ensure that MIFID II achieves its objectives in practice, ESMA is publishing the following documents:1.    Consultation Paper on MiFID/MiFIR Technical Advice – ESMA needs to deliver this advice to the European Commission by December 2014 and is therefore subject to a condensed consultation process for this paper; and2.    Discussion Paper on MiFID/MiFIR draft RTS/ITS – this will provide the basis for a further consultation paper on the draft RTS/ITS which is expected to be issued in late 2014/early 2015. The closing date for responses to both papers is Friday 1 August. Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said:“The launch of today’s MiFID II/MiFIR consultation process is an important step in the biggest overhaul of financial markets regulation in the EU for a decade. The reform of MiFID is an integral part of the EU’s strategy to address the effects of the financial crisis and aims to bring greater transparency to markets and to strengthen investor protection. These changes are key to restoring trust in our financial markets.“We appreciate the magnitude of this exercise for stakeholders. We strongly encourage all those affected by these reforms to provide their views to ensure that we take them into account in our final proposals.”The main issues covered in the Discussion and Consultation Paper are divided into those addressing the structure, transparency and regulation of financial markets, and those aimed at strengthening investor protection.Financial Markets Structure, Transparency and RegulationThe main proposals in this area cover the following issues: enhanced transparency and trading obligations - increasing pre- and post-trade transparency for many categories of instruments, e.g. shares, ETFs, certificates, bonds and derivatives, limitations to trade shares OTC and new obligations to trade derivatives on trading venues; micro-structural issues – refining the definition of high frequency trading and direct electronic access and specifying the requirements for operating in the market using algorithmic techniques; data publication and access – issues related to the development of the consolidated tape including requirements for tape providers, approved publication arrangements and reporting mechanisms, and the definition of a reasonable commercial basis for data sales; and the access to CCPs,  trading venues and benchmarks; other organisational requirements for trading venues; and commodity derivatives – new regulatory tools, including position limits. Investor ProtectionThe main proposals relating to the improved protection of retail investors include technical advice on: inducements – new limitations on the receipt of commissions (inducements); independent advice – clearly distinguishing independent from non-independent advice; product governance – requirements on the manufacture and distribution of financial products including target market and risk identification; product intervention/banning - introducing powers for both ESMA and national regulators to prohibit or restrict the marketing and distribution of certain financial instruments; and improved information on costs and charges – requirements to provide clients with details of all charges related to their investment (relating to both the investment service and the financial instrument provided) so they can understand the overall cost and its effect on their investment’s return. In addition, the draft regulatory technical standards in the investor protection area relate to the authorisation of investment firms, passporting, and certain best execution obligations.Next StepsESMA will hold three public hearings about secondary markets, investor protection and commodity derivatives issues on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 July. Further details on the hearings will be published on ESMA’s website. 2014/548 2014/549
27/03/2014 2014/334 ESMA issues good practices for structured retail product governance , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published an opinion on structured retail products, setting out good practices for firms when manufacturing and distributing these products.
21/02/2014 2014/212 Press release- ESMA sets out CRA supervision focus for 2014 Press Release PDF
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ESMA sets out CRA supervision focus for 2014 The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published its Annual Report 2013 (Report) on credit rating agencies (CRAs) in the European Union (EU). The Report also outlines ESMA’s supervisory work plan for this year. ESMA has found that CRAs continue to progress in how they comply with the CRA Regulation, including improved internal transparency and disclosure to the market on credit rating activities as well as empowerment of the compliance function. However, ESMA considers that improvements are still necessary, notably in the following areas: validation of rating methodologies, to ensure that a credit rating assessment is a comprehensive risk assessment leading to high quality ratings; internal governance, ensuring the full independence of the internal review function and thereby reducing the risk of potential conflict of interest; and robust IT systems to support the rating process, including information security controls and protection of confidential rating information. These issues form the basis for much of ESMA’s supervision activities as outlined in its 2014 work plan. This includes the completion of the two on-going supervisory reviews into CRAs’ monitoring of structured finance ratings and into small and medium-sized CRAs. A new thematic investigation on how CRAs review and validate their rating methodologies will also be launched, as well as dedicated work on CRAs’ IT systems and controls. Following the entry into force of the amended CRA Regulation in June 2013, ESMA will also complete a specific assessment on CRAs’ compliance with the new regulatory requirements. Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said: “ESMA is in its third year as the EU’s CRA regulator and today’s report provides us with an assessment of the progress made to date. However, as shown by our recent work on sovereign ratings there are still issues around governance as well as independence,objectivity and quality of the rating process that need to be remedied in order to restore market confidence in CRAs and their ratings. “We will continue to proactively and intrusively supervise CRAs and work with them to address their shortcomings. This will contribute to building confidence in the transparency and smooth functioning of EU financial markets while ensuring a high level of financial consumer protection.” The 2013 Report summarises how ESMA fulfilled its role as the supervisor of CRAs in the EU. It covers ESMA’s supervisory activities, progress in dealing with registrations, and its policy work in relation to existing and new legislative requirements. In particular, the Report focuses on the results of ESMA’s supervisory work through on-going supervision as well as thematic reviews, such as that into the sovereign ratings process of a number of CRAs, the inspections of small and medium-sized CRAs and a further inspection of the ratings publication controls in a single CRA.
11/02/2014 2014/165 ESMA consults on new CRA transparency requirements Press Release PDF
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07/02/2014 2014/152 ESMA tells firms to improve their selling practices for complex financial products , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published an Opinion on practices to be observed by investment firms when selling complex financial products to investors. ESMA is issuing this opinion to remind national supervisors and investment firms about the importance of requirements governing selling practices under MiFID (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive).ESMA is issuing this Opinion as it is concerned that firms’ compliance with the MiFID selling practices when selling complex products may have fallen short of expected standards. The concerns relate mainly to the suitability and appropriateness of complex products that are increasingly within the grasp of retail investors. The Opinion sets out ESMA’s minimum expectations with respect to the conduct of firms when selling complex products to retail investors.Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said: “Investment firms increasingly sell complex financial products such as warrants, different types of structured bonds, derivatives and asset-backed securities, which were previously accessible mainly to professional investors, to retail investors.“ESMA is concerned that this trend greatly increases the risk that customers do not understand the risks, costs and expected returns of the products they are buying. Therefore, we believe that it is crucial that investment firms act responsibly and in the best interest of their clients.“The level of concern regarding the risk posed by these products to investor protection when MiFID rules are not fully respected is such that we have also issued an EU-wide warning to investors in order to raise awareness about the risks arising from investing in these types of complex products.” The marketing and sale of complex financial products, in particular to retail investors, is an important investor protection area where ESMA wants to ensure a consistent approach to the application of the MiFID conduct business rules - thereby improving supervisory convergence.The areas covered by the Opinion relate to: firms’ organisation and internal controls; the assessment of the suitability or appropriateness of certain products; disclosures and communications in relation to products; and compliance monitoring of the sales functions.
02/12/2013 2013/1790 ESMA identifies deficiencies in CRAs sovereign ratings processes Press Release PDF
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ESMA identifies deficiencies in CRAs sovereign ratings processes The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published a Report identifying a number of deficiencies in the processes for producing and issuing sovereign ratings at the three largest credit rating agencies (CRAs), Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s. The Report follows an investigation carried out by ESMA into the sovereign rating processes at the three CRAs, between February and October 2013. The investigation was prompted by concerns about potential conflicts of interests, the impact of sovereign ratings on other types of ratings, CRAs’ capacity to cope with the number of rating actions during a period of high volatility, the use of bulk rating actions, and issues around the confidentiality and timing of rating actions. The investigation focused on the governance and organisation of sovereign rating activities, the adequacy and expertise of allocated human resources, the disclosure of rating information to the public, and ensuring its confidentiality before disclosure. ESMA identified deficiencies and issues for improvement in the following areas: • Independence and avoidance of conflicts of interests; • Confidentiality of sovereign rating information; • Timing of publication of rating actions; and • Resources allocated to sovereign ratings. ESMA has not determined whether any of the Report’s findings constitute a breach of the CRA Regulation, and may take action as appropriate in due course. Steven Maijoor, ESMA Chair, said: “ESMA’s investigation revealed shortcomings in the sovereign ratings process which could pose risks to the quality, independence and integrity of the ratings and of the rating process. “The focus on the sovereign rating process in this investigation stems from their increased volatility over the past few years, the importance of sovereign ratings from a credit market and financial stability perspective, and their impact on other rated entities and products. “The impact which changes in these ratings can have on financial markets, and sovereign states, can be significant. Therefore, it is imperative that users can have confidence that the CRAs have adequate systems and controls in place to ensure that ratings are rigorous, free from conflicts of interest and timely. “The CRAs who were subject to this investigation still need to make improvements in their working practices to ensure their full compliance with the CRA Regulation and to eradicate inadequate practices from the past.” Investigation Findings The key areas where ESMA identified deficiencies requiring remedial actions by the CRAs included the following areas and related issues: 1. Independence and avoidance of conflicts of interests: ESMA has concerns that in a number of areas associated with conflicts of interest and independence, the actual failings or potential risks identified might compromise the independence of the ratings process and the quality of the credit ratings. These include: • the type of involvement of senior management in sovereign rating activities; • the independent review function’s participation in the sovereign rating process; • the research publication activities carried out by CRAs; • the involvement by certain non-rating functions (e.g. communication) in the rating process; and • the implementation of the appeal procedure. 2. Confidentiality of sovereign rating information The investigation identified deficiencies in the way confidential rating information is managed, in particular how access to information on upcoming rating actions on sovereigns is controlled. These include: • the disclosure of upcoming rating actions to an unauthorised third party; • inadequate controls in place for the circulation of rating information within the CRA(s); • the controls around the use of external communication consultants; and • inappropriate permissions and controls to secure access to rating information. 3. Timing of publication of rating actions: The investigation found that there had been instances of significant and frequent delays in the publication of sovereign ratings. ESMA also observed deficiencies in the advance notification to rated entities about upcoming rating actions. 4. Resources allocated to sovereign ratings: ESMA has concerns on the resources dedicated to sovereign ratings, in particular: • the lack of an adequate mechanism to assess the adequacy of resources; • assigning lead analyst responsibilities to junior or newly hired staff; • reliance on junior support staff; and • unclear definitions of functions and responsibilities. A number of good practices were also identified amongst the surveyed firms including analytical training programmes, practices designed to improve challenge in rating committees, and to ensure continuity in the allocation of analysts to sovereign portfolios. ESMA has required the CRAs to put in place remedial action plans to address the issues identified, and will monitor their progress against these plans as part of its on-going supervision.
10/07/2013 2013/924 ESMA launches consultation on implementation of new CRA Regulation , Press Release PDF
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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published a Discussion Paper dealing with the implementation of the CRA3 Regulation, which entered into force on 20 June 2013.The Regulation, which complements the existing regulatory framework for credit rating agencies (CRAs), requires ESMA to draft Regulatory Technical Standards (RTS) on:•    disclosure requirements on structured finance instruments (SFIs);•    the European Rating Platform (ERP); and•    the periodic reporting on fees charged by CRAs.ESMA is seeking views from all interested parties in order to assist in its preparation of the draft RTS to be published for consultation in early 2014.  ESMA must submit the draft RTS to the European Commission by 21 June 2014.