U.K. FCA Proposes Consumer Credit Regulatory Regime, New Payday Lending Rules

On October 3, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed a framework for its regulation of consumer credit when those authorities transfer to the FCA from the Office of Fair Trading on April 1, 2014. As part of the U.K.’s ongoing regulatory reform and restructuring, after that date the FCA will supervise more than 50,000 firms who have existing credit licenses. The FCA proposes, among other things, (i) requiring lenders to conduct affordability checks on borrowers, (ii) requiring clear, fair and not misleading advertisements, and (iii) banning misleading advertisements. The regime would include additional new rules for payday lenders, which would: (i) restrict loan roll-overs to a maximum of two, (ii) require lenders to provide borrowers who roll-over loans with information about debt advice resources, (iii) restrict to two the number of times an automatic payment deduction authority can be used, and (iv) restrict the content of payday lending advertisements. The Consultation Paper is open for comment through December 3, 2013. The FCA plans to publish the final rules and guidance in February 2014.

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U.K. Parliamentary Commission Report Offers Comprehensive Bank Governance Reforms

On June 19, the U.K. Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards published a report titled “Changing Banking for Good.” The Commission, established in July 2012 after the alleged rigging of LIBOR was revealed, was tasked “to conduct an inquiry into professional standards and culture in the U.K. banking sector and to make recommendations for legislative and other action.” The report covers a broad range of banking sector issues, but focuses on the impacts of a perceived misalignment of incentives in banking. Some of the key recommendations include: (i) establishing a new regime to ensure that the most important responsibilities within banks are assigned to specific, senior individuals so they can be held fully accountable for their decisions and the standards of their banks ; (ii) creating a new licensing regime underpinned by Banking Standards Rules; (iii) creating a new criminal offense of reckless misconduct in the management of a bank for senior bank officers; (iv) adopting a new remuneration code to better align risks taken and rewards received that would also defer more remuneration for a longer period of time; and (v) giving the bank regulator a new power to cancel all outstanding deferred remuneration for senior bank employees in the event their banks require taxpayer support.

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U.K. FSA Seeks Comments on New Consumer Credit Regulatory Regime

On March 6, the U.K. Financial Services Authority (FSA) issued a consultation paper (CP) to outline the regulatory regime for consumer credit markets after its regulatory powers transfer to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA is a new regulatory body that will succeed the FSA later this year, and will assume regulatory responsibility over the U.K.’s consumer credit and retail markets regulatory responsibilities. In addition to those markets, the FCA also will regulate conduct in wholesale markets, supervise the trading infrastructure that supports retail and wholesale markets, and prudentially regulate firms not regulated by the new Prudential Regulatory Authority. The CP outlines (i) the supervision of and reporting by covered firms, (ii) the interim permission for OFT license holders to continue operations, (iii) the supervision of credit advertising being subject to the Financial Services and Markets Act financial promotions regime, (iv) prudential requirements for debt management firms, (v) the Consumer Credit Act provisions that survive under the new FCA credit regime, and (vi) the sources of funding for the regime. Comments on the proposal are due by May 1, 2013.

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UK’s HM Treasury Unveils Bank Break-Up Legislation, Expects Passage Next Year

On February 4, Britain’s HM Treasury introduced legislation—entitled the Banking Reform Bill—that would provide regulators with new authority to break up a bank if its investment activities put deposits at risk. The legislation goes a step beyond previously proposed policies that would merely require banks to separate retail banking from investment banking. Under the proposed legislation, in addition to requiring that institutions ring-fence deposits, the Bank of England could force an institution to sell off certain businesses if it determines that the institution has failed to protect retail banking activities from high-risk investments. The bill also would, among other things, provide depositors preference if a bank becomes insolvent, and set new leverage caps. The introduction of the bill is the first step in the legislative process, which Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer stated he expects to be finalized next year.

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UK’s FSA Publishes Consultation Paper on Regulatory Reform Implementation

On September 12, in advance of expected legislation that will restructure the United Kingdom’s financial services regulatory framework, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) published the first in a series of Consultation Papers meant to support implementation of the reforms. The Parliament is expected to finalize later this year the Financial Services Bill that will abolish the FSA, create the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to regulate financial service provider conduct in retail and wholesale markets, and shift safety and soundness regulation to the new Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), among other changes. The first Consultation Paper outlines changes to split the existing FSA handbook into new rulebooks for the FCA and PRA. All regulated firms are encouraged to review the Consultation Paper, and the FSA has asked for comments to be submitted by December 12, 2012.

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