Saturday 13th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, JANUARY 12TH: Morningstar has moved the Morningstar Analyst Rating™ for the Fidelity Global Inflation Linked Bond fund to Neutral. The fund previously held a Bronze rating. Ashis Dash, manager research analyst at Morningstar, says, “The fund’s rating was placed Under Review following the news that co-manager Jeremy Church was leaving Fidelity. Lead manager, Andrew Weir, who has managed the fund since launch in May 2008, remains in charge and is further supported by the new co-manager, Tim Foster. While we acknowledge Weir’s considerable experience in the inflation-linked space, some recent stumbles and below-benchmark returns over time have led us to lower our conviction in the fund. This is currently reflected by our Neutral rating.” - Italian GDP growth looks to have stalled to 0.1pc in the last quarter of 2015, falling below analyst expectations of 0.3% growth. The Italian economy grew by just 0.6% last year having come out of its worst slump since before the pyramids were built. The slowdown will put further pressure on reforming Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who has been battling to save a banking system lumbering under €201bn (£156bn) of bad debt, equivalent to as much as 12% of GDP. It is a serious situation and one which threatens Italy’s traditionally benign relationship with the European Union. The EU’s bail in rules for bank defaults seeks to force creditors to take the brunt of any banking failures. Italy suffered four bank closures last year, which meant losses of something near €800m on junior bond holders (with much of the exposure held by Italian retail investors). No surprise perhaps, Italian bank stocks have taken a beating this year, Unicredit shares are currently €3.06, compared with a price of €6.41 in April last year. In aggregate Italian banking shares are down by more than 20% over the last twelve months. Italian economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan told Reuters at the beginning of February that there isn’t any connection between the sharp fall in European banking stocks, as he called on Brussels for a gradual introduction of the legislation. He stressed that he did not want legislation changed, just deferred - Is current market volatility encouraging issuers to table deals? Oman Telecommunications Co OTL.OM (Omantel) has reportedly scrapped plans to issue a $130m five-year dual-currency sukuk, reports the Muscat bourse. Last month, the state-run company priced the sukuk at a profit rate of 5.3%, having received commitments worth $82.16m in the dollar tranche and OMR18.4m ($47.86m) in the rial tranche. Meantime, Saudi Arabia's Bank Albilad says it plans to issue SAR1bn-SAR2bn ($267m-$533m) of sukuk by the end of the second quarter of 2016 to finance expansion, chief executive Khaled al-Jasser told CNBC Arabia - The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (Commission) announces that the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee (EEMAC) will hold a public meeting at the Commission’s Washington, DC headquarters located at 1155 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20581. The meeting will take place on February 25th from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm – Local press reports say the UAE central bank will roll out new banking regulations covering board and management responsibilities and accountability – Following yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says that “Overall, the economic recovery in the eurozone continues and is expected to strengthen this year and next. At the same time, there are increasing downside risks and there is volatility in the markets all around the world. The euro area is structurally in a much better position now than some years ago. And this is true also for European banks. With Banking Union, we have developed mechanisms in the euro area to bring stability to the financial sector and to reduce the sovereign-banking nexus. Capital buffers have been raised, supervision has been strengthened, and we have clear and common rules for resolution. So overall, structurally we are now in a better position and we need to continue a gradual recovery”. Speaking at the press conference that followed the conclusion of the February 11th Eurogroup, Dijsselbloem also acknowledged that “good progress” has been made in official discussions between Greece and its officials creditors in the context of the 1st programme review. Yet, he noted that more work is needed for reaching a staff level agreement on the required conditionality, mostly on the social security pension reform, fiscal issues and the operation of the new privatization fund. On the data front, according to national account statistics for the fourth quarter of 2016 (flash estimate), Greece’s real GDP, in seasonally and calendar adjusted terms, decreased by 0.6%QoQ compared to -1.4%QoQ in Q3. The NBS Executive Board decided in its meeting today to cut the key policy rate by 0.25 pp, to 4.25%. - Today’s early European session saw an uptick in energy stocks, banking shares and US futures. Brent and WTI crude oil futures both jumped over 4% to $31.28 a barrel and $27.36 respectively before paring gains slightly; all this came on the back of promised output cuts by OPEC. That improving sentiment did not extend to Asia where the Nikkei fell to a one-year low. Japan's main index fell to its lowest level in more than a year after falling 4.8% in trading today, bringing losses for the week to over 11%. Yet again though the yen strengthened against the US dollar, which was down 0.1% ¥112.17. Swissquote analysts says, “We believe there is still some downside potential for the pair; however traders are still trying to understand what happened yesterday - when USD/JPY spiked two figures in less than 5 minutes - and will likely remain sidelined before the weekend break.” Japanese market turbulence is beginning to shake the government and may spur further easing measures if not this month, then next. Trevor Greetham, head of multi asset at Royal London Asset Management, says “When policy makers start to panic, markets can stop panicking. We are seeing the first signs of policy maker panic in Japan with Prime Minister Abe holding an emergency meeting with Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda. We are going to get a lot of new stimulus over the next few weeks and not just in Japan. I expect negative interest rates to be used more in Japan and in Europe and I expect this policy to increase bank lending and weaken currencies for the countries that pursue it”. Greetham agrees that both the yen and euro have strengthened despite negative rates. “Some of this is due to the pricing out of Fed rate hike expectations; some is temporary and to do with risk aversion. In a market sell off money tends to flow away from high yielding carry currencies to low yielding funding currencies and this effect is dominating in the short term”. Australia's S&P ASX 200 closed down 1.2%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng settled down 1.01. in New Zealand the NZX was down 0.89%, while in South Korea the Kospi slid 1.41%. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 1.25 points or 0.05% higher to 2539.53, taking the year-to-date performance to -11.91%. The top active stocks today were DBS, which declined 0.91%, SingTel, which gained 1.13%, JMH USD, which declined 1.39%, OCBC Bank, which gained 0.13% and UOB, with a0.34% advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined 0.50%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined0.31%. Thai equities were down 0.38%, the Indian Sensex slip 0.71%, while Indonesian equities were down another 1.16%. The euro was down 0.3% against the dollar at $1.1285, even after data showed Germany's economy remained on a steady yet modest growth path at the end of last year. Gold fell 0.7% to $1238.80 an ounce, after gold gained 4.5% Thursday to its highest level in a year. Greetham summarises: “Like a lot of people, we went into this year's sell off moderately overweight equities and it has been painful. What we have seen has been a highly technical market with many forced sellers among oil-producing sovereign wealth funds and financial institutions protecting regulatory capital buffers. However, economic fundamentals in the large developed economies remain positive, unemployment rates are falling and consumers will benefit hugely from lower energy prices and loose monetary policy.”

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Regulatory Update

Protect Your Firm... And Your Personal Assets!

Monday, 30 July 2012 Written by 
Protect Your Firm... And Your Personal Assets! Hoping for a respite from regulatory change?  Think again.  Gathering forces may create a regulatory storm that is even more difficult than the one faced in the 2007-2009 financial crisis.  In this tempest, both the regulated and the regulators will have bull’s-eyes on their backs.  Regulators are likely to become more conservative in their analysis and more active.  It is therefore imperative to assess your firm now and prepare yourself to withstand regulatory inquiries.  You can also expect more scrutiny from investors who will seek to allocate funds only to those firms that they believe are fully complying with applicable laws and regulations. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

Hoping for a respite from regulatory change?  Think again.  Gathering forces may create a regulatory storm that is even more difficult than the one faced in the 2007-2009 financial crisis.  In this tempest, both the regulated and the regulators will have bull’s-eyes on their backs.  Regulators are likely to become more conservative in their analysis and more active.  It is therefore imperative to assess your firm now and prepare yourself to withstand regulatory inquiries.  You can also expect more scrutiny from investors who will seek to allocate funds only to those firms that they believe are fully complying with applicable laws and regulations.

What fuels this gathering storm?  Outright major misappropriations by the likes of Madoff and Peregrine's Wasendorf are part of the equation.  In addition, events such as the LIBOR-fixing scandal at Barclays, J.P. Morgan’s “London Whale” trading losses, and MF Global’s failure to segregate customer funds serve as cautionary examples.

These stories highlight that a firm’s assets, reputation, and in some cases, even the firm’s fundamental viability are at stake when things go awry.  As if that weren’t bad enough, senior executives face additional consequences.  In these and other similar incidents, personal assets can be at stake even when others are the primary wrongdoers.  



Think you are immune from these risks?  Think again.  Labaton Sucharow LLP, a plaintiff's law firm, recently published a unsettling study indicating that one in four financial industry professionals in the U.S. and U.K. believe wrongdoing is necessary for success.  If this study is credible, the message it sends to the general public is highly negative.  It speaks to senior management of alternative investment firms loud and clear: sometimes the best-intentioned executive may have an employee who hears an "unintended message" and veers off course.  Intended or not, the executive may ultimately bear responsibility. 

The first line of defense for an investment advisory firm and its executives is to build a culture in which the firm’s standards clearly and consistently meet all applicable regulatory and ethical expectations.  It is particularly important for firm leaders to reaffirm these standards and expectations during times of economic and operational stress, when legal and internal requirements may appear to conflict with business drivers (such as maximizing short-term results).  Employees must internalize that senior management will take the ethical route in order to maximize the long-term value of the firm—and expects them to do the same.

The second line of defense, at least in the U.S., is to develop a governance structure that satisfies the requirements specified in the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual.  This manual offers incentives to companies that adopt a comprehensive compliance and ethics program (and take certain actions upon the occurrence of alleged missteps).  A program that satisfies these requirements will contain elements in addition to those required by the SEC and CFTC.  Complying with the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual can be an invaluable safeguard that reduces the likelihood of an executive or his firm being charged with criminal violations.

The third line of defense is to undertake an honest self-assessment, and to consider the types of pressures that senior management and employees will encounter should the weakened state of the global economy continue.  Topics in the regulatory spotlight should be included in this assessment.  The intent here is to prepare for the possible pressures employees and senior management might face, thereby reducing the chance that hasty decisions are made in the heat of the moment. Ill-considered actions can carry serious penalties and act as a lightning rod for litigation by regulators, investors, and other third parties (such as credit providers).  Advance preparation will help your staff make faster and better decisions if the need should arise. 

You can't always remove that bull’s-eye on your back, but you can at least make the target less bright.

Deborah Prutzman

Deborah Prutzman is the founder and CEO of The Regulatory Fundamentals Group (RFG), a New York-based firm that designs and implements business and risk solutions for alternative asset managers and institutional investors. RFG's senior-led team employs a robust suite of tools, including practical alerts on new and potential industry developments and its powerful RFG Pathfinder® knowledge management platform which simplifies the challenges of operating in a regulated environment.  To learn more about The Regulatory Fundamentals Group call (212) 537-4058, email a representative at Information@RegFG.com or visit RegFG.com

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