Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Clause 6 — Extension of scope of regulation

Part of Financial Services Bill (Money) (No. 2) – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 10th December 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 8:45 pm, 10th December 2012

I come now to the Government’s implementation of the independent review of LIBOR conducted by Mr Martin Wheatley. I announced the Government’s response to the Wheatley review in mid-October and three sets of amendments to the Bill have been made to implement those recommendations that require legislation. The first is to enable activities in relation to benchmarks, such as LIBOR and potentially others, to be brought within the scope of regulation under FSMA. The second is to create criminal offences designed to tackle misconduct in the financial sector, including a new criminal offence for making false or misleading submissions in connection with the determination of a benchmark. The third is to provide the FCA with a rule-making power to require banks to submit to LIBOR and other benchmarks. Those amendments complement the market-led reforms to LIBOR as recommended by the Wheatley review. Martin Wheatley recommended that submission to, and the administration of, LIBOR become regulated activities, and amendments 59 to 62 create a framework to enable activities in relation to benchmarks to be specified as regulated activities under FSMA.

Amendment 60 defines “ benchmark” as an “index, rate or price”, defined from time to time by reference to the state of the market and used in relation to investments. A benchmark is capable of being regulated only if it meets that definition. The precise benchmarks that are subject to regulation will be specified by way of statutory instrument. The Government recently published a consultation paper on this legislation. Initially, the activities to become regulated will be LIBOR submission and administration, as recommended by the Wheatley review. However, further benchmarks can be added and the Government are considering and consulting on whether additional benchmarks should be brought within the regulatory perimeter. The types of benchmarks that could be eligible include equity or bond indices, derivatives and commodity or energy benchmarks. The definition of benchmark, as drafted, requires that it be used for one or more purposes that relate to section 22 of, and schedule 2 to, FSMA.

Chris Leslie has tabled an amendment that would extend that definition to include commodities. Let me say first that I totally understand the requirement that we should be able to address some of the alleged abuses that have taken place and have the powers in statute to include those benchmarks that are relevant to some of the concerns that have been expressed recently. We do not believe that there is any requirement to extend the legislation on that. In fact, the Bill was drafted to anticipate the Wheatley review and the work going on in other benchmarks. Benchmarks can represent many things, including commodities or energies, provided that they are traded financially in the way we often see. Under the definition, regulation by the FCA extends to benchmarks that involve financial matters consistent with FSMA and the objectives of the FCA as the financial services regulator.

The Wheatley review also recommended that banks should be encouraged to participate in LIBOR—participation is currently voluntary. In the absence of such submissions, LIBOR would cease to be a representative benchmark and, in an extreme scenario, would not be published at all. Therefore, Lords amendment 79 allows the FCA to require firms to participate in particular benchmarks, while making reference to a “code or other document”. That allows the detail of the requirement to be determined by the benchmark administrator, not by the FCA. It might not be necessary for the FCA to use that power immediately, if at all, and it has recently opened a discussion on how and when the use of that power could be considered.

The Wheatley review also recommended the creation of a new criminal offence in relation to the manipulation of benchmarks such as LIBOR and the re-examination of the criminal sanctions for market manipulation under FSMA. Although such conduct could already be a criminal offence under legislation, this is a helpful clarification of some of the powers. There will be three criminal offences: first, we are re-creating the offence of making a false or misleading statement; secondly, we are widening the offence in section 397(3) to include creating a false or misleading impression as to the market in, or the price or value of, an investment for the purposes of making a profit or avoiding a loss; and thirdly, we are creating a new criminal offence related to misleading statements and impressions in respect of specified benchmarks.

The amendments also replicate the penalties for existing offences: a person found guilty might face a prison sentence of up to seven years and an unlimited fine. The detail of the investments, agreements and benchmarks for which those criminal offences apply will be set out in secondary legislation. That is included in the public consultation currently under way.

Under the current arrangements, where enforcement action results in a firm paying a financial penalty, that is applied as a discount to fees paid by other firms the following year. Without reform, unprecedented fines, such as those relating to the attempted manipulation of LIBOR, would have represented a significant windfall to regulated firms. In future, regulatory fines revenue in excess of enforcement case costs will go to the Consolidated Fund. The hon. Member for Nottingham East and I had an exchange about that earlier. The regulators will be able to net off enforcement case costs before handing over the penalties to the public purse. The new arrangements will apply to FSA fines received from 1 April 2012, so the measure will include the penalty imposed on Barclays in relation to the attempted manipulation of LIBOR.

The Government have announced that £35 million of fines imposed from attempted LIBOR manipulation and other unacceptable behaviour received this year will be used to support Britain’s armed forces community. In addition, £5 million will go to the creation of new, groundbreaking first world war galleries at the Imperial War museum. I hope that the House will agree to these amendments but, of course, I stand ready to respond to any points Members make.