Tue. Jun 25th, 2019

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Innovation & Regulation in Finance

ESMA clarifies investment recommendations under Market Abuse Regulation

6 min read

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The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has today provided an updated to its MAR Q&A that clarifies, which communications should be considered investment recommendation in accordance with the implementation of the Market Abuse Regulation (MAR).

ESMA is required to play an active role in building a common supervisory culture by promoting common supervisory approaches and practices. In this regard, the Authority develops Q&As as and when appropriate to elaborate on the provisions of certain EU legislation or ESMA guidelines. Today’s Q&As include detailed answers on:

  • Managers’ transactions; and
  • Investment recommendation and information recommending or suggesting an investment strategy

The purpose of this document is to promote common supervisory approaches and practices in the application of MAR and its implementing measures. It does this by providing responses to questions posed by the general public and competent authorities in relation to the practical application of the MAR framework.

The content of this document is aimed at competent authorities to ensure that in their supervisory activities and their actions are converging along the lines of the responses adopted by ESMA and at helping issuers, investors and other market participants by providing clarity on the content of the market abuse rules, rather than creating an extra layer of requirements.

ESMA made it clear in its updated Q&A that any communication that meets the criteria of the definition of investment recommendation within the meaning of Article 3(1)(35) of MAR in conjunction with Article 3(1)(34) of MAR will be deemed to fall within the scope of the investment recommendation regime. When determining whether a communication is an “investment recommendation”, an assessment should be made based on the substance of the communication, irrespective of its name or label and the format, form, or the medium through which it is delivered (whether electronically, orally or otherwise). As such, whether a specific oral or electronic communication, or a communication labelled as “morning notes” or “sales notes”, may be considered an investment recommendation within the meaning of MAR, it should be established on a case-by-case basis. 
Where a standardised communication, including oral or electronic communication, is structured and pre-planned for distribution channels and it implicitly or explicitly suggests an 
 investment strategy in relation to a financial instrument or issuer, it should be regarded as “investment recommendation”.

ESMA further pointed out that communications that meet the criteria of the definition of “investment recommendation” within the meaning of Article 3(1)(35) of MAR in conjunction with Article 3(1)(34) of MAR will be deemed to fall within the scope of the investment recommendation regime.

In particular, Article 3(1)(35) of MAR sets out that “investment recommendation” means “information recommending or suggesting an investment strategy, explicitly or implicitly, concerning one or several financial instruments or the issuers [emphasis added], including any opinion as to the present or future value or price of such instruments, intended for distribution channels or for the public”.

Therefore, a communication that does not refer to either a financial instrument or an issuer, should generally not be considered an investment recommendation. However, the producer’s assessment as to whether the above communication may be investment recommendation should be conducted on a case-by-case basis.

Communication relating solely to spot currency rates, sectors, interest rates, loans, commodities, macroeconomic variables or industry sectors and not referring to a financial instrument or an issuer would be considered as investment recommendation where it contains information assessed as allowing a reasonable investor to deduce that the communication is implicitly recommending specific financial instruments or issuers and provided that the other criteria of the definition of “investment recommendation” within the meaning of Article 3(1)(35) of MAR in conjunction with Article 3(1)(34) of MAR are met. For example, an opinion on a specific sector that is composed of a very limited number of issuers may be considered an investment recommendation regarding those issuers.

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With regard to an investment firm, any information that comprises direct or indirect investment proposals in respect of a financial instrument or an issuer will be considered as information recommending or suggesting an investment strategy as defined under point (i) of Article 3(1)(34) of MAR. This is regardless of whether or not the production of investment recommendations is the main business of the investment firm, noting that the condition “whose main business is to produce investment recommendations” contained in point (i) of Article 3(1)(34) of MAR concerns any other person than independent analysts, investment firms and credit institutions.

Lastly, on the subject of investment recommendations, ESMA stated that material which concerns one or several financial instruments admitted to trading on a regulated market or a multilateral trading facility or for which a request for admission to trading on such a market has been made, or, traded on a multilateral trading facility or an organised trading facility, is considered as information implicitly recommending or suggesting an investment strategy pursuant to Article 3(1)(34) of MAR, insofar as it contains a valuation statement as to the price of the concerned financial instruments.

Furthermore, material containing an estimated value such as a “quantitative fair value estimate” that is providing a projected price level or “price target”, or any other elements of opinion on the value of the financial instruments, is also considered to be information implicitly recommending or suggesting an investment strategy pursuant to Article 3(1)(34) of MAR.

As the material referred to above is an investment recommendation under MAR, it needs to comply with the relevant obligations and standards set out in MAR and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/958 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the objective presentation of investment recommendations or other information recommending or suggesting an investment strategy and the disclosure of particular interests and conflicts of interest by producers of such recommendations. In addition, a third party that disseminates such material is considered as a disseminator of investment recommendations and therefore needs to comply with the relevant obligations and standards set out in MAR and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/958 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

 

The update to the Q&A also clarifies that if transactions are carried out in a currency which is not the EUR, the exchange rate to be used to determine if the threshold of 5 000 EUR is reached is the official daily spot foreign exchange rate which is applicable at the end of the business day when the transaction is conducted. Where available, the daily euro foreign exchange reference rate published by the European Central Bank on its website should be used.

 

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