Financial Stability Board Issues Activities-Based Recommendations for the Global Asset Management Industry

by Dechert LLP
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The G-20’s Financial Stability Board (FSB) on January 12, 2017 issued Policy Recommendations to Address Structural Vulnerabilities from Asset Management Activities (Recommendations), covering four areas of concern: (i) liquidity mismatch; (ii) leverage; (iii) operational risk; and (iv) securities lending activities. The FSB will look to the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) to review IOSCO’s existing guidance and, as appropriate, enhance this guidance in light of the Recommendations.1 As discussed below, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) either has adopted or proposed rules covering many areas addressed by the Recommendations.

Potential for Future Asset Management G-SIFI Designations

The FSB continues to plan to revisit whether there are residual entity-specific sources of systemic risk that cannot be addressed effectively by market-wide activities-based policies that would support global systemically important financial institution (G-SIFI) designations of asset managers or investment funds.

It remains to be seen what approach U.S. representatives on the FSB (the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board (FRB) and SEC) under the Trump Administration will take in regard to any future FSB asset management G-SIFI designation initiatives. It also remains to be seen how U.S. regulatory bodies, including the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), the FRB and the SEC, would respond to any final asset management G-SIFI designation statements by the FSB during the Trump Administration. Republican members of Congress have already gone on record that the FSB has no binding authority in the United States.

FSB’s View of the Risks Related to the Asset Management Sector

Since the FSB’s initial January 2014 proposal regarding G-SIFI designation of asset managers and funds, the FSB has recognized the limited empirical support for the argument that the asset management sector poses a threat to financial stability. In that proposal, the FSB observed that from 2000 to 2012, even when viewed in the aggregate, no mutual fund liquidations resulted in a systemic market impact.

In the Recommendations, the FSB noted that, apart from money market funds and the collapse of Long Term Capital Management, there was little historical evidence of systemic risks arising from investment funds. In this regard:

  • FSB acknowledges that open-end funds generally have not created financial stability concerns in recent periods of stress and heightened volatility.
  • Nevertheless, the FSB suggests a scenario in which investment funds could pose a threat to financial stability, noting that growth in the asset management sector has been accompanied by increased investment in particular asset classes, including in less actively traded markets, through open-end funds that offer daily redemptions.
  • The FSB suggests that if market prices were to drop sharply, investors in less-liquid asset classes of open-end funds could experience greater and more sudden losses than expected, which could result in a significant number of investors seeking to exit these asset classes; this, in turn, could amplify and increase the potential for contagion across asset classes.

Comments by the asset management industry in response to the FSB’s three prior proposals regarding the asset management industry have clearly had an important impact on the FSB’s view of the asset management sector, as the FSB acknowledges in the Recommendations that:

  • Asset managers and funds pose very different structural issues (with dissimilar risk profiles) than banks and insurance companies, since asset managers act as agents on behalf of clients rather than as principals.
  • Distress at the asset manager level should generally pose less of a risk to the financial system than distress across an asset manager’s funds, since asset managers usually do not rely on their balance sheets in transactions between their clients and the market to engage in transactions as a principal, and their balance sheets are generally small relative to the size of their assets under management.

Perhaps most significantly, the FSB expressly acknowledges that the operations of the asset management sector fundamentally reflect choices of individual investors who select particular investment vehicles and move their funds among alternative investment vehicle options. In this regard, the FSB states that: “Clients make many key investment decisions, for example, selecting the asset manager(s) and, in many cases, determining the type(s) of funds, investment strategies and asset classes in which to invest and when to redeem from various investments.”

FSB’s Recommendations

The FSB provides 14 formal recommendations, and suggests that relevant national authorities review their existing regimes and consider making adjustments, as appropriate, to ensure that potential financial stability risks are addressed in a forward-looking and internationally consistent manner. The FSB notes that some of its Recommendations already may have been implemented in certain jurisdictions. The Recommendations include calls for the following:

  • Collection of information as to the liquidity risk profile of open-end funds proportionate to the risks such funds may pose from a financial stability perspective, and requiring liquidity-related disclosures to investors. 

Footnotes

1) As background, in an initial January 2014 proposal and a revised March 2015 proposal, the FSB, acting in conjunction with IOSCO, indicated an intention to provide a methodology for designating certain asset managers and investment funds as global systemically important financial institutions (G-SIFIs). For further information, please refer to the following Dechert OnPoints: FSB and IOSCO to Consider Standards for Treating Investment Funds and Asset Managers as Global Systemically Important Financial Institutions and U.S. FSOC and Global FSB Signal Continued Scrutiny of Financial Stability of the Asset Management Industry.

Thereafter, in June 2015, IOSCO announced that a full review of asset management activities and products should be undertaken before further action on G-SIFI designations would be pursued. The following month, the FSB stated that it had decided to defer finalizing G-SIFI designation methodologies until completion of the FSB’s review of potential financial stability issues related to asset management entities and activities. The next year, in June 2016, the FSB turned its attention to an activities-based approach, by issuing potential recommendations to address its concerns regarding the financial stability implications of the asset management industry. For further information, please refer to Dechert OnPoint, FSB Issues Proposed Activities-Based Financial Stability Recommendations for the Global Asset Management Industry.

2) For further information, please refer to the following Dechert OnPoints: SEC Adopts New Rules and Rule Amendments to Require Registered Open-End Investment Companies to Establish Liquidity Risk Management Programs and Permit Them to use “Swing Pricing” and SEC Adopts Rules and Forms to Modernize Reporting Requirements for Registered Investment Companies.

3) For further information, please refer to Dechert OnPoint, SEC Proposes Rule Requiring Investment Advisers to Adopt Business Continuity and Transition Plans; Division of Investment Management Issues Related Guidance for Investment Companies.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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