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Securitisation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Volume 796: debated on Monday 25 February 2019

Motion to Approve

Tabled by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 23 January be approved.

Relevant document: 16th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Bates, I beg to move that the House approves the Securitisation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. As this instrument is grouped, I will also speak to the Transparency of Securities Financing Transactions and of Reuse (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

As with the instrument debated earlier, these SIs are part of the programme of legislation under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act that aims to ensure that, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period, there continues to be a functioning legislative and regulatory regime for financial services in the UK. These SIs will fix deficiencies in EU law on securitisation and securities financing transactions to ensure that they can continue to operate effectively after the UK leaves the EU.

The Transparency of Securities Financing Transactions and of Reuse (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 concern securities financing transactions, or SFTs. Broadly speaking, SFTs are transactions where securities such as equities are used to borrow cash or vice versa. A common type of SFT is a repo, or repurchase transaction, in which one party sells an asset to another at one price and commits to repurchase the asset from the other party at a different price on a later date. SFTs were not regulated before 2015 and there were major concerns around their effects on the economy, especially given the experience during the financial crisis where repurchase transactions were associated with increases in leverage, while exacerbating boom and bust cycles in the economy. After the Financial Stability Board identified significant risks associated with these instruments, the EU securities financing transactions regulation introduced a framework under which details of SFTs must be reported to trade repositories. Trade repositories are effectively databases for reporting transactions. Under the regulation, this information must then be disclosed to investors and national regulators are required to act where they identify risky practices by firms.

The Securitisation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 concern securitisation: the practice of pooling financial assets such as loans into financial instruments called securities, which can then be sold to investors. Securitisation allows banks to transfer some of the risk associated with the assets they hold to investors. This frees up regulatory capital to facilitate further lending. Securitisations can themselves be used to finance business activities and reduce the concentration of financial stability risks. To respond to concerns around the opaqueness and complexity of securitisation programmes, the EU adopted the securitisation regulation, which is based on international standards agreed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. The EU securitisation regulation simplifies and consolidates a patchwork of earlier rules, and introduces the concept of a securitisation that is “simple, transparent and standardised”, also referred to as an STS securitisation, whose use is to be incentivised.

Both regulations are therefore crucial to protecting financial stability while ensuring that the benefits of these instruments to firms and the wider economy remain available. They will be transferred to the UK statute book by operation of the EU withdrawal Act on exit day, but in a no-deal scenario the UK would be outside the EEA and outside the EU’s legal, supervisory and financial regulatory framework, so this legislation would no longer be operative. These SIs make the necessary amendments to ensure that the provisions continue to work properly in a no-deal scenario.

The transparency of securities financing transactions and of reuse regulations amend, first, the treatment of EEA branches of financial services firms in the UK so that after the UK leaves the EU, EEA branches operating in the UK must report their transactions to a UK trade repository. This means that EEA branches will be treated in the same way as other third-country branches operating in the UK, which is consistent with the approach adopted under other financial services SIs laid under the EU withdrawal Act.

Secondly, this SI amends the list of entities that will have access to data on securities financing transactions reported to UK trade repositories. EU bodies are removed, making the list UK-specific, to reflect the UK’s status as a third country outside the EU in a no-deal scenario. This does not, however, preclude UK entities from co-operating with EU entities in future.

Finally, this SI transfers the European Securities and Markets Authority’s responsibilities relating to the requirements for the registration of trade repositories to the FCA, and amends these rules so they continue to work in a domestic context. This is appropriate given the FCA’s current role in supervising and regulating securities financing transactions.

It is worth mentioning that one of the main provisions of the securities financing transactions regulation cannot be domesticated at this stage, due to limitations in the powers under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. This provision is the requirement on firms to report details of SFTs to trade repositories. Depending on the type of institution concerned, this requirement does not apply until 12 to 21 months after the publication of relevant regulatory technical standards by the EU. However, these have not yet been published and the requirement could therefore not be included in this SI, as it is not, in the wording of that Act,

“operative immediately before exit day”.

The Government have introduced separate legislation, in the form of the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill, to enable us to make sure that this requirement applies in a domestic context in due course.

Turning to the draft Securitisation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, this SI amends, first, the geographical scope of the EU regulation under which, currently, all parties involved in an STS transaction must be located in the EU. The SI amends this to allow UK counterparties to continue to participate in cross-border STS securitisations where some of the parties are located in third countries, expanding the current scope. This approach is appropriate because most securitisations are structured across borders, and it ensures that third countries are treated equally in the event of a no-deal scenario. For the UK securitisation markets to have maximum depth and liquidity while being subject to the same strict requirements introduced by the regulation, it was important not to constrain the UK market by requiring all parties to be located in the UK. None the less, this SI requires at least one of the parties to a securitisation to be located in the UK. The overall effect of this change in scope is to support liquidity in domestic securitisation markets, while ensuring that UK supervisors retain effective oversight of the securitisation as a whole.

Secondly, this SI introduces a transitional regime for the recognition of EU STS securitisations in the UK during a two-year period after the UK leaves the EU. This ensures that UK investors can continue to participate in the EU market for STS securitisations for that limited period. Any STS recognised by the EU during this two-year period will continue to be recognised in the UK until its maturity. This ensures that UK firms will continue to have access to a major market for STS securitisations.

The draft SI also clarifies the definition of “sponsor” in the securitisation regulation to ensure that where a sponsor wishes to delegate day-to-day portfolio management to a third party, that third party can be located anywhere in the world—not just in the EU. The regulation currently limits the location of the delegated firm to the EU. The EU Commission has acknowledged that this is an unintended consequence and is currently seeking to resolve the issue itself.

Finally, this SI transfers several functions currently carried out by the European supervisory authorities to the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Most importantly, the SI transfers responsibilities relating to the authorisation and supervision of trade repositories and the publication of STS notifications to the Financial Conduct Authority. This is appropriate given the FCA’s considerable experience in supervising securitisations. The Treasury has been working closely with the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority in drafting these instruments. It has also engaged the financial services industry on these SIs, and will continue to do so going forward. On 19 December the Treasury published both instruments in draft, along with explanatory policy notes to maximise transparency to Parliament and industry; prior to publication, it also shared drafts with industry for technical analysis. The Treasury has incorporated this feedback into the final draft of the SIs.

In summary, the Government believe that the proposed legislation is necessary to ensure that the UK has workable regimes regulating securitisations and securities financing transactions, and that the legislation will continue to function appropriately if the UK leaves the EU without a deal or an implementation period. I hope that noble Lords will join me in supporting the regulations. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have only one brief question, which is to do with the transparency SI. I accept that we should approve both the SIs before us, but I regret that there has been no consultation on either instrument. As I remarked earlier, the engagement noted in both EMs is not a satisfactory substitute. However, I was happy to hear the Minister’s response to my suggestion of a more informative account of engagement becoming part of future EMs.

Reading the EM and the impact assessment for the transparency SI highlights one issue: the usual question of reciprocity. The EM for the transparency SI makes it clear that the Treasury can decide which third-country entities can access data on SFTs held in UK trade repositories. I assume that this provision means that all EEA entities currently with access will be allowed continued access. But what about the other way round? As things stand, if we crash out of the EU with no deal, will the UK still have access to data held in the three EEA trade repositories? If not, would it have significant implications for our financial services industry? Have the Government made any estimate of what the consequences of non-reciprocity might be? What assurance have the Government had from the EU, if any, that the UK would be allowed continued access after 29 March?

My Lords, in the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I want to declare my interest as chairman of PIMFA, the organisation representing wealth managers and independent financial advisers, and to say to my noble friend that these are two very important SIs which we have to have—there is no doubt about that. This is a branch of our financial industry which was not, as my noble friend said, properly cared for. It did not have the transparency which it needed and it now does. Very sensibly, that was done over the whole European Union, because that is the area over which much of this—not all of it—is served.

It is crucial that we get reciprocity; it would be a serious blow to the industry if we did not. My noble friend reminded us with such elegance that this measure is here only should we crash out of the European Union. Every day, we recognise what a nonsense that would be and how unaware of the facts those who seem to want it really are, but we should not miss the opportunity of reminding the House of this fact.

My noble friend mentioned that all these powers will go largely to the Financial Conduct Authority but that some will go to the Prudential Regulation Authority. Yet again, we have a series of jobs being given to people without any price on them. I am sure that my noble friend will say what he has said on other occasions, which is that the authorities concerned are perfectly aware that they are able to cover this within their current budgets. I am beginning to wonder whether their budgets are not too generous, because they appear to be able to cover so many things without any extra costs. I merely say to my noble friend that it is becoming difficult for the House to recognise how this can be. If those authorities manage to get by for a relatively short period, I have no doubt that they will then ask the industry to pay the cost thereafter.

Again, it is perfectly reasonable to say that the industry is paying the cost towards the European Union at the moment and it will be in much the same place if we bring this to a British system. I have two things to say about that. First, I would rather like to know what that place is, because we do not seem to be told. Secondly, the industry is not in the same place. At present, it is paying towards a system which gives it access to the whole of the European Union. We are now suggesting that it should pay for one which will only give it access to itself. It would have been valuable to see what the difference in cost was there.

Nobody sensible would want to stop these two SIs; they are crucially important for the future of the financial services industry were we to be stupid enough to leave the European Union without a deal. It is stupid to leave anyway, but to leave without a deal is manifestly ridiculous. However, in its job of proper concern for the detail of an SI, this House ought to say, yet again: can we please have some costs? Can we please have some idea about what they are going to be? Can we please not say, all the time, that we can trust these regulators when they say they have enough elbow room in their current budgets? Frankly, that makes me begin to wonder whether those budgets are overgenerous.

My Lords, I declare my interests, as set out in the register, as a director of London Stock Exchange plc and of Prime Collateralised Securities (PCS) Europe ASBL, which is the Belgian not-for-profit parent company of third-party verification entities. I have no comments on the usual way in which the onshoring has been done, switching to the regulators being UK rather than EU ones, or the way in which infrastructure is dealt with in that.

However, one thing on securitisation caught my eye. Sometimes what is not there, or has been crossed out, is more interesting than what remains. I noted that there was some removal of draft regulatory standard criteria in Article 6.7(a) and (b) of the EU regulation, covering,

“the modalities for retaining risk … including the fulfilment through a synthetic or contingent form of retention”,

and measurement of the level of risk retention. I can fully understand why it might not be desired to go into those, or have them dangling as an invitation for people to lobby. It may make no difference, because those were just examples; they could perhaps be brought in again. However, I was curious about why they had been specifically deleted, or has something else which I have missed taken care of it?

Article 45, regarding a feasibility report on a simple, transparent and standard synthetic securitisation and the subsequent action relating to it, is also omitted. I can see that, in the case of Article 45, the report date—2 July 2019—is close, but I would have thought that there were ways other than deletion to retain the policy that one investigates synthetic securitisation. The deletion of synthetic criteria from both the list and the article makes me question whether a policy decision has already been taken not to have synthetics within STS at all in the UK in future. I can understand that some might wish that to be the case, but this instrument is not the place to make such a policy decision. Is there some other explanation? I see no reason why the criteria for binding technical standards, in Article 6.7(a) and (b), should be removed nor why we could not have some kind of report, even at a later date.

My Lords, I will focus briefly on the second of the two statutory instruments. I need help from the Minister, because I am struggling to understand the consequences of this, and I am looking specifically at STS recognition. The Minister will understand that achieving classification as an STS is advantageous because it is very likely to lead to preferential capital treatment. That is very important to banking institutions, which obviously want to keep their capital requirements as low as possible. At the moment, to qualify for STS classification, all the parties to an STS securitisation have to be located within the EU. If I understand the change that flows from this statutory instrument, if we were to leave without a deal, the regime we would move into says that in the UK an STS can be recognised provided that just one of the relevant players is located in the EU—most likely the sponsor. I raise this issue because it sounds as though securitisations in the EU and in all third countries now become available for classification as an STS.

I raise that concern because we are all very aware that the United States has gone back to its old tricks in mortgage lending, and asset-backed paper, backed by US mortgages, is once more beginning to raise some fairly significant issues of concern. We have been protected from that to some degree by the STS regime, which requires that all relevant players are within the EU. If I understand this correctly, that protection is now removed, and since third countries can now get STS classification and therefore preferential capital treatment, we increase the risk or the attraction quite possibly—or rather, quite likely—to UK institutions to once again start playing in that environment of US mortgage-backed securities, where we already know there is incipient trouble; I hope it is genuinely incipient, but some people are using much stronger language than that. I would therefore like the Minister to explain that.

The other issue on which I had a question was under exposures to national promotional banks. At the moment, national promotional banks located in the EU, again, are eligible to be provided with preferential treatment. It would therefore encourage a financial institution to invest in those national promotional institutions because if it lends to them, it faces a lower capital requirement. What is the situation that will fall out of the picture, according to the Explanatory Memorandum? It seems to be KfW, which is the German state-owned development bank. A UK investor who is lending money to KfW would no longer get that preference as it calculated its required capital ratios.

To me, this is the equivalent of “have gun, shoot foot”. KfW is a major player in funding small businesses in the UK. It has sat alongside the European Investment Fund and the European Investment Bank in putting significant blocs of long-term patient capital into large-scale infrastructure in the UK. I know that we have the British Investment Bank, but it is minuscule compared to the EIB, the EIF and KfW, and nothing I have heard from government suggests a scale-up to anywhere like the same dimensions. Why, then, would we, in a situation like this, try to discourage KfW from looking at opportunities to put its money into projects in the UK, and especially into that much-needed arena of small business? I find it slightly perverse but that is one of the things that this SI apparently intends to achieve. As I said, I am very fond of the British Investment Bank but, boy, does it have a long way to go before it can possibly replace those other institutions. Surely we should be encouraging KFW—we cannot do anything about the EIF or the EIB because of European rules—to keep it as a player.

My Lords, I studied these two SIs with great care and could not object to their general direction. I even managed to think of three penetrating questions, which the Minister unfortunately answered in his opening statement, so I shall not repeat them. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Sharkey and Lord Deben, for their contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, was concerned about the FCA costs. To some extent, that does not worry me nearly as much is whether there are competent resources. I worry whether there are enough people who want to work in a regulatory atmosphere who have enough competence to take this mess called falling out of the EU, fit it all altogether and discharge all their responsibilities. I can only just bring myself to ask this as a question, because I know that the Minister has a standard answer.

Building on the comments made earlier, the facts of life are that this is a dreadful deal. There is nothing wrong with the instrument, but if you are going to get into a dreadful situation, there are dreadful consequences. Although the Minister may say, as I am sure he will, that the issue of reciprocity is not nearly as bad as we all make out because the other side will want to do reciprocal deals, my experience of negotiation is that it is not that straightforward. They hold the cards, and if reciprocal agreements are made, good, but I fear that they will be somewhat one-sided.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and I shall try to deal with the issues that have been raised. A common theme is the issue of reciprocity, first raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and my noble friend Lord Deben. As a matter of EU law, it is for the EU to decide who gets access to data held in the EU and we cannot in the SIs tell the EU what to do. However, we hope that it will take steps to protect financial stability—the consequences would be serious if it did not—and the Government are working to avoid a no-deal exit.

In the meantime, we are taking steps to minimise the disruption for the UK, and there have been some helpful indications on the issue of reciprocity. We welcome the announcements that the EU and some individual member states have made to date, which indicate that they would take steps to mitigate some of the risks. The Commission has taken a positive step in legislating to give the UK temporary equivalence for CCPs in a no-deal scenario, and the ESMA announced last week that all three UK CCPs will be recognised, mitigating a key no-deal risk to stability. Certain other member states, such as Germany and Sweden, have also announced various contingency measures. We stand ready to intensify our engagement, engage in bilateral discussion wherever possible and co-operate with EU institutions on preparedness for all scenarios, because it is in our mutual interest to lessen the risk of disruption to households and businesses in both the UK and the EU.

My noble friend Lord Deben asked a question which I think he has asked before about the resources of the FCA. Each time a Minister has said that these are very small incremental obligations, he has asked: what happens if you add them all up? It is a good question. Under the EU securitisation regulation which has applied from January this year, the PRA and the FCA already carry out most of the functions conferred on them by this SI. The main responsibilities transferring to the FCA relate to the authorisation and supervision of a small number of trade repositories and the publication of STS notifications on its website. We do not honestly think that this will create a significant burden for the FCA, which has specialist expertise in place and has made extensive preparations, including training supervisors, in anticipation of the implementation of the EU securitisation regulation and the onshoring of its requirements.

I am confident that the regulators are sufficiently resourced to carry out their responsibilities under the SI diligently and effectively, as they have told us. They are making adequate preparations at the FCA and are effectively resourced ahead of March 2019. A significant proportion of the FCA’s business plan’s resources are focused on our forthcoming exit. Since 2015, it has increased its staff numbers in response to increases in the scope of regulatory activity, including EU withdrawal. This spring, the FCA will publish its 2019-20 plan setting out its planned work for the coming year. As I have already told my noble friend, the chief executive, Andrew Bailey, has said that he expects to hold FCA fees steady for a year or two, assuming that there is an implementation period; if not, it can increase its fees should it need to increase its income in the event of no deal.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked why we were changing the geographical scope of STS securitisations and whether we recognise EU STS securitisations without domestic oversight. One option would have been to insist that all three parties must be located in the UK. That would have placed enormous restrictions on the UK market, which we do not want. For the regime to succeed, the domestic market for STS securitisations needs an opportunity to grow. Restricting the regime to domestic parties, as I said, would constrain and limit the UK market. Our approach in this instrument enhances liquidity while retaining appropriate supervisory oversight. I imagine that the criteria for what scores as an STS would remain the same. This supports choice for issuers and investors.

However, to ensure that we balance the need for business certainty and market liquidity against the regulatory challenges associated with EU STS recognition, we have time-limited our solution to EU STS securitisations. Regarding the rest of the world, no other country currently has implemented a domestic STS regime, so this SI does not open the UK up to risky practices in jurisdictions with weaker standards. It allows cross-border securitisation of parties in the UK to benefit from the stricter standards in the regulation.

On national promotional banks, I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. Under the EU securitisation regulation, exposures to national promotional banks are exempt from the requirements; that has all sorts of advantages, as the noble Baroness mentioned. In a no-deal scenario, the UK would fall outside the scope of this exemption in the EU, and domestic institutions, such as the British Business Bank, would not be able to benefit from the EU’s exemptions. This SI therefore removes the exemption for EU national promotional banks, ensuring that under the domestic regime, only UK national promotional banks can benefit from the exemption. That is in line with our general policy of treating the EU as a third country in a no-deal, no-implementation period scenario. We have raised this point with industry. My understanding is that it is not likely to create significant difficulties for UK firms and, in any event, the FCA and the PRA will be able to rely on their transitional powers to mitigate any cliff-edge impacts.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked about the removal of the draft regulations and mentioned two particular articles. The SI implementing the securitisation regulations makes changes to ensure that the legislation operates in a domestic context after exit. The changes in Articles 6(7)(a) and (b) do not remove UK regulators’ ability to supervise synthetic securitisations. They will continue to have that power. The changes to the references to technical standards reflect the cross-cutting approach taken in other financial services legislation. As per my answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, we did not want to give preference to EU banks over and above any other promotional bank.

I hope that I have answered noble Lords’ questions. If not, I undertake to write to them.

The bits taken out of Articles 6(7)(a) and (b) related to topics on which the regulator—that will now be the UK—is to make binding technical standards. However, they were deleted so the regulator will not now make them. References to “synthetic” have also been removed. Does this mean that this has already been discounted? I would appreciate it if the Minister could clarify that point in his written responses.

The noble Baroness will know that under the withdrawal Act, we cannot make substantive policy changes using instruments such as this one, so whatever has happened should not be a major policy change. However, I generously accept her offer to write to her with a more detailed explanation of the changes she mentioned.

Motion agreed.