Monday, February 1, 2021

An Existential Moment for Securities Finance

Gamestop and the Debate about the Clearing System

Author: Ed Blount

Feb 1, 2021: The social controversy over Gamestop’s (GME) battle of wills — r/wallstreetbets v 'The Shorts' — may well harden the scrutiny of regulators and litigators toward the US$2.4 trillion global equity finance ecosystem that supports hedge fund strategies. This is a pivotal moment, not only for GME and The Shorts, but also for the clearing systems that their lenders and agents use to secure the funds' trade settlements and financings. 

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Compliance with the DOL's New Proxy Rules May Stump ERISA Fiduciaries

A counter-revolution in ESG Investing?

Author: David Schwartz J.D. CPA

On Friday, December 11, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued its final rules on proxy voting by ERISA fiduciaries. As proposed last August 30, the draft rules drew hundreds of responses by the ESG-directed investing community, many of which criticized as unworkable the DOL proposal. The final version of the rules eliminates the need for plan sponsors to weigh the economic vs. non-economic effects before casting their proxy votes. Yet that softer, principles-based approach may itself create compliance problems for ERISA fiduciaries -- and may not even survive the first hundred days of the Biden administration.

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Monday, November 9, 2020

EU Tax Officials to Audit Securities Finance

Search for WHT Abusers Will Upend Regulatory Infrastructure

Author: Ed Blount

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has recommended that the market regulators in EU Member States combine trade data generated from the Securities Finance Transaction Regulation (SFTR) with local surveillance data so as to empower tax authorities to catch and indict tax abusers. To the abusers, that is like saying that the Sheriff and Posse are closing in on their SFTR trails.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

Regulators Want ESG Funds to Justify their Strategies

Author: David Schwartz J.D. CPA

Today the Department of Labor (DOL) issued final rules clarifying the regulatory guideposts for fiduciaries of private-sector retirement and other employee benefit plans in light of recent trends involving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. The DOL is not the only regulator with ESG funds in their cross-hairs. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has begun verifying asset managers’ and mutual funds’ ESG strategies through examination and is considering amending the mutual fund “name test rule” to ensure funds are living up to their ESG promises to shareholders.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Squaring ESG with Securities Lending

Compliance without Knowing the Borrower's Purpose - Is it Possible?

Author: David Schwartz J.D. CPA

Sustainable investing is becoming more important to investors when creating portfolios. As a result, institutions often follow policies with formal environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to guide their investments. They commit substantial resources to ESG research and produce comprehensive reports about their compliance.[1] But then the same institutions give away their proxy votes when they lend securities for fees to cover their bank charges. And the loans of those securities – and their proxies – go to borrowers with unknown intentions, and often with unknown identities.

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