A panel of academic, corporate counsel, regulatory and private practice experts shared insights on heightened regulatory scrutiny over market conduct.
Market regulators around the world are actively pursuing and litigating alleged market manipulation and disruptive trading. For example, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently fined several traders for market abuse involving spoofing. Regulators and exchanges have also increased their enforcement efforts in markets for digital currencies and decentralised finance (DeFi).
Below are some key takeaways from this annual panel discussion of recent trends in market abuse regulation and enforcement.
The FCA continues to prioritise market abuse by:
- Focusing on technology setup as well as providing comprehensive oversight to detect potential abuse and alert market participants.
- Assisting firms to establish strong systems and controls so they can actively monitor for and prevent market abuse.
- Imposing sanctions on wrongdoers. These are not constrained to fines and criminal proceedings, and include an arsenal of other options, such as de-listings or trading account closures for risky individuals.
Enforcement activity remains stable, even as questions of intent remain unresolved.
- While enforcement actions have recently declined, the FCA has still overseen several actions against financial institutions and individuals.
- Our expert panel discussed one such action, the Urra alleged spoofing matter. The panel agreed that Mr Urra’s case will turn on the question of intent.
- Several panellists raised questions about unresolved issues related to establishing intent in market abuse cases. They indicated a need for further regulator clarity on this topic.
The UK’s proposal for a crypto asset market abuse regime presents enforcement challenges.
- According to the proposal, civil market abuse offences will be treated in a manner similar to those under the Market Abuse Regulation (MAR).
- Trading venues, which are subject to FCA supervision, will face significant challenges in detecting, ‘disrupting’ and preventing market abuse.
- Centralised crypto markets and traditional financial markets share many features, but detecting and preventing market abuse in decentralised financial markets will turn on:
- Tracing order flows in pseudo-anonymous market environments
- Establishing price artificiality when (1) time is measured non-continuously and activity is measured simultaneously in blocks; (2) transparent and contemporaneous information is lacking; and (3) automated processes—rather than standard forces of supply and demand—govern price discovery.
This event was held in person in London, with a virtual option also available.