MEPs debate MiFID II

Source: European Parliament

Investor protection, better organisation of markets, new trading platforms and algorithmic trading emerged as the key issues for MEPs in draft financial market legislation discussed in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

"The situation in financial markets has changed due to technical progress, complex new trading strategies and the arrival of new market participants. There are gaps that have to be closed, because unregulated activities must not take place" said Markus Ferber (EPP, DE), the MEP steering the legislation through Parliament.

The text will serve as a basis for formulating the committee's official position in negotiations with Member States to update the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID), to keep pace with technical progress and financial product innovation.

Organised trading

Mr Ferber welcomed the Commission's efforts to extend the scope of the legislation, limit exemptions and regulate all parts of the market, including venues for trading in commodity derivatives, which is commonly blamed for food price volatility. "Position limits constitute one response to that" argued Robert Goebbels (S&D, LU).

"The Commission lacked ambition on the issue of data consolidation", said Mr Ferber, arguing that cross-border and consolidated data was needed to reduce arbitrary trading and provide better price information.. He also stressed the importance of qualifications needed for managing trading posts.

Investor protection

Olle Schmidt (ALDE, SE), said investors should be protected without limiting their choice. "This is a risky business", he noted, adding that some products should target only certain clients.

All MEPs agreed that transparency and high quality advice were necessary. "A vast majority of advisers work on commission. How can we stop them from selling inappropriate products?" asked Pascal Canfin (Greens/EFA, FR). Banning inducements would affect prices, meaning that only the wealthy would be able to pay for advice, countered Mr Schmidt.

Kay Swinbourne (ECR, UK), called for higher standards, competence, and advice on the range of products as well as the best level of investor protection.

Finally, Mr Ferber envisaged the possibilihe possibility of having "toxic" financial products banned by national authorities or by the European Securities and Markets Authority(ESMA).

Algorithmic trading

Mr Ferber said he believed the Commission proposal did not go far enough on algorithmic trading. All trading venues should be resilient and have proper circuit breakers in place, together with a fee structure including higher fees for orders that were cancelled, he said

Mr Ferber also proposed that all orders should be valid for at least 500 milliseconds. Various MEPs saw the "millisecond rule" as hard to implement and doubted that it could affect the high-frequency traders' behaviour

Mr Goebbels stressed that algorithmic trading makes it impossible to find out the right price in the market. "High-frequency trading doesn't work well and it doesn't work for companies", added Mr Canfin.

Organised trading facility

The new trading venue proposed by the Commission received a mixed welcome. Jϋrgen Klute (GUE/NGL, DE), argued that no such platform was needed, whereas Ms Swinburne said that these facilities should provide a regulated space for over-the-counter transactions as well as for bespoke derivative contracts.

Mr Ferber said that the OTF should be reserved for non-equities (such as corporate bonds or derivatives), to bring them within the scope of the MiFID.

Next steps

All amendments to Mr Ferber's rapport have to be tabled by 10 May. It is to be put to a committee vote in early July.

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