ESMA publishes Final Report on Guidelines on non-significant benchmarks – Part 2

On December 20, 2018 ESMA published its Final Report on the Guidelines on non-significant benchmarks. These represent ESMA´s administrative practice and fill the broad regulations of the Benchmark Regulation (BMR) with more details, which makes their implementation considerably easier for the obligated parties. The guidelines have no direct effect in the EU member states but are generally to be adopted one-by-one by the national supervisory authorities, so that they will be applied as the administrative practice of the respective national authority.

In Part 1 we looked at the definition of a non-significant benchmark (NSB) and the Guidelines on the oversight function and on input data. Part 2 will highlight the new requirements on the transparency of methodology and governance set out in the Guidelines.

Guidelines on transparency of methodology (Article 13 BMR)

Article 13 BMR states transparency requirements regarding the development, use and management of the benchmark by the administrator. To this end, Article 13 sets out standards with regard to the methodology for determining the benchmark. The Guidelines contain three sections: (i) on the key elements of the methodology; (ii) the elements of the internal review of the methodology; and (iii) on the information to be provided in case of a proposed material change to an administrator´s methodology.

The key elements of the methodology used to determine the benchmark should include, inter alia, a definition and description of the NSB and the market it is intended to measure, the types of input data used to determine the NSB, minimum requirements of the quality of the input data, the compositions of any panel of contributors and the criteria to determine eligibility for panel membership.

The information to be provided by an administrator of a NSB in compliance with the requirements regarding the internal review of the methodology should include at least a description of the policies and procedures relating to the internal review and approval of the methodology. In case of material changes of the methodology the information to be provided by an administrator should include at least the disclosure of the key elements of the methodology that would, in its view, be affected by the proposed material change.

Guidelines on governance and control requirements for supervised contributors (Article 16 BMR)

Article 16 BMR provides requirements for the governance and control of a supervised contributor. To this end, Article 16 sets out specific but broad requirements for the management of a contributor’s company and its systems, which serve to preserve the integrity and reliability of its input data. In addition, the Guidelines set out, inter alia, provisions on the control framework, control of submitters, the management of conflicts of interest and record-keeping requirements. All these elements are mentioned in Art. 16 BMR to ensure proper governance and control by the contributor but outlined in more detail in the Guidelines.

According to the Guidelines, the contributor´s control framework for example should include at least an effective oversight mechanism for overseeing the process for contributing input data, a policy on whistle-blowing and a procedure for detecting breaches of BMR. The measures for the management of conflicts of interest should include, inter alia, a register of material conflicts of interests. Additionally, the records to be kept with regard to the provision of input data should include, e.g., the names of the submitters.

Applicability of the Guidelines

As already mentioned in Part 1, NSB have less impact on markets than critical or significant benchmarks. Therefore, the BMR provides options for administrators of non-significant benchmarks not to apply some BMR provisions (Article 4 to 7, 11 and 13 to 15 BMR). However, an incentive to apply the provisions nonetheless may exist, for instance, the administrator does not have to maintain different internal structures and processes for its benchmarks if he administers mainly significant benchmarks.

Since some of the Guidelines concern regulations whose applicability the administrator can exclude, the Guidelines do not apply if the administrator has decided in a permissible manner not to apply the corresponding regulations. However, if the Guidelines concern regulations from which the administrator may not deviate or if he has decided not to make use of the simplifications, the Guidelines shall apply.

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