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17 April 2015

ICMA: Economic Importance of the Corporate Bond Markets

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ICMA reports on why corporate bond markets are so important for economic growth, for investors, for companies, and for governments; and why it is therefore essential that laws and regulations that affect them avoid any unintended adverse consequences that could inhibit those markets.

Examples of successful regulatory policy focus occur mainly in the wholesale markets, where, for instance, the EU conduct of business rules cater for the needs and professionalism of institutional investors by treating them as eligible counterparties under the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, meaning they are not overburdened by consumer protection requirements. Equally, institutional investors are qualified investors for the purposes of the EU Prospectus Directive and therefore outside its scope. Further improvement in these markets needs to focus on such matters as reductions in the costs of issuance for companies, and removal of requirements (statutory or otherwise) for institutional investors to invest in bonds admitted to the regulated markets, which brings the bonds within the listing and prospectus regimes and adds to cost as explained below.

Current areas where concerns are widespread about the impact of new regulation on the ability of corporate bond markets to fulfil their economic function effectively include: the effect of legislative proposals implementing the Third Basel Accord on intermediaries’ ability to support the market; the impact of financial transaction taxes on market participants; the narrowness of market making exemptions in EU short selling Regulations as a limiting factor in investors’ ability to hedge their corporate bond trades; and the adaptation of updated EU Regulations on Markets in Financial Instruments to the special liquidity characteristics of corporate bond markets described above.

Careful calibration and adjustment will be vital to protect liquidity in the secondary market and avoid consequent harm to the primary market. Good regulation of corporate bond markets is as vital as good conduct in them. Intermediary firms - ICMA’s members - are subject to ICMA standards of good practice, and to applicable national laws and regulations. Rules, whether promulgated by industry bodies or imposed by the authorities, can have beneficial or benign or harmful effects.

ICMA members think it is important for all interested parties - legislators, regulators, market intermediaries, and market users - to work together, with a better dialogue at an early stage of policy development, to help the authorities understand the markets and the possible effect on them of different measures, to enable the markets to understand the authorities’ policy intentions and advise on the best technical ways of meeting them, to promote good regulation and prevent malpractice, but also to ensure that avoidable and unintended problems are avoided.

Full Paper


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