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UK watchdog's handling of world's top derivatives market gets EU red card

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s regulator for the world’s biggest off-exchange derivatives market could improve the way it monitors trades to spot potential risks, the European Union’s markets watchdog said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Financial traders work at their desks at CMC Markets in the City of London, Britain, April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

After the financial crisis a decade ago there has been a big push to improve transparency in the $540 trillion global off-exchange derivatives market so that any risks can be dealt with before they destabilize the broader markets.

Since 2014, an EU law known as EMIR requires all derivatives trades in the bloc to be reported to one of seven trade repositories.

Steven Maijoor, chair of the European Securities and Markets Authority, said a review of the reporting system showed there was still significant room for improvement.

“While being a complex reporting regime, only consistently high-quality data reported by counterparties enables regulators to identify systemic and counterparty risk,” Maijoor said.

The review of six national market watchdogs in the EU singled out Germany and Britain in particular as major financial centers in need of improvements.

It looked at three aspects of data checking and analysis, with two of them flashing red for Britain’s watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority and the Cypriot regulator.

France, Ireland and the Netherlands broadly met expectations, while quality checks by Germany’s BaFin were “less developed” than its peers, ESMA said.

ESMA said Britain’s watchdog was largely relying on basic data quality checks.

“It identified the FCA as having developed an insufficient supervisory approach to EMIR data quality supervision based on the size, scale and complexity of the UK’s derivative market,” the ESMA review said.

The FCA said it disagreed with the findings.

“In our view, this does not fairly account for the way in which EMIR data has been and is used across different areas of the FCA - such as internal analysis and policy research, public discussion and research papers, or as part of prudential supervision,” the FCA said in a response section of the review.

It had no further comment on Thursday.

Bank for International Settlements figures last month showed that Britain has overtaken the United States to become the biggest center for over-the-counter trading in interest rate derivatives, with a 50% market share and average daily turnover of £3.7 trillion.

(GRAPHIC - ESMA derivatives chart: )

Germany’s BaFin flashed amber on all three aspects of data checking and analysis.

BaFin said that its current supervisory approach was proportionate and adequate, and does not take into account supervision of data quality done by certified public auditors.

ESMA said the Cypriot watchdog does not supervise a large and complex market like the FCA and BaFin. The Cypriot watchdog said it has intensified its efforts in supervision of data quality.

Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Jane Merriman