Advisory Board

  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Peter Clarke
  • Barry Diller
  • IAC/InterActiveCorp
  • Fu Chengyu
  • China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group)
  • Richard J. Gnodde
  • Goldman Sachs International
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V.
  • Jiang Jianqing
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd. (ICBC)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Richard Li
  • PCCW Limited
  • Pacific Century Group
  • Liew Mun Leong
  • Changi Airport Group
  • Martin Lipton
  • New York University
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Liu Mingkang
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Dinesh C. Paliwal
  • Harman International Industries
  • Leon Pasternak
  • BCC Partners
  • Tim Payne
  • Brunswick Group
  • Joseph R. Perella
  • Perella Weinberg Partners
  • Baron David de Rothschild
  • N M Rothschild & Sons Limited
  • Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara
  • Temasek International Pte. Ltd.
  • Shao Ning
  • State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council of China (SASAC)
  • John W. Snow
  • Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Treasury
  • Bharat Vasani
  • Tata Group
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons
  • Wang Kejin
  • China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)
  • Wei Jiafu
  • Kazakhstan Potash Corporation Limited
  • Yang Chao
  • China Life Insurance Co. Ltd.
  • Zhu Min
  • International Monetary Fund

Legal Roundtable

  • Dimitry Afanasiev
  • Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev and Partners (Moscow)
  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Johan Aalto
  • Hannes Snellman Attorneys Ltd (Finland)
  • Nigel P. G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May (London)
  • Willem J.L. Calkoen
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Rotterdam)
  • Peter Callens
  • Loyens & Loeff (Brussels)
  • Bertrand Cardi
  • Darrois Villey Maillot & Brochier (Paris)
  • Santiago Carregal
  • Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal (Buenos Aires)
  • Martín Carrizosa
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Bogotá)
  • Carlos G. Cordero G.
  • Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Panama)
  • Ewen Crouch
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Rachel Eng
  • WongPartnership (Singapore)
  • Sergio Erede
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Kenichi Fujinawa
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Manuel Galicia Romero
  • Galicia Abogados (Mexico City)
  • Danny Gilbert
  • Gilbert + Tobin (Sydney)
  • Vladimíra Glatzová
  • Glatzová & Co. (Prague)
  • Juan Miguel Goenechea
  • Uría Menéndez (Madrid)
  • Andrey A. Goltsblat
  • Goltsblat BLP (Moscow)
  • Juan Francisco Gutiérrez I.
  • Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría (Santiago)
  • Fang He
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Christian Herbst
  • Schönherr (Vienna)
  • Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Hein Hooghoudt
  • NautaDutilh N.V. (Amsterdam)
  • Sameer Huda
  • Hadef & Partners (Dubai)
  • Masakazu Iwakura
  • TMI Associates (Tokyo)
  • Christof Jäckle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Frankfurt)
  • Michael Mervyn Katz
  • Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (Johannesburg)
  • Handel Lee
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Martin Lipton
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Alain Maillot
  • Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier (Paris)
  • Antônio Corrêa Meyer
  • Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice (São Paulo)
  • Sergio Michelsen Jaramillo
  • Brigard & Urrutia (Bogotá)
  • Zia Mody
  • AZB & Partners (Mumbai)
  • Christopher Murray
  • Osler (Toronto)
  • Francisco Antunes Maciel Müssnich
  • Barbosa, Müssnich & Aragão (Rio de Janeiro)
  • I. Berl Nadler
  • Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP (Toronto)
  • Umberto Nicodano
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Brian O'Gorman
  • Arthur Cox (Dublin)
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)
  • Sang-Yeol Park
  • Park & Partners (Seoul)
  • José Antonio Payet Puccio
  • Payet Rey Cauvi (Lima)
  • Kees Peijster
  • COFRA Holding AG (Zug)
  • Juan Martín Perrotto
  • Uría & Menéndez (Madrid/Beijing)
  • Philip Podzebenko
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Geert Potjewijd
  • De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek (Amsterdam/Beijing)
  • Qi Adam Li
  • Jun He Law Offices (Shanghai)
  • Biörn Riese
  • Jurie Advokat AB (Sweden)
  • Mark Rigotti
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Sydney)
  • Rafael Robles Miaja
  • Robles Miaja (Mexico City)
  • Alberto Saravalle
  • BonelliErede (Milan)
  • Maximilian Schiessl
  • Hengeler Mueller (Düsseldorf)
  • Cyril S. Shroff
  • Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (Mumbai)
  • Shardul S. Shroff
  • Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.(New Delhi)
  • Klaus Søgaard
  • Gorrissen Federspiel (Denmark)
  • Ezekiel Solomon
  • Allens (Sydney)
  • Emanuel P. Strehle
  • Hengeler Mueller (Munich)
  • David E. Tadmor
  • Tadmor & Co. (Tel Aviv)
  • Kevin J. Thomson
  • Barrick Gold Corporation (Toronto)
  • Yu Wakae
  • Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu (Tokyo)
  • Wang Junfeng
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Tomasz Wardynski
  • Wardynski & Partners (Warsaw)
  • Xiao Wei
  • Jun He Law Offices (Beijing)
  • Xu Ping
  • King & Wood Mallesons (Beijing)
  • Shuji Yanase
  • OK Corporation (Tokyo)
  • Alvin Yeo
  • WongPartnership LLP (Singapore)

Founding Directors

  • William T. Allen
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Nigel P.G. Boardman
  • Slaughter and May
  • Cai Hongbin
  • Peking University Guanghua School of Management
  • Adam O. Emmerich
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Robin Panovka
  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
  • Peter Williamson
  • Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Franny Yao
  • Ernst & Young

CHINESE UPDATE – Bond Market Enforcement to be Unified under the CSRC

Contributed by: Adam Li, JunHe LLP (Shanghai)

Editors’ Note: Contributed by Adam Li, a partner at JunHe and a member of XBMA’s Legal Roundtable. Mr. Li is a leading expert in international mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and international financial transactions involving Chinese companies. This article was authored by Ms. Man Wu, counsel at JunHe. Ms. Wu has ample experience in drafting rules as well as the investigation and supervision of different entities, such as listed companies, securities companies and fund management companies. Ms. Wu also worked for the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) for 13 years before joining JunHe.

Bond Market Enforcement to be Unified under the CSRC

On December 3, 2018, the People’s Bank of China (the “PBOC”), the China Securities Regulatory Commission (the “CSRC”) and the National Development and Reform Commission (the “NDRC”), were authorized by the State Council to jointly issue their Opinions Concerning the Relevant Issues on Further Strengthening Law Enforcement in Bond Market (the “Opinions”). The issuing of the Opinions takes place within the current environment of “Strong Regulation” and is an indication of the State Council’s intention to build a coherent law enforcement framework for the bond markets by strengthening cooperation among the financial regulatory authorities.

China has long had two separate and differentiated bond markets – the interbank bond market and the exchange bond market – each regulated by various regulatory bodies. While not intending to alter any existing administrative and self-regulatory powers and responsibilities, the Opinions stipulate that the CSRC should be responsible for the enforcement of any illegal activities that might occur in both markets. The CSRC has previously investigated various one-off instances of violations within the bond markets. The issuing of the Opinions signifies the intention to establish a more systematic and long-term approach, thereby providing a stronger guarantee of law enforcement in the interbank bond market.

The Opinions include various important provisions, as follows:

I. Clarifying the Scope of Law Enforcement and Punishment Measures

The CSRC’s newly-unified law enforcement framework will cover all categories of bonds traded in the interbank and exchange bond markets, including corporate bonds, enterprise bonds, financial bonds and debt financing instruments issued by non-financial enterprises. The Securities Law will be the applicable law for defining violations of laws and regulations and any pertinent penalties for information disclosure, insider trading or market manipulation. It is our observation that the Opinions may imply that the definition of “Securities” within the Securities Law should be expanded to include all instruments issued in the interbank bond market.

The Opinions stipulate that any illegal activity on the part of commercial banks or securities companies in their underwriting of the various categories of bonds shall be punished in accordance with Article 191 of the Securities Law. It is noteworthy that Article 191 of the Securities Law indicates that the penalties are applicable to securities companies, but does not refer to commercial banks per se. Since the Legislation Law and the Administrative Penalty Law provide limitations on the extent to which administrative regulations can be used to impose administrative punishment and on the type and strength of such administrative punishment, it remains to be seen whether and how the CSRC will implement Article 191 of the Securities Law to punish commercial banks for any violations in underwriting of bonds.

In addition, the Opinions also provide that should the CSRC discover that a serious violation has been committed, it may impose a securities market ban on the relevant person for a given period, up to a lifetime ban. Violators could be prohibited from working in the securities business for any employer, current or future, and serving as a director, supervisor or senior executive with an employer or any other listed companies or non-listed public companies. Should the CSRC suspect that a crime has been committed, the relevant information will be provided to the public security agencies for further investigation, who if necessary will impose the applicable criminal punishment.

II. Elements to Facilitate Unified Law Enforcement by CSRC

The Opinions expressly stipulate three key elements to facilitate the CSRC’s unified enforcement power over the bond markets:

Firstly, for the purpose of law enforcement for the bond markets, the CSRC shall have the powers to implement the measures listed in Article 180 of the Securities Law, including conducting onsite inspections, investigating and collecting evidence, making inquiries of entities and individuals related to any matters under investigation, checking and duplicating all relevant documents and materials, freezing or seizing properties or important evidence that is concerned, and restricting the purchase and sales of securities.

Secondly, the CSRC shall have the power to acquire trading records, registration, custodianship and settlement documents and information disclosure or other evidencing documentation from bond market self-disciplinary organizations, exchanges, trading platforms, registration, custodian and settlement institutions and other institutions participating in the market. If necessary, the CSRC may acquire the personal credit reports, social insurance, customs and tax payment records, AIC registration documents, correspondence records or other information about entities and individuals involved in the matter under investigations from the relevant authorities or institutions in accordance with the law.

Thirdly, any entities or individuals under investigation are obliged to provide assistance with such investigations. Should they fail to provide the required assistance, the CSRC may propose that the relevant financial regulatory authority or competent department should order the entity or organization to which such individual belongs to impose a disciplinary punishment, or propose to cancel the individual’s post-holding qualification or even ban the person from working in the finance industry.

III. Setting out the Regulators’ Collaboration Mechanism

The Opinions set out a clear requirement to build a collaboration mechanism, under which the PBOC and the NDRC shall collaborate with the CSRC to strengthen the CSRC’s law enforcement in the bond markets, including establishing mechanisms to be able to jointly discuss cases, issuing written opinions to the CSRC on case-related technical issues and assisting in handling the work involved in administrative reconciliation and litigation. The Opinions also require the PBOC and the NDRC to promptly convey relevant evidence on any bond violations to the CSRC.

According to the CSRC’s Bulletin on Law Enforcement in Bond Market issued on December 3, during 2018 the CSRC investigated six bond market violation cases, including those relating to fraud issuance, false statement and market manipulation. We anticipate that having issued the Opinions, and with the regulators’ collaborative mechanisms in place, the bond markets will henceforth face a more severe enforcement environment. The CSRC is expected to further strengthen their investigations and to take additional efforts to uncover any violations in both the interbank and exchange bond markets.

We will continue to monitor any developments related to the law enforcement of bond markets and look forward to sharing them with our valued clients.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

 

U.S. UPDATE – SEC to Study Quarterly Reporting & Earnings Guidance and their Contribution to Short-Termism

Contributed by: Sabastian V. Niles, Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (New York)

Editors’ Note: This article was authored by Sabastian V. Niles of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

SEC to Study Quarterly Reporting & Earnings Guidance and
their Contribution to Short-Termism

In a potentially significant step for public companies and the U.S. economy, the SEC today launched a formal comment process aimed at optimizing the periodic reporting system for U.S. companies.  The SEC’s review is wide-ranging, reaching whether reforms could and should be made to discourage quarterly forward-looking earnings guidance, the reasons for quarterly earnings releases and their content, whether Form 10-Qs are useful or overly burdensome or duplicative, the possibility of moving to mandatory or optional semi-annual reporting for all or some reporting companies, the degree to which the frequency of reporting and guidance may lead managers to focus on short-term results to the detriment of long-term performance, the identification of other factors that may promote short-termism and whether there are relevant learnings from other markets where companies can report on a six-month or other schedule.

For most companies, quarterly reporting consumes substantial time and expense and imposes opportunity costs, as management teams focus on quarterly results.  These quarterly cadences are often deeply disconnected from long-term business cycles, key business drivers, customer dynamics, innovation opportunities and market realities.  Three-month cycles are also disconnected from the time frames over which retail investors who are saving for retirement, looking to buy a home and pay college tuition are seeking a return.  A thorough examination of the topic – with a view towards striking the right balance among reasonable transparency, reducing regulatory burdens and encouraging companies to focus not on the quarter but on the long-term – is a very worthy project for the SEC.

Unlike other markets, U.S. companies do not currently have the option of discontinuing quarterly reporting, and it remains to be seen whether the outcome of the SEC’s review will result in substantial changes to the quarterly reporting and disclosure system.  U.S. companies can, however, decline to give quarterly earnings guidance and take other actions to promote a long-term orientation for their investors, employees and internal strategic and business decision-making.

Whatever the SEC’s ultimate decisions may be, we do expect companies to become increasingly proactive in putting near-term results in the context of long-term strategy and objectives; using quarterly calls and releases to discuss progress towards important operational and financial goals that take time to achieve; and replacing quarterly rhythms with broader, multi-year frameworks for value creation with time frames that align with business, end market and operational realities.  We also encourage responsible long-term investors to support these initiatives, as many do.

Sabastian V. Niles

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2019

Editor’s Note: This article was co-authored by Martin Lipton, Steven A. Rosenblum, Karessa L. Cain, Amanda S. Blackett and Kathleen C. Iannone of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Some Thoughts for Boards of Directors in 2019

By Martin Lipton, Steven A. Rosenblum, Karessa L. Cain,
Amanda S. Blackett and Kathleen C. Iannone

December 14, 2018

In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that the activism-driven corporate world is relatively fragile and is proving to be unsustainable, particularly when viewed in the broader context of rapidly changing political and social norms and increasing divisiveness across many planes of the social contract.  The exponential widening of income inequality, the increasing sense of urgency around climate change, and the widespread socioeconomic upheaval resulting from the displacement of human capital by technology have all been filtering into the debate about the role and governance of the corporate ecosystem.  Persuasive academic and empirical evidence has established the causal link between short-termism and widespread harms to GDP, national productivity and competitiveness, innovation, wages and employment.  In addition, the concepts of sustainability, ESG (environment, social and governance) and “corporate purpose” have all been gaining traction in the corporate governance lexicon.

There is now a growing recognition in the investment community that expectations of shareholders and other stakeholders should extend beyond the financial bottom line, and that the sustainability and credibility of a corporation’s long-term strategy cannot be assessed without taking into account the interdependencies between a corporation and its employees, customers, communities, the environment and other stakeholders. This represents a clear pivot away from Milton Friedman’s 1960s ex cathedra doctrinal pronouncement that “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Please click here to read the full article.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

DUTCH UPDATE – Dutch cooling-off period in face of shareholder activism or hostile take-over

Editor’s Note: Leo Groothuis advises clients on public M&A and on a wide variety of other domestic and cross-border transactions, as well as take-over defenses and shareholder activism. Paul van der Bijl focuses on IPOs, follow-on offerings, public M&A, anti-takeover defenses, corporate governance and complex cross-border transactions

Dutch cooling-off period in face of shareholder activism or hostile take-over

On December 7, 2018, the Dutch government published draft legislation aimed at promoting a careful decision-making process in case of shareholder activism or a hostile takeover. If enacted in its current form, the proposal would introduce a statutory cooling-off period of up to 250 days during which the shareholders meeting would not be able to dismiss, suspend or appoint board members of a listed Dutch company under attack.

Scope

The legislation would apply to companies organized under Dutch law whose shares (or depository receipts for shares) are listed on a regulated market or multilateral trading facility operating in the European Economic Area, or on any similar stock exchange operating outside the European Economic Area, including Nasdaq and NYSE.

Conditions to invoke the cooling-off period

The board of a listed Dutch company under attack may invoke a cooling-off period of up to 250 days in case:

  1. shareholders, using either their shareholder proposal right or their right to request an extraordinary shareholders meeting[1], propose an agenda item for the shareholders meeting relating to the dismissal, suspension or appointment of a board member (or an amendment of any provision in the company’s articles dealing with those matters); or
  2. a public offer for the company is made or announced without the company’s support, provided, in each case, that such proposal or offer materially conflicts with the interests of the company and its business, as determined by the board.

The cooling-off period ends at occurrence of the earliest of the following events:

  1. the expiration of 250 days following the date of the relevant shareholder proposal or hostile offer;
  2. the hostile offer being declared unconditional (after the expiration of the initial acceptance period); or
  3. the board (voluntarily) terminating the cooling-off period.

Effects of the cooling-off period

During the cooling-off period, the shareholders meeting cannot validly resolve on the dismissal, suspension or appointment of a board member (or an amendment of any provision in the company’s articles dealing with those matters), unless proposed by the board itself.

Judiciary review

Shareholders representing 3% or more of the issued share capital may request the Enterprise Chamber of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal for early termination of the cooling-off period. The Enterprise Chamber must deny the request if the board, in view of the circumstances at the time the cooling-off period was invoked, could reasonably have come to the conclusion that the relevant shareholder proposal or hostile offer constituted a material conflict with the interests of the company and its business.

Consultation and transparency

During the cooling-off period, the board must gather all relevant information necessary for a careful decision-making process. In this context, the board must also consult with relevant stakeholders, including shareholders representing 3% or more of the issued share capital. Formal statements expressed by these stakeholders during such consultations must be shared with other stakeholders who are consulted by the board. Ultimately at the end of the cooling-off period, the board must publish a report in respect of its policy and conduct of affairs during the cooling-off period. This report should be tabled for discussion at the next shareholders meeting.

Combination with protective measures and/or existing response period

In an explanatory note, the Government indicates that it is opposed to accumulation of the cooling-off period with protective measures and/or the existing response period under the Dutch Corporate Governance Code. However, the draft legislation does not provide any specific restrictions in this respect. The rules in respect of potential combination or successive application of the various measures available to companies organized under Dutch law should be developed in market practice and case law.

There are a number of interesting differences between the existing response period under the Dutch Corporate Governance Code and the new proposed statutory cooling-off period, which are summarized in the table below.

Existing response period

Proposed cooling-off period

Follows from the Dutch Corporate Governance Code and is considered part of the general principles of reasonableness and fairness which should be observed by all stakeholders (including shareholders).

Mandatory Dutch law (once enacted), binding upon all shareholders.
Up to 180 days. Up to 250 days.
Can be invoked if shareholders propose an agenda item which could result in a change to the company’s strategy, including (but not necessarily limited to) the dismissal of board members. Can be invoked if shareholders propose the dismissal, suspension or appointment of a board member (or an amendment of any provision in the company’s articles dealing with those matters), or in case of a hostile offer
Allows the board to postpone a shareholder proposal during the response period (both as a discussion and as a voting item)

Allows the discussion of a shareholder proposal during the cooling-off period, but prevents a valid resolution in respect of the dismissal, suspension or appointment of a board member (or an amendment of any provision in the company’s articles dealing with those matters).

 

A common feature of the existing response period and the proposed cooling-off period is the postponement of a shareholder vote during a standstill period invoked by the board. This distinguishes them from more traditional protective measures under Dutch law, such as the issuance of preference shares or priority shares, which (i) are typically activated by an independent foundation and (ii) are focussed on the outcome of the vote, rather than the timing thereof.

Compliance with European rules

Based on advice from the Dutch Council of State (which has also been published), the Government is of the opinion that the proposed legislation does not violate European rules. Relevant rules include in this respect:

  1. the European Takeover Directive: the proposed legislation does not interfere with the course of any public take-over itself; merely with the adoption of certain shareholders resolutions during the offer period;
  2. the European Shareholders Rights Directive: the Government makes a distinction between the convocation of shareholders meetings and the inclusion of items on the agenda of the meeting, and the valid adoption of shareholders resolutions in respect of such items (only the former, and not the latter being subject to the European Directive);
  3. the European freedoms: the Government acknowledges that the proposed legislation could have a restrictive effect on European freedoms, but is of the opinion that such restrictive effect is justified by the public interest of a careful decision making process and proportionality.

Next steps

The general public is invited to submit comments on the draft legislative proposal before February 7, 2019. Following review of the comments and potential revision of the proposal, the legislative proposal may be submitted to Dutch parliament.

[1] The statutory thresholds for shareholders to make use of those rights are 3% and 10%, respectively, unless the company’s articles provide for a lower threshold.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

CHINA UPDATE – China is Taking Solid Steps to Open its Banking Sector

Editors’ Note: Chen Yun is a partner specializing in banking, finance and foreign exchange law. Wang Rong and Liang Yixuan also contributed to this article.

After the promulgation of the State Council’s Decision on Amending the Regulations of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) on the Administration of Foreign Funded  Banks (Consultation Paper) (the “Administrative Regulations Consultation Paper”) in late October 2018, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (“CBIRC”) released the Decision on Amending the Implementation Rules of the Regulations of the PRC on the Administration of Foreign Funded Banks (Consultation Paper) (the “Implementation Rules Consultation Paper”, together with the Administrative Regulations Consultation Paper, the “Consultation Papers”) on 28 November 2018 to solicit public opinions.

The main purposes of amending these two legislations, which are of ultimate importance to the supervision of foreign funded banks (“FF Banks”) are to put into practice the country’s opening-up policies in the banking sector, to make law to implement the opening-up measures in the banking sector, which have been repeatedly referred to by senior government officials in various summits and public speeches, and to further liberalize the foreign investment in China’s banking sector.

The amendments made by the Consultation Papers focus on the following aspects:

  • Allowing foreign banks to maintain PRC branches (“FB Branches”) and locally incorporated banks in China (“FB LIBs”) at the same time
  • Lifting the restrictions on the conducting of the RMB business by FB Branches and FB LIBs
  • Broadening the business scope of FB Branches and FB LIBs
  • Relaxing the operating funds requirements for FB Branches

Ⅰ. Institutions Subject to the Regulation of the Consultation Papers

As early as 17 August 2018, CBIRC abolished the Administrative Measures on Equity Investment by Foreign Funded Financial Institutions in Chinese Funded Financial Institutions, and removed the 25% ceiling of foreign shareholding in a Chinese funded commercial bank by amending the Implementation Measures of the Administrative Licensing Items for Chinese Funded Commercial Banks.  It is also stipulated that a commercial bank will be regulated as the category of the bank as the one when and into which the foreign investment is made.

Therefore, foreign banks may set up from scratch joint-venture FB LIBs (“JV Banks”) or wholly foreign owned FB LIBs (“WFOBs”) regulated as FF Banks, or may otherwise become, by way of making investments into Chinese funded commercial banks, the shareholders of joint-venture banks with more than 25% foreign ownership or wholly foreign owned banks, which are converted from and regulated as Chinese funded commercial banks.

Notwithstanding the above, the institutions subject to the regulation of the Consultation Papers remain those regulated as FF Banks, namely WFOBs, JV Banks, FB Branches and PRC representative offices of foreign banks. As far as joint-venture banks or wholly foreign owned banks converted from and regulated as Chinese funded commercial banks as the result of the investment by foreign banks are concerned, the Consultation Papers do not apply.

Ⅱ. Allowing Foreign Banks to Maintain FB Branches and FB LIBs at the Same Time

One of the most appealing changes made by the Consultation Papers is that foreign banks would be allowed to maintain both FB LIBs (i.e. WFOBs and JV Banks regulated as FF Banks) and FB Branches) at the same time. As a result, foreign banks would no longer be forced to make a hard choice between local incorporation and keeping FB Branches.

Back in late 2006, when converting their FB Branches into WFOBs, foreign banks were allowed to retain an FB Branch to carry on their foreign exchange (“FX”) wholesale business for a certain period of time (i.e. a transition period), in order to facilitate the to-be-established WFOBs to meet the relevant regulatory indicators requirements and to facilitate the retained branch to phase out the outstanding FX wholesale business, only that such retained branch shall be closed upon the expiry of the transition period.

However, in the Implementation Rules of the Regulations of the PRC on the Administration of Foreign Funded Banks which was promulgated on 1 July 2015 and took effect on 1September of the same year, the relevant provisions on the retention of an FX wholesale business branch upon local incorporation of foreign banks were deleted, thus made such approach no longer workable.  In practice, CBIRC (then the China Banking Regulatory Commission) also rejected the application from any foreign bank for retaining an FX wholesale business branch when converting its FB Branches into a WFOB.

This policy change directly led to the delay in the local incorporation process of some foreign banks since, without the FX wholesale business branch retained, their to-be-established WFOBs may not meet the specific regulatory indicators requirements.

Now, the change made by the Consultation Papers allowing foreign banks to maintain both FB LIBs and FB Branches (although the Consultation Papers require that in such circumstances, the FB Branches would only be allowed to conduct the wholesale business, with a substantial breakthrough being that such wholesale business covers not only FX business but also RMB business) at the same time would make it easier for foreign banks to enter into the China market.

It is worth mentioning that the Consultation Papers also set out prohibitions or restrictions on the independence and the risk isolation mechanism of the management, personnel, business, information and related party transactions of FB LIBs and FB Branches.

Ⅲ. Lifting the Restrictions on the Conducting of the RMB Business

With regard to the RMB business, the following material changes are made by the Consultation Papers:

  • The “waiting period” (i.e. a period of time for which an FB LIB or an FB Branch shall open business before applying for conducting the RMB business) for the RMB business of FB LIBs and FB Branches is cancelled;
  • The minimum amount required for FB Branches to accept the fixed term deposit from Chinese citizens is lowered from RMB 1 million to RMB 0.5 million;
  • FB LIBs or FB Branches are allowed to conduct the preparatory work for the RMB business simultaneously with that for setting up FB LIBs or FB Branches, and to submit the application for the opening of the RMB business simultaneously with that for the business opening of FB LIBs and FB Branches. Thus, the RMB business may be opened Day One when FB LIBs and FB Branches open their businesses; and
  • In the case of multiple FB Branches, the managing FB Branch may authorize other FB Branches to conduct the RMB business as long as the managing FB Branch itself has obtained the RMB business license.

Ⅳ. Broadening the Business Scope

The Administrative Regulations Consultation Paper includes “acting as the issuance agent, payment agent and/or underwriter of Chinese government bonds” into the business scope of FB LIBs and FB Branches. Thus, the business scope of an FB LIB is substantially the same as that of a Chinese funded commercial bank.

In addition, the Implementation Measures Consultation Paper restates that the following types of business of FB LIBs and FB Branches are subject to the afterwards reporting requirement only, which was provided in the Circular on the Conducting of Certain Businesses by Foreign Funded Banks (the “Circular”) issued by the General Office of CBIRC on March 10, 2017 and now documented into a regulation by CBIRC: (1) acting as the issuance agent, payment agent and underwriter of Chinese government bonds; (2) providing custody, escrow and guardianship services; (3) providing consultancy services such as financial advisory services; (4) providing overseas wealth management services for and on behalf of the clients; and (5) such other businesses as CBIRC may deem to be subject to the afterwards reporting requirement.

Furthermore, the Implementation Measures Consultation Paper restates the regulations of the Circular allowing the intra-group cooperation (namely, allowing FB LIBs and FB Branches to cooperate with their parent bank groups to provide comprehensive financial services to Chinese enterprises in offshore bond issuance, listing, acquisition, financing and the like by taking the advantages of their global service networks.

Ⅴ. Relaxing the Operating Funds Requirements for FB Branches

In respect of the operating funds requirements of FB Branches, the Consultation Papers have made the following adjustments as well:

Ⅵ. Other Changes and Our Observations

Apart from the above significant changes, the Consultation Papers also make certain changes in the areas such as the outsourcing activities conducted by FB LIBs and FB Braches and their termination and liquidation.

Although the Consultation Papers are subject to the solicitation of public opinions before finalization, one can be assured that China is on the track of more opening-ups in its banking sector.

With abundant experience of assisting foreign funded financial institutions in setting up their PRC presences, carrying on their business in compliance with the law, exploring new business boundaries and seeking business cooperation, King & Wood Mallesons is right here standing by to hold your hands crossing the jungle!

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and have not been endorsed, confirmed, or approved by XBMA or any of the editors of XBMA Forum, nor by XBMA’s founders, members, contributors, academic partners, advisory board members, or others. No inference to the contrary should be drawn.

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