Cyprus has become host to so many FX firms that the nation has carved out a reputation as a hub for the retail side of the business, with its government actively encouraging the establishment of companies wishing to approach a European client base, or convey a reputation of responsibility to overseas clients, that the European authorities are ensuring the interests of clients.
Responsibility to uphold a reputation is an important facet, and until now, the island’s very retail FX-focused regulator CySEC, has demonstrated a very flexible approach to licensing and has maintained its position as a regulator, which is very much on the side of the brokers, with a view to keeping the business in Cyprus.
On Friday, however, CySEC made a break from its tradition of applying very light penalties to transgressors. The Cypriot regulator announced, following a meeting which took place on September 9, that it has revoked the Cyprus Investment Firm (CIF) license of Sama Brokers, due to the non-compliance of the company with the provisions set out in Directive DI144-2007-01, for the Authorization and Operating Conditions of CIFs.
The specific aspect of this ruling which concerns the professional conduct of the CIF and the persons in its employ, is that the company transgressed was not provided by CySEC, however, according to Forex Magnates sources, the company, which caters its service toward the Middle East region, did not conduct the activation of the company according to CySEC’s requirements.
In order to activate a CIF, management teams within FX firms are required to take strategic steps. Companies must appoint all members of the firm, and must have a fully operational office with a compliance director, and relevant operational staff.
Furthermore, companies need to demonstrate adequacy of safeguards and controls, including how client funds will be handled, and relay confirmation of the aforementioned to CySEC.
Forex Magnates sources within the industry confirmed that Sama brokers did not follow these steps at the initial stage, and did not respond within the stipulated time limit, therefore, in accordance with CySEC’s procedures, which state that if a firm is not activated correctly, then within 12 months of the license being granted, it is automatically revoked.
CySEC operates an arbitration policy, whereby if it issues an enforcement against a CIF, it will not make a decision without allowing the subject of the enforcement a right to respond, make corrective arrangements or defend itself. In the case of Sama Brokers, such an appeal was, according to Forex Magnates sources, unlikely to stand.
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Forex Magnates sources have all confirmed that subsequent to this action, Sama Brokers has ceased its operations entirely, as a result of which, the firm was unavailable to make a statement to Forex Magnates concerning its position on this matter.
Flexible Approach To Regulation – For How Much Longer?
CySEC is not usually notorious for dispensing firm penalties, and was described at this year’s IFXEXPO in Cyprus by the panel of lawyers, as a fledgling regulator compared to Britain’s FCA or the US CFTC. The participants deemed it unfair to compare the Cypriot regulator CySEC, to such large and long established regulators. Panel moderator Jason Ballor asked whether the regulator maintained a “flexible approach” to enforcement, a comment that struck a chord with most of the lawyers.
CySEC has been in establishlishment for 10 years, whereas the FCA is regulating London, the world’s largest financial center. Therefore, the lawyers confirmed that CySEC’s remit is to facilitate FX regulation, and also ensure ease of doing business for the FX companies, as well as securing client interests.
Marios Cosma, owner of law firm K Treppides & Co, explained to the panel that, “CySEC is a user-friendly organization, and has improved dramatically with time”.
Marios Lazarou, a board member within the Financial Risk Management division of KPMG, said “Cyprus became a member of the EU in 2008, together with the fact that CySEC wanted to regulate FX and binary options. It particularly attracted some unregulated companies, who wanted to gain a license with minimum entry barriers and began to offer cross-border services.”
Dr. Stelios Platis, Chairman of the Association of Cyprus International Investment Firms (ACIIF), which represents the industry’s interests in Cyprus as a whole, explained to Forex Magnates today that “One has to admit that Cyprus has come a long way since the implementation of EU regulation. Both in terms of regulation as well as its enforcement. Especially over the last couple of years. I can safely say that both regulation as well as its enforcement are today without a doubt at par with global best paradigms, corresponding to Cyprus’ reputation as a hub for the sector”.
Bearing this in mind, the revocation of Sama Brokers’ license represents a more draconian move for CySEC, and a step ahead of previous enforcements such as the €80,000 penalty issued to LQD Markets in June, following a compliance inspection, or the paltry €5,000 fine issued to Trading Point the same month, for AML procedure deficiencies, pursuant to DI144-2007-01, the exact same directive which Sama Brokers fell foul of.
During the discussion panels at the IFXEXPO, in which the future of the FX industry in Cyprus, following this year’s banking crisis was a focus, CySEC Chairman, Demetra Kalogirou, addressed the industry participants with a speech confirming CySEC’s commitment to supporting the FX industry on the island, whilst ensuring customer confidence is upheld and procedures are adhered to.