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GDPR Exemption Sought

It has been reported that financial market regulators from the US, the UK and Asia are pressing for an exemption from GDPR.

Growing Calls For Exemption

Even though GDPR only came into force a little over a month ago (May 25th), financial regulators from several countries, most notably the US, have been pressing over several years for an exemption to be built-in, and have hosted multiple meetings about the matter on both sides of the Atlantic.

What’s The Problem?

Before GDPR, financial regulators could use their exemption to share vital information e.g. bank and trading account data, to advance misconduct probes. Now that GDPR is in force, regulators are, therefore, arguing that no exemption means that international probes and enforcement actions in cases involving market manipulation and fraud could be hampered.

Regulators say that they are particularly concerned about the effects on U.S. investigations into crypto-currency fraud and market manipulation (for which many actors are based overseas) could be at risk. Without an exemption, regulators say that cross-border information sharing could be challenged because some countries’ privacy safeguards now fall short of those now offered by the EU under GDPR.

Seeking An “Administrative Arrangement”

The form of exemption that regulators are reported to be seeking is a formal “administrative arrangement” with the Brussels-based European Data Protection Board (EDPB), headed by Andrea Jelinek. The written arrangement would clarify if and how the public interest exemption can be applied to their cross-border information sharing.

Which Regulators?

Reports indicate that the regulators involved in discussions about getting an exemption include the EU’s European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), the Japan Financial Services Agency (FSA), Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC).

Why Not?

The worry from the EDPB is that granting exemptions could lead to the illegitimate circumventing and watering down of the new GDPR privacy safeguards, now among the toughest in the world. This, in turn, could lead to the harming EU citizens which is exactly the opposite of the reason for the introduction of GDPR.

The matter has, however, been complicated by the fact that regulators’ slow response to the 2007-2009 global financial crisis was partly blamed on poor cross-border coordination, which has since been improved, and better information sharing after the crisis is reported to have lead to billions of dollars in fines for banks e.g. for trying to rig Libor interest rate benchmarks.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

A financial crisis (e.g. involving bad behaviour by banks) can create serious knock-on costs and problems for businesses worldwide, and it is, therefore, possible to see why financial regulators feel they need an exemption so that they can continue to share information which will ultimately be in the interest of business and the public. It is likely, therefore, that discussions will continue for some time yet to try to find a way to grant exemptions in certain circumstances.

The contrary view is that granting exemptions will water down legislation that was designed to offer stronger protection to us all, potentially putting EU citizens at risk, and allowing organisations that we can’t effectively monitor to simply circumvent the new law and behave how they like. This could undermine the privacy and rights of EU citizens.