Think Global, Think Market Integrity

Branch 5 of the Tree of Web3 Wisdom suggests that regulators from different jurisdictions embrace certain first principles when thinking about blockchain, tokenization, and cryptoassets. Market integrity is one such core area for regulation. The topic seems especially ripe in light of the many events in the last ten months that led to disarray in both traditional and cryptoasset markets. Gibraltar prophetically implemented its market integrity principle last spring. Perhaps more people should have paid attention.

In April 2022, the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) issued the tenth of its regulatory principles for DLT Providers, laying out market integrity requirements. Principle no. 10 obliges a DLT Provider to conduct itself in a manner that "maintains or enhances the integrity of any markets in which it participates."

The concept of market integrity is not always easy to pin down so the related GFSC guidance note sets forth the operational, technical, and organizational standards that DLT Providers are expected to meet and provides examples of good practices for implementing and complying with the market integrity regulatory principle. The Guidance Note states: "Market integrity is essential to the fair, orderly and efficient functioning of a given market as well as of the overall marketplace more generally. It encompasses a number of key responsibilities, such as monitoring for manipulative trading and other forms of market abuse, and fostering non-discriminatory market access, transparency in price formation, fair trading practices, high disclosure standards and robust consumer protection."

The GFSC guidance highlights four categories of issues as important to market integrity: market manipulation, insider trading, disclosures, and trading standards. In each case, the Guidance Note gives examples and recommendations for best practices associated with them. For example, DLT providers should make disclosures regarding the markets in which they operate, the assets they trade, and other activities they conduct in those markets, to create and maintain an appropriate level of transparency. For trading standards, they should provide accurate and prompt market data to all stakeholders, such as information about bids, offers and last prices, and any other data relevant to achieving fairness and transparency; put measures in place to prevent preferential treatment for any subset of participants when placing or executing orders; and evaluate the execution quality of trades that take place within the markets that it operates and comparing it to industry best practice. For market manipulation and insider trading, DLT Providers should implement policies and procedures to root out and prevent such activities.

At the same time, the GFSC acknowledges the need for some flexibility, stating that each DLT Provider’s responsibilities will depend on the nature of its business and its role and participation in a given market and in the virtual asset marketplace overall. It also acknowledges that flexibility is needed to address the different features and functions of virtual assets and the manner in which they trade.

This Owl applauds the GFSC’s approach: to create a clear principle with clear guidance on how to implement it without being too prescriptive. This flexibility works because it can accommodate the variety of roles and operational features of market participants relevant to a DLT Provider’s business.

This is music to this Owl’s ears and chimes perfectly with our Tree of Wisdom – specifically branch 3 (classify tokens sensibly) and branch 4 (enact context appropriate regulation).

The 5th branch of our Tree of Wisdom is "think global." Our hope is that Gibraltar’s approach can serve as a template for authorities in other jurisdictions.

Global market integrity must be a first principle for long term growth and maturation of the cryptoassets ecosystem, as well as in more traditional markets. We encourage a constructive interchange between industry and regulators to inform the development and implementation of market integrity rules. Just like Gibraltar did.

Birds of a feather can make progress together

At Owl Explains, we collaborate with trade associations, think tanks, policymakers, and industry partners to further understanding of blockchain, crypto, and Web3.

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