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国际资讯监管与政策

美国审计总署:Fintech产业发展与监管存在5大问题

国际资讯监管与政策

美国审计总署:Fintech产业发展与监管存在5大问题

在国会的要求下,美国审计总署于上周发布了一份136页的报告,详细描述了美国Fintech监管僵局并提出了改善建议,希望进一步促进该新兴产业发展。

这份报告中着重讨论了四种Fintech产业,分别是支付、借贷、财富金融建议(比如"智能投顾")和分布式账本技术(包括区块链和加密货币)。

报告中详细描述了每一个Fintech产业所带来的好处和风险、每个领域公司将面对的繁琐监管规则以及美国可以借鉴的其他国家地区的创新性鼓励发展的措施(比如新加坡、香港和英国的监管沙盒)等。

在今天这篇文章中,我们就为您简单罗列一下本次报告的5大关键信息:

1. 遵守联邦和州监管规则不仅过程繁复,而且成本不菲

关于这一点,目前在美运营的Fintech和加密货币公司其实早已心知肚明。但审计总署仍然强调,负责金融监管和执照批准的各联邦机构和50国家州级机构的确给Fintech从业者造成了不少困扰。

报告中指出:"Fintech公司会发现,美国金融监管体系之复杂为想要遵守相关法律和规则的公司带来了不少挑战,移动支付服务提供商和Fintech借贷平台需耗费大量时间金钱应对州级执照和汇报规则要求。"

审计总署报告采访的有关相关人士表示,要想取得所有相关州级执照,那么相关的法律事务费用、州政府债券和直接监管成本总计大概需要100万到3000万美元。一家Fintech公司就表示,其风投募得的一半资金都花费在了取得州级执照这件事上。

虽然这样碎片式的监管能够避免不少不法因素,但那些希望合法运营的公司却也可能因此面临巨大困难。报告作者提到,企业家对于一些基本问题(如那些机构主管公司向谁需要或不需要回报些什么等)其实都并不是十分清楚。

2. 联邦机构应该加强合作协调

虽然商品期货交易委员会(CFTC)等机构都分别为促进Fintech团体对话做出了不少努力,但是目前负责Fintech监管的10个联邦机构间仍然缺乏沟通协调。

(美国的监管机构数量似乎有点多,相比之下,类似的机构香港只有4个,英国3个,新加坡1个)

报告说:"联邦机构应该增加合作并阐明与金融账户整合相关问题,确保Fintech相关跨机构间行为覆盖所有相关方行为。我们采访的市场主体和观察人士大多都表示,跨机构间合作还有不少提升空间。"

报告中给出了几点此方面建议,如更好划定机构角色和职责,更明确监管期待结果等。

"鉴于他们保护消费者的职责,监管者共同行动可以更好确保消费者不受伤害而且能够持续从金融服务中获利。"

3. Fintech公司并没有在伤害消费者

虽然许多Fintech公司必须遵守接受的规定和监督就是为了保护消费者和投资者而设计,但审计总署发现,这些公司其实受到消费者投诉,而监管部门预测的大范围伤害事件也鲜有出现。

报告说:"可获得的监管数据显示,针对Fintech行为的消费者投诉数量与针对传统金融服务提供商相比来说并不多。我们的分析显示,13家提供Fintech 支付、借贷、投资咨询、金融账户整合或虚拟货币服务的大公司中,只有五家在CFPB数据库中有投诉记录,其中四家投诉量少于400。”

4. 货币监理署Fintech宪章?恐怕还得再等等

为了抓住简化监管和执照环境的机会,许多Fintech和加密货币公司都表示希望出台一个全国性的Fintech监管宪章。这一可能性首次由货币监理署2016年末提出。

但审计总署明确表示,所有对此给予希望的人士可能需要一个备用计划:

"我们采访的货币监理署官员说,这一专门国家银行业宪章计划已被暂时搁置,因为他们仍在审议该倡议。此外,州银行监管协会还对货币监理署就Fintech宪章提起了诉讼。"

此外,即使该宪章出台,如果资本要求与向常规银行一致,那仍将无法适用于小型公司。

5. 监管环境导致美国对Fintech从业者吸引力下降

审计总署报告中反复强调,美国复杂的监管以及总体不确定性带来了另外一个重要的影响——越来越多的Fintech公司开始向监管更友好的地区和国家转移。

"Fintech支付和分布式账本技术公司以及其他市场主体告诉我们,应对美国的复杂监管环境导致有些公司退出或者不在美国市场推出创新产品和服务,因为他们担心相关监管解释。比如,一家开发了分布式账本支付技术的美国公司的一名员工表示,他们和其他同行只服务外国客户,因为美国金融监管碎片化,相关事项上缺少各机构间统一立场。"

In responding to a request from Congress, the Government Accountability Office released a 136 page report last week detailing the fintech regulation logjam in the United States and offering recommendations for how the landscape can be improved to better facilitate this nascent industry's development.

The report specifically addresses four types of emerging fintech activities: payments, lending, wealth and financial advice (i.e. “robo-advising") and distributed ledger technology – a basket that includes blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

It dives into the benefits and risks posed by each category, the Byzantine regulatory maze that companies operating in these areas must navigate, the innovative steps that foreign jurisdictions like Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom have taken to foster fintech ecosystems – such as regulatory sandboxes - and lessons the U.S. should take from these experiments.

Below I present five key takeaways from the report.

1. Complying with Federal and State Regulations is Onerous and Expensive

This won’t come as any surprise to fintech and cryptocurrency companies who desire to operate in the U.S., but the GAO reaffirmed that the alphabet soup of federal agencies and 50+ state agencies involved in licensing and financial regulation is causing significant headaches.

The report states:

“Fintech firms can find that the complexity of the U.S. financial regulatory system creates challenges in identifying the laws and regulations that apply to their activities, and that complying with state licensing and reporting requirements can be expensive and time-consuming for mobile payment providers and fintech lenders.”

Stakeholders interviewed by the GAO reported that obtaining all relevant state licenses generally costs between $1M to $30M once legal fees, state bonds and direct regulatory costs are factored in. One fintech firm said that it spent half of all the funds it raised through venture capital just on obtaining state licenses.

While this fragmentation is surely weeding out some bad actors, it creates great difficulty for those that are trying to be compliant and do things the right way. The report authors note instances of manifold confusion among entrepreneurs on basic matters like determining which agencies are responsible for what and who they need – and don’t need - to report to.

2. Federal Agencies Need to Coordinate Better

While many agencies such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have individually made laudable efforts to initiate dialogue with the fintech community, there is a glaring lack of coordination among the 10 different federal agencies responsible for fintech regulation in some form.

(By contrast, there are just four such agencies in Hong Kong, three in the U.K. and one in Singapore)

“[F]ederal agencies could improve collaboration and clarify issues related to financial account aggregation by making sure that interagency efforts dedicated to fintech include all relevant participants and incorporate other leading practices,” the report reads, adding that “the majority of market participants and observers we interviewed who commented on interagency collaboration said that it could generally be improved.”

Pursuant to this finding, the GAO recommends several ways to improve collaboration – such as better defining agency roles and responsibilities and better defining preferred outcomes – that could help ease the bottleneck.

“Given their mandated consumer protection missions, regulators could act collaboratively to better ensure that consumers avoid financial harm and continue to benefit from these services,” it states.

3. Fintech Firms Aren’t Harming Consumers

While much of the regulation and oversight that fintech companies must abide by is explicitly in place to protect consumers and investors, the GAO found that these types of firms are rarely the subject of complaints and that indications of widespread harm are “limited.”

The report reads:

“Available regulatory data show that the number of consumer complaints against fintech activities appears modest compared to traditional providers … [O]ur analysis showed that for 13 large firms offering fintech payments, lending, investment advice, financial account aggregation, or virtual currencies, only 5 of the firms had complaints in the CFPB database, with 4 having received fewer than 400 complaints.”

4. OCC Fintech Charter? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Seeking a potential lifeline to a simpler regulatory and licensing environment, many companies in the fintech and cryptocurrency space have embraced the option of a national fintech charter - first proposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in late 2016 - as a possible fast lane.

The GAO makes it clear that anyone still holding out hope on this front may be wise to have a contingency plan:

“OCC officials we interviewed told us that this special-purpose national bank charter is on hold because they are still reviewing whether to go forward with the proposal, and [the Conference of State Banking Supervisors] has filed a lawsuit against OCC challenging the fintech charter.”

Further, it noted that the charter likely won’t be feasible for smaller companies if the capital requirements imposed are the same as for regular banks.

5. Fintech Innovators are Avoiding the U.S.

The GAO report repeatedly stresses that the labyrinth of regulations and general uncertainty in the U.S. has an important unintended consequence – namely, that fintech companies are increasingly moving their operations to friendlier jurisdictions.

“Fintech payments and DLT firms and other market participants told us that navigating this regulatory complexity can result in some firms delaying the launch of innovative products and services—or not launching them in the United States—because the fintech firms are worried about regulatory interpretation,” the report notes, adding that:

“For example, staff from one U.S. firm that developed a DLT payments technology told us that they and their peers only work with foreign customers due to the fragmented U.S. financial regulatory structure and lack of unified positions across agencies on related topics.”


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