Competition Law Guidelines for
Members of the Singapore Foreign Exchange Market Committee (“SFEMC”)


As of 8 July 2019

Introduction

The SFEMC was established to foster the growth and development of Singapore as a leading global financial centre in Asia, with specific focus on foreign exchange, money markets, fixed income and derivatives markets. The SFEMC is supported by several standing sub-committees, as well as ad-hoc working groups that may be established to study specific issues of interest.

The SFEMC is also a member of the Global Foreign Exchange Committee, and oversees the promotion and maintenance of the FX Global Code and associated adherence mechanisms in Singapore. The SFEMC also works closely with the Association of Banks in Singapore, the Singapore Money Brokers Association (SMBA), the ACI Singapore, the Investment Management Association of Singapore, the Association of Corporate Treasurers (Singapore), as well as other similar committees involved in financial markets.

As the SFEMC membership includes active market participants, it is important to be mindful of anti-competitive risks associated with its work (including in meetings, conference calls or electronic communications) and to ensure that SFEMC does not facilitate or is involved in any anti-competitive behavior.

The SFEMC is committed to conducting its affairs in strict compliance with competition laws. The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide general guidance on avoiding unlawful or illegal anti-competitive activity. They are not intended to be or contain legal advice.

These guidelines apply to all SFEMC’s activities, including those of any sub-committee or ad-hoc working group. Adherence to them is mandatory for all SFEMC members (“Members”) and is a condition for participating in the SFEMC. Members are individually responsible for ensuring that their actions comply with competition laws. Members are advised to seek their own appropriate legal advice with respect to their compliance with applicable competition laws. Members should review these Guidelines carefully and should share them with any of their staff involved in SFEMC activities.

 
Key Principles of Conduct

Best practice recommendations

This is one of the most important activities of the SFEMC and can be done legally, as long as a few principles are kept in mind. Best practice recommendations should seek to enhance the efficiency, stability and integrity of the market, and should not have the effect or purpose of eliminating competition in the pricing of products or services.

Impermissible Conduct

Members should not engage in any of the following impermissible conduct or activities under competition laws:

  • Price Fixing Agreements: price fixing “agreements” would include legally enforceable or non-enforceable agreements, written or oral, and so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” or understanding (even where such agreements or understanding are not in fact adhered to or carried out).
  • Boycotts or Collective Action
  • Allocation of Customers or Market Division
  • Abuse of Dominant Position: a Member or Members collectively having a dominant position in a particular market is not a violation of competition law per se. But the use of a dominant or collectively dominant position to eliminate competition would be an abuse.

Conduct that may or may not be permissible

The following conduct or activities may or may not be permissible, depending on the facts, circumstances and effects. Competition law requires individuals and firms to weigh up the positive and negative aspects of an activity from a competition perspective to form an overall view. Care should be taken to ensure that seemingly permissible activities do not mask or promote actions that are, or could be, interpreted as anti-competitive.

  • Standard setting: Standard setting may be pro-competitive, but may give rise to competition concerns in specific circumstances, e.g., where that specific standard makes it more difficult for certain entities or groups of entities from competing in the market or would raise significant barriers to entry. Standards should seek to discourage practices that have a detrimental effect on customers and/or the reputation and integrity of the market.
  • Information sharing: General and non-competitively sensitive information about a Member’s business may be shared in order to foster general understanding, and contribute to drafting of best practice recommendations. Members may discuss common problems and challenges of a general, administrative or logistical nature, but discussions should not have as their purpose or effect, encouraging uniform action or reducing or eliminating competition. Where appropriate to advance SFEMC’s work, certain proprietary, confidential or competitively sensitive information may be shared with SFEMC, but only if it is absolutely necessary, and its dissemination must be aggregated and anonymized to mask the competitively sensitive information, and done through SFEMC Secretariat without Members accessing the underlying data. Further, any submission of such information should involve participation of sufficient numbers of Members. Sufficiently historical (rather than current) information should be submitted for such purpose by Members, unless SFEMC’s work requires otherwise. If in doubt, Members are encouraged to seek advice from SFEMC Secretariat or SFEMC Legal sub-committee or their own organization’s counsel.

Advocacy Activities

Competition law does not prohibit competing members of a market, through SFEMC (or its sub-committees or working groups), from presenting their views or a unified position to the government or to other legislative or regulatory bodies on legislative issues impacting their market. However, Members are advised to confine these communications and agreements to good faith, reasonable attempts to inform government actions.

 


 

Appendix

In order to help you in the application of these Guidelines, below is a list of recommended “do’s” and “don’ts”:

Do

  • All SFEMC main committee meetings, sub-committee meetings and ad-hoc working group meetings should have a written agenda circulated in advance, and minutes recorded, reviewed by and circulated to members.
  • All Members and any non-Member participating in SFEMC activities will be provided with a copy of these Guidelines.
  • Members may consult with their own organization’s counsel on matters related to SFEMC meetings and activities.
  • Members should police themselves, and are encouraged to raise questions and/or report suspected violations of these Guidelines to SFEMC Secretariat or their own organization’s counsel.
  • If during a SFEMC meeting, a Member has competition law or conflicts of interests concerns about the discussion, the Member should immediately make their concerns known and the discussions should cease. If the discussions do not cease, Members should leave the meeting.

Don’t

  • In conducting SFEMC activities and/or in SFEMC main committee meetings, sub-committee meetings and ad-hoc working group meetings, Members and participants should conduct their activities within the recommended parameters in the Key Principles of Conduct, but otherwise should not:
    • discuss or agree to fix their prices, fees, commissions or any other element of the price of any transaction.
    • share or discuss any confidential, proprietary or competitively sensitive information, including (but not limited to) information on prices (current or future), business or marketing plans, internal costs or profit estimates and employee compensation.
    • discuss current or intended future commercial conduct, including trading strategies, bidding or business strategies.
    • discuss allocation or sharing of vendors, customers or markets or marketing areas (whether by territory, product type, customer segment or otherwise).
    • discuss or agree collective action against or particular treatment of certain individual or group of competitors, potential competitors, suppliers or customers.