Recommendation of the European Systemic Risk Board on identifying legal entities (ESRB/2020/12)

10/19/2020 | 10:15am EDT



of 24 September 2020

on identifying legal entities



Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

Having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1092/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on European Union macroprudential oversight of the financial system and establishing a European Systemic Risk Board1, and in particular Article 3(2)(a), (b), (d) and (f) and Articles 16 to 18 thereof,

Having regard to Decision ESRB/2011/1 of the European Systemic Risk Board of 20 January 2011 adopting the Rules of Procedure of the European Systemic Risk Board2, and in particular Article 15(3)(e) and Articles 18 to 20 thereof,


  1. The global economy is based on an intricate, tightly knit and extremely complex network of financial transactions that are created by a vast number of cross-border contracts with effects reaching across the world. This network comprises not only financial institutions, but any entities that have relationships with each other and with the financial markets. Breakage of any single crucial node in this network has the potential to cause large parts of the whole to unravel, with significant global implications. Clear identification of the individual entities and the connections between them is a key requirement for drawing a reliable map of the global economic and financial landscape, which is necessary in order to reduce contagion.
  2. Financial contagion occurs because financial and non-financial entities are linked through financial transactions, and by financial assets and liabilities. Channels for contagion are created by direct exposure through links between the financial and the non-financial sectors as well as by indirect exposure where entities form part of the same group. Contagion between financial and non-financial entities can spread in both directions and is more dramatically demonstrated during crises. Thus, a financial crisis can spread from the financial to the non-financial sector, as demonstrated by the failure of the investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008; an economic crisis can spread from the non-financial to the financial sector, originating, for example, in the over-indebtedness of non-financial entities or in any severe crisis of supply or demand. The economic and financial effects of the crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic offer an example of the close interlinkages between the non-financial and financial sectors. Enabling the correct identification of non-financial entities is therefore equally as important as the correct identification of financial entities, to ensure financial stability.
  3. Large financial groups, such as those of global systemically important institutions (G-SIIs), have highly complex legal structures that concentrate numerous obligations, including many which are large. G-SIIs often have a significant number of subsidiaries and/or international branches and interact with numerous major counterparties. The failure of one or more such G-SIIs would
  1. OJ L 331, 15.12.2010, p. 1.
  2. OJ C 58, 24.2.2011, p. 4.


have a negative impact on the financial system in many countries and, more widely, on the global economy. Policies have been put in place to reduce both the probability of G-SIIs failing and the impacts of such failure. The latter objective could be achieved by improving global recovery and resolution measures. The more complex the group structure, the greater the cost and time needed to recover and resolve it. Identifying such groups, as well as their legal entities and overall structure, is therefore crucial to ensuring financial stability.

  1. In 2012, the G20 endorsed the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) regarding the framework for development of a global legal entity identifier (LEI) system for
    parties to financial transactions, and encouraged global adoption of the LEI to support authorities and market participants in identifying and managing financial risk3. Since its introduction, the LEI has been adopted by more than one million entities across more than 200 countries. The use of a unique, exclusive and universal legal entity identifier has increased authorities’ abilities to evaluate systemic and developing risks and adopt remedial measures. In particular, the clear identification of contractual parties in a network of global financial contracts processed electronically at a very high speed permits authorities to make use of existing technologies to analyse interconnectedness, identify potential chains of contagion, and track market abuse for financial stability purposes. The LEI has also become critical for connecting existing datasets of granular information on entities from multiple sources.
  2. In 2017, G20 leaders welcomed recommendations for promoting the use of common identifiers, in particular the LEI for entities4. However, in 2019, in a thematic review on the implementation of the LEI, the FSB listed a set of challenges still faced by the LEI system5. These include the low rate of adoption of the LEI by entities outside the securities and over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets; the one-off bursts of issuance following the adoption of Union regulations such as Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council6
    (commonly referred to as ‘EMIR’) and Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council7 (commonly referred to as ‘MiFIR’) without sustained growth over time; the insufficient level of voluntary adoption of the LEI; and the limited adoption of the LEI by non-financial entities. Moreover, whereas most parent entities of G-SII groups have LEIs, coverage does not generally extend to all international subsidiaries and branches, or all counterparties.
  3. The European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) is responsible for the macroprudential oversight of the financial system within the Union. In carrying out its tasks, the ESRB should contribute to ensuring financial stability and mitigating the negative impacts on the internal market and the real economy. For these purposes, the availability and wide adoption of a worldwide unique identifier to unequivocally identify entities engaged in financial transactions is of key importance. The low rate of adoption of the LEI referred to above constitutes a factor that may hamper the reliability of financial stability analysis, making it difficult to accurately assess and
  1. See ‘G20 Leaders’ Declaration’, available on the G20 website at Leaders-Declaration0619-loscabos.pdf
  2. See ‘Annex to G20 Leaders’ Declaration: G20 Hamburg Action Plan’, available on the G20 website at
  3. See ‘Thematic Review on Implementation of the Legal Entity Identifier’, available on the FSB’s website at
  4. Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on OTC derivatives, central counterparties and trade repositories (OJ L 201, 27.7.2012, p. 1).
  5. Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on markets in financial instruments and amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 (OJ L 173, 12.6.2014, p. 84).


compare risks across national markets. Existing gaps in the adoption of the LEI should therefore be addressed.

  1. The purpose of this Recommendation is to contribute, in line with the ESRB’s mandate, to the prevention and mitigation of systemic risks to financial stability in the Union through the establishment of systematic use of the LEI by entities engaged in financial transactions. To achieve this objective, this Recommendation seeks the introduction of a Union legal framework to uniquely identify legal entities engaged in financial transactions by LEIs and to make the use of the LEI more systematic in respect of supervisory reporting and public disclosure. Taking into account the time frame for the adoption of such a Union framework, the ESRB recommends that relevant authorities pursue and systematise their efforts to promote the adoption and use of the LEI, making use for this purpose of the various regulatory or supervisory powers which they have been granted by national or Union law.
  2. As a first objective, the Recommendation is aimed at ensuring that all legal entities established in the Union that are involved in financial transactions obtain and maintain an LEI. Adoption of the LEI in the Union has mainly been driven by regulatory requirements laid down in legislation
    such as Regulation (EU) No 648/2012, Regulation (EU) No 600/2014, Regulation (EU) 2015/2365 of the European Parliament and of the Council8 and Regulation (EU) No 909/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council9. Those requirements apply to entities involved in OTC derivatives transactions, in transactions in derivatives and other financial instruments traded on trading venues and in securities financing transactions, as well as to securities
    issuers. Other legislative and non-legislative acts, such as Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council10 – applicable to credit and financial institutions – and
    the European Banking Authority (EBA) Recommendation on the use of the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)11, as well as the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) Guidelines on the use of the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI)12, also require or recommend the use of the LEI. However, there is no uniform approach across markets and use of the LEI currently does not extend to non-financial sectors, leaving LEI coverage fragmented and important sectors excluded. A Union legal framework regulating LEI use in the Union would achieve coherent implementation across all sectors of the economy, thereby maximising the benefits arising from the use of the LEI. Meanwhile, and until such a framework is adopted, entities supervised in the Union should be encouraged to obtain an LEI and authorities supervising them should, to the extent permitted by law, require them to have an LEI.
  3. The principle of proportionality should be applied so as to avoid an extra cost burden. For example, Union legislation could exempt smaller entities that do not form part of a wider group from the requirement to obtain an LEI, or require that they be provided with an LEI at no cost.
  1. Regulation (EU) 2015/2365 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 on transparency of securities financing transactions and of reuse and amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 (OJ L 337, 23.12.2015, p. 1).
  2. Regulation (EU) No 909/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on improving securities settlement in the European Union and on central securities depositories and amending Directives 98/26/EC and 2014/65/EU and Regulation (EU) No 236/2012 (OJ L 257, 28.8.2014, p. 1)
  3. Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on prudential requirements for credit institutions and investment firms and amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 (OJ L 176, 27.6.2013, p. 1).
  4. Recommendation on the use of the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) (EBA/REC/2014/01), available on the EBA’s website at the-use-of-legal-entity-identifier-lei-
  5. Guidelines on the use of the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) (EIOPA-BoS-14-026), available on EIOPA’s website at


Addressing the cost aspects of the LEI by means of a proportionate approach is of very considerable importance given that methods of identifying legal entities differ between jurisdictions. Within the Union, national and other identifiers exist and are in use to cover specific needs. For example, the European Unique Identifier (EUID) is used in the Business Registers Interconnection System to ensure interoperability among Member States’ business registers. Nonetheless, the LEI, as a global identifier that aims at universal coverage and addresses a large variety of applications, is better suited for the purpose of monitoring financial stability, given the important interconnections that exist between entities in the Union and in third countries. The ESRB is of the view that business registries across the Union could have a role to play in the allocation of LEIs, alongside national identifiers and EUIDs.

  1. Since the LEI became available, national supervisory authorities and European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) have been strongly promoting the LEI and its use in connection with reporting requirements. However, gaps in this area remain. Therefore, a second objective of the Recommendation is to ensure the systematic and comprehensive use of the LEI for identification of entities in the reporting of financial information. First, if the entity subject to the reporting obligation were required to hold an LEI to identify itself, this would allow authorities to uniquely identify entities across different reporting frameworks. Second, the LEI should be used in a more systematic and comprehensive way to identify other entities for which the reporting entity is also required to report information, Such entities include – but are not limited to – issuers of financial instruments, counterparties to financial transactions, and related entities.
  2. An entity for which financial information must be reported may not have an LEI. This will be the case, for example, where an entity established in the Union is exempted under the principle of proportionality or where an entity established in a third country has not acquired an LEI. Various legislation has already been implemented to limit the access of entities without an LEI to financial markets in the Union. The rule under Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 that is known as
    the ‘no LEI, no trade’ rule has been of crucial importance for the adoption of the LEI in the Union by requiring an LEI as a pre-condition for access to Union markets.13 In cases where the lack of an LEI is not justified, the ESRB encourages addressees of this Recommendation to adopt a similar approach to the ‘no LEI, no trade’ rule, where appropriate.
  3. Since the LEI became available, national statistical authorities, national supervisory authorities and ESAs have also been promoting the LEI and its use in the context of public disclosures. The LEI has been voluntarily used or required to be used in certain public registers, publication of stress tests results and other mandatory or voluntary disclosures of data. Nonetheless, the LEI is not yet used in a systematic way as this has not been made obligatory in all cases, whether under Union or national law. To contribute to the third objective of this Recommendation – that is, to promote the awareness and use of the LEI by the general public and facilitate the general public’s access to company information through the use of the LEI – relevant authorities should further enhance and systematise references to the LEI in their disclosure of information about entities.

13 See Article 13(2) of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/590 of 28 July 2016 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to regulatory technical standards for the reporting of transactions to competent authorities (OJ L 87, 31.3.2017, p. 449) which provides that ‘An investment firm shall not provide a service triggering the obligation to submit a transaction report for a transaction entered into on behalf of a client who is eligible for the legal entity identifier code, prior to obtaining the legal entity identifier code from that client’.

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ESRB – European Systemic Risk Board published this content on 24 September 2020 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 19 October 2020 14:14:02 UTC

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