The French financial markets regulator continues on its hunt of unregulated brokers and its proactive effort to protect investors and traders. This time round, the effort is manifested through two public announcements/warnings to the public.
The first was issued by the AMF and two other competent French authorities, namely the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (ACPR )and the General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) warning the public about a large-scale advertising campaign carried out through email and social media, called “Plan B” as well as websites related to this campaign.
The French authorities are urging investors to exercise extreme caution, since, as the announcement mentions, it was noticed that large numbers of individuals have received advertising materials via email or social media in recent weeks as part of an advertising campaign called “Plan B”. These ads present the product as an alternative to Livret A savings accounts and promise investments with unrealistic rates of return (over 12% annually).
The AMF warning further details that unsuspected investors are then led to websites (such as leplanb.biz, Interactiveoption.com and BourseBinaire.fr), where they are encouraged to invest in binary options. Some of these sites offer the services of an adviser “authorised by the Banque de France’s ACPR”.
As pointed out in the public warning the above mentioned sites either direct users or are found to be linked to the “Cyprus-based company Pegase Capital Ltd, which was recently sanctioned by its supervisory authority, CySec,” in the recent round of decisions against CIFs announced by the Cypriot watchdog.
The ACPR, the AMF and DGCCRF call upon all investors to be extremely cautious of this so called “Plan B”, due to the highly risky nature of the products being offered (binary options), the lack of balanced information and the failure to disclose risks. Moreover, they advise individuals not to respond to the proposals of the various intermediaries listed on the sites involved in this advertising campaign, especially those made by a person presenting herself as “Julie Maxence”, publisher of the boursebinaire.fr website. Similarly, the ACPR and Banque de France emphasise that they have in no way “authorised” the “advisers” that these sites want investors to contact.
The three French authorities also avail themselves of the opportunity to remind investors of certain basic rules that they should be vigilant of. More specifically, that:
- No advertising materials should neglect to mention that high returns always involve high risk.
- Any product offering a return above that of the money market rate carries a material risk;
- The information provided to you should be clear and easy to understand. The adage of “only invest in what you understand” will help you avoid many problems.
They also urge investors to find out as much as they can about the intermediaries offering the product (certification/authorisation, company identity, head office location, etc.)
Besides the warning about the “Plan B”, the AMF also proceeded with another announcement concerning the updating of its black list of unauthorized brokers who target French investors. The said list is updated regularly, although as the watchdog admits it is not exhaustive, especially since such websites may change very quickly.
In the most recent update which was communicated to investors on 17/12/2015, the names of five unauthorized forex brokers were added to the list. More specifically, the entities most recently identified as targeting French investors without being licensed to do so, are:
www.consorfx.com / Trading Technologies HK Ltd;
www.equitycapitals.com / Equity Capitals Ltd;
www.ifx4u.com / The Oklycapital Limited;
www.imcbroker.com / Nordane Group Ltd;
www.investocopy.com / Investocopy Ltd.
It is interesting to note that some of these companies have already received regulatory warnings in other jurisdictions, such as for example Investocopy, which was the subject of a warning issued by Italian regulator Consob last October this.
With these five additions the number of Forex companies featured in AMF’s “Black List” rises to 79, while it should also pointed out that the number of binary options brokers blacklisted by the French regulator is even more impressive since it exceeds 200 entities.
The French watchdog once again urges investors to consult its list of all unauthorized websites to offer investments on the unregulated foreign exchange (Forex) market and also points out that in order to ensure that “the intermediary offering banking or financial products or services is authorised to operate in France, you can view the register of financial agents (https://www.regafi.fr ) or the list of authorised intermediaries in the financial investment advisor (FIA) or participating investment advisor (PIA) categories (https://www.orias.fr/search ).”
Finally, the AMF strongly recommends that If the intermediary in question is not on these lists, that investors “should not make use of their services, as they are in breach of the applicable legislation and are not required to comply with basic rules of investor protection, information disclosure and claims handling.”