ESMA statement on investment recommendations through social media

In order to inform the supervised entities and the public in the Republic of Bulgaria and to the commitments made by the Financial Supervision Commission in the person of Boyko Atanasov, Chairman of the Commission to EIOPA and ESMA, the Communications Directorate presents the statement of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). The EU Securities Regulator explains the rules that apply when someone established inside or outside the EU disseminates information offering an investment solution for financial instruments issued in the EU (e.g. stocks or bonds) aimed at wide audience. Dissemination of information would involve, for example, sharing an opinion on the current or future price of a share.

In EU law, this is called an investment recommendation.

What is an investment recommendation? EU law defines an investment recommendation as information that recommends or proposes an investment strategy, directly or indirectly, on one or more financial instruments or their issuers, including opinions on the current or future value or price of such instruments intended for dissemination channels or for the public. Dissemination channels can be analytical reports, articles, traditional media or even social media.

Who should read this statement? Anyone who recommends investment in any way or form through any platform, and anyone who makes investment decisions based on investment recommendations made on any platform. This includes social media.

What’s the problem here? The possibility of investors being misled. Investment recommendations must be made in a specific and transparent way so that investors, before making an investment decision, can know and evaluate: 1) the reliability of the recommendation and its purpose; and 2) all the interests of the authors of the recommendations. In this way, everyone is free to express an opinion without harming other people in the process.

Who prepares investment recommendations? Usually companies such as banks and brokers, but also financial analysts. However, other persons proposing an investment strategy may be deemed to make an investment recommendation when the proposal is intended for wider dissemination. This includes social media posts. In addition, if someone often makes investment recommendations with the aim of reaching a wide audience and he presents himself as having financial expertise, this may mean that the person could be considered an expert. In this case, the law requires more disclosures.

Where are the rules? The rules are contained in EU Regulation (EU) No. 596/2014 on market abuse. They require those who make investment recommendations to disclose their identities, present recommendations in an objective manner and disclose any relationships or circumstances that could impair objectivity. Additional rules must be followed by experts.

What happens if the rules are not followed? EU regulators proactively monitor the behaviour, orders and transactions of market investors. An investigation shall be carried out if there are grounds for doing so. If the rules related to investment recommendations are not followed, fines or further supervisory actions may be imposed, which may include a referral to the prosecutor’s office.