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Common Principles for UCITS share classes

On 30 January 2017, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) published an opinion setting out common principles for setting up and operating share classes within UCITS funds.

The opinion paper follows ESMA’s previous discussion papers on share classes, issued in 2014 and 2016. We provided an update on the 2016 paper in April.

The UCITS Directive is silent on the definition and scope of share classes, so national practice diverges greatly as to the types of share classes which are permitted – ranging from no share classes to sophisticated classes which potentially have different investment strategies. ESMA is of the view that a common framework is required to protect investors and ensure a harmonised approach.

The opinion, which is addressed to national regulators, focuses on four high-level principles which must be followed when setting up and operating share classes in a UCITS. These principles closely follow the proposals of the 2016 paper, so there should be little of surprise for the industry.

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