On October 15, 2014, the Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight (the “Division”) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or “Commission”) issued CFTC No-Action Letter No. 14-126 (“Letter 14-126”), which sets forth a number of conditions with which commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) that delegate their CPO responsibilities (the “Delegating CPO”) to registered CPOs (the “Designated CPO”) must comply in order to take advantage of no-action relief from the requirement to register as a CPO. The CPO community has anxiously awaited this letter because it clarifies the activities in which a Delegating CPO may engage and still qualify for relief from the requirement to register as a CPO. Essentially, the Letter makes more liberal several of the conditions set forth in CFTC Letter No. 14-69 (May 12, 2014) (“Letter 14-69” and, together with Letter 14-126, the “Letters”),  with which many Delegating CPOs could not comply. In addition, Letter 14-126 makes the relief self-executing, i.e., no form requesting relief or even a notice need be filed.
Posts Tagged ‘Commodities’
The Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight (the “Division”) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or the “Commission”) recently issued CFTC Letter No. 14-69 (May 12, 2014) (the “Letter”), which provides to certain commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) who delegate (the “Delegating CPO”) their CPO responsibilities to registered CPOs (the “Designated CPO”) a standardized, streamlined approach to apply for no-action relief from the requirement to register as a CPO. The Division previously has granted no-action relief to many Delegating CPOs on an individualized basis. However, the Division recently has seen a substantial increase in the number of no-action requests after the rescission of the CPO exemption from registration in Regulation 4.13(a)(4) and the adoption of a broad definition of the types of swaps subject to CFTC regulation. This streamlined approach will eliminate the need for many, but not all, Delegating CPOs to apply for individualized no-action relief, a more labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor. However, this approach is available only under certain circumstances described below, and not all Delegating CPOs will qualify.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) amended section 4a of the Commodity Exchange Act (the “CEA”) to require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) to establish position limits on an aggregate basis for (1) futures and options contracts on agricultural and exempt commodities traded on or subject to the rules of a designated contract market (“DCM”) and (2) contracts based on the same underlying commodity as such futures and option contracts, including (a) swaps listed for trading by a DCM or swap execution facility (“SEF”), (b) swaps that are not traded on a DCM, SEF or other registered entity but which are determined to perform or affect a “significant price discovery function” (“SPDF swaps”) and (c) foreign board of trade (“FBOT”) contracts that are price-linked to a DCM or SEF contract and made available for trading on the FBOT by direct access from within the United States.
Bankruptcy law in the United States, which serves as an important precedent for the treatment of derivatives under insolvency law worldwide, gives creditors in derivatives transactions special rights and immunities in the bankruptcy process, including virtually unlimited enforcement rights against the debtor (hereinafter, the “safe harbor”). The concern is that these special rights and immunities grew incrementally, primarily due to industry lobbying and without a systematic and rigorous vetting of their consequences.
This type of legislative accretion process is a form of path dependence—a process in which the outcome is shaped by its historical path. To understand path dependence, consider Professor Mark Roe’s example of an 18th century fur trader who cuts a winding path through the woods to avoid dangers. Later travelers follow this path, and in time it becomes a paved road and houses and industry are erected alongside. Although the dangers that affected the fur trader are long gone, few question the road’s inefficiently winding route.
On November 5, 2013, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposed rules to establish new position limits that would apply to 28 agricultural, energy and metals futures contracts, and swaps, futures and options that are economically equivalent to those contracts.  Once adopted, the proposal would reinstate, with certain changes, the position limit rules that were vacated by a U.S. federal court in 2012 (the “Vacated Rules”).  The CFTC also re-proposed aggregation standards that are similar to those initially proposed as amendments to the Vacated Rules, but with a few notable differences, to be used in applying position limits (the “Aggregation Proposal”). 
The proposals would:
On November 5, 2013, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC” or “Commission”) held a public meeting during which it:
- Voted 3-1, with commissioner O’Malia dissenting, to propose for public comment a new set of rules on position limits (the “Proposed Rules”) applicable to options, futures, and swaps contracts (“derivatives”) related to 28 agricultural, metal, and energy commodities;
- Confirmed that it will voluntarily dismiss its appeal of the September 2012 decision from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the “Court”) vacating the Commission’s previous attempt at imposing position limits across derivatives (the “Original Position Limit Rules”); and
- Voted unanimously to propose separately for public comment rules that would expand the availability of aggregation exemptions, as compared to the Original Position Limit Rules, from the CFTC’s aggregation standards applicable to position limits for futures and swaps (the “Proposed Aggregation Rules”).
On September 30, 2013, the Division of Market Oversight of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) released responses to Frequently Asked Questions regarding Commodity Options (FAQ). While intended to be provide non-binding guidance to affected market participants, the FAQ also serves to highlight the significant complexity of the current analysis required for commodity options.
Andrew K. Soto, Senior Managing Counsel for Regulatory Affairs of the American Gas Association (AGA), in written testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management at a recent hearing regarding the Future of the CFTC: End-User Perspectives effectively summarized this complexity as follows:
On August 13, 2013, the CFTC adopted final rule amendments to accept compliance with the disclosure, reporting and recordkeeping regime administered by the SEC as substituted compliance for substantially all of part 4 of the CFTC’s regulations that are applicable to CPOs of funds registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940.  The adopting release broadens the approach set forth in the harmonization proposals issued by the CFTC in February 2012  and provides, among other things, that if the CPO of registered funds satisfies all applicable SEC rules for such funds as well as certain other conditions, it will be deemed in compliance with the CFTC’s rules regarding:
- delivery of disclosure documents to each prospective participant in any pool that a CPO operates (Section 4.21); 
- distribution of account statements to each participant in any pool that a CPO operates (Sections 4.22(a) and (b));
- provision of information that must appear in a CPO’s disclosure documents (Section 4.24), including performance disclosures (Section 4.25); and
- the use, amendment and filing of disclosure documents (Section 4.26).
Additionally, the CFTC’s final rule amendments modify certain CFTC disclosure and reporting requirements that are applicable to all CPOs and CTAs:
When people think of Tahoe, they may ponder “Tahoe, oh—skiing, the Lake, maybe golf or gambling. Heck, let’s go.” But today, well, let’s switch it up and talk about the Old West and Tahoe aglow, back in the day. This is a fitting place to do just that. The Ponderosa Ranch, from Bonanza, was just over yonder, on the Nevada side of the Lake. Remember the Cartwright’s? There was Ben who survived three wives, but begets a son from each one: Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe. And just a few miles from here, they hold the Genoa Cowboy Festival at the site of the first ranch in Nevada. (Not the Mustang Ranch—that’s 15 minutes east of Reno. Hey, you at the door, where ya going?) The first ranch in Nevada was Trimmer Ranch No. 1. Let’s assume there were others. The oldest saloon in Nevada is also in Genoa. A portion of the original bar from the 1800’s is still in use. And, the local phone book lists at least 25 places to “get your boots on” and get a pair.
Right about now, some of you might be thinking, “Whoa, hold your horses there, long hair.” Isn’t this supposed to be about financial regulation or commodity markets or something?” Yeah, Sundance, it is. We’re just going to kick up the dust a bit as we “tumble along with the tumbling tumbleweeds” and have our cordial conversationalizing. After all, like George Strait sings, “I ain’t here for a long time. I’m here for a good time.” So, let’s get to it and talk some about the Old West and our financial markets today.
On July 19, 2013, Barbara Hagenbaugh, a spokeswoman for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) made the surprising announcement that the Federal Reserve “is reviewing the 2003 determination that certain commodity activities are complementary to financial activities and thus permissible for bank holding companies.” The statement, upon which the Federal Reserve did not elaborate, seems to call into question the physical commodities trading activities (Physical Commodities Trading) that certain financial holding companies (FHCs), both domestic and foreign, have engaged in for the better part of the last decade.
This post describes the justifications for the original Federal Reserve conclusion that, under Section 4(k) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (BHC Act), Physical Commodities Trading is complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety and soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally. It then analyzes these justifications in light of the current state of the financial system and enhanced regulatory environment, which support the conclusion that the Federal Reserve’s original view of Section 4(k) continues to be a reasonable interpretation of the statute.