Just one day in advance of the December 21, 2013 expiration of the CFTC’s exemptive order delaying the applicability of some CFTC swap regulations for non-U.S. swap dealers and foreign branches of U.S. swap dealers, the CFTC approved a series of comparability determinations. These comparability determinations will allow CFTC-registered non-U.S. swap dealers and foreign branches of U.S. swap dealers to comply with local requirements rather than the corresponding CFTC rules in cases where substituted compliance is available under the CFTC’s cross-border guidance.  The CFTC made comparability determinations for some swap dealer entity-level requirements for Australia, Canada, the European Union (the “EU”), Hong Kong, Japan and Switzerland and for a limited number of transaction-level requirements for the EU and Japan.
Posts Tagged ‘Swaps’
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:
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (“BCBS”) and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“IOSCO”) on September 2 released their final policy framework on margin requirements for uncleared derivatives (the “Framework”). The Framework, which follows two proposals on the topic from BCBS and IOSCO (the “Proposals”), is intended to establish minimum standards for uncleared derivatives margin rules in the jurisdictions of BCBS and IOSCO’s members, which includes the United States.
The Framework is designed to provide guidance to national regulators in implementing G-20 commitments for uncleared derivatives margin requirements. In the United States, the Dodd-Frank Act, reflecting the same G-20 commitments, requires the SEC, CFTC and banking regulators to adopt initial and variation margin requirements for swap dealers and major swap participants (“MSPs”) under their supervision.  The U.S. regulators have proposed rules to implement these requirements (the “U.S. Proposals”), but have not yet adopted final rules, in part due to the ongoing BCBS/IOSCO efforts. The Framework is similar in concept to the U.S. Proposals, but differs in a number of significant respects. Appendix A summarizes the Framework and the three U.S. Proposals, highlighting a number of the key differences.
With the Framework finalized, we expect that U.S. regulators will work to issue final rules implementing uncleared swap margin requirements in the coming months.
On July 12, 2013, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) approved the issuance of an interpretive guidance and policy statement (the “Guidance”) regarding the cross-border application of the swaps provisions of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”). Although the CFTC may continue to refine its approach to the cross-border regulation of swaps, the Guidance is intended to finalize the proposed interpretive guidance and policy statement issued on July 12, 2012 (the “Proposed Guidance”). Like the Proposed Guidance before it, the Guidance represents the CFTC’s attempt to meet its statutory mandate to (1) regulate swaps that “have a direct and significant connection with activities in, or effect on, commerce of the United States” and (2) prevent the evasion of the swaps provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.
In brief, the Guidance: (1) defines “US person” and “non-US person,” which are key for applying the CFTC’s extraterritorial framework; (2) establishes the calculation and aggregation methodologies used for determining whether non-US persons engage in swap transactions at levels that trigger swap dealer (“SD”) or major swap participant (“MSP”) registration; (3) categorizes “Entity-Level Requirements” and “Transaction-Level Requirements” and describes their extraterritorial application; (4) discusses the “substituted compliance” framework; and (5) describes the requirements applicable to nonregistered swap participants (“Non-Registrants”).
The CFTC also issued an exemptive order (the “Order”) that effectively provides for the phased implementation of certain aspects of the Guidance. The Order, in many respects, builds upon relief granted in prior CFTC exemptive orders.
Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and new Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) rules require that, subject to certain exceptions, swap counterparties clear swaps at a clearing house and execute them on a facility or exchange. One of these exceptions is the “end-user exception,” which may be available for companies that are not “financial entities” and that use swaps to manage risk. There are several requirements that these entities must meet in order to rely on the end-user exception. For public companies, these include taking certain governance steps that involve board-level approval of the company’s use of uncleared swaps and review of company policies on swaps. With the CFTC clearing requirements applicable to non-financial entities scheduled to take effect September 9, public companies can position themselves to take advantage of the end-user exception by completing these steps in the next few months.
The working paper, Hardwired Conflicts: The Big Bang Protocol, Libor and the Paradox of Private Ordering, examines the darker side of the private market structures at the heart of the global financial system.
Imagine we allowed referees to place bets on the sporting events they officiated. On one level, this would almost certainly offend our sense of fair play. On another level, however, we might ultimately view this as unproblematic insofar as teams were able to freely contract with those referees willing to make credible commitments not to exploit such conflicts of interest, and so long as compliance with these contracts was relatively easy to monitor and enforce. Imagine now, however, that there exists a limited number of qualified referees, that these referees coordinate in the development of a standard form contract which does not prohibit betting on games, and that they collectively enjoy sufficient market power to ensure that these contracts receive widespread adoption. Imagine further that the costs of determining whether a referee had in fact wagered on a game are extremely high and, as a corollary, that there exists no credible threat of either private contractual enforcement or market-based (reputational) sanctions. Given these additional facts, we might be of the view that this state of affairs is likely to undermine confidence in the integrity of the game. Indeed, it is precisely for this reason that professional sports leagues prohibit referees from wagering on games. It seems remarkable, therefore, that we permit this type of activity in the most high stakes game of all: finance.