On September 3, 2014, U.S. banking regulators re-proposed margin, capital and segregation requirements applicable to swap entities  for uncleared swaps.  The new proposed rules modify significantly the regulators’ original 2011 proposal in light of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s and the International Organization of Securities Commissions’ (“BCBS/IOSCO”) issuance of their 2013 final policy framework on margin requirements for uncleared derivatives and the comments received on the original proposal. The revised proposal:
Posts Tagged ‘Swaps’
September 22, 2014 (the “Implementation Date”) will mark a new chapter in the credit derivatives market with the implementation of the new 2014 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “New Definitions”). The New Definitions constitute a major reform of the terms governing credit derivatives products and address numerous issues identified this past decade with regard to credit and succession events and in the context of the Eurozone crisis. Most new credit derivatives trades entered into after the Implementation Date will follow the New Definitions, which are expected to ultimately fully replace the 2003 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “Old Definitions”) in the market. Market participants will also have the opportunity to adopt the New Definitions for their portfolio of existing trades.
This post provides an overview of the most significant amendments made to the Old Definitions and describes how the market will migrate to the New Definitions.
For most commercial end-users of swaps, the mandatory clearing requirement under Dodd-Frank first became applicable on September 9, 2013. Since then, many commercial end-users have relied on the so called “end-user exception” from the clearing mandate to continue executing uncleared swaps with their dealer counterparties. The end-user exception is subject to several conditions, which for SEC filers include undertaking certain corporate governance steps. The generally applicable conditions include reporting of certain information including how the entity relying on the exception generally meets its financial obligations, which reporting may be done annually. In discussing the corporate governance steps that SEC filers must undertake to avail themselves of the exception, the CFTC noted that it expects policies governing the relevant entity’s use of swaps under the end-user exception to be reviewed at least annually (and more often upon triggering events). With the one year anniversary of the initial clearing mandate approaching, this post reviews the scope of the mandate as well as important related requirements and exceptions (including the annual reports and reviews that may be undertaken in the course of qualifying for the exception).
Today [June 25, 2014], the Commission will consider a recommendation of the staff to adopt core rules and critical guidance on cross-border security-based swap activities under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act created an important and entirely new regulatory framework for the over-the-counter derivatives market. Transforming this framework into a series of strong rules is one of the most important tasks remaining before the Commission in discharging our responsibility to address the lessons of the last financial crisis. The events of 2008 and 2009—and the significant role derivatives played in those events—still reverberate throughout our economy.
Properly constructed, the Commission’s rules under Title VII should mitigate significant risks to the U.S. financial system, bring transparency to previously opaque bilateral markets, and provide critical new protections for swap customers and counterparties. And the vital regulatory protections of Title VII are not confined to large multi-national banks and other market participants—they are also essential to preserving the stability of a financial system that is vital to all Americans.
Earlier this year, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. (ISDA) published the 2014 Credit Derivatives Definitions (the 2014 Definitions). The 2014 Definitions introduce a new government bail-in Credit Event trigger for credit default swap (CDS) contracts on financial Reference Entities in non-U.S. jurisdictions and also modify the typical terms of sovereign CDS contracts in light of the Greek debt crisis, by allowing a buyer of protection to deliver upon settlement the assets into which the Reference Obligation has converted even if such assets are not otherwise deliverable. Further, they create a concept of a Standard Reference Obligation, which means that most CDS contracts on a given Reference Entity would have the same Reference Obligation, thereby increasing the fungibility of such CDS contracts.
The SEC provided the “who” but not much else in its final rule regarding cross-border security-based swap activities (“final rule”), released at the SEC’s June 25, 2014 open meeting. Although most firms have already implemented a significant portion of the CFTC’s swaps regulatory regime (which governs well over 90% of the market), the SEC’s oversight of security-based swaps means that the SEC’s cross-border framework and its outstanding substantive rulemakings (e.g., clearing, reporting, etc.) have the potential to create rules that conflict with the CFTC’s approach. The impact that the SEC’s regulatory framework will have on the market remains uncertain, but the final rule at least begins to lay out the SEC’s cross-border position.
Dealers and major participants play a crucial role in the derivatives market, a market that has been estimated to exceed $710 trillion worldwide, of which more than $14 trillion represents transactions in security-based swaps. In the United States, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and the SEC share responsibility for regulating the derivatives market. Out of the total derivatives market, the SEC is responsible for regulating security-based swaps. As evidenced in the most recent financial crisis, the unregulated derivatives market had devastating effects on our economy and U.S. investors. In response to this crisis, Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act and directed both the CFTC and SEC to promulgate an effective regulatory framework to oversee the derivatives market.
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 Act established that certain swap contracts which previously were traded bilaterally (directly between buyers and sellers) must be traded through clearinghouses instead. Critics of this clearing mandate have mounted two main objections: a clearinghouse shifts risk instead of reducing it; and a clearinghouse could fail, requiring a bailout. In my article Clearinghouses as Liquidity Partitioning, recently published in the Cornell Law Review, I counter both objections by showing that clearinghouses engage in a socially valuable function that I term liquidity partitioning. Liquidity partitioning means that when one of its member firms becomes bankrupt, a clearinghouse keeps a portion of the firm’s most liquid assets, and a matching portion of its short‑term debt, out of the bankruptcy estate. The clearinghouse then applies the first toward immediate repayment of the second. Economic value is created because the surviving clearinghouse members are paid much more quickly than they would be in a bankruptcy proceeding. Meanwhile, the bankrupt member’s outside creditors are not paid any less quickly: they still are paid at the end of the bankruptcy proceeding, which the clearinghouse does nothing to prolong. These rapid cash payouts for clearinghouse members reduce illiquidity and uncertainty in the financial sector, the main causes of contagion in a crisis. And because the clearinghouse holds only liquid assets, it avoids the maturity mismatch between short‑term liabilities and long‑term assets that characterizes the balance sheets of many financial institutions. A clearinghouse therefore is much less likely than its members to fail during a crisis.
A clearinghouse achieves liquidity partitioning by engaging in netting. Thus, when a member fails, the clearinghouse uses short‑term debts owed to the member to immediately repay short‑term debts owed by the member. In this way, cash is intercepted on its way toward the bankruptcy estate and redirected toward other financial firms, who may be suffering their own liquidity shortages. The clearinghouse thereby shifts cash from lower-value to higher-value uses, decreasing liquidity pressure on the financial sector and thus the need during a crisis for a taxpayer-funded bailout.
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) Rules 23.702 and 23.703 thereunder (together, the “Rules”), swap dealers are required to notify their counterparties that they have the right to require segregation with a third-party custodian of any initial margin (also known as “independent amounts”) posted to the swap dealer in connection with uncleared swaps. As a result of these new rules, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (“ISDA”) recently published a form of notification and a set of frequently asked questions regarding these rules. All buy-side entities that trade in uncleared swaps with swap dealers (including buy-side entities that already post their margin with a third-party custodian, such as registered investment companies, and buy-side entities that do not post initial margin) should receive a copy of the notification from their swap dealer counterparties in the coming weeks or months and should plan to respond promptly to the notification in order to avoid any trading disruptions.