Tag: EC

FIA Sets Forth Five Core Principles in Enhancing CFTC Market Surveillance

In a response to a request by the CFTC’s Technology Advisory Committee for comment on how best to develop a 21st century surveillance system, the Financial Industry Association (FIA) and the FIA Principal Traders Group submitted a comment letter this week setting forth five core principles for modernizing market surveillance. In the comment letter, Walt Lukken, president and CEO of the FIA, urged the CFTC to rely heavily on existing resources moving forward, even as it “leverage[s] the evolving and changing technological landscape and reform[s] its surveillance and oversight mission in a significant and technologically-adept way.”

The FIA suggested that the CFTC approach surveillance modernization in a manner consistent with its longstanding practice of delegating front-line surveillance responsibilities to the exchanges themselves and that the regulatory body avoid building new systems that replicate those built or commissioned by existing exchanges. Even in implementing new enhanced cross-DCM surveillance routines, the FIA contended, the CFTC could utilize existing large trader and daily transaction reports to test and validate these processes. Additionally, the FIA stressed the importance of increasing the technical and analytical expertise of the CFTC staff through training and targeted hiring, and encouraged the CFTC to maintain data privacy as a priority in developing new market surveillance systems.

 

 

Massad Says CFTC Hampered by Budget Constraints

Recently appointed CFTC Chairman Tim Massad announced last week that there were “a lot of things” he would like to do to continue the CFTC’s goal of regulating financial markets, but that he is held back by strict congressional budget constraints. Referring to the CFTC’s role in promulgating regulations under Dodd-Frank, Massad pointed out, “Our budget hasn’t really increased very much, and yet we were given vastly expanded responsibilities in terms of the markets we cover.” Pointing to a shortfall in staff necessary to carry out the CFTC’s mandate, Massad stated that the CFTC was forced to “rely heavily on the [financial] industry to regulate itself.”

The CFTC’s budget woes have been exacerbated by House Republicans, who will not approve funding requests by the agency and by the White House, even while House Democrats claim that their congressional counterparties are trying to scuttle Dodd-Frank. The CFTC’s current budget is $215 and is unlikely to increase in the next fiscal year.

Massad, who had previously overseen the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) assured that he would be able to improve staff morale at the CFTC. Quoting Theodore Roosevelt, Massad said that he tells staff, “We’re going to do what we can with what we have.”

O’Malia Urges Regulators to “Do No Harm”

In a keynote address last week at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, CFTC Commissioner Scott O’Malia issued a stern warning to financial regulators in the United States and abroad that market fragmentation could have grave consequences on the world financial system. Borrowing a line from the principles that guide medical ethics, O’Malia urged regulators to “Do no harm” in enacting regulations. “Where our rules have proven unworkable” he continued, “it is incumbent upon us to fix them.”

Taking the medical analogy further, O’Malia expressed concern that financial regulations must be harmonized through substituted compliance and mutual recognition of other jurisdictions. “If systemic risk is a cancer of the global financial system,” he warned, “then the whole body must be treated to prevent its spread.” O’Malia, who has announced that that he will be resigning on August 8, pointed to legal, technological, and market abuse protection regimes that must be harmonized among the US and European Union financial systems in order to foster a strong global financial system. O’Malia recognized that such collaboration would require “serious technology investments,” but insisted that uncoordinated regulation of markets would yield an increase in systemic risk.

CFTC Delays Enforcement of Reporting for Cleared Swaps

The CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight this week granted no-action relief from certain requirements applicable to swap dealers and major swap participants regarding the reporting of swap transactions to swap data repositories. The no-action relief, issues June 30, 2014, extends previous no-action relief regarding the reporting of valuation data reporting of cleared swaps.

Under section 2(a)(13)(G) of the Commodity Exchange Act and part 45 of the CFTC’s regulations, reporting counterparties must submit both creation data (primary economic terms of a swap) and continuation data (any changes to the primary economic terms and all valuation data over the life of a swap). In granting the relief requested by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the CFTC acknowledged that swap dealers and major swap participants are experiencing difficulties in establishing the connectivity required to report the required valuation data for cleared swaps pursuant to CFTC regulation 45.4(b)(2)(ii). The no-action relief delays the enforcement of this regulation until June 30, 2015, giving covered parties an additional year in which to comply.

Congresswoman Urges Review of Bank Guarantees of Offshore Affiliates

Maxine Waters, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, urged the CFTC this week to begin investigating the offshore actions of Wall Street banks in avoiding certain mandates set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act. In a letter to Timothy Massad, the CFTC’s recently-confirmed chairman, Representative Waters criticized the removal by banks of parent guarantees from overseas affiliates, which allows banks to trade in the interdealer market while skirting Dodd-Frank restrictions aimed at increasing price competition and transparency. By cutting off these guarantees, banks are able to trade in the United States through swap execution facilities established under Dodd-Frank, while their non-guaranteed subsidiaries are subject only to local laws of foreign jurisdictions.

Rep. Waters also sent letters to the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In these correspondences, Rep. Waters reiterated that the CFTC should take a more aggressive stance in reviewing changes to the guarantees.

Senate Confirms Three New CFTC Commissioners

The US Senate Monday voted to approve the nomination of three new commissioners to the CFTC, including Timothy Massad, who will replace Gary Gensler as CFTC chairman. Mr. Massad had served from 2011 to October 2013 as the Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability at the Treasury Department and has overseen the Troubled Asset Relief Program created in response to the 2008 US financial crisis.

In addition, the Senate approved the nominations of Sharon Bowen and Christopher Giancarlo to serve as CFTC commissioners. While both Mr. Massad and Mr. Giancarlo were confirmed by voice votes, the Bowen’s confirmation proved more controversial, and she was ultimately confirmed by a 48-46 vote. Criticism of Ms. Bowen came mainly from the of the political spectrum, with Republican senators criticizing her role in overseeing a panel that denied compensation to victims of a $7 billion ponzi scheme.

The three new regulators will join Commissioners Mark Wetjen and Scott O’Malia on to fill out the CFTC’s five-member panel to continue the implementation of Dodd-Frank regulations begun under the oversight of Mr. Gensler.

CFTC Announces First Whistleblower Award

The CFTC announced last week its first award under the whistleblower award program initiated pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act. Under the program, eligible whistleblowers are entitled to a financial award where original information provided leads to a successful enforcement action and the collection of at least $1 million. Whistleblowers who file successful claims are also entitled to job security and confidentiality.

Though the identity of the awardee remains undisclosed, the CFTC Whistleblower Award Determination Panel deemed the information “sufficiently specific, credible, and timely to cause the Commission to open an investigation.” The unnamed whistleblower received an award of $240,000 for providing the information. Pursuant to CFTC Regulation 165.8, awards granted under the whistleblower program amount to between 10 and 30 percent of the total amount of sanctions collected from the enforcement action.

Prior to finalization of the relevant regulations, the CFTC received over 600 letters arguing that the proposed regulation provided insufficient protection to whistleblowers and instead sought to protect financial entities by limiting the pool of potential whistleblowers. Prior to the issuance of the award last week, the CFTC denied 25 whistleblower claims.

TeraExchange Announces First Bitcoin Derivative

TeraExchange has recently announced that it has created a swap involving the average exchange rate of bitcoin and plans to list it on its Swap Execution Facility.

This bitcoin derivative was created on behalf of two clients as a bilateral swap, and while neither party has acted upon the agreement, they are expected to soon, according to Reuters.

This agreement marks the first time a bitcoin derivative will be traded, and as such, it will be the first time the digital currency will come under regulation from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Bitcoin was created in 2009, with mainstream interest around the digital currency rising sharply over the last year.

A bitcoin derivative should prove to be an interesting swap to watch, as it has become rather notorious for its wild price fluctuations over the past few years. Just this December, Bitcoin’s value shot up to $1,200 and then quickly fell to $450. It is currently priced at around $500 dollars.

CFTC Public Utilities No-Action Letter Is Welcome Relief

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) released a no-action letter recently, offering relief to public utilities that were having trouble finding market participants willing to work with them for hedging purposes.

The public utilities no-action letter should clear up an issue with the definition of the word “swap dealer” that has been negatively affecting public utilities since 2012.

Under normal circumstances, any trader dealing swaps at a total notional volume of less than $8 billion dollars would be exempt from having to register as a swap dealer. However, for “special entities” like public utilities, exemption status was lowered significantly, with only entities trading a total notional volume of less than $25 million dollars qualifying for exemption.

Due to this lower threshold, market participant who traded with public utilities would be much more likely to have to register as swap dealers, which comes with a list of requirements such as margin, capital and business conduct.

Most market participants would rather not have to deal with these extra requirements, and, as a result, public utilities were left with very few trading entities willing to work with them.

The public utilities no-action letter states that market participants engaging in ‘utility operations-related’ trades with special entities will not have to register as swaps dealers, which should greatly improve hedging opportunities for public utilities.

CFTC Struggling to Utilize Current Swap Market Data

After a year of swap data reporting, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is yet to be able to make any sort of headway on the swap market data it has been collecting, leaving the nearly $700 trillion dollar industry no safer than it was before the 2008 financial crisis.

Among a list of reasons for this given by CFTC Commissioner Scott O’Malia during an event, O’Malia mentioned inconsistent reporting and technological issues as major pain points.

As it stands right now, the CFTC receives its swaps market data from several different swap data repositories (SDRs). Each SDR receives more than 60 million messages per week and have no uniform way of organizing this data, making it impossible for the CFTC to automate their data aggregation.

Without automation, the CFTC has to have two economists working fulltime solely to put together their weekly swaps report.

Outside of swap market data reporting issues, the CFTC’s budget is severely limiting the regulator’s ability to analyze data. The CFTC is notoriously underfunded, and is currently unable to update its technology in order to properly manage all the data it is receiving.

The CFTC will be receiving little sympathy from market professionals however, as many had warned that the CFTC was rushing through its rule implementation, and had mandated the reporting of data before having an idea of what data they would need or the best way to collect it.