Mr. Mathews, a partner in Orrick’s New York office, serves as Global Co-Head of the Derivatives group. He is also a member of the Structured Finance, Banking and Finance, and Energy and Infrastructure groups.

His practice focuses on representing financial institutions, governmental and regulated entities, hedge funds and corporate end-users in structuring and negotiating a broad range of fixed income, foreign exchange, commodity, energy and credit derivative products. Among other things, he has successfully negotiated numerous domestic and cross-border hedging transactions relating to leveraged loans and infrastructure transactions. In addition, Mr. Mathews has significant experience in foreign exchange and fixed income prime brokerage issues, as well as various structured products. He also regularly advises clients on derivatives regulation, including rules relating to the central clearing, exchange trading, reporting, recordkeeping and other requirements of the Dodd-Frank legislation, as well as the negotiation of related documentation.

Mr. Mathews is lead editor of Orrick’s publication, Derivatives in Review, which periodically highlights important legal, regulatory and other newsworthy developments in the area of derivatives. He has also published articles in several journals, including on rating agency hedge criteria in connection with structured finance transactions.

Before joining Orrick, Mr. Mathews was vice president and assistant general counsel at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and director and counsel at UBS AG. He also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Nicholas Tsoucalas of the United States Court of International Trade.

From 1999 to 2007, Mr. Mathews held a commission as a Captain in the United States Army Reserve, where he was qualified to practice as a Judge Advocate. A veteran of both Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, he served as an Operational and Administrative Law attorney in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Posts by: Nikiforos Mathews

CFTC Indicates Willingness to Help Incubate Fintech

 

J. Christopher Giancarlo, the acting chairman of the CFTC, has diverged from other U.S. federal regulators, signaling he favors “regulatory sandboxes” in which fintech companies may experiment with new ideas.  Unlike the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, Mr. Giancarlo’s approach is to “do no harm” to early-stage technology such as blockchain, and is in line with proposals by regulators in the U.K. and Singapore, among other fintech hubs.

In a recent Bloomberg BNA article, Nikiforos Mathews, partner and global co-head of Derivatives at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, gives his take on the acting chairman’s position, noting that “I see a focus on trying to understand the technology and its potential benefits and fostering the advancement of the fintech sector in a way that it’s under the watchful eye of the regulators,” and suggesting that the agency may designate technology focused specialists to work with fintech innovators such that there is “breathing room” for growth and experimentation.  “At the end of the day, with early regulatory involvement, regulators are going to understand the market better and put out smarter rules,” Mathews said.

Regulation AT – An Update

 

From the time Regulation AT was initially proposed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) over a year ago, the CFTC has solicited and considered numerous comment letters, held a public roundtable, supplemented the proposed regulation, and, on January 23, 2017, extended the comment period for that supplemental proposal. However, although the substance of the regulation has evolved in certain respects, its future remains uncertain. READ MORE

Recent Blockchain Regulatory Developments

 

Blockchain and distributed ledger technology (“DLT”) applications outside of the bitcoin context are attracting the attention of financial entities, prompting regulators to become increasingly focused on these possible applications.[1]  Recently, for example: (i) potential financial and securities applications of DLT were discussed in depth at a “FinTech Forum” held at the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”); (ii) the Federal Reserve Board published a paper titled “Distributed Ledger Technology in Payments, Clearing, and Settlement”; and (iii) the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) published a paper titled “Distributed Ledger Technology: Implications of Blockchain for the Securities Industry.”[2]  Each of these recent developments is discussed in turn below. READ MORE

CFTC Proposes Amendments to Recordkeeping Requirements

 

On January 12, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) unanimously approved the proposal of numerous amendments to CFTC Regulation 1.31, the regulation that sets forth the recordkeeping requirements for records required to be kept under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act (the “Act”) and the CFTC’s regulations, including with respect to swaps.[1]  The proposed amendments are largely intended to modernize and make technology-neutral the form and manner in which regulatory records are kept.[2]

The last major revision of Regulation 1.31 was made in 1999, when records were largely kept in paper form and before the prevalence of advanced electronic information systems. [3]  Through the proposed amendments, the CFTC intends to update, reorganize and, effectively, re-write Regulation 1.31, while maintaining its ability to examine and inspect required records.[4] READ MORE

CFTC Delays Reduction in Swap Dealer De Minimis Exception Threshold

 

On October 13, 2016, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) approved an Order delaying for one year the reduction of the threshold for determining whether an entity constitutes a “swap dealer” for purposes of the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act.[1]  Currently, persons are not considered to be swap dealers unless their swap dealing activity in aggregate gross notional amount measured over the prior 12-month period exceeds a de minimis threshold of $8 billion.  This threshold had been scheduled to automatically decline to $3 billion on December 31, 2017, but the Order extended that date to December 31, 2018, absent further action from the CFTC. READ MORE

CFTC Expands Swap Clearing Requirement

 

On September 28, 2016, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) unanimously approved the expansion of currencies of interest rate swaps subject to mandatory clearing under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act (the “Act”).[1]  Subjecting standardized swaps to central clearing is intended to decrease risk in the financial system and has been a primary goal of global regulators for several years.

Section 2(h) of the Act makes it unlawful for any person to engage in a swap that is required to be centrally cleared unless that swap is submitted to a derivatives clearing organization (a “DCO”) that is either registered under the Act or exempt from registration under the Act.[2]  This same section of the Act sets forth the process through which the CFTC is to make determinations of whether a swap, or group, category, type or class of swaps should be subject to mandatory clearing.[3] READ MORE

ISDA Publishes White Paper on Future of Derivatives Processing and Market Infrastructure

 

In September 2016, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (“ISDA”) published a wide-ranging white paper entitled “The Future of Derivatives Processing and Market Infrastructure.”[1]  The white paper proposes a “path forward” from the new regulatory ecosystem created in response to the financial crisis and the resulting compliance burden on market participants.

As described in the white paper, tight time frames for complying with regulatory requirements prevented market participants in various jurisdictions from making necessary changes to compliance, operational risk management, and other processes in an optimal manner. The resulting complex workflows have created challenges.  The white paper’s proposals are intended to foster a “standardized, efficient, robust and compliant ecosystem that supports the needs of an array of market participants.”[2]  In particular, the white paper identifies three key areas for improvement: (i) standardization; (ii) collaboration; and (iii) technology. READ MORE

An Overview of Proposed Regulation AT

Orrick attorneys authored an overview of Regulation Automated Trading (known as “Regulation AT”) proposed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) in the May/June 2016 issue of the Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions.  The “overarching goal” of proposed Regulation AT is to update the CFTC’s rules in response to the development and prevalence of electronic trading.  The article is titled “Regulation Automated Trading in Derivatives: An Overview of the CFTC’s Proposed Regulation AT” and is available here.

CFTC Considers Blockchain Technology

The disruptive effects of blockchain technology on the financial system may take several years to materialize. Nevertheless, in preparation, regulators are increasingly focused on understanding potential uses of blockchain technology and considering related legal issues.  Many regulators are already familiar with bitcoin, the popular virtual currency underpinned by blockchain technology.[1]  As discussed below, the bitcoin blockchain, which records and makes publicly available every transaction ever made in that virtual currency, is a “distributed ledger” created by a “consensus algorithm” that ensures that each local copy of the distributed ledger is identical to every other local copy.  It is widely expected that such distributed ledger technology (“DLT”) will be used in the future to track the ownership of financial, legal, physical, electronic, and other types of assets and, as discussed below, to automate the performance of certain contracts.

The CFTC has begun to consider the implications of DLT with respect to the derivatives markets. For example, a meeting of the CFTC Technology Advisory Committee (the “TAC”) on February 23, 2016 featured a panel presentation, titled “Blockchain and the Potential Application of Distributed Ledger Technology to the Derivatives Markets.”[2]  In addition, CFTC Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo has recently given numerous speeches on the topic to various groups, including Markit Group and the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.[3]  An overview of DLT is provided below, followed by a summary of certain points, including legal considerations, from the TAC meeting and Commissioner Giancarlo’s speeches. READ MORE

SEC Amends Rules on Security-Based Swap Reporting

On July 13, 2016, the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) approved certain amendments and guidance to the rules governing the reporting and public dissemination of security-based swaps (“SBS”), known as “Regulation SBSR,”[1] which were adopted in February 2015.  The amendments and guidance are intended to increase transparency in the SBS market.

Generally, Regulation SBSR provides for the reporting of SBS information to registered security-based swap data repositories (“SBSDRs”), as well as the public dissemination of SBS transaction data. The amendments and guidance address certain open issues in the Regulation SBSR adopting release, and also clarify how Regulation SBSR would apply to SBS activity engaged in by non-U.S. persons within the United States. READ MORE