Industry Developments

CTFC Approves Proposed Rules Addressing Application of Certain CEA Regulations to Cross-Border Transactions

On October 11, 2016, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC“) unanimously approved proposed rules relating to the application of certain swap provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CTFC to cross-border transactions. The proposed rules address, among other things, key terms for cross-border transactions, registration thresholds and external business conduct standards. The comment period ends 60 days after publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Press Release.

CFTC Extends No-Action Relief for Swap Execution Facilities from Certain “Block Trade” Requirements

On October 7, 2016, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC“) Division of Market Oversight extended time-limited no-action relief for swap execution facilities from the “occurs away” requirement from the definition of “block trade” under CFTC Regulation Section 43.2. Relief is extended until November 15, 2017. Press Release. No Action Letter.

The CFPB Publishes Final Rule for Prepaid Accounts


On October 5, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) finalized comprehensive consumer protections for prepaid account users that require, among other things, financial institutions to limit consumer losses when funds are stolen or cards are lost. The new rule also requires financial institutions to allow consumers free, easy access to account information and finalizes new “Know Before You Owe” disclosures to give consumers clear information about fees and other key details regarding prepaid accounts. Press Release. Final Rule.

The OCC Publishes Guidance Concerning Foreign Correspondent Banking Accounts


On October 5, 2016, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) issued risk management guidance that addresses periodic reevaluations of risks associated with foreign correspondent banking accounts. The guidance includes the OCC’s best practices for banks to consider when conducting reevaluations and making account termination and retention decisions. Press Release.

The OCC Proposes Rule to Address Concerns Relating to Exercise of Default Rights Under Qualified Financial Contracts


On October 3, 2016, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency proposed a rule to enhance the resilience of federally chartered and licensed financial institutions. The proposed rule addresses concerns relating to the exercise of default rights under certain financial contracts that could interfere with the orderly resolution of systemically important financial firms. The rule requires, among other things, covered banks to ensure that covered qualified financial contracts (i) limit the exercise of default rights based on the insolvency of an affiliate of a covered bank and (ii) contain contractual stay-and-transfer provisions analogous to the statutory stay-and-transfer provision set forth under title II of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act. Comments on the proposed rule are due on October 18, 2016. Press Release.

The OCC Publishes Final Guidelines on Recovery Planning


On September 29, 2016, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) published final guidelines establishing enforceable standards for recovery planning. The final guidelines generally apply to banks with average total consolidated assets of $50 billion or more (“covered banks”). If a covered bank fails to meet a guideline, the OCC may require such bank to submit a plan specifying steps the bank would take to comply with the guideline. If, after being notified that it is in violation of a guideline, a covered bank fails to submit an acceptable compliance plan or fails to materially comply with a plan approved by the OCC, the OCC may issue an order enforceable under section 8 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act. Press Release. Final Guidelines.

ECB Amends Eligibility Criteria for Unsecured Bank Bonds


On October 5, 2016, the European Central Bank (“ECB”) stated that it will be making changes to its collateral framework by revising the collateral eligibility criteria and risk control measures in relation to senior unsecured debt instruments issued by credit institutions or investment firms (unsecured bank bonds or UBBs).

Under the current rules, UBBs will, except for these new changes, become ineligible on January 1, 2017. The ECB’s revisions to its collateral framework are aimed at temporarily maintaining the eligibility of UBBs (including the eligibility of statutorily subordinated UBBs that are not also contractually subordinated), beyond January 1, 2017.

Furthermore, UBBs will also be subject to additional risk control measures to remain eligible. The ECB has decided to reduce, as of January 1, 2017, the usage limit for uncovered bank bonds from 5% to 2.5%. The reduction will not apply where:

  • the value of such assets is equal to or less than €50 million (net of any applicable haircut); or
  • such assets are guaranteed (by a public sector entity that has the right to levy taxes) by way of a guarantee that complies with the provisions of Article 114 of the ECB Guideline on the implementation of the Eurosystem monetary policy framework.

The changes are expected to come into effect from January 1, 2017.

FINRA and SEC Announce Tick Size Pilot Program


On October 3, 2016, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”)’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued an Investor Alert announcing a new National Market System (NMS) Plan that will implement a Tick Size Pilot Program (the “Pilot”) that will widen the minimum quoting and trading increment – sometimes called the “tick size” – for some small capitalization stocks. The goal of the Pilot is to study the effect of tick size on liquidity and trading of small capitalization stocks.

The Pilot has been implemented pursuant to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act which, among other things, directed the SEC to conduct a study and report to Congress on how decimalization affected the number of initial public offerings, and the liquidity and trading of securities of smaller capitalization companies.

Under the Pilot, the tick size will be widened from a penny ($0.01) to a nickel ($0.05) for specified securities listed on national securities exchanges (“Pilot Securities”). For some Pilot Securities, only quoting will need to occur in $0.05 increments, while for others, both quoting and trading generally will need to occur in increments of a nickel.

The Pilot will include a specified subset of the exchange-listed stocks of companies that have $3 billion or less in market capitalization, an average daily trading volume of one million shares or less and a volume-weighted average price of at least $2.00 for every trading day. There will be a control group of approximately 1,400 securities and three test groups, each with approximately 400 securities selected by a stratified sampling.

The Plot will run for a two-year period that will commence on October 3, 2016.

The data collected from the Pilot will be used by the SEC, national securities exchanges and FINRA to assess whether wider tick sizes enhance the market quality of these stocks for the benefit of issuers and investors—such as less volatility and increased liquidity.


SEC Adopts Rules for Enhanced Regulatory Framework for Securities Clearing Agencies

On September 28, 2016 the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) voted to adopt new rules to establish “enhanced standards for the operation and governance of securities clearing agencies that are deemed systematically important or that are involved in complex transactions, such as security-based swaps.” In addition, the SEC has proposed to apply these new standards to additional categories of securities clearing agencies, including all SEC-registered central counterparties. The rules will become effective sixty days after their publication in the Federal Register. Press release.