Posts by: Editorial Board

Extension of Certain Dodd-Frank No-Action Relief


On May 1, 2014, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) established a phased compliance timeline for the implementation of the trade execution requirement[1] currently applicable to certain interest rate swaps and credit default swaps executed as part of a “package transaction.”[2]  Earlier this year, the CFTC had provided no-action relief that would have required all swaps that are part of a package transaction to be traded either on a designated contract market or on a swap execution facility after May 15, 2014.[3] READ MORE

CFTC Establishes Expedited Process for Relief for Certain Delegating CPOs


On May 12, 2014, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued guidance[1] (the “CPO Guidance”) establishing the circumstances under which it intends to provide registration no-action relief through a streamlined process where a commodity pool operator (“CPO”) has delegated investment management authority with respect to a commodity pool to another person registered as a CPO.  The CFTC had historically received requests for, and in some cases issued, such no-action relief, but without the benefit of a streamlined approach.

A CPO is generally defined under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act to include a person engaged in a business that is of the nature of a commodity pool or similar form of enterprise and who markets interests in a commodity pool and solicits, accepts or receives customer funds for investment in the pool for the purpose of trading in “commodity interests.”  Pursuant to modifications made in connection with Dodd-Frank, “commodity interests” are now defined to include swaps.[2]

In the CPO Guidance, the CFTC included a form of request for no-action relief, which provides for certifications and acknowledgements to be made by both the delegating and designated CPOs.  Significantly, the delegating CPO is to represent that the applicable “criteria” for relief, as set forth in the CPO Guidance, are met.  Similarly, the designated CPO is to acknowledge that it meets all the applicable “criteria.”  These criteria include, inter alia, that: (i) the delegation of investment management authority has been made (from the delegating CPO to the designated CPO) with respect to the commodity pool pursuant to a “legally binding document”; (ii) the designated CPO is registered as a CPO; (iii) there is a business reason for the designated CPO being a separate entity from the delegating CPO that is not solely to avoid registration by the delegating CPO; and (iv) the books and records of the delegating CPO with respect to the commodity pool are maintained by the designated CPO in accordance with CFTC Regulation 1.31.

[1] CFTC Staff Letter No. 14-69, Requesting Registration No-Action Relief on an Expedited Basis for Commodity Pool Operators who Delegate Certain Activities to a Registered Commodity Pool Operator under Certain Circumstances (May 12, 2014).

[2] See 7 U.S.C. 1a(11)(A)(i)(I).  The corresponding definition of “commodity pool” was amended to read, in relevant part, “any investment trust, syndicate, or similar form of enterprise operated for the purpose of trading in commodity interests, including any . . . swap.”  7 U.S.C. § 1a(10) (emphasis added).

Collateral Segregation Notices for Uncleared Swaps


Consistent with a final rule issued by the Commodity Future Trading Commission last year (the “IM Segregation Rule”),[1] registered swap dealers have begun to notify counterparties prior to the execution of uncleared swaps that counterparties may require that any initial margin be “segregated,” that is, held at an independent custodian in an individual account separate from margin posted by other swap dealer counterparties. READ MORE

NYS Bar Association Tax Session Issues Report on Section 871(m) Regulations


On May 20, 2014, the New York State Bar Association Tax Session issued a Report on Proposed Regulations under Section 871(m) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.  The report addresses proposed regulations that the Internal Revenue Service issued in December 2013 concerning withholding on equity-linked financial instruments that reference U.S. stocks.[1]  The report, available here, was co-authored by Orrick partner Peter J. Connors.

[1] A past issue of Derivatives in Review (available here) also reported on those proposed regulations.


ISDA Publishes Section 2(a)(iii) Form of Amendment


In June 2014, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (“ISDA”) published a form of amendment relating to Section 2(a)(iii) of the preprinted form of ISDA Master Agreement.  Section 2(a)(iii) generally permits a contracting party to withhold performance indefinitely if an event of default or potential event of default has occurred and is continuing (or an early termination date has been designated) with respect to its counterparty.  ISDA initially announced an initiative to evaluate and address issues arising under Section 2(a)(iii) in 2011.

As previously discussed in Derivatives in Review, Section 2(a)(iii) has been treated inconsistently by courts across various jurisdictions in recent years, leading to market uncertainty regarding the ability of a non-defaulting party to indefinitely withhold performance.  The form of amendment effectively allows a defaulting party to impose a limit on the non-defaulting party’s right to suspend performance by designating a “condition end date” to that suspension of performance (the form of amendment suggests 90 days after notice by the defaulting party for this period), after which a non-defaulting party either must perform (together with payment of interest[1] on withheld amounts or other compensation in respect of withheld delivery), or terminate.

[1] Such interest would be payable at the “Non-default Rate,” which is defined: (i) under the 1992 ISDA Master Agreement, as a rate equal to the cost (without proof or evidence of any actual cost) to the non-defaulting party if it were to fund the relevant amount, as certified by it; and (ii) under the 2002 ISDA Master Agreement, as a rate offered to the non-defaulting party, as certified by it, by a major bank in a relevant interbank market for overnight deposits in the applicable currency, such banks selected in good faith by the non-defaulting party for the purpose of obtaining a representative rate that will reasonably reflect conditions prevailing at the time in that relevant market.

Publication of 2014 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions


On February 21, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (“ISDA”) announced the publication of the 2014 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “2014 CD Definitions”), which amend several terms that existed in the 2003 version of the definitions, and introduce several new terms based on “lessons learned.”

The most important new terms in the 2014 CD Definitions are in response to events affecting financial institutions and sovereign entities that have occurred since the introduction of the 2003 version of definitions, including governmental interventions in bank debt.  These new terms include an entirely new credit event known as “Governmental Intervention,”[1] which is intended to be triggered upon a government-initiated “bail-in”[2] or debt restructuring, as well as a provision for delivery of instruments resulting from a government-initiated debt exchange. READ MORE

Bitcoin: The Virtual Currency Market Emerges


Bitcoin is a “virtual” currency that was developed in 2008 and has gained increased acceptance as a form of payment and as a recognized asset in currency exchange markets, as reflected by the granting in 2013 of “XBT” as its ISO currency code.  Alternative virtual currencies also have been established, but none has approached the popularity of bitcoin.

The founder (or, perhaps, founders) of bitcoin used the pseudonym of “Satoshi Nakamoto” and remains unknown, although certain news sources recently claimed to have identified him.  However, this founder was present on bitcoin blogs for some time, where he articulated that bitcoin was intended to be immune from the possibility of corruption by governments, central banks and other third parties because such entities would not be empowered to directly affect the issuance or exchange of the currency.  Instead, as further described below, bitcoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer digital-payments system.  The Bitcoin Foundation, an advocacy group, “standardizes, protects and promotes” the use of bitcoin.  It has been primarily funded by grants from for-profit companies that depend on bitcoin, such as CoinLab (an investor in new technologies and business in the bitcoin marketplace), Mt. Gox (formerly a bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo) and BitInstant (formerly a means to rapidly pay traditional funds to bitcoin exchanges).  The latter two companies are now defunct. READ MORE

Dodd-Frank Trade Execution Developments


In February 2014, certain categories of interest rate swaps and index credit default swaps became subject to the trade execution requirement under Dodd-Frank.  As a result, those product types may no longer be traded bilaterally over-the-counter but, rather, must be executed on a swap execution facility (“SEF”) or designated contract market (“DCM”), unless an exemption or exception applies.  A product type becomes subject to the trade execution requirement when (i) it is required to be cleared under a CFTC clearing determination[1] and (ii) a SEF or DCM has made it “available to trade” (i.e., the SEF or DCM must demonstrate that it lists or offers that swap for trading on its trading system or platform and has considered various factors such as “whether there are ready and willing buyers and sellers”), as approved by the CFTC.[2]  If, however, a particular swap qualifies for an exemption or exception from the Dodd-Frank clearing requirement, it generally will be exempt or excepted from the trade execution requirement as well. READ MORE

Lehman Court Finds Safe Harbors Protect Damage Calculation Provisions In Swap


An important opinion involving swaps was issued recently in the Lehman litigation.  Specifically, this opinion protects a non-debtor counterparty’s right to rely on a contractually agreed methodology for damages calculations upon the liquidation of a safe harbored swap agreement, even if the debtor’s bankruptcy triggers the provision.  For a summary of this opinion and its implications, click here.

No-Action Relief Relating to the Inter-Affiliate Exemption Under Dodd-Frank


On March 6, 2014, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued two no-action letters relating to the April 2013 inter-affiliate exemption from the clearing requirement (the “Inter-Affiliate Exemption”).[1]  Pursuant to the Inter-Affiliate Exemption, the clearing requirement generally will not apply to any swap for which either (i) the counterparties have a common majority-owning parent or (ii) one counterparty is a majority owner of the other (“Eligible Affiliate Counterparties”), provided that certain additional requirements are met.[2]  One such requirement is that each Eligible Affiliate Counterparty, whether or not a U.S. person, clear all outward-facing swaps to which the clearing requirement applies[3] (“Designated Swaps”) or be eligible for an exception or exemption from clearing.[4]  Consequently, a non-U.S. Eligible Affiliate Counterparty that elects to use the Inter-Affiliate Exemption may be required to clear its outward-facing Designated Swaps with non-U.S. counterparties that otherwise, pursuant to the CFTC Cross-Border Guidance,[5] would not be subject to CFTC jurisdiction.  However, the Inter-Affiliate Exemption provided that, subject to certain conditions described below, the requirement that outward-facing swaps be cleared would not apply until March 11, 2014.[6] READ MORE