On August 28, amendments recently adopted by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) to recordkeeping obligations under CFTC Rule 1.31 are scheduled to become effective. The CFTC periodically updates this rule to take into account technological advances and modernize requirements for persons subject to recordkeeping obligations under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act or the CFTC’s rules, known as “records entities.” In proposing these amendments earlier this year, the CFTC acknowledged that recordkeeping has “evolved significantly” since its last overhaul of Rule 1.31 in 1999. READ MORE
Cleared derivatives are generally characterized as being either “collateralized-to-market” (“CTM”) or “settled-to-market” (“STM”) in connection with the mitigation of counterparty credit risk resulting from movements in mark-to-market value. Under the CTM approach, transfers of variation margin are characterized as daily “collateral” transfers, with the transferring party having a right to reclaim the collateral (a financial asset) and the receiving party having the obligation to return the collateral (a financial liability), as well as a legal right to liquidate the collateral in the event of a close-out.
Under the STM approach, variation margin reflects daily “gain” to the receiving party that is actually settled. Despite the settlement of the gain on a daily basis, the derivative’s underlying economic terms remain the same (in other words, there is no amendment or recouponing of the trade). However, unlike the CTM approach, variation margin transferred is not regarded as pledged collateral securing obligations between the parties. Rather, variation margin is deemed to “settle outstanding exposure” between them (with no right to reclaim or obligation to return the variation margin) and, after that settlement, the mark-to-market between the parties resets to zero. READ MORE
Beginning on December 15, 2017, amendments approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) last year to FINRA Rule 4210 will require U.S. registered broker-dealers to collect (but not post) daily variation margin and, in some cases, initial margin, from their customers on specified transactions.
These new margin requirements apply to “Covered Agency Transactions,” which include: (i) “to-be-announced” (or “TBA”) transactions on mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”) and specified pool transactions for which the settlement date is more than one business day after the trade date; and (ii) U.S. agency collateralized mortgage obligations for which the settlement date is more than three business days after the trade date. TBA transactions account for the vast majority of trading in the sizable agency MBS market. READ MORE
On April 18, 2017, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued a no-action letter extending until November 7, 2017 the relief provided under CFTC Letter No. 17-05 (“Letter 17-05”), which was scheduled to expire on May 8, 2017. Letter 17-05 provides relief from certain CFTC margin requirements to certain swap dealers (“SDs”) in connection with swaps subject to the margin requirements under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (“EMIR”). READ MORE
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
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. The proposed amendments are largely intended to modernize and make technology-neutral the form and manner in which regulatory records are kept.
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.  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. READ MORE
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. 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
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”). 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. 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. READ MORE
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.” 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.” In particular, the white paper identifies three key areas for improvement: (i) standardization; (ii) collaboration; and (iii) technology. READ MORE
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.