Category Archives: Derivatives

New ISDA Protocol Limits Buy-Side Remedies in Financial Institution Failure

The following post comes to us from Stephen D. Adams, associate in the investment management and hedge funds practice groups at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray publication by Mr. Adams, Leigh R. Fraser, Anna Lawry, and Molly Moore.

The ISDA 2014 Resolution Stay Protocol, published on November 12, 2014, by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA), [1] represents a significant shift in the terms of the over-the-counter derivatives market. It will require adhering parties to relinquish termination rights that have long been part of bankruptcy “safe harbors” for derivatives contracts under bankruptcy and insolvency regimes in many jurisdictions. While buy-side market participants are not required to adhere to the Protocol at this time, future regulations will likely have the effect of compelling market participants to agree to its terms. This change will impact institutional investors, hedge funds, mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds, and other buy-side market participants who enter into over-the-counter derivatives transactions with financial institutions.

Among the key features of the Protocol are the following:


CFTC Clarifies and Expands Relief Relating to Delegation of CPO Responsibilities

The following post comes to us from Cary J. Meer, partner in the Investment Management practice group at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Ms. Meer and Lawrence B. Patent.

On October 15, 2014, the Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight (the “Division”) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or “Commission”) issued CFTC No-Action Letter No. 14-126 (“Letter 14-126”), which sets forth a number of conditions with which commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) that delegate their CPO responsibilities (the “Delegating CPO”) to registered CPOs (the “Designated CPO”) must comply in order to take advantage of no-action relief from the requirement to register as a CPO. The CPO community has anxiously awaited this letter because it clarifies the activities in which a Delegating CPO may engage and still qualify for relief from the requirement to register as a CPO. Essentially, the Letter makes more liberal several of the conditions set forth in CFTC Letter No. 14-69 (May 12, 2014) (“Letter 14-69” and, together with Letter 14-126, the “Letters”), [1] with which many Delegating CPOs could not comply. In addition, Letter 14-126 makes the relief self-executing, i.e., no form requesting relief or even a notice need be filed.


Financial Market Infrastructures

The following post comes to us from Guido A. Ferrarini, Professor of Business Law at University of Genoa, Department of Law, and Paolo Saguato at Law Department, London School of Economics.

In the paper Financial Market Infrastructures, recently made publicly available on SSRN and forthcoming as a chapter of The Oxford Handbook on Financial Regulation, edited by Eilís Ferran, Niamh Moloney, and Jennifer Payne (Oxford University Press), we study the impact of the post-crisis reforms on financial market infrastructures in the securities and derivatives markets.

The 2007-2009 financial crisis led to large-scale reforms to the regulation of securities and derivatives markets. Regulators around the world acknowledged the need for structural reforms to the financial system and to market infrastructures in particular. Due to the global dimension of the crisis and the extent to which financial markets had been revealed to be closely interconnected, national regulators moved the related policy debate to the supranational level. This approach led to the international regulatory guidelines and principles adopted by the G20 and then developed by the Financial Stability Board (FSB). The new global regulatory framework which has followed has institutionalized financial market infrastructures (FMIs) as key supports for financial stability and as cornerstones of the crisis-era regulatory reform agenda for financial markets.


US Basel III Supplementary Leverage Ratio

The following post comes to us from Luigi L. De Ghenghi and Andrew S. Fei, attorneys in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum; the full publication, including diagrams, tables, and flowcharts, is available here.

The U.S. banking agencies have finalized revisions to the denominator of the supplementary leverage ratio (SLR), which include a number of key changes and clarifications to their April 2014 proposal. The SLR represents the U.S. implementation of the Basel III leverage ratio.

Under the U.S. banking agencies’ SLR framework, advanced approaches firms must maintain a minimum SLR of 3%, while the 8 U.S. bank holding companies that have been identified as global systemically important banks (U.S. G-SIBs) and their U.S. insured depository institution subsidiaries are subject to enhanced SLR standards (eSLR).


New ISDA 2014 Credit Derivatives Definitions

The following post comes to us from Fabien Carruzzo, partner and head of the derivatives practice at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and is based on a Kramer Levin publication.

September 22, 2014 (the “Implementation Date”) will mark a new chapter in the credit derivatives market with the implementation of the new 2014 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “New Definitions”). The New Definitions constitute a major reform of the terms governing credit derivatives products and address numerous issues identified this past decade with regard to credit and succession events and in the context of the Eurozone crisis. Most new credit derivatives trades entered into after the Implementation Date will follow the New Definitions, which are expected to ultimately fully replace the 2003 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions (the “Old Definitions”) in the market. Market participants will also have the opportunity to adopt the New Definitions for their portfolio of existing trades.

This post provides an overview of the most significant amendments made to the Old Definitions and describes how the market will migrate to the New Definitions.


End-User Exception from Dodd-Frank Clearing Mandate and Trade Execution Requirement

The following post comes to us from Michele Ruiz, partner in the Derivatives practice at Sidley Austin LLP, and is based on a Sidley publication by Ms. Ruiz, Nathan A. Howell, Kenneth A. Kopelman, and Michael S. Sackheim.

For most commercial end-users of swaps, the mandatory clearing requirement under Dodd-Frank first became applicable on September 9, 2013. Since then, many commercial end-users have relied on the so called “end-user exception” from the clearing mandate to continue executing uncleared swaps with their dealer counterparties. The end-user exception is subject to several conditions, which for SEC filers include undertaking certain corporate governance steps. The generally applicable conditions include reporting of certain information including how the entity relying on the exception generally meets its financial obligations, which reporting may be done annually. In discussing the corporate governance steps that SEC filers must undertake to avail themselves of the exception, the CFTC noted that it expects policies governing the relevant entity’s use of swaps under the end-user exception to be reviewed at least annually (and more often upon triggering events). With the one year anniversary of the initial clearing mandate approaching, this post reviews the scope of the mandate as well as important related requirements and exceptions (including the annual reports and reviews that may be undertaken in the course of qualifying for the exception).


Adoption of Cross-Border Securities-Based Swap Rules under the Dodd-Frank Act

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Today [June 25, 2014], the Commission will consider a recommendation of the staff to adopt core rules and critical guidance on cross-border security-based swap activities under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act created an important and entirely new regulatory framework for the over-the-counter derivatives market. Transforming this framework into a series of strong rules is one of the most important tasks remaining before the Commission in discharging our responsibility to address the lessons of the last financial crisis. The events of 2008 and 2009—and the significant role derivatives played in those events—still reverberate throughout our economy.

Properly constructed, the Commission’s rules under Title VII should mitigate significant risks to the U.S. financial system, bring transparency to previously opaque bilateral markets, and provide critical new protections for swap customers and counterparties. And the vital regulatory protections of Title VII are not confined to large multi-national banks and other market participants—they are also essential to preserving the stability of a financial system that is vital to all Americans.


New Credit Default Swap Terms to Be Implemented in September 2014

The following post comes to us from Isabel K.R. Dische and Leigh R. Fraser, partners at Ropes & Gray LLP, and is based on a Ropes & Gray publication by Ms. Dische, Ms. Fraser, and Molly Moore.

Earlier this year, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. (ISDA) published the 2014 Credit Derivatives Definitions (the 2014 Definitions). The 2014 Definitions introduce a new government bail-in Credit Event trigger for credit default swap (CDS) contracts on financial Reference Entities in non-U.S. jurisdictions and also modify the typical terms of sovereign CDS contracts in light of the Greek debt crisis, by allowing a buyer of protection to deliver upon settlement the assets into which the Reference Obligation has converted even if such assets are not otherwise deliverable. Further, they create a concept of a Standard Reference Obligation, which means that most CDS contracts on a given Reference Entity would have the same Reference Obligation, thereby increasing the fungibility of such CDS contracts.


Nationalize the Clearinghouses!

The following post comes to us from Stephen J. Lubben, Harvey Washington Wiley Chair in Corporate Governance & Business Ethic at Seton Hall University School of Law.

A clearinghouse reduces counterparty risks by acting as the hub for trades amongst the largest financial institutions. For this reason, Dodd-Frank’s seventh title, the heart of the law’s regulation of OTC derivatives, requires that most derivatives trade through clearinghouses.

The concentration of trades into a very small number of clearinghouses or CCPs has obvious risks. To maintain the vitality of clearinghouses, Congress thus enacted the eighth title of Dodd-Frank, which allows for the regulation of key “financial system utilities.” In plain English, a financial system utility is either a payment system—like FedWire or CHIPS—or a clearinghouse.

But given the vital place of clearinghouses in Dodd-Frank, it is perhaps surprising that Dodd-Frank makes no provision for the failure of a clearinghouse. Indeed, it is arguable that the United States is not in compliance with its commitment to the G-20 on this point.


SEC’s Cross-Border Derivatives Rule

The following post comes to us from Dan Ryan, Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and is based on a PwC publication.

The SEC provided the “who” but not much else in its final rule regarding cross-border security-based swap activities (“final rule”), released at the SEC’s June 25, 2014 open meeting. Although most firms have already implemented a significant portion of the CFTC’s swaps regulatory regime (which governs well over 90% of the market), the SEC’s oversight of security-based swaps means that the SEC’s cross-border framework and its outstanding substantive rulemakings (e.g., clearing, reporting, etc.) have the potential to create rules that conflict with the CFTC’s approach. The impact that the SEC’s regulatory framework will have on the market remains uncertain, but the final rule at least begins to lay out the SEC’s cross-border position.


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