Category Archives: Derivatives

Focusing on Dealer Conduct in the Derivatives Market

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s remarks at a recent open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

The financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated the devastating effects of a derivatives marketplace that, left unchecked, seriously damaged the world economy and caused significant losses to investors. As a result, Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act tasked the SEC and the CFTC to establish a regulatory framework for the over-the-counter swaps market. In particular, the SEC was tasked with regulating the security-based swap (SBS) market and the CFTC was given regulatory authority over all other swaps, such as energy and agricultural swaps.

The Commission has already proposed and/or adopted various rules governing the SBS market— such as rules that establish standards for registered clearing agencies; rules to move transactions onto regulated platforms; rules to bring transparency and fair dealing to the market for SBS; rules for the registration of dealers and major participants; rules to impose capital, margin, and segregation requirements for dealers and major participants; and rules for cross-border SBS activities.


SEC Implements Dodd-Frank Reporting and Dissemination Rules for Security-Based Swaps

The following post comes to us from Arthur S. Long, partner in the Financial Institutions and Securities Regulation practice groups at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is based on the introduction of a Gibson Dunn publication; the complete publication, including footnotes and charts, is available here.

Implementation of the derivatives market reforms contained in Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act) may fairly be characterized as a herculean effort. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has finalized dozens of new rules to implement Title VII’s provisions governing “swaps.” Although Title VII requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) to implement similar provisions for “security-based swaps” (SBSs), the SEC’s rulemaking process has lagged the CFTC’s.

Earlier this year, the SEC finalized two of its required rules: one (Final Regulation SBSR) governs the reporting of SBS information to registered security-based swap data repositories (SDRs) and related public dissemination requirements; the other covers the registration and duties of SDRs (SDR Registration Rule). Additionally, the SEC published a proposed rule to supplement Final Regulation SBSR that addresses, among other things, an implementation timeframe, the reporting of cleared SBSs and platform-executed SBSs, and rules relating to SDR fees (Proposed Regulation SBSR). Comments on Proposed Regulation SBSR must be submitted to the SEC by May 4, 2015.


SEC’s Swaps Reporting and Disclosure Final Rules

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 by Troy Paredes, Samuel Crystal, and David Kim.

On February 11, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released two final rules toward establishing a reporting and public disclosure framework for security-based swap (SBS) transaction data. The SEC’s Commissioners had voted in January to approve the rules, 3 to 2. [1] These rules are the SEC’s first substantive SBS requirements since the SEC began laying out its cross-border position through final rules in June 2014. [2] Chair White has consistently stressed the need to complete substantive SBS requirements and now appears willing to do so even when the SEC Commissioners are divided.

The SEC rules diverge from existing Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) requirements in some key ways. These divergences will create technical complexity for dealers who have built systems and processes to meet already live CFTC regulations. For example, the SEC’s broader, more exhaustive, and possibly repetitive scope of “Unique Identifier Codes” (UIC) will be problematic for market participants. A less obvious problem will be the SEC’s requirement to report SBS data within 24 hours (until modified by the SEC as the rule suggests), as dealers will likely want to delay public dissemination for as long as possible which will run counter to their existing set-ups for the CFTC requirement to report to a swap data repository (SDR) “as soon as technologically practicable.”


Key Points from Congress’s Roll-Back of the Swaps Push-Out

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 by Mr. Ryan, Armen Meyer, and David Kim.

On December 13, 2014, the US Senate passed an appropriations bill for the President’s signature that included a provision to roll back much of Dodd-Frank’s section 716 (i.e., the Swaps Push-Out). The initial version of the Swaps Push-Out was proposed by Senator Blanche Lincoln (Democrat of Arkansas) in 2010, during her re-election campaign, and would have prohibited bank swap dealers from receiving federal assistance from the FDIC or from the discount window of the Federal Reserve. After intense negotiation in the last days of congressional debate on Dodd-Frank, Lincoln’s version was substantially narrowed to only prohibit banks from dealing in swaps that were viewed by Congress as the most risky.

The Swaps Push-Out that ultimately passed as part of Dodd-Frank prohibited bank swap dealers (with access to FDIC insurance or the discount window) from dealing in certain swaps (or security-based swaps), including most credit default swaps (CDS), equity swaps, and many commodity swaps. Swaps related to rates, currencies, or underlying assets that national banks may hold (e.g., loans) were allowed to remain in the bank, as were swaps used for hedging or similar risk mitigation activities.


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).


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