Tag: Commodities


The First Insider Trader in Commodities

Andrew Verstein is Assistant Professor of Law at Wake Forest University. This post draws upon an article forthcoming in the Virginia Law Review

The Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Newman has led many commentators to predict fewer insider trading enforcement actions, a prediction quickly validated by Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for Manhattan, who has both unwound guilty pleas and dropped active prosecutions. For Newman’s critics and defenders alike, it is obvious that insider trading prosecution in the stock market is now in a period of stumbling retreat.

Yet the stock market is not the only financial market, and the trajectory of insider trading law looks very different if other asset classes are considered. Commodities markets are the world’s largest and oldest markets, and Wednesday marked the very first time an individual was sanctioned for insider trading in commodities.

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Derivatives and Uncleared Margins

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Mike Alix, Adam Gilbert, Armen Meyer, and Christopher Scarpati.

Over the past two weeks, the US banking regulators released their much anticipated final margin requirements for the uncleared portion of the derivatives market. [1] This portion amounts to over $250 trillion of the global $630 trillion outstanding and has up to now been operating in “business as usual” mode, [2] while other derivatives have been pushed into clearing. The final rule’s release completes a long process since it was proposed in 2011 and re-proposed in 2014. [3]

The good news for the industry is that the final rule is generally aligned with international standards [4] and similar requirements proposed in major foreign jurisdictions. Most notably, the final rule increases the threshold of swap activity that would bring a financial end user (e.g., hedge fund) within the rule’s scope from $3 billion to $8 billion. This change, which aligns the rule with European and Japanese proposals, eases the compliance burden of smaller, less-risky market participants.

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SEC and CFTC Turn to Swaps and Security-Based Swaps Enforcement

Annette Nazareth is a partner in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and a former commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum.

The week of June 15, 2015 saw two of the first publicly announced enforcement actions brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) to enforce security-based swap and swap regulatory requirements under Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act. The SEC accepted an offer of settlement from a web-based “exchange” for, among other things, offering security-based swaps to retail investors in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. In a separate action, the CFTC obtained a federal court order against a Kansas City man in a case alleging violations of the antifraud provisions of the swap dealer external business conduct rules in Part 23 of the CFTC regulations. [1] Swap dealers and security-based swap market participants may wish to consider these orders and the agencies’ approach to enforcement as firms further develop, review and update their compliance programs.

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Gold or Fool’s Gold?

Douglas P. Bartner is partner in the Financial Restructuring & Insolvency Group, Shearman & Sterling LLP. This post is based on an article by Mr. Bartner, Fredric Sosnick, and Cynthia Urda Kassis that first appeared in the Mining Journal.

By mid-2014 the consequences of several years of significant liquidity constraints in the traditional sources of funding for the mining sector, combined with depressed commodity prices, became increasingly evident.

Official corporate announcements and market rumours appeared sporadically at first and then with disturbing regularity as major and mid-tier companies began selling “non-core” assets and juniors tried to sell themselves or entered into insolvency proceedings when that was not an option. This increased level of distressed transaction activity in the mining sector which began in 2014 looks set to continue through 2015.

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Resolution Preparedness: Do You Know Where Your QFCs Are?

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, Frank Serravalli, Dan Weiss, John Simonson, and Daniel Sullivan. The complete publication, including appendix, is available here.

In January, the US Secretary of Treasury issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPR”) that would establish new recordkeeping requirements for Qualified Financial Contracts (“QFCs”). [1] US systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”) and certain of their affiliates [2] will be required under the NPR to maintain specific information electronically on end-of-day QFC positions, and to be able to provide this information to regulators within 24 hours if requested. This is a significant expansion in both scope and detail from current QFC recordkeeping requirements, which now apply only to certain insured depository institutions (“IDIs”) designated by the FDIC. [3]

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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.

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CFTC Provides Streamlined No-Action Relief Filing Procedure

The following post comes to us from Carolyn A. Jayne, partner in the Investment Management, Hedge Funds and Alternative Investments practice at K&L Gates LLP, and is based on a K&L Gates publication by Ms. Jayne, Cary J. Meer, and Lawrence B. Patent; the complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

The Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight (the “Division”) of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or the “Commission”) recently issued CFTC Letter No. 14-69 (May 12, 2014) (the “Letter”), which provides to certain commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) who delegate (the “Delegating CPO”) their CPO responsibilities to registered CPOs (the “Designated CPO”) a standardized, streamlined approach to apply for no-action relief from the requirement to register as a CPO. The Division previously has granted no-action relief to many Delegating CPOs on an individualized basis. However, the Division recently has seen a substantial increase in the number of no-action requests after the rescission of the CPO exemption from registration in Regulation 4.13(a)(4) and the adoption of a broad definition of the types of swaps subject to CFTC regulation. This streamlined approach will eliminate the need for many, but not all, Delegating CPOs to apply for individualized no-action relief, a more labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor. However, this approach is available only under certain circumstances described below, and not all Delegating CPOs will qualify.

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Proposed CFTC Rules on Position Limits

The following post comes to us from Byungkwon Lim, partner in the Corporate Department at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and leader of the firm’s Hedge Funds and Derivatives & Structured Finance Groups. This post is based on a Debevoise & Plimpton Client Update by Mr. Lim and Aaron J. Levy; the complete publication, including footnotes and appendix, is available here.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) amended section 4a of the Commodity Exchange Act (the “CEA”) to require the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) to establish position limits on an aggregate basis for (1) futures and options contracts on agricultural and exempt commodities traded on or subject to the rules of a designated contract market (“DCM”) and (2) contracts based on the same underlying commodity as such futures and option contracts, including (a) swaps listed for trading by a DCM or swap execution facility (“SEF”), (b) swaps that are not traded on a DCM, SEF or other registered entity but which are determined to perform or affect a “significant price discovery function” (“SPDF swaps”) and (c) foreign board of trade (“FBOT”) contracts that are price-linked to a DCM or SEF contract and made available for trading on the FBOT by direct access from within the United States.

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The Bankruptcy-Law Safe Harbor for Derivatives: A Path-Dependence Analysis

The following post comes to us from Steven L. Schwarcz, Stanley A. Star Professor of Law & Business at Duke University School of Law. The post is based on a paper co-authored by Professor Schwarcz and Ori Sharon of Duke University School of Law.

Bankruptcy law in the United States, which serves as an important precedent for the treatment of derivatives under insolvency law worldwide, gives creditors in derivatives transactions special rights and immunities in the bankruptcy process, including virtually unlimited enforcement rights against the debtor (hereinafter, the “safe harbor”). The concern is that these special rights and immunities grew incrementally, primarily due to industry lobbying and without a systematic and rigorous vetting of their consequences.

Path Dependence

This type of legislative accretion process is a form of path dependence—a process in which the outcome is shaped by its historical path. To understand path dependence, consider Professor Mark Roe’s example of an 18th century fur trader who cuts a winding path through the woods to avoid dangers. Later travelers follow this path, and in time it becomes a paved road and houses and industry are erected alongside. Although the dangers that affected the fur trader are long gone, few question the road’s inefficiently winding route.

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CFTC Re-Proposes Position Limits and Aggregation Standards for Derivatives

Annette Nazareth is a partner in the Financial Institutions Group at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, and a former commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on a Davis Polk client memorandum. The complete publication, including sidebars and appendices, is available here.

On November 5, 2013, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission proposed rules to establish new position limits that would apply to 28 agricultural, energy and metals futures contracts, and swaps, futures and options that are economically equivalent to those contracts. [1] Once adopted, the proposal would reinstate, with certain changes, the position limit rules that were vacated by a U.S. federal court in 2012 (the “Vacated Rules”). [2] The CFTC also re-proposed aggregation standards that are similar to those initially proposed as amendments to the Vacated Rules, but with a few notable differences, to be used in applying position limits (the “Aggregation Proposal”). [3]

The proposals would:

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