Category Archives: Press Releases

Outsourced Compliance Company – Sansome Strategies LLC

Clients, Friends and Readers:

We are pleased to announce the launch of Sansome Strategies LLC, a high-touch outsourced compliance company.  Sansome Strategies will focus on RIAs and hedge fund managers as well as those firms operating in the commodities/futures and derivatives spaces.

As we all know, increased regulatory oversight, through both the passage of laws and the promulgation of new regulations, have changed (and will continue to change) the operating landscape for investment managers.  This is no more true than in the derivatives space where managers have now found themselves subject to CFTC oversight.  Combined with the Dodd-Frank mandate requiring hedge fund and private equity fund managers to register as investment advisers, the demand for outsourced compliance consulting services has dramatically increased.

Sansome Strategies enters the consulting space at this important time and aims to provide both large and small managers with competent and practical consulting advice.

The press release announcing the launch is found below.  For more information, please see the Sansome Strategies website.

Please also visit the Sansome Strategies blog, ComplianceFocus.

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Sansome Strategies LLC Introduced as New Compliance Consulting Firm with Commodities Focus

San Francisco-Based Firm Specializes in Outsourced CCO Services

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – May 2, 2013 – Announced today is the launch of Sansome Strategies LLC, a compliance consulting firm specializing in high-touch, outsourced compliance services for firms in the investment management industry. Aiding hedge fund managers, commodity pool operators and CTAs, private equity firms, futures managers, and other investment managers, Sansome Strategies offers expertise in streamlining regulatory processes and tailoring compliance outsourcing arrangements to a business’ specific needs.

Sansome Strategies’ head of compliance operations is Jennifer Dickinson, who has extensive experience with private fund compliance, both with respect to investment adviser and futures regulation. Prior to joining Sansome Strategies, Dickinson was a Senior Compliance Consultant at Gordian Compliance Solutions, LLC. Dickinson has been a Chief Compliance Officer at several large investment managers, and worked at the law firms of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. “Sansome Strategies will be a perfect fit for those firms seeking one-off compliance solutions, as well as firms that need an institutional quality compliance consultant,” Dickinson said. Ghufran Rizvi, COO of Standard Pacific Capital, LLC in San Francisco agrees, “I have known Ms. Dickinson for many years. She is a great business partner and Sansome Strategies will be a valuable addition to the compliance consulting space.”

Sansome Strategies’ expertise with futures managers and commodity pool operators differentiates the firm in a crowded field and is unique in the compliance consulting industry. The firm is backed by Karl Cole-Frieman and Bart Mallon, partners and founders of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP, which has one of the largest private fund practices in California. “There is significant and increasing demand for a compliance firm that understands both registered investment advisers and CFTC registered firms,” according to Karl Cole-Frieman. “Changes in the CFTC’s registration and exemption requirements have forced more managers into registration,” Bart Mallon notes, “and we have not seen the existing compliance companies prepared to address this demand.”

With Sansome Strategies, clients can pick and choose from an array of options, including a completely or partially outsourced compliance program, or opt for advisory, educational, or training services only. Sansome Strategies collaborates with business management and staff to structure, implement, and maintain their compliance program. Sansome Strategies features a client-centric business model, putting a heavy focus on customized services and collaboration.

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About Sansome Strategies

Headquartered in San Francisco and with a nation-wide scope of services, Sansome Strategies is a compliance consulting firm specializing in high-touch, outsourced compliance services for businesses in the investment management industry. Serving investment advisers, futures managers, hedge funds, broker-dealers, private equity firms and businesses ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to multi-billion dollar international institutions, Sansome Strategies prides itself on tailoring compliance management solutions to the unique needs of each client. Comprised of securities industry professionals with years of experience in the financial and regulatory industries, Sansome Strategies’ mission is to simplify the compliance process, minimize risk, and lower costs, with the core goal of helping clients focus on building and enhancing their business. The firm also publishes ComplianceFocus a compliance blog designed to be a practical and accessible resource to the investment management community. For more information please visit Sansome Strategies at: http://sansomestrategies.com.

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Dickinson
Sansome Strategies LLC
415-762-8753

Hedge Fund Manager Charged with Insider Trading

SEC Brings Case Against Raj Rajaratnam

Below is another case of a hedge fund manager who was alledgedly engaged in insider trading. The SEC seems particularly excited about this cased because of the high profile nature of the manager who was involved. The major charge is against Raj Rajaratnam who reportedly has a net worth in excess of $1 billion and who is a member of the Forbes 400 richest persons in the world.

There will undoubtedly be continued press in this case which is not good news for the hedge fund industry. The industry has been subject to criticism and increased calls for regulation for the last year and high profile cases like this one only serve to rile up members of congress. The SEC seems to be particularly proud about this “catch” as the agency has itself been under increasing scrutiny as the details of the fumbled Madoff case have been made public.

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SEC Charges Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Raj Rajaratnam with Insider Trading

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2009-221

High-Ranking Corporate Executives Also Charged in Scheme That Generated More Than $25 Million in Illicit Gains

Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, 2009 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged billionaire Raj Rajaratnam and his New York-based hedge fund advisory firm Galleon Management LP with engaging in a massive insider trading scheme that generated more than $25 million in illicit gains. The SEC also charged six others involved in the scheme, including senior executives at major companies IBM, Intel and McKinsey & Company.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that Rajaratnam tapped into his network of friends and close business associates to obtain insider tips and confidential information about corporate earnings or takeover activity at several companies, including Google, Hilton and Sun Microsystems. He then used the non-public information to illegally trade on behalf of Galleon.

“This complaint describes a web of fraud that has been unraveled,” said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro.

“What we have uncovered in the trading activities of Raj Rajaratnam is that the secret of his success is not genius trading strategies. He is not the astute study of company fundamentals or marketplace trends that he is widely thought to be. Raj Rajaratnam is not a master of the universe, but rather a master of the rolodex,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “He cultivated a network of high-ranking corporate executives and insiders, and then tapped into this ring to obtain confidential details about quarterly earnings and takeover activity.”

In addition to Rajaratnam and Galleon, the SEC’s complaint charges:

  • Danielle Chiesi of New York, N.Y. — a portfolio manager at New Castle Funds.
  • Rajiv Goel of Los Altos, Calif. — a managing director at Intel Capital, an Intel subsidiary.
  • Anil Kumar of Saratoga, Calif. — a director at McKinsey & Company.
  • Mark Kurland of Mount Kisco, N.Y. — a Senior Managing Director and General Partner at New Castle.
  • Robert Moffat of Ridgefield, Conn. — a senior vice president at IBM.
  • New Castle Funds LLC — a New York-based hedge fund

According to the SEC’s complaint, Rajaratnam and Galleon traded on inside information about the following events or transactions:

  • An unnamed source, identified in the SEC’s complaint as Tipper A, obtained inside information about earnings announcements at Polycom and Google, as well as a takeover announcement of Hilton. Tipper A then allegedly provided this information to Rajaratnam, who used it to trade on behalf of Galleon.
  • Goel provided inside information to Rajaratnam about certain Intel quarterly earnings and a pending joint venture concerning Clearwire Corp., in which Intel had invested. Rajaratnam then used this information to trade on behalf of Galleon. As payback for Goel’s tips, Rajaratnam, or someone acting on his behalf, executed trades in Goel’s personal brokerage account based on inside information concerning Hilton and PeopleSupport, which resulted in nearly $250,000 in illicit profits for Goel.
  • Kumar obtained inside information about pending transactions involving AMD and two Abu Dhabi-based sovereign entities, which he shared with Rajaratnam. Rajaratnam then traded on the basis of this information on behalf of Galleon.
  • Chiesi obtained inside information from an executive at Akamai Technologies and traded on the information on behalf of a New Castle fund, netting a profit of approximately $2.4 million. Chiesi also passed on the inside information to Rajaratnam, who then traded on behalf of Galleon.

The SEC also alleges that Moffat provided inside information to Chiesi about Sun Microsystems. Moffat obtained the information when IBM was contemplating acquiring Sun. Chiesi then allegedly traded on the basis of this information on behalf of New Castle, making approximately $1 million in profits.

The SEC’s complaint charges each of the defendants with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and, except for Kumar and Moffat, violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and. The complaint seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from future violations of the above provisions of the federal securities laws, ordering them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and ordering them to pay financial penalties. The complaint also seeks to permanently prohibit Goel, Kumar and Moffat from acting as an officer or director of any registered public company.

The SEC acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The SEC’s investigation is continuing.

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For more information, contact:
David Rosenfeld
Associate Director, SEC’s New York Regional Office
(212) 336-0153

Sanjay Wadhwa
Assistant Director, SEC’s New York Regional Office
(212) 336-0181

http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2009/2009-221.htm

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Other related hedge fund law articles:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs Hedge Fund Law Blog.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund or if you are a current hedge fund manager with questions about the securities laws, please contact us or call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

OTC Derivatives Markets Act of 2009 Passes House Committee Vote

CFTC Chairman Gensler Applauds “Historic Progress”

In a first step towards increased regulation of the over-the-counter derivatives markets, the House Financial Services Committee approved the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009.  The act is one of several initiatives to increase regulatory oversight of the financial markets and if passed by Congress would be signed into law by President Obama. Among other things the act would require Swap dealers and major swap participants to register with either the CFTC or the SEC.

Below I have reprinted press releases from both the House Financial Services Committee and the CFTC.

UPDATE: The Securities Industry Financial and Markets Association (SIFMA) just issued a press release reposted below as well.

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Financial Services Committee Approves Legislation to Regulate Derivatives

Committee completes work on a key element of President Obama’s plan to bring accountability and responsibility to Wall Street

Washington, DC – {The House Financial Services Committee today approved legislation that would, for the first time ever, require the comprehensive regulation of the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives marketplace. Today’s bill, which was approved by a vote of 43-26, represents a key part of a broader effort by Congress and President Obama to modernize America’s financial regulatory system in response to last year’s financial crisis.

Under the bill, all standardized swap transactions between dealers and large market participants, referred to as “major swap participants,” would have to be cleared and must be traded on an exchange or electronic platform. A major swap participant is defined as anyone that maintains a substantial net position in swaps, exclusive of hedging for commercial risk, or whose positions creates such significant exposure to others that it requires monitoring. OTC derivatives include swaps, which are contracts that call for an exchange of cash between two counterparties based on an underlying rate, index, credit event or the performance of an asset.

The legislation then sets out parallel regulatory frameworks for the regulation of swap markets, dealers, and major swap participants.  Rulemaking authority is held jointly by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which has jurisdiction over swaps, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has jurisdiction over security-based swaps.   The Treasury Department is given the authority to issue final rules if the CFTC and SEC cannot decide on a joint approach within 180 days. Subsequent interpretations of rules must be agreed to jointly by the Commissions.

Description of the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009

Clearing

The legislation provides a mechanism to determine which swap transactions are sufficiently standardized that they must be submitted to a clearinghouse. For transactions that are clearable, clearing is a requirement when both counterparties are either dealers or major swap participants.  Clearing organizations must seek approval from the appropriate regulator—either the CFTC or the SEC—before a swap or class of swaps can be accepted for clearing.

Transactions in standardized swaps that involve end-users are not required to be cleared. Such customized transactions must, however, be reported to a trade repository.

Mandatory Trading on Exchange or Swap Execution Facility

A standardized and cleared swap transaction where both counterparties are either dealers or major swap participants must either be executed on a board of trade, a national securities exchange or a “swap execution facility”—as defined in the legislation.  If none of these venues makes a clearable swap available for trading, the trading requirement would not apply.  Counterparties would, however, have to comply with transaction reporting requirements established by the appropriate regulator.  The legislation also directs the regulators to eliminate unnecessary obstacles to trading on a board of trade or a national securities exchange.

Registration and Regulation of Swap Dealers and Major Swap Participants

Swap dealers and major swap participants must register with the appropriate Commission and dual registration is required in applicable cases.  Capital requirements for swap dealers’ and major swap participants’ positions in cleared swaps must be set at greater than zero.  Capital for non-cleared transaction must be set higher than for cleared transactions.  The prudential regulators will set capital for banks, while the Commissions will set capital for non-banks at a level that is “as strict or stricter” than that set by the prudential regulators.

The regulators are directed to set margin levels for counterparties in transactions that are not cleared.   The regulators are not required to set margin in transaction where one of the counterparties is not a dealer or major swap participant.  In cases where an end user is a counterparty to a transaction, any margin requirements must permit the use of non-cash collateral.

Reporting and Public Disclosure of Swap Transactions

Reporting and recordkeeping is required for all over-the-counter derivative transactions.  Clearing organizations must provide transaction information to the relevant Commission and a designated trade repository.   Swap transactions that are not cleared and for which no trade repository exists, must be reported directly to the relevant Commission.   The legislation also provides for public disclosure of aggregate data on swap trading volumes and positions—in a manner that does not disclose the business transactions or market position of any person.  Large positions in swaps must also be reported directly to regulators.

Swap Execution Facilities

Swap execution facilities, or facility for the trading of swaps that are not Boards of Trade or National Securities Exchanges, must register with the relevant regulator as a swap execution facility (SEF).  SEFs must also adhere to core regulatory principles relating to enforcement, anti-manipulation, monitoring, information collection and conflicts of interest, among others. The CFTC and SEC are required to prescribe joint rules governing the regulation of swap execution facilities.  A Commission may exempt a SEF from registration if it is subject to comparable, comprehensive supervision and regulation by another regulator.

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Statement of Chairman Gary Gensler on House Financial Services Committee Passage of OTC Derivatives Regulatory Reform Legislation

October 15, 2009

Washington, DC – U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler today commented on the OTC Derivatives Markets Act of 2009, passed this morning by the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services.

Chairman Gensler said:

“Today’s vote by the House Financial Services Committee represents historic progress toward comprehensive regulatory reform of the over-the-counter derivatives marketplace. The Committee’s bill is a significant step toward lowering risk and promoting transparency. Substantive challenges remain. I look forward to building on this Committee’s hard work with Chairman Frank, Chairman Peterson and others in the House and Senate to complete legislation that covers the entire marketplace without exception and to ensure that regulators have appropriate authorities to protect the public.”

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Release Date: October 15, 2009

Contact: Andrew DeSouza, (202) 962-7390, adesouza@sifma.org

SIFMA’s Bentsen Statement on Committee Passage of Derivatives Regulation

October 15, 2009, Washington, DC—The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association today released a statement from Ken Bentsen, Executive Vice President, Public Policy and Advocacy in response to the House Financial Services Committee’s passage of the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009.

“Bringing greater regulatory transparency and oversight to derivatives markets and products is a key component of reforming our financial system. That oversight must also recognize the important role these risk management tools play for countless companies across the country and for our broader economy. Mandating particular transaction modes, as this bill does, could raise transaction costs while not necessarily reducing risk in a commensurate amount—results that we believe are contrary to our shared reform goals. As the legislative process continues we look forward to working with the Congress toward a bill that strikes a balance between the need for transparency and risk management efficiency.”

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association brings together the shared interests of more than 550 securities firms, banks and asset managers. SIFMA’s mission is to promote policies and practices that work to expand and perfect markets, foster the development of new products and services and create efficiencies for member firms, while preserving and enhancing the public’s trust and confidence in the markets and the industry. SIFMA works to represent its members’ interests locally and globally. It has offices in New York, Washington D.C., and London and its associated firm, the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, is based in Hong Kong.

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Other related hedge fund law articles:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs hedge fund law blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund, or if you have questions about investment adviser registration with the SEC or state securities commission, please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

Life Settlement Group to Educate Public on Securitization

Life Settlements Likely to be Hot Regulatory Topic

The life settlement industry has seen an increase in the recognition in the weeks following a New York Times story of securitization of life settlements. Congress has already held hearings on these investments and the likely impact they will have on the financial markets. We will stay on top of this issue as it is very important for life settlement hedge funds and other managers who may want to enter this market through securitized investments.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 7, 2009

Life Settlement Society to Host Educational Webinar Series Beginning Oct. 22 Focusing on Securitization and Congressional Hearings

International Society of Life Settlement Professionals (ISLSP) convenes group of industry experts to offer insight into Life Settlement securitization and commentary on recent congressional hearings

SCOTTSDALE, AZ – The International Society of Life Settlement Professionals (ISLSP) has formed an education committee, to be headed by industry founder Wm. Scott Page. The committee will organize and host a series of educational webinars beginning Thursday, October 22. This first of three monthly webinars will serve as a follow-up meeting to discuss the recent Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing regarding the life settlement industry as well as recent issues gaining meaningful attention in the marketplace such as life settlement securitization.

The three ISLSP webinars are dedicated to investor and industry education with goals of clarifying benefits and misconceptions, while also providing a forum for extensive Q&A sessions and direct exchange of information among carefully selected top professionals in the industry.

“Our webinar sessions will enable participants to perform objective and in-depth analysis of industry developments and expose any conduct that would diminish the value of life settlement transactions,” said Andreas Hauss, ISLSP founder. “These transactions offer the seller needed liquidity and the investor non-correlated diversification to rebuild their wealth in these difficult economic times.”

The board of ISLSP has created the webinar series in response to the recent Senate hearing. This hearing was convened based on misconceptions about the prospective securitization of life settlement policies despite contrary and verifiable knowledge that life settlements now or in the near future do not pose risks similar to those experienced with mortgage backed securities.

In particular, subcommittee member Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) cautioned the committee to not confuse the Wall Street mischief that led to the current economic hardships with an industry that’s “helping people get the full value of their policies.” Closing his opening remarks he stated: “And I don’t think that this industry should be called upon to answer for the serious abuses that pervaded this economy in other areas over the past two years. And the sins of others should not descend on you.”

During the end of the hearing, committee Chairman Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), asked whether the panelists thought his committee was premature in holding the hearing, none did. Other committee members followed the lead by asking whether any panelists thought securitization of life settlements at this point could cause systemic risk to the world financial markets, again, none did.

According to George Polzer, ISLSP executive director, ISLSP is the only investor-oriented trade association exclusively dedicated to offering neutral, regular, easily accessible and understandable educational information for investors.

“To offer the highest and best price to the insured requires an efficient secondary market,” said Polzer. “Our association encourages investors to bring more capital, level the playing field and ultimately offer higher payouts.”

Event: ISLSP Webinar- “Understanding the Mechanism and Benefits of Life Settlements as an Investment”
When: 1st webinar October 21, 2009, 10:00 a.m. ET
More Information: For more information or to register visit www.islsp.org or call 480.278.5232.

About ISLSP
ISLSP was founded by an international team of pioneering life settlement professionals and investors seeking to codify a standard life settlement assessment guideline which allows objective and accurate determination of the true value and risks associated with purchasing life settlement investments. ISLSP attracts new capital to the industry by educating investors, maintaining best practices and facilitating networking among best of breed and professional business partners. Visit www.islsp.org for additional information.

CONTACT:
George Polzer, georgepolzer@islsp.org, 480.278.5232 (US)
Andreas Hauss, andreashauss@islsp.org, +39-346-531-1151 (Europe)

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Other articles related to hedge funds and life settlements include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs hedge fund law blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund (including a fund focused on life settlement investments or premium finance), please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

Hedge Fund Operational Issues and Failures

Hedge Fund Due Diligence Firm Releases White Paper

We’ve published a number of thoughtful pieces on this blog from Chris Addy, president and CEO of Castle Hall Alternatives (see, for example, article on Hedge Fund Auditors).  Today we are publishing a press release which announces a new white paper from Castle Hall detailing the various reasons which hedge funds fail.  The press release also describes a new web database called HedgeEvent which was created by Castle Hall and details a number of hedge fund operational failures over the last few years.

I found the white paper to be interesting.  I would imagine that some fund of funds and other types of hedge fund investors would find the information useful.  A couple of interesting facts from the whitepaper:

  • The most common causes of operational failure in hedge funds are (i) theft and misappropriation and (ii) existence of assets (i.e. Ponzi schemes).
  • Long/short equity and managed futures are the strategies which are most likely to be subject to operational failure.

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Castle Hall Alternatives Publishes White Paper on Hedge Fund Operational Failures: Launches “HedgeEvent” Database

MONTREAL–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Castle Hall Alternatives, the hedge fund industry’s leading provider of operational due diligence, today published its latest White Paper, ‘From Manhattan to Madoff: the Causes and Lessons of Hedge Fund Operational Failure.’ The Paper’s analysis and findings are based on HedgeEvent, a comprehensive, web-based database of more than 300 operational events, now available to Castle Hall’s due diligence clients. HedgeEvent supplements HedgeDiligence, the firm’s existing client web portal.

The White Paper may be downloaded from www.castlehallalternatives.com/publications.php

Chris Addy, Castle Hall’s CEO, said “the colossal fraud perpetrated by Bernie Madoff, together with a number of other recent cases, has made investors acutely concerned by the risk of operational ‘blow ups’. However, there has been little systematic study of operational failure, meaning that investors have limited guidance as to the extent of this problem.”

“The creation of HedgeEvent, which has taken more than two years to compile, has enabled us to summarize key metrics related to hedge fund operational failure” said Addy. “From Manhattan to Madoff analyzes operational events by number, estimated loss, causal factor and by the strategy of the funds involved.”

HedgeEvent contains 327 cases of hedge fund operational failure through June 30, 2009. Madoff, with an estimated financial impact of $64 billion, is by far the largest; the remaining cases have an aggregate estimated financial impact of approximately $15 billion. Of the 327 operational events, 121 have an estimated impact of $10 million or more, and 31 of at least $100 million.

“While operational failures are material – Madoff spectacularly so – it does not seem that fraud is pervasive in the hedge fund industry” said Addy. “Investors should, however, be very focused on the lessons which can be learned from those hedge funds which did generate large losses. Many of these were well established firms which attracted capital from reputable investors.”

Across all Events, the most common causes of operational failure are theft and misappropriation followed by existence of assets (the manager claimed to own fake securities or operated a Ponzi scheme where reported assets did not exist). The most common strategies subject to operational failure are long / short equity followed by managed futures. It is notable that investors have traditionally viewed these strategies, holding largely exchange-traded securities, as straightforward with low operational risk.

“HedgeEvent is an invaluable tool for both Castle Hall and our clients” said Addy. “A lot can be learned from historical events: better knowledge can help investors avoid the losses, both monetary and reputational, of hedge fund operational failure.”

About Castle Hall Alternatives

Castle Hall Alternatives helps leading institutional investors, fund of funds, family offices and endowments identify and manage hedge fund operational risk. Castle Hall’s team draws on more than 30 years of direct due diligence experience and is the industry’s largest, dedicated provider of operational due diligence. More information is available at www.castlehallalternatives.com

Contacts

Castle Hall Alternatives
Chris Addy, President and CEO, +1 450 465 8880
chris.addy@castlehall.ca

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Other related hedge fund law and start up articles include:

For more information, please call Bart Mallon, Esq. at 415-296-8510

Tech Royalty Starts New Venture Capital Fund

New Investment Fund Focuses on Tech Start Ups

New Trend Emerges in Silicon Valley

The first quarter of 2009 marked the lowest level of investment since 1997, according to the National Venture Capital Associates.  The Venture industry in particular has suffered as the number of IPOs and acquisitions has plummeted.   In the Silicon Valley, where some of the recessionary fog is now lifting, investors and entrepreneurs have a chance to invest in the market and take advantage of the low valuations.  With technology and software tools driving down the cost of starting a tech company by more than 100 times compared with a few decades ago, the potential for a new era of technology investment is emerging.  Marc Andreessen, recognized by the venture capital community as an entrepreneurial visionary, has announced the formation of a new fund attempting to take advantage of this new trend.

Marc Andreesen – Industry Icon

Andreessen’s fund, Andreessen Horowitz, is co-founded with Ben Horowitz, an affiliate and partner from their former venture – Netscape. Andreessen moved to Silicon Valley and co-founded Netscape with entrepreneur Jim Clark, funded by blue-chip venture fund Kleiner Perkins. Almost instantly Netscape exploded into a business with enormous profit potential, with this 1995 IPO stock offered at $28 grew up to $75 by the close of trading.  However, the glory of Netscape was short-lived, as Microsoft surfaced into the same competitive space and won the battle. Soon thereafter, the investment industry experienced the now-famous dot-com bust, which all but froze the technology industry. Andreessen continued to build his reputation in the Silicon Valley as a well-connected entrepreneur who served as an invaluable vessel of knowledge to other entrepreneurs (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook) in terms of how to build and manage a strong technology company. Now, Andreessen has joined forces with his former colleague, Horowitz, to introduce a new fund that will focus its investment strategies on a diversified portfolio of emerging startups in technology sector.

The New Fund – Strategies and Setbacks

One reason the new fund has the industry buzzing is the sheer amount of financial backing it brings in a time where investor confidence is low. Through a few institutional investors and several key industry players, Andreessen Horowitz was able to pull in approximately $300 million in funds, which amounts to less than one third the size of the biggest boom-year venture funds and qualified Andreessen Horowitz to be regarded as the most prominent fund raised in 2009.

The Andreessen Horowitz investment strategy includes  investing in 60-70 startups and having deal days meeting with at least 5-10 companies per day, offering the partners a constant vantage point to target and isolate industry shifts and evaluate what new innovations may be profitable. The fund’s strategy of investing in a myriad of startups does pose potential problems, such as truly tracking and backing the potential downfall of one or several of these many companies, and monitoring potential conflicts where the fund invests in two startup companies that eventually become direct competitors of one another (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).  In response to how he plans to guard against such potential setbacks, Andreessen says that he will extensively research and disclose all potential conflicts and take measures to protect confidential information.

What this Means for the Investment Industry

As Andreessen attempts to restore investor confidence by capitalizing on the new rapid emergence of startup technology companies, the hope of generating large, ‘Netscape-esque’ returns sets a new optimistic tone for an otherwise risk-averse financial community.  If successful, the new fund could potentially lift the cloud of doubt that looms over the investment industry by employing a strategy that both embraces cutting-edge innovation and provides even the smallest industry players the opportunity to have their ideas seen and heard by renowned industry veterans.

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Please contact us if you have any questions or are interested in starting a hedge fund.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

Hedge Fund PPIP Managers Selected

Treasury and Fed Name Lucky Hedge Fund Managers

The Treasury and the Fed just announced the hedge fund management companies which will be participating in the first round of the PPIP.  The following press release can be found here.

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July 8, 2009
TG-200

Joint Statement by Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner,
Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Ben S. Bernanke, and Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Sheila Bair on the Legacy Asset Program

To view the Letter of Intent and Term Sheets, please visit link.
To view the Conflict of Interest Rules, please visit link.
To view the Legacy Securities FAQs, please visit link.

The Financial Stability Plan, announced in February, outlined a framework to bring capital into the financial system and address the problem of legacy real estate-related assets.

On March 23, 2009, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and the FDIC announced the detailed designs for the Legacy Loan and Legacy Securities Programs. Since that announcement, we have been working jointly to put in place the operational structure for these programs, including setting guidelines to ensure that the taxpayer is adequately protected, addressing compensation matters, setting program participation limits, and establishing stringent conflict of interest rules and procedures. Recently released rules are detailed separately in the Summary of Conflicts of Interest Rules and Ethical Guidelines.

Today, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and the FDIC are pleased to describe the continued progress on implementing these programs including Treasury’s launch of the Legacy Securities Public-Private Investment Program.

Financial market conditions have improved since the early part of this year, and many financial institutions have raised substantial amounts of capital as a buffer against weaker than expected economic conditions.  While utilization of legacy asset programs will depend on how actual economic and financial market conditions evolve, the programs are capable of being quickly expanded if these conditions deteriorate.  Thus, while the programs will initially be modest in size, we are prepared to expand the amount of resources committed to these programs.

Legacy Securities Program

The Legacy Securities program is designed to support market functioning and facilitate price discovery in the asset-backed securities markets, allowing banks and other financial institutions to re-deploy capital and extend new credit to households and businesses. Improved market function and increased price discovery should serve to reinforce the progress made by U.S. financial institutions in raising private capital in the wake of the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP) completed in May 2009.

The Legacy Securities Program consists of two related parts, each of which is designed to draw private capital into these markets.

Legacy Securities Public-Private Investment Program (“PPIP”)

Under this program, Treasury will invest up to $30 billion of equity and debt in PPIFs established with private sector fund managers and private investors for the purpose of purchasing legacy securities.  Thus, Legacy Securities PPIP allows the Treasury to partner with leading investment management firms in a way that increases the flow of private capital into these markets while maintaining equity “upside” for US taxpayers.

Initially, the Legacy Securities PPIP will participate in the market for commercial mortgage-backed securities and non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities.  To qualify, for purchase by a Legacy Securities PPIP, these securities must have been issued prior to 2009 and have originally been rated AAA — or an equivalent rating by two or more nationally recognized statistical rating organizations — without ratings enhancement and must be secured directly by the actual mortgage loans, leases, or other assets (“Eligible Assets”).

Following a comprehensive two-month application evaluation and selection process, during which over 100 unique applications to participate in Legacy Securities PPIP were received,  Treasury has pre-qualified the following firms (in alphabetical order) to participate as fund managers in the initial round of the program:

  • AllianceBernstein, LP and its sub-advisors Greenfield Partners, LLC and Rialto Capital Management, LLC;
  • Angelo, Gordon & Co., L.P. and GE Capital Real Estate;
  • BlackRock, Inc.;
  • Invesco Ltd.;
  • Marathon Asset Management, L.P.;
  • Oaktree Capital Management, L.P.;
  • RLJ Western Asset Management, LP.;
  • The TCW Group, Inc.; and
  • Wellington Management Company, LLP.

Treasury evaluated these applications according to established criteria, including: (i) demonstrated capacity to raise at least $500 million of private capital; (ii) demonstrated experience investing in Eligible Assets, including through performance track records; (iii) a minimum of $10 billion (market value) of Eligible Assets under management; (iv) demonstrated operational capacity to manage the Legacy Securities PPIP funds in a manner consistent with Treasury’s stated Investment Objective while also protecting taxpayers; and (iv) headquartered in the United States.  To ensure robust participation by both small and large firms, these criteria were evaluated on a holistic basis and failure to meet any one criterion did not necessarily disqualify an application.

Each Legacy Securities PPIP fund manager will receive an equal allocation of capital from Treasury.  These Legacy Securities PPIP fund managers have also established meaningful partnership roles for small-, veteran-, minority-, and women-owned businesses. These roles include, among others, asset management, capital raising, broker-dealer, investment sourcing, research, advisory, cash management and fund administration services.  Collectively, the nine pre-qualified PPIP fund managers have established 10 unique relationships with leading small-, veteran-, minority-, and women-owned financial services businesses, located in five different states, pursuant to the Legacy Securities PPIP.  Moreover, as Treasury previously announced, small-, veteran-, minority-, and women-owned businesses will continue to have the opportunity to partner with selected fund managers following pre-qualification.  Set forth below is a list (in alphabetical order) of the established small-, veteran-, minority-, and women-owned businesses partnerships:

  • Advent Capital Management, LLC;
  • Altura Capital Group LLC;
  • Arctic Slope Regional Corporation;
  • Atlanta Life Financial Group, through its subsidiary Jackson Securities LLC;
  • Blaylock Robert Van, L.L.C.;
  • CastleOak Securities, LP;
  • Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc.;
  • Park Madison Partners LLC;
  • The Williams Capital Group, L.P.; and
  • Utendahl Capital Management.

In addition to the evaluation of applications, Treasury has conducted legal, compliance and business due diligence on each pre-qualified Legacy Securities PPIP fund manager.  The due diligence process encompassed, among other things, in-person management presentations and limited partner reference calls.  Treasury has negotiated equity and debt term sheets (see attached link for the terms of Treasury’s equity and debt investments in the Legacy Securities PPIP funds) for each pre-qualified Legacy Securities PPIP fund manager.  Treasury will continue to negotiate final documentation with each pre-qualified fund manager with the expectation of announcing a first closing of a PPIF in early August.

Each pre-qualified Legacy Securities PPIP fund manager will have up to 12 weeks to raise at least $500 million of capital from private investors for the PPIF.  The equity capital raised from private investors will be matched by Treasury.  Each pre-qualified Legacy Securities PPIP fund manager will also invest a minimum of $20 million of firm capital into the PPIF.  Upon raising this private capital, pre-qualified Legacy Securities PPIP fund managers can begin purchasing Eligible Assets.  Treasury will also provide debt financing up to 100% of the total equity of the PPIF.  In addition, PPIFs will be able to obtain debt financing raised from private sources, and leverage through the Federal Reserve’s and Treasury’s Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), for those assets eligible for that program, subject to total leverage limits and covenants.

Legacy Securities and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility

On May 19, 2009, the Federal Reserve Board announced that, starting in July 2009, certain high-quality commercial mortgage-backed securities issued before January 1, 2009 (“legacy CMBS”) would become eligible collateral under the TALF. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury also continue to assess whether to expand TALF to include legacy residential mortgage-backed securities as an eligible asset class.

The CMBS market, which has financed approximately 20 percent of outstanding commercial mortgages, including mortgages on offices and multi-family residential, retail and industrial properties, came to a standstill in mid-2008. The extension of eligible TALF collateral to include legacy CMBS is intended to promote price discovery and liquidity for legacy CMBS. The announcements about the acceptance of CMBS as TALF collateral are already having a notable impact on markets for eligible securities.

Legacy Loan Program

In order to help cleanse bank balance sheets of troubled legacy loans and reduce the overhang of uncertainty associated with these assets, the FDIC and Treasury designed the Legacy Loan Program alongside the Legacy Securities PPIP.

The Legacy Loan Program is intended to boost private demand for distressed assets and facilitate market-priced sales of troubled assets. The FDIC would provide oversight for the formation, funding, and operation of a number of vehicles that will purchase these assets from banks or directly from the FDIC. Private investors would invest equity capital and the FDIC will provide a guarantee for debt financing issued by these vehicles to fund asset purchases. The FDIC’s guarantee would be collateralized by the purchased assets.  The FDIC would receive a fee in return for its guarantee.

On March 26, 2009, the FDIC announced a comment period for the Legacy Loan Program, and has now incorporated this feedback into the design of the program. The FDIC has announced that it will test the funding mechanism contemplated by the LLP in a sale of receivership assets this summer. This funding mechanism draws upon concepts successfully employed by the Resolution Trust Corporation in the 1990s, which routinely assisted in the financing of asset sales through responsible use of leverage. The FDIC expects to solicit bids for this sale of receivership assets in July. The FDIC remains committed to building a successful Legacy Loan Program for open banks and will be prepared to offer it in the future as needed to cleanse bank balance sheets and bolster their ability to support the credit needs of the economy. In addition, the FDIC will continue to work on ways to increase the utilization of this program by open banks and investors.

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Bart Mallon, Esq. runs hedge fund law blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund, please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-296-8510.

CFTC Chairman Speaks to MFA

Chairman Gary Gensler Discusses Over-the-Counter Derivatives Regulation and Hedge Funds

CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler has been busy lately testifying before Congress and now speaking to the Managed Futures Association.  His remarks to the MFA, which can be found here and which are reprinted in full below, mirror his earlier statements to the Congress regarding the regulation of OTC derivates and hedge fund registration (see Congress and Regulators Discuss OTC Derivatives).  Gensler’s comments are generally seen as reasonable but aggressive and we are seeing an increase in the political power of the CFTC in general and vis-a-vis the SEC (with respect to certain issues at least).  I am very interested in how these issues will play out in the political process over the next few month.

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Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Office of External Affairs
Three Lafayette Centre
1155 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20581
202.418.5080

Remarks of Chairman Gary Gensler Before the Managed Funds Association, Chicago, Illinois

June 24, 2009

Thank you for that introduction, Richard. I greatly appreciate the invitation to speak to the Managed Funds Association at this critical time in our nation’s economy. The last time the two of us were together with a crowd of this size, I was testifying as an Undersecretary at the Department of the Treasury before your Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Once again, we’re together discussing challenges facing our financial system and possible solutions.

As President Obama announced exactly one week ago, we must urgently enact broad regulatory reforms of our financial system. The President’s proposal offers bold reforms seeking to prevent the financial breakdowns that led to our current crisis. It is sweeping in scope, cutting across the financial system to provide greater oversight, transparency and accountability.

Today I would like to focus on two key areas: regulation of over-the-counter derivatives and hedge funds.

Over-the-Counter Derivatives

We must establish a regulatory regime to cover the entire over-the-counter derivatives marketplace.
This will help the American public by: One – lowering systemic risk. Two – providing transparency and efficiency in markets. Three – ensuring market integrity by preventing fraud, manipulation, and other abuses. And four – protecting the retail public.

This new regime should govern 100% of OTC derivatives no matter who is trading them or what type of derivative is traded, standardized or customized. That includes interest rate swaps, currency swaps, commodity swaps, equity swaps, credit default swaps or those which cannot yet be foreseen.

I envision this will require two complementary regimes — one for regulation of the dealers and one for regulation of the market functions. Together, with both of these, we will ensure that the entire derivatives marketplace is subject to comprehensive regulation.

The current financial crisis has taught us that the derivatives trading activities of a single firm can threaten the entire financial system. The costs to the public from the failure of these firms has been staggering, $180 Billion of American taxpayer financial support for AIG alone. The AIG subsidiary that dealt in derivatives – AIG Financial Products –was not subject to any effective federal regulation. Nor were the derivatives dealers affiliated with Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and other investment banks. As such, all derivatives dealers need to be subject to robust federal regulation.

Regulation of the dealers should set capital standards and margin requirements to lower risk. We also must set business conduct standards. These standards would guard against fraud, manipulation, and other market abuses. Additionally, they would lower risk by setting important back office standards for timely and accurate confirmation, processing, netting, documentation, and valuation of all transactions. Lastly, we must also mandate recordkeeping and reporting to promote transparency and to allow the CFTC and SEC to vigorously enforce market integrity.

By fully regulating the institutions that trade or hold themselves out to the public as derivative dealers we ensure that all OTC products, both standardized and customized, are subject to robust oversight. Particular care should be given to ensure that no gaps exist between the regulation of standardized and customized products. Customized derivatives, though allowed, would be subject to capital, margin, business conduct and reporting standards. Customized derivatives, however, are by their nature less standard, less liquid and less transparent. Therefore, I believe that higher capital and margin requirements for customized products are justified.

Beyond regulating the dealers, I believe that we must mandate the use of central clearing and exchange venues for all standardized derivatives. Derivatives that can be moved into central clearing should be cleared through regulated central clearing houses and brought onto regulated exchanges or regulated transparent electronic trading systems.

Requiring clearing will promote market integrity and lower risks. Individual firms will become less interconnected as OTC transactions are netted out through centralized clearing. Furthermore, mandated clearing will bring the discipline of daily valuation of transactions and the posting of collateral.

I also would like to highlight three essential features for OTC central clearinghouses:

  • Governance arrangements should be transparent and incorporate a broad range of viewpoints from members and other market participants,
  • Central counterparties should be required to have fair and open access criteria that allow any firm that meets objective, prudent standards to participate regardless of whether it is a dealer or a trading firm, and
  • Finally, in order to promote clearing and achieve market efficiency through competition, OTC derivatives should be fungible and able to be transferred between one exchange or electronic trading system to another.

Market transparency and efficiency would be further improved by requiring the standardized part of the OTC markets onto fully regulated exchanges and fully regulated transparent electronic trading systems. Experience has shown that President Franklin Roosevelt’s approach is correct. To function well, markets must be properly-regulated and transparent. They simply cannot police themselves nor remain in the dark.

Regulated exchanges and regulated transparent trading systems will bring much needed transparency to OTC markets. Market participants should be able to see all of the bids and offers. A complete audit trail of all transactions on the exchanges or trade execution systems should be available to the regulators. Through a trade reporting system there should be timely public posting of the price, volume and key terms of completed transactions.

Market regulators should have authority to impose recordkeeping and reporting requirements and to police the operations of all exchanges and electronic trading systems to prevent fraud, manipulation and other abuses.

The CFTC should have the ability to impose position limits, including aggregate limits, on all persons trading OTC derivatives that perform or affect a significant price discovery function with respect to regulated markets that the CFTC oversees. Such position limit authority should clearly empower the CFTC to establish aggregate position limits across markets in order to ensure that traders are not able to avoid position limits in a market by moving to a related exchange or market, including international markets.

To fully achieve these objectives, we must enact both of these complementary regimes. Regulating both the traders and the markets will ensure that we cover both the actors and the stages that may create significant risks.

Hedge Funds

The second topic that I would like to discuss is regulation of hedge funds. President Obama has called for advisers to hedge funds and other investment funds to register with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act. Advisers should be required to report information on the funds they manage that is sufficient to assess whether any fund poses a threat to financial stability.

The Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) currently provides that funds trading in the futures markets register as Commodity Pool Operators (CPO) and file annual financials with the CFTC. Over 1300 CPOs, including many of the largest hedge funds, are currently registered with and make annual filings to the CFTC. It will be important that the CFTC be able to maintain its enforcement authority over these entities as the SEC takes on important new responsibilities in this area.

This financial crisis also gave new meaning to the term “run on the bank”. Upon hearing those words, most of us would conjure up the image of the citizens of Bedford Falls standing outside George Bailey’s Savings and Loan in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Last year, we witnessed the modern version of this in a number of ways. A harsh lesson of the crisis occurred when a significant number of hedge funds sought to pull securities and funds from their prime brokers, contributing to uncertainty and the destabilization of the financial system.

You may be aware of proposals being discussed by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) regarding the relationship between hedge funds and their prime brokerages and banks, which will require new oversight and rules of the road. Here at home, we should seriously consider similar principles to best guard against runs on liquidity by hedge funds.

In an effort to harmonize financial market oversight, the President requested the CFTC and SEC to provide a report to Congress by September 30, 2009. We will identify existing differences in statutes and regulations with respect to similar types of financial instruments, explain if differences are still appropriate, and make recommendations for changes. In developing recommendations for harmonization we will seek broad input from the public, other regulators, and market users.

Before closing, I would like to mention Chairman Levin’s report on wheat convergence released today by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Chairman Levin’s report is a significant contribution to discussions regarding the potential effects of index trading in the wheat market and other commodity futures markets. As the Commission continues our own analysis and appropriate regulatory responses, Chairman Levin’s recommendations will be carefully considered.
I would like to thank you again for having me here today, and I am happy to take questions.

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Congress and Regulators Discuss OTC Derivatives Regulation

Increased regulation looming as SEC and CFTC jockey for position

The  severe financial crisis that has unfolded over the last two years has revealed serious weaknesses in the structure of U.S. financial regulation, as well as the pressing need for a comprehensive regulatory framework.  Part of President Obama’s new financial regulation plan is to regulate the over the counter (OTC) derivatives markets.  On June 22nd, 2009, both the SEC and CFTC testified to congress regarding the regulation of these markets.

Chairman Mary Shapiro (SEC) and Chairman Gary Gensler (CTFC) each testified before Congress to address the existing gaps in regulatory oversight of these securities-related OTC derivatives, and propose a new framework that would provide expand regulatory authority of the CTFC and SEC to oversee the OTC markets. The primary goal of the proposed regulatory reform measures is to achieve the following four primary objectives:

  1. preventing activities in the OTC derivatives markets from posing risk to the financial system;
  2. promoting efficiency and transparency of those markets;
  3. preventing market manipulation, fraud, and other market abuses; and
  4. ensuring that OTC derivatives are not marketed inappropriately to unsophisticated parties.

I have reprinted the entire SEC testimony and CFTC testimony below.

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Testimony Concerning Regulation of Over-The-Counter Derivatives
by Chairman Mary L. Schapiro

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Before the Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
United States Senate
June 22, 2009

I. Introduction

Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Bunning, and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify on behalf of the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning the regulation of over-the-counter (“OTC”) derivatives. The severe financial crisis that has unfolded over the last two years has revealed serious weaknesses in the structure of U.S. financial regulation. One of these is the gap in regulation of OTC derivatives, which under current law are largely excluded or exempted from regulation. The SEC is committed to working closely with this Committee, the Congress, the Administration, and fellow regulatory agencies to close this gap and restore a sound structure for U.S. financial regulation.

My testimony today on the regulation of OTC derivatives will reflect the SEC’s perspective as the country’s capital markets regulator. First, I will give an overview of the OTC derivatives markets, with particular focus on those derivatives products that are directly related to or based on securities or issuers of securities and therefore directly connected with the SEC’s statutory mandate. Second, I will outline an approach that would address the existing gaps in regulatory oversight of these securities-related OTC derivatives.

I must tell you right at the start that, given the current limited regulation of OTC derivatives, no regulatory authority can give you a complete picture of OTC derivatives and how they have affected the regulated securities markets. One reason that we need legislation is that our sources of information about securities-related OTC derivatives products, participants, and trading are limited, particularly when contrasted with the tools we have to monitor the markets for other securities products subject to the federal securities laws.

The good news, however, is that the U.S. regulatory authorities have reached a broad consensus on the pressing need for a comprehensive regulatory framework for OTC derivatives. As reflected in Treasury Secretary Geithner’s letter to the Congressional leadership on May 13, 2009, this consensus covers all of the basics of sound financial regulation in the 21st century, including recordkeeping and reporting requirements, appropriate capital and margin requirements, transparent and efficient markets, clearing and settlement systems that monitor and manage risk, business conduct and disclosure standards to protect the interests of market participants, and vigorous enforcement against fraud and other wrongdoing.

One important aspect of a new regulatory framework will be well-regulated central counterparties (“CCPs”). CCPs address concerns about counterparty risk by substituting the creditworthiness and liquidity of the CCP for the creditworthiness and liquidity of counterparties. For this reason, CCPs contribute generally to the goal of market stability. Through uniform margining and other risk controls, including controls on market-wide concentrations that cannot be implemented effectively when counterparty risk management is decentralized, CCPs help protect the broader financial system. It is important to note that achieving standardization, a prerequisite for centralized clearing, may present significant challenges.

U.S. regulators agree on the objectives of a new regulatory framework for OTC derivatives that will protect the public interest, manage systemic risk, and promote capital formation and general economic welfare. Any new regulatory framework, however, should take into consideration the purposes that appropriately regulated derivatives can serve, including affording market participants the ability to hedge positions and effectively manage risk. My goal today is to assist the Congress as best I can in its efforts to craft legislation that empowers the respective regulatory authorities to do their jobs effectively in any new framework. I am confident that, working together, we will meet the challenge that is so important to the financial well-being of individual Americans.

II. Overview of Securities-Related OTC Derivatives

A derivative is a financial instrument whose value is based on the value of an underlying “reference” (e.g., an asset such as a commodity, bond, equity, or currency, or an index of such assets, or an event). For example, in exchange for $100 today, financial institution “A” will pay counterparty “B” $150 if “something” happens (something can be almost anything: Z company defaults on its debt payments; the S&P 500 falls 10%; the Dow rises 5%). A derivative is “OTC” when it is not traded on a regulated exchange. An OTC derivative is “securities-related” when the reference is to an entity that is an issuer of securities (such as a public company), to a security itself (or a related event such as a dividend payment), to a group or index of securities or issuers, or based on related aspects of a security or group or index of securities or issuers, such as price, yield, volatility, dividend payments, or value.

An OTC derivative is an incredibly flexible product that can, essentially, be engineered to achieve almost any financial purpose between two parties. Indeed, as I will discuss later, an OTC derivative can enable market participants to replicate the economics of either a purchase or sale of securities without purchasing or selling the securities themselves. Transactions occurring in the OTC derivatives markets can serve important economic purposes such as allowing market participants to hedge exposure and manage risk. When market participants engage in these types of transactions in the OTC derivatives markets, the transactions, which are substantially similar to traditional securities transactions, and the parties engaged in them, would fall outside the current reach of key provisions of the federal securities laws.

OTC derivatives are largely excluded from the securities regulatory framework by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.1 In a recent study on a type of securities-related OTC derivative known as a credit default swap, or CDS, the Government Accountability Office found that “comprehensive and consistent data on the overall market have not been readily available,” that “authoritative information about the actual size of the CDS market is generally not available,” and that regulators currently are unable “to monitor activities across the market.”

One source of information on OTC derivatives volume is the data collected by the Bank for International Settlements (“BIS”). BIS data cover the OTC derivatives exposure of major banks and dealers in the G10 countries. For all OTC derivatives in December 2008, BIS reported a notional amount outstanding of $592 trillion and a gross market value outstanding of $34 trillion. Interest rate contracts and foreign exchange contracts are the two largest sources of OTC derivatives volume. For those types of products that appear to be securities-related credit derivatives and equity derivatives in December 2008, BIS reported a notional amount outstanding of $48.4 trillion and a gross market value outstanding of $6.8 trillion. A notional amount of $70 trillion and a gross market value of $5 trillion are “unallocated” for December 2008. Clearly, this volume of largely unregulated financial activity is enormous, even when just considering the relatively small volume component that is securities-related.

Who are the major participants in the securities-related OTC derivatives markets? First, the markets are concentrated and appear to be almost exclusively “dealer-intermediated” — that is, one of a small number of major dealers is a party to almost all transactions, whether as a buyer or a seller. The customers of the dealers appear to be almost exclusively institutions. Many of these may be highly sophisticated, such as large hedge funds and other pooled short-term trading vehicles. As you know, many hedge funds have not been subject to direct regulation by the SEC and, accordingly, we have very little ability to obtain information concerning their trading activity at this point.

Other customers in the securities-related OTC derivatives markets have been institutions for which derivatives products may not be a suitable investment. In this regard, there is consensus among U.S. regulators reflected in Secretary Geithner’s letter is to ensure that OTC derivatives are not marketed inappropriately to unsophisticated parties. The SEC and CFTC staff, together with other financial regulators, currently are considering a tiered approach to regulation, with scaling that could be based in the first instance on indicia of sophistication and financial thresholds, with requirements for additional disclosure and standards of care with respect to the marketing of derivatives to less sophisticated counterparties. Implementation of such a regulatory approach would depend on a Congressional grant of authority in this area.

Finally, what are the purposes for which securities-related OTC derivatives may be used? One example of a useful purpose for securities-related OTC derivatives is to manage the risk associated with a particular securities position. An investor with a large position in the debt of a company may seek to reduce or hedge some of the risk associated with that investment by purchasing credit protection in the CDS market. In addition, market participants also may use a securities-related OTC derivative to establish a short position with respect to the debt of a specific company. In particular, a market participant that does not own a bond or other debt instrument of a company may purchase a CDS as a way to short that company’s debt.

Market participants take positions in a wide range of exchange-traded and OTC instruments. It is a market participant’s overall (or net) economic exposure that plays a role in determining the risks to which it is exposed. Because OTC derivatives can be customized, a market participant could take a long position in an index — such as the S&P 100 index — through a securities-related OTC derivative and a short position through another OTC derivative on a subset of the securities in the S&P 100 index. The flexibility to tailor OTC derivative contracts allows a participant to create an economic exposure to as large or small a portion of the market it chooses through one or a combination of contracts. This flexibility allowed by OTC derivatives is one of these contracts’ strengths. Because of the link to regulated securities market, however, it is important that the SEC have the tools to see all related activity so that it is in the best position possible to detect and deter market abuses that can disrupt the integrity of the market.

III. Filling Regulatory Gaps in Oversight of Securities-Related OTC Derivatives

Secretary Geithner’s May 13 letter to the Congressional leadership outlined the Administration’s plan for establishing a comprehensive framework for regulating OTC derivatives. The framework is designed to achieve four broad objectives: (1) preventing activities in the OTC derivatives markets from posing risk to the financial system; (2) promoting efficiency and transparency of those markets; (3) preventing market manipulation, fraud, and other market abuses; and (4) ensuring that OTC derivatives are not marketed inappropriately to unsophisticated parties.

Secretary Geithner recognized that multiple federal regulatory agencies would play critical roles in implementing the proposed framework, including the SEC and the CFTC. He emphasized that the securities and commodities laws should be amended to ensure that the SEC and CFTC, consistent with their respective missions, have the necessary authority to achieve — together with the efforts of other regulators — the four policy objectives for OTC derivatives regulation.

The final part of my testimony today is intended to follow up on Secretary Geithner’s letter by recommending a straightforward and principled approach for achieving these policy objectives. Stated briefly, primary responsibility for “securities-related” OTC derivatives would be retained by the SEC, which is also responsible for oversight of markets affected by this subset of OTC derivatives. Primary responsibility for all other OTC derivatives, including derivatives related to interest rates, foreign exchange, commodities, energy, and metals, , would rest with the CFTC.

Under this functional and sensible approach to regulation, OTC derivatives markets that are interconnected with the regulated securities markets would be incorporated within a unified securities regulatory regime. The direct link between securities-related OTC derivatives and securities is such that SEC regulation of the former is essential to the effectiveness of the SEC’s statutory mission with respect to the securities markets. The securities regulatory regime is specifically designed to promote the Congressional objectives for capital markets, which include investor protection, the maintenance of fair and orderly markets, and the facilitation of capital formation. It is important that securities-related OTC derivatives be subject to the federal securities laws so that the risk of arbitrage and manipulation of interconnected markets is minimized.

Over the years, Congress has fashioned a broad and flexible regulatory regime for securities that long has accommodated a wide range of products and trading venues. The products include equities, debt, other fixed income securities, options on securities, exchange-traded funds and other investment companies, and many other types of derivative contracts on securities. Some of these securities products are among the most actively traded financial products in the world, with exchange-listed US equities currently trading approximately 11 billion shares per day. Many other securities products trade rarely, if at all. In addition, securities products trade in many different ways in a wide variety of venues, depending on the particular features of the product. These venues include 11 national securities exchanges with self-regulatory responsibilities, more than 70 alternative trading systems that execute OTC transactions, and hundreds of broker-dealers that execute OTC transactions. Finally, securities products are cleared and settled in a variety of ways depending on the particular characteristics of the product.

The current securities laws are broad and flexible enough to regulate appropriately all of these varied securities products and trading venues. The regulatory requirements are specifically tailored to reflect the particular nature of products and venues and to promote the Congressional objectives for capital markets. Accordingly, securities-related OTC derivatives could be brought under the same umbrella of oversight as the related, underlying securities markets in a relatively straightforward manner with little need to “reinvent the wheel.” Specifically, Congress could make a limited number of discrete amendments to the statutory definition of a security to cover securities-related OTC derivatives. With these definitional changes, securities-related OTC derivatives could be incorporated within an existing regulatory framework that is appropriate for these products.

The rest of my testimony will elaborate on this basic approach. I first will discuss the close relationship between the regulated securities markets and the markets for securities-related OTC derivatives and then sketch an overview of how oversight of such instruments could be integrated with the SEC’s existing oversight of the securities markets.

A. Relationship between the Securities Markets and Securities-Related OTC Derivatives

In fashioning a regulatory framework for OTC derivatives, it is crucial to recognize the close relationship between the regulated securities markets and the now mostly unregulated markets for securities-related OTC derivatives. Securities-related OTC derivatives can be used to establish either a synthetic “long” exposure to an underlying security or group of securities, or a synthetic “short” exposure to an underlying security or group of securities. In this way, market participants can replicate the economics of either a purchase or sale of securities without purchasing or selling the securities themselves.

For example, an equity swap on a single equity security or on an index, such as one of the Dow stocks or the Dow itself, would give the holder of the “long” position all of the economic exposure of owning the stock or index, without actual ownership of the stock or index. This would include exposure to price movements of the stock or index, as well as any dividends or other distributions. Similarly, credit default swaps (“CDS”) can be used as synthetic substitutes for the debt securities of one or more companies. Indeed, any exchange of cash for a security can be structured as an OTC derivatives contract.

Because market participants can readily use securities-related OTC derivatives to serve as synthetic substitutes for securities, the markets for these OTC derivatives directly and powerfully implicate the policy objectives for capital markets that Congress has set forth in the federal securities laws. These objectives include investor protection, the maintenance of fair and orderly markets, and the facilitation of capital formation.

1. Investor Protection

The current regulatory framework has permitted certain opaque securities-related OTC derivatives markets to develop outside of investor protection provisions of the securities laws. These provisions include requiring the disclosure of significant ownership provisions and recordkeeping and reporting (including those that serve as prophylactic measures against fraud, manipulation, or insider trading) that helps to promote enforcement of the securities laws.

The exclusion of certain securities-related OTC derivatives from most of the securities regulatory regime has detracted from the SEC’s ability to uphold its investor protection mandate. For example, in investigating possible market manipulation during the financial crisis, the SEC has used its anti-fraud authority over security-based swaps to gather information about transactions in OTC derivatives as well as in the underlying securities. Yet investigations of these OTC derivative transactions have been far more difficult and time-consuming than those involving cash equities and options. Audit trail data on OTC derivative transactions is not readily available and must be reconstructed manually, in contrast to the data available in the equity markets. The SEC’s enforcement efforts have been seriously complicated by the lack of a mechanism for promptly obtaining critical information — who traded, how much, and when — that is complete and accurate.

In addition, the SEC believes that it is important in the OTC derivatives market, as in the market for securities generally, that parties to transactions have access to financial information and other disclosures so they can evaluate the risks relating to a particular investment to make more informed investment decisions and can value and evaluate their OTC derivatives and their counterparty exposures. For example, this information assists market participants in performing adequate due diligence on their investments and in valuing their OTC derivatives and their other risks.

A basic tenet of functional regulation of securities markets is to have a regulatory regime under which similar products and activities should be subject to similar regulations and oversight. Currently, securities are subject to transparency, active enforcement, and appropriate regulation of business conduct. Whereas securities-related OTC derivatives, which are interconnected with the securities markets (and in some cases are economic substitutes for securities) are not subject to most of these investor protection requirements. The securities laws are uniquely designed to address these issues and should be extended to OTC derivatives.

2. Fair and Orderly Markets

Trading in securities-related OTC derivatives can directly affect trading in the securities markets. From an economic viewpoint, the interchangeability of securities and securities-related OTC derivatives means that they are driven by the same economic forces and are linked by common participants, trading strategies, and hedging activities.

For example, credit default swap, or CDS trading is closely related to trading in the underlying securities that compose the capital structure of the companies on which protection is written. Trading practices in the CDS market, whether legitimate or abusive, can affect the securities markets. The CDS market, however, lacks the level of transparency and other protections that characterize the regulated securities markets. As a result, the SEC has been unable to monitor effectively for trading abuses and whether purchasers of CDS protection on an issuer’s debt have sold short the equity securities of that company as a trading strategy, effectively linking activities and changes in the CDS market with those in the cash equity market. These activities in the CDS market could adversely impact the regulated securities markets. Any regulatory reform that maintained distinct regulatory regimes for securities markets and markets for securities-related OTC derivatives would suffer from this same limitation.

The SEC is considering whether reporting under the Exchange Act should apply to security-based OTC derivatives so that the ownership of and transactions in security-based derivatives would be considered ownership of and transactions in the underlying equity security. We are further evaluating whether persons using equity derivatives, such as an equity swap, should be subject to the beneficial ownership reporting provisions of the Exchange Act when accumulating substantial share positions in connection with change of control transactions.

3. Capital Formation

Facilitating capital formation depends on the existence of fair and efficient secondary markets for investors. Purchasers in the primary offering of a company are attracted by secondary markets that enable them to liquidate their positions readily. Less efficient markets can cause potential investors in companies either to find other uses for their funds or to demand a higher rate of return to compensate them for a less efficient secondary market. If a disparity in the regulatory requirements for securities and securities-related OTC derivatives cause securities markets to operate less efficiently, it will harm those companies that depend on the U.S. securities markets to access the capital that is essential for innovation and growth, as well as harming investors and the capital markets as a whole.

Because many securities-related OTC derivatives are allowed to trade outside of the securities regulatory regime, the SEC generally is unable to promote transparency in the trading of these products and efficiency in pricing. As noted above, companies whose securities are affected by the excluded products could suffer from the absence of transparency and efficiency. Moreover, manipulative activities in the markets for securities-related OTC derivatives can affect US issuers in the underlying equity market, thereby damaging the public perception of those companies and raising their cost of capital. To protect the integrity of the markets, trading in all securities-related OTC derivatives should be fully subject to the US regulatory regime designed to facilitate capital formation. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that derivatives transactions, including OTC derivatives transactions, allow parties to hedge and manage risk, which itself can promote capital formation. To the extent the ability to manage risk is inappropriately limited, it can discourage market participation, including by investors.

B. Regulatory Oversight of Securities-Related OTC Derivatives

To provide a unified, consistent framework for securities regulation, Congress should subject securities-related OTC derivatives to the federal securities laws. This result can be achieved simply by clarifying the definition of “security” to expressly include securities-related OTC derivatives, and removing the current express exclusion of swaps from that definition. The SEC then would have authority to regulate securities-related OTC derivatives regardless of how the products are traded, whether on an exchange or OTC, and regardless of how the products are cleared.

1. Definition of Securities-Related OTC Derivatives

OTC derivatives can be categorized generally as securities-related or non-securities-related, based on the different types of underlying assets, events, or interests to which they are related. Securities-related OTC derivatives would include equity derivatives and credit and other fixed income derivatives. Non-securities-related derivatives would include interest rate derivatives, foreign currency derivatives, and all non-financial derivatives. By including securities-related OTC derivatives under the umbrella of the federal securities laws, the SEC would have responsibility over the portion of the OTC derivatives market that is vital to promote its mission of investor protection, the maintenance of fair and orderly markets, and the facilitation of capital formation.

In addition, the SEC would continue to regulate those types of OTC derivatives that always have been considered securities, such as OTC security options, certain OTC notes (including equity-linked notes), and forward contracts on securities. These particular types of OTC derivatives always have been included in the definition of security and current law recognizes this fact by excluding these derivatives from the definition of “swap agreement” in Section 206A of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

2.Regulation of OTC Derivatives Dealers and Major OTC Participants

Under our recommended approach, major participants in the OTC derivatives markets would be subject to oversight and supervision to ensure there are no gaps. To reduce duplication, OTC derivatives dealers that are banks would be subject to prudential supervision by their federal banking regulator. All other OTC derivatives dealers in securities-related OTC derivatives would be subject to supervision and regulation by the SEC. The SEC would have authority to set appropriate capital requirements for these OTC derivatives dealers. This approach would permit existing OTC derivatives dealers that are banks to continue to engage in OTC derivatives activities without being subject to the full panoply of broker-dealer regulation, while ensuring that all currently unregulated OTC derivatives dealers in securities-related OTC derivatives are subject to appropriate supervision and regulation. Should Congress establish a new systemic risk regulator or systemic risk council, that entity also could help monitor institutions that might present systemic risk.

In addition, the SEC would have authority to establish business conduct standards and recordkeeping and reporting requirements (including an audit trail) for all securities-related OTC derivatives dealers and other firms with large counterparty exposures in securities-related OTC derivatives (“Major OTC Participants”). This “umbrella” authority would help ensure that the SEC has the tools it needs to oversee the entire market for securities-related OTC derivatives. Major OTC Participants also would be required to meet appropriate standards for the segregation of customer funds and securities.

3. Trading Markets and Clearing Agencies

Trading markets and clearing organizations for securities-related OTC derivatives would be subject to registration requirements as exchanges and clearing agencies. Importantly, however, the conditional exemption from exchange registration the SEC provided under Regulation ATS would be available to trading systems for securities-related OTC derivatives. Among other things, Regulation ATS lowers barriers to entry for trading systems in securities because the systems need not assume the full self-regulatory responsibilities associated with being a national securities exchange. Both registered exchanges and ATSs are subject to important transparency requirements. Consequently, expanding the SEC’s authority over securities-related OTC derivatives would promote improved efficiency and transparency in the markets for securities-related OTC derivatives.

Similarly, the regulatory regime for securities clearing agencies would ensure that CCPs for securities-related OTC derivatives impose appropriate margin requirements and other necessary risk controls. The SEC’s historic regulation of clearing agencies under Section 17A of the Exchange Act has resulted in the most efficient, lowest cost clearing in the world. Indeed, the solid performance of securities clearing systems during the financial crisis bears out that they have the resilience to withstand difficult economic conditions. In addition, the regulation of securities clearance and settlement would directly affect market structure and competition in the trading markets for securities-related OTC derivatives. For example, the SEC’s statutory mandate governing clearing agencies prohibits clearing agencies from engaging in anti-competitive practices, such as imposing unreasonable limitations on access to services. Clearing agencies cannot exclude participants merely for executing their trades in a cleared product in a particular venue. This fair access requirement allows for multiple, competing markets, including OTC trading systems and OTC dealers, to trade the same securities and clear through a single clearing organization. The securities clearing system would support both the goal of having the greatest number of OTC derivatives centrally cleared, while retaining flexibility to allow variation in trading venues to meet the trading needs of different instruments and participants.

The SEC already has taken a number of actions to help further the centralized clearing for OTC derivatives, including exempting three CCPs from the requirement to register as securities clearing agencies. These exemptions were issued to speed the operation of central clearing for CDS. They are temporary and subject to conditions designed to ensure that important elements of Commission oversight apply, such as recordkeeping and Commission staff access to examine clearing facilities. In addition, to further the goal of transparency, each clearing agency is required to make publicly available on fair, reasonable, and not unreasonably discriminatory terms end-of-day settlement prices and any other pricing or valuation information that it publishes or distributes.

One important issue is how to deal with those OTC derivative contracts that may be ineligible for central clearing. OTC derivatives may be ineligible for clearing for a variety of reasons, including customized terms and an inability of CCPs to effectively manage the risks. In many cases, there are legitimate economic reasons to engage in customized transactions. Participants in individual transactions, however, should not be permitted to externalize the costs of their decisions, such as by creating additional systemic risk. Regulatory requirements often have costs, but they are costs incurred to protect the public interest and the general economic welfare. One way for regulators to help ensure market participants incorporate all the risks in the terms of a transaction would be to impose appropriate margin and capital requirements on the participants in customized transactions to reflect the risks they pose to market systems generally. This is an area in which the various functional regulators for particular entities could consult closely with any systemic risk agency that Congress might establish.

In addressing all of these issues with respect to OTC derivatives, moreover, the U.S. must coordinate its efforts with those of regulatory authorities abroad as they seek to address similar issues. The global financial crisis is a potent reminder of the extent to which economies around the world are linked by financial practices and market participants. A sound regulatory approach for managing the systemic risk of such practices and participants benefits from the implementation of complementary measures on an international basis.

V. Conclusion

Bringing securities-related OTC derivatives under the umbrella of the federal securities laws would be based on sound principles of functional regulation, would be relatively straightforward to implement, and would promote Congressional policy objectives for the capital markets. A clear delineation of primary regulatory responsibility for OTC derivatives also would help avoid regulatory gaps from arising in the future. Finally, integrating oversight of securities-related OTC derivatives with oversight of the related, underlying securities markets would minimize the extent of dislocation with respect to existing participants and current practices in the OTC derivatives markets, while still achieving the objectives for OTC derivatives regulation set forth in Secretary Geithner’s letter to the Congressional leadership.

Thank you for the opportunity to address issues of such importance for the strength and stability of the U.S. financial system, and the integrity of the U.S. capital markets. I would be pleased to answer your questions.

****

Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Office of External Affairs
Three Lafayette Centre
1155 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20581
202.418.5080

Testimony of Chairman Gary Gensler, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Before the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment
June 22, 2009

Good morning Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Bunning, and Members of the Committee. I am here today testifying on behalf of the Commission.

The topic of today’s hearing, how to best modernize oversight of the over-the-counter derivatives markets, is of utmost importance during this crucial time for our economy. As President Obama laid out last week, we must urgently enact broad reforms in our financial regulatory structure in order to rebuild and restore confidence in our overall financial system.

Such reforms must comprehensively regulate both derivative dealers and the markets in which derivatives trade. I look forward to working with the Congress to ensure that the OTC derivatives markets are transparent and free from fraud, manipulation and other abuses.

This effort will require close coordination between the SEC and the CFTC to ensure the most appropriate regulation. I’m fortunate to have as a partner in this effort, SEC Chair Mary Schapiro. She brings invaluable expertise in both the security and commodity futures area, which gives me great confidence that we will be able to provide the Congress with a sound recommendation for comprehensive oversight of the OTC derivatives market. We also will work collaboratively on recommendations on how to best harmonize regulatory efforts between agencies as requested by President Obama. Comprehensive Regulatory Framework A comprehensive regulatory framework governing OTC derivative dealers and OTC derivative markets should apply to all dealers and all derivatives, no matter what type of derivative is traded or marketed. It should include interest rate swaps, currency swaps, commodity swaps, credit default swaps, and equity swaps. Further, it should apply to the dealers and derivatives no matter what type of swaps or other derivatives may be invented in the future. This framework should apply regardless of whether the derivatives are standardized or customized.

A new regulatory framework for OTC derivatives markets should be designed to achieve four key objectives:

  • Lower systemic risks;
  • Promote the transparency and efficiency of markets;
  • Promote market integrity by preventing fraud, manipulation, and other market abuses, and by setting position limits; and
  • Protect the public from improper marketing practices.

To best achieve these objectives, two complementary regulatory regimes must be implemented: one focused on the dealers that make the markets in derivatives and one focused on the markets themselves – including regulated exchanges, electronic trading systems and clearing houses. Only with these two complementary regimes will we ensure that federal regulators have full authority to bring transparency to the OTC derivatives world and to prevent fraud, manipulation, and other types of market abuses. These two regimes should apply no matter which type of firm, method of trading or type of derivative or swap is involved.

Regulating Derivatives Dealers:

I believe that institutions that deal in derivatives must be explicitly regulated. In addition, regulations should cover any other firms whose activities in these markets can create large exposures to counterparties. The current financial crisis has taught us that the derivatives trading activities of a single firm can threaten the entire financial system and that all such firms should be subject to robust Federal regulation. The AIG subsidiary that dealt in derivatives – AIG Financial Products – for example, was not subject to any effective regulation. The derivatives dealers affiliated with Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and other investment banks were not subject to mandatory regulation either. By fully regulating the institutions that trade or hold themselves out to the public as derivative dealers we can oversee and regulate the entire derivatives market. I believe that our laws should be amended to provide for the registration and regulation of all derivative dealers.

The full, mandatory regulation of all derivatives dealers would represent a dramatic change from the current system in which some dealers can operate with limited or no effective oversight. Specifically, all derivative dealers should be subject to capital requirements, initial margining requirements, business conduct rules, and reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Standards that already apply to some dealers, such as banking entities, should be strengthened and made consistent, regardless of the legal entity where the trading takes place.

Capital and Margin Requirements:

The Congress should explicitly require regulators to promulgate capital requirements for all derivatives dealers. Imposing prudent and conservative capital requirements, and initial margin requirements, on all transactions by these dealers will help prevent the types of systemic risks that AIG created. No longer would derivatives dealers or counterparties be able to amass large or highly leveraged risks outside the oversight and prudential safeguards of regulators.

Business Conduct and Transparency Requirements:

Business conduct standards should include measures to both protect the integrity of the market and lower the risk (both counterparty and operating) from OTC derivatives transactions. To promote market integrity, the business conduct standards should include prohibitions on fraud, manipulation and other abusive practices. For OTC derivatives that come under CFTC jurisdiction, these standards should require adherence to position limits when they perform or affect a significant price discovery function with respect to regulated markets.

Business conduct standards should ensure the timely and accurate confirmation, processing, netting, documentation, and valuation of all transactions. These standards for “back office” functions will help reduce risks by ensuring derivative dealers, their trading counterparties and regulators have complete, accurate and current knowledge of their outstanding risks.

Derivatives dealers also should be subject to recordkeeping and reporting requirements for all of their OTC derivatives positions and transactions. These requirements should include retaining a complete audit trail and mandated reporting of any trades that are not centrally cleared to a regulated trade repository. Trade repositories complement central clearing by providing a location where trades that are not centrally cleared can be recorded in a manner that allows the positions, transactions, and risks associated with those trades to be reported to regulators. To provide transparency of the entire OTC derivatives market, this information should be available to all relevant federal financial regulators. Additionally, there should be clear authority for regulating and setting standards for trade repositories and clearinghouses to ensure that the information recorded meets regulatory needs and that the repositories have strong business conduct practices.

The application of these business conduct standards and the transparency requirements will enable regulators to have timely and accurate knowledge of the risks and positions created by the dealers. It will provide authorities with the information and evidentiary record needed to take any appropriate action to address such risks and to protect and police market integrity. In this regard, the CFTC and SEC should have clear, unimpeded oversight and enforcement authority to prevent and punish fraud, manipulation and other market abuses.

Market transparency should be further enhanced by requiring that aggregated information on positions and trades be made available to the public. No longer should the public be in the dark about the extensive positions and trading in these markets. This public information will improve the price discovery process and market efficiency.

Regulating Derivatives Markets:

In addition to the significant benefits to be gained from broad regulation of derivatives dealers, I believe that additional safety and transparency must be afforded by regulating the derivative market functions as well. All derivatives that can be moved into central clearing should be required to be cleared through regulated central clearing houses and brought onto regulated exchanges or regulated transparent electronic trading systems.  Requiring clearing and trading on exchanges or through regulated electronic trading systems will promote transparency and market integrity and lower systemic risks. To fully achieve these objectives, both of these complementary regimes must be enacted.

Regulating both the traders and the trades will ensure that both the actors and the actions that may create significant risks are covered. Exchange-trading and central clearing are the two key and related components of well functioning markets. Ever since President Roosevelt called for the regulation of the commodities and securities markets in the early 1930s, the CFTC (and its predecessor) and the SEC have each regulated the clearing functions for the exchanges under their respective jurisdiction. The practice of having the agency which regulates an exchange or trade execution facility also regulate the clearing houses for that market has worked well and should continue as we extend regulations to cover the OTC derivatives market.

Central Clearing:

Central clearing should help reduce systemic risks in addition to the benefits derived from comprehensive regulation of derivatives dealers. Clearing reduces risks by facilitating the netting of transactions and by mutualizing credit risks. Currently, most of the contracts entered into in the OTC derivatives market are not cleared, and remain as bilateral contracts between individual buyers and sellers.

In contrast, when a contract between a buyer and seller is submitted to a clearinghouse for clearing, the contract is “novated” to the clearinghouse. This means that the clearinghouse is substituted as the counterparty to the contract and then stands between the buyer and the seller. Clearinghouses then guarantee the performance of each trade that is submitted for clearing. Clearinghouses use a variety of risk management practices to assure the fulfillment of this guarantee function. Foremost, derivatives clearinghouses would lower risk through the daily discipline of marking to market the value of each transaction. They also require the daily posting of margin to cover the daily changes in the value of positions and collect initial margin as extra protection against potential market changes that are not covered by the daily mark-to-market.

The regulations applicable to clearing should require that clearinghouses establish and maintain robust margin standards and other necessary risk controls and measures. It is important that we incorporate the lessons from the current crisis as well as the best practices reflected in international standards. Working with Congress, we should consider possible amendments to the CEA to expand and deepen the core principles that registered derivatives clearing organizations must meet to achieve these goals to both strengthen these systems and to reduce the possibility of regulatory arbitrage. Clearinghouses should have transparent governance arrangements that incorporate a broad range of viewpoints from members and other market participants.

Central counterparties should also be required to have fair and open access criteria that allow any firm that meets objective, prudent standards to participate regardless of whether it is a dealer or a trading firm. Additionally, central clearinghouses should implement rules that allow indirect participation in central clearing. By novating contracts to a central clearinghouse coupled with effective risk management practices, the failure of a single trader, like AIG, would no longer jeopardize all of the counterparties to its trades.

One of the lessons that emerged from this recent crisis was that institutions were not just “too big to fail,” but rather too interconnected as well. By mandating the use of central clearinghouses, institutions would become much less interconnected, mitigating risk and increasing transparency. Throughout this entire financial crisis, trades that were carried out through regulated exchanges and clearinghouses continued to be cleared and settled.

In implementing these responsibilities, it will be appropriate to consider possible additional oversight requirements that may be imposed by any systemic risk regulator that Congress may establish.  Under the Administration’s approach, the systemic regulator, would be charged with ensuring consistent and robust standards for all systemically important clearing, settlement and payment systems. For clearinghouses overseen comprehensively by the CFTC and SEC, the CFTC or SEC would remain the primary regulatory, but the systemic regulator would be able to request information from the primary regulator, participate in examinations led by the primary regulator, make recommendations on strengthening standards to the primary regulator and ultimately, after consulting with the primary regulator and the new Financial Services Oversight Council, use emergency authority to compel a clearinghouse to take actions to address financial risks. Exchange-trading. Beyond the significant transparency afforded the regulators and the public through the record keeping and reporting requirements of derivatives dealers, market transparency and efficiency would be further improved by moving the standardized part of the OTC markets onto regulated exchanges and regulated transparent electronic trading systems. I believe that this should be required of all standardized contracts.

Furthermore, a system for the timely reporting of trades and prompt dissemination of prices and other trade information to the public should be required. Both regulated exchanges and regulated transparent trading systems should allow market participants to see all of the bids and offers. A complete audit trail of all transactions on the exchanges or trade execution systems should be available to the regulators. Through a trade reporting system there should be timely public posting of the price, volume and key terms of completed transactions. The Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) system currently required for timely reporting in the OTC corporate bond market may provide a model.

The CFTC and SEC also should have authority to impose recordkeeping and reporting requirements and to police the operations of all exchanges and electronic trading systems to prevent fraud, manipulation and other abuses.

In contrast to long established on-exchange futures and securities markets, there is a need to encourage the further development of exchanges and electronic trading systems for OTC derivatives. In order to promote this goal and achieve market efficiency through competition, there should be sufficient product standardization so OTC derivative trades and open positions are fungible and can be transferred between one exchange or electronic trading system to another.

Position Limits:

Position limits must be applied consistently across all markets, across all trading platforms, and exemptions to them must be limited and well defined. The CFTC should have the ability to impose position limits, including aggregate limits, on all persons trading OTC derivatives that perform or affect a significant price discovery function with respect to regulated markets that the CFTC oversees. Such position limit authority should clearly empower the CFTC to establish aggregate position limits across markets in order to ensure that traders are not able to avoid position limits in a market by moving to a related exchange or market, including international markets.

Standardized and Customized Derivatives:

It is important that tailored or customized swaps that are not able to be cleared or traded on an exchange be sufficiently regulated. Regulations should also ensure that customized derivatives are not used solely as a means to avoid the clearing and exchange requirements. This could be accomplished in two ways. First, regulators should be given full authority to prevent fraud, manipulation and other abuses and to impose recordkeeping and transparency requirements with respect to the trading of all swaps, including customized swaps. Second, we must ensure that dealers and traders cannot change just a few minor terms of a standardized swap to avoid clearing and the added transparency of exchanges and electronic trading systems.

One way to ensure this would be to establish objective criteria for regulators to determine whether, in fact, a swap is standardized. For example, there should be a presumption that if an instrument is accepted for clearing by a fully regulated clearinghouse, then it should be required to be cleared. Additional potential criteria for consideration in determining whether a contract should be considered to be a standardized swap contract could include:

  • The volume of transactions in the contract;
  • The similarity of the terms in the contract to terms in standardized contracts;
  • Whether any differences in terms from a standardized contract are of economic significance; and
  • The extent to which any of the terms in the contract, including price, are disseminated to third parties.

Criteria such as these could be helpful in ensuring that parties are not able to avoid the requirements applicable to standardized contracts by tweaking the terms of such contracts and then labeling them “customized.  Regardless of whether an instrument is standardized or customized, or traded on an exchange or on a transparent electronic trade execution system, regulators should have clear, unimpeded authority to impose recordkeeping and reporting requirements, impose margin requirements, and prevent and punish fraud, manipulation and other market abuses. No matter how the instrument is traded, the CFTC and SEC as appropriate also should have clear, unimpeded authority to impose position limits, including aggregate limits, to prevent excessive speculation. A full audit trail should be available to the CFTC, SEC and other Federal regulators.

Authority:

To achieve these goals, the Commodity Exchange Act and security laws should be amended to provide the CFTC and SEC with clear authority to regulate OTC derivatives. The term “OTC derivative” should be defined, and clear authority should be given over all such instruments regardless of the regulatory agency. To the extent that specific types of OTC derivatives might overlap agencies’ existing jurisdiction, care must be taken to avoid unnecessary duplication.

As we enact new laws and regulations, we should be careful not to call into question the enforceability of existing OTC derivatives contracts. New legislation and regulations should not provide excuses for traders to avoid performance under pre-existing, valid agreements or to nullify pre-existing contractual obligations.

Achieving the Four Key Objectives:

Overall, I believe the complimentary regimes of dealer and market regulation would best achieve the four objectives outlined earlier. As a summary, let me review how this would accomplish the measures applied to both the derivative dealers and the derivative markets.

Lower Systemic Risk:

This dual regime would lower systemic risk through the following four measures:

  • Setting capital requirements for derivative dealers;
  • Creating initial margin requirements for derivative dealers (whether dealing in standardized or customized swaps);
  • Requiring centralized clearing of standardized swaps; and
  • Requiring business conduct standards for dealers.

Promote Market Transparency and Efficiency:

This complementary regime would promote market transparency and efficiency by:

  • Requiring that all OTC transactions, both standardized and customized, be reported to a regulated trade repository or central clearinghouses;
  • Requiring clearinghouses and trade repositories to make aggregate data on open positions and trading volumes available to the public;
  • Requiring clearinghouses and trade repositories to make data on any individual counterparty’s trades and positions available on a confidential basis to regulators;
  • Requiring centralized clearing of standardized swaps;
  • Moving standardized products onto regulated exchanges and regulated, transparent trade execution systems; and
  • Requiring the timely reporting of trades and prompt dissemination of prices and other trade information;

Promote Market Integrity:

It would promote market integrity by:

  • Providing regulators with clear, unimpeded authority to impose reporting requirements and to prevent fraud, manipulation and other types of market abuses;
  • Providing regulators with authority to set position limits, including aggregate position limits;
  • Moving standardized products onto regulated exchanges and regulated, transparent trade execution systems; and
  • Requiring business conduct standards for dealers.

Protect Against Improper Marketing Practices:

It would ensure protection of the public from improper marketing practices by:

  • Business conduct standards applied to derivatives dealers regardless of the type of instrument involved; and
  • Amending the limitations on participating in the OTC derivatives market in current law to tighten them or to impose additional disclosure requirements, or standards of care (e.g. suitability or know your customer requirements) with respect to marketing of derivatives to institutions that infrequently trade in derivatives, such as small municipalities.

Conclusion:

The need for reform of our financial system today has many similarities to the situation facing the country in the 1930s. In 1934, President Roosevelt boldly proposed to the Congress “the enactment of legislation providing for the regulation by the Federal Government of the operation of exchanges dealing in securities and commodities for the protection of investors, for the safeguarding of values, and so far as it may be possible, for the elimination of unnecessary, unwise, and destructive speculation.” The Congress swiftly responded to the clear need for reform by enacting the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Two years later it passed the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936.

It is clear that we need the same type of comprehensive regulatory reform today. Today’s regulatory reform package should cover all types of OTC derivatives dealers and markets. It should provide regulators with full authority regarding OTC derivatives to lower risk; promote transparency, efficiency, and market integrity and to protect the American public.

Today’s complex financial markets are global and irreversibly interlinked. We must work with our partners in regulating markets around the world to promote consistent rigor in enforcing standards that we demand of our markets to prevent regulatory arbitrage.

These policies are consistent with what I laid out to this committee in February and the Administration’s objectives. I look forward to working with this Committee, and others in Congress, to accomplish these goals.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee today. I look forward to answering any questions.

****

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New Model For Hedge Fund Prime Brokerage?

Nirvana Solutions’ White Paper Predicts the Emergence of a New Model of Prime Brokerage – The Multi-Prime Service Platform

San Francisco – June 15, 2009 – The financial crisis of 2008 has upset the relatively stable equilibrium previously maintained between hedge fund managers and their traditional service providers, according to a white paper released today by Nirvana Solutions, provider of Nirvana (TM), a real-time portfolio management system for multi-prime hedge funds, prime brokers, and fund administrators.

The white paper, entitled “The New Model of Prime Brokerage – The Multi-Prime Service Platform,” documents the dynamic changes to the hedge fund industry and its service providers in the aftermath of the 2008 market crash. Peter Curley, managing partner at Nirvana Solutions, examines how the roles of traditional service providers have changed, leading to the emergence of a new service model providing the full range of hedge fund services through a single, real-time multi-prime infrastructure built on a common, outsourced technology platform.

“The profound impact the crisis has had on hedge funds has already been well- documented,” Curley said. “Another significant outcome of the crisis, we feel, will be the aggregation and convergence of services provided to hedge funds through a single service provider. This new service provider cannot be adequately described as a mini-prime or a fund administrator but rather a hybrid of both, a model we are calling The Multi-Prime Service Platform.”

New requirements, such as multi-prime technology that can provide real-time views of critical data such as exposures and risk, and impending hedge fund regulation, are now converging to significantly increase the barriers to entry for new hedge fund managers. The operational efficiencies achieved through The Multi-Prime Service Platform promises to provide the critical sub-$500 million segment of the hedge fund industry–where the tension between the new requirements and the hedge funds’ ability to pay is at its most intense–a cost effective, fully integrated solution providing real-time transparency in a multi-prime environment.

To download the white paper please visit: www.nirvanasolutions.com.

New Model For Prime Brokerage Whitepaper

###

About Nirvana Solutions (www.nirvanasolutions.com):

Founded in 2006, Nirvana Solutions is a San Francisco based software company that provides real-time portfolio management systems to multi-prime hedge funds, prime brokers, and fund administrators. Nirvana™ is the hedge fund industry’s first portfolio management system built around the Financial Information Exchange (FIX) protocol. The ability to dynamically accept FIX messages, combined with the aggregation of multi-prime data, ensures true real-time views of critical measures such as P&L and Risk. Nirvana’s ability to offer real-time transparency is complemented by a full suite of on-demand and historical reporting. The Nirvana solution is made available in an easy-to-deploy Software as a Service (SaaS) model and can be implemented in a modular or complete fashion.

For Further Information, please contact:

Peter Curley
for Nirvana Solutions
(415) 513-8950
peter.curley@nirvanasolutions.com

****

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