CFTC Issues Report on NFA Registration Process

Report Indicates Many Areas Needing Improvement

The CFTC registration process is handled almost exclusively by the NFA and last year the CFTC audited the NFA to see how successful the organization was at conducting the registration process.  The audit report, issued this week, indicates that the NFA needs to improve on many different areas.  One of the most important items which was mentioned a number of times in the report is that the NFA has not standardized the registration process in some areas.

While the CFTC report focuses only on the registration process, there are a number of other issues with the NFA which should have been highlighted.  The first and most important for many managed futures professionals, is the lack of standardization with respect to the disclosure document review process.  CTAs and CPOs both need to have their disclosure documents reviewed by the NFA and during this review process, depending on which examiner is assigned to the review, the process can be relatively straight-forward or quite difficult.  This obviously increases the time before the disclosure document is approved and most likely increases the legal costs involved.  Because our firm completes a number of CTA and CPO registrations each month we see this first hand.

As an anecdote, I have one CPO group who has two separate programs represented by two separate disclosure documents.  The documents are exactly the same except for slightly different investment programs.  These documents went to the NFA for review at the same time and were assigned to two different examiners.  Each deficiency letter came back with about 16 items that needed to be changed for the next draft – however, only 5 were the same!  The fact that two almost exactly same documents receive such disparate treatment is amazing and shows no standardization.  It also perfectly illustrates the oft said statement that “it depends on who you get” when discussing how long it will take for the disclosure documents to be approved.

Below I have included some of the statements I found in the report as well as the CFTC notice.

CFTC Notice: Press Release

The full report: CFTC Report on NFA Registration Process

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Quotes from the Report

The Registration Department does not have a procedures manual that documents all of the procedures followed in processing registrations and withdrawals.

The Registration Department’s procedures manual for the Information Center is, in various areas, incomplete, inconsistent and/or outdated.

[T]he Registration Department tends to concentrate responsibility in a small number of staff members and to depend heavily on these staff members’ institutional knowledge in executing certain registration processing procedures. … This reliance on key persons’ institutional knowledge, coupled with the sparseness of the Registration Department’s documented procedures … interjects an unnecessary level of key person risk to the Registration Department.

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June 24, 2010

CFTC Releases Report on the Registration Program of the NFA

Washington, DC – The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Division of Clearing and Intermediary Oversight (Division) today notified the National Futures Association (NFA) of the results of the Division’s “Report on the Registration Program of the NFA”. In the Report, the Division assessed whether the NFA has sufficient procedures to execute the Commission’s delegated registration and fitness functions.

The Division found that NFA has sufficient procedures to execute the Commission’s delegated functions with respect to the vast majority of registrants. However, the Division also identified nine areas in which the Commission’s and/or NFA’s procedures must be improved.

Copies of the Report are available the Commission’s website at www.cftc.gov.
Last Updated: June 24, 2010

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides comprehensive hedge fund start up and regulatory support for commodity pool operators.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

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