Commodity Pool Operators Scrambling After Surprise CFTC Decision

CFTC Withdraws Two No-Action Letters

In a surprise move the CFTC has withdrawn two no-action letters which is had just recently issued.  Under the new Chairman Gary Gensler, the CFTC has made an about face on this issue with regard to two commodity pool operators who were relying on the no-action letters issued in 2006.  Under the no-action letters, the CFTC provided no-action relief to the CPOs from certain speculative position limits.  According to the release reprinted below, the reason for the change is because Chairman Gensler “believe[s] that position limits should be consistently applied and vigorously enforced.”  While we generally believe that rules should be applied uniformly, we also believe that the governmental agencies (the CFTC and the SEC) should not make it a practice of revoking previously issued no-action letters.  We also believe that the CFTC and the SEC should not be in the business of express politicking, which may have been the case here – it sets a horrible precedent for new/changing administrations.  Additionally, we believe that the same “tough line” on position limits could have been effected in a less onerous manner.

The release states that the CFTC will work with the affected CPOs, but the damage has been done – how are businesses supposed to operate when these governmental agencies are constantly moving the target?

The no-action letters can be found here:

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Release: 5695-09
For Release: August 19, 2009

CFTC Withdraws Two No-Action Letters Granting Relief from Federal Speculative Position Limits on Soybeans, Corn and Wheat Contracts

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that it is withdrawing two no-action letters that provided relief from federal agricultural speculative positions limits set forth in CFTC regulations (17 C.F.R §150.2).

“I believe that position limits should be consistently applied and vigorously enforced,” CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said. “Position limits promote market integrity by guarding against concentrated positions.”

In CFTC Letter 06-09 (May 5, 2006), the agency’s Division of Market Oversight (DMO) granted no-action relief to DB Commodity Services LLC, a commodity pool operator (CPO) and commodity trading advisor (CTA), permitting the DB Commodity Index Tracking Master Fund to take positions in corn and wheat futures that exceed federal speculative position limits set forth in CFTC Regulation 150.2. Subsequently, in CFTC Letter 06-19 (September 6, 2006), DMO granted similar no-action relief to a CPO/CTA employing a proprietary commodity investment strategy that includes positions in Chicago Board of Trade corn, soybeans and wheat futures contracts. Among other things, DMO’s no-action position in both cases stated that any change in circumstances or conditions could result in a different conclusion. DMO has previously stated that the trading strategies employed by these entities would not qualify for a bona fide hedge exemption under the Commission’s regulations.

DMO will work with each of these entities as they transition to positions within current federal speculative limits. The withdrawal of these no-action positions is very specific and limited and does not affect any other no-action or regulatory positions taken by the CFTC or its staff with regard to these entities or other market participants.

Last Updated: August 19, 2009

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1 thought on “Commodity Pool Operators Scrambling After Surprise CFTC Decision

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