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New Forex Regulations: Overview of Public Comments

Leverage, Inaccessibility for Smaller Traders, and Offshore Threat are Focus of Public Comments

As we’ve discussed in related posts, the CFTC has proposed rules regulating the off-exchange spot forex industry (see Retail FOREX Registration Regulations Proposed).  The CFTC has requested comments from the public and there are currently about 100 public comments on CFTC’s website written in response to the new rule. The comments mainly focus on:

  • Leverage reduction rule (approx. 75/100 comments)
  • Forex industry becoming inaccessible to smaller traders (approx. 35/100 comments)
  • Threat of investors moving their money to offshore firms (approx. 25/100 comments)
  • Opposition to government interference/regulation (approx. 20/100 comments)

[Note: over the weekend the CFTC published some of the backlog of comments it received.  Much of this article was written prior to review of these extra comments (which total approximately 3,663).  We will provide an update on such comments in the future.]

To view all of the comments, click here.

The following is our summary of the comments which have been made thus far.

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Leverage Reduction

Approximately 75 of the 100 comments mention a strong or very strong opposition to the new leverage proposal of 10:1. The issue with a reduction of leverage to 10:1 is that investors will have to invest much more money in order to trade what they can currently trade with less capital. Comments regarding leverage include phrases like “strongly object”, “terrible idea”, “unintelligent”, and “strongly oppose”.  The majority opinion is that people should have the freedom and the choice to trade with a higher amount of leverage, and that the federal government’s attempts to lower leverage to 10:1 are “unnecessary” and “intrusive”. John Yeatman Jr. writes,

Please DO NOT reduce leverage in US Forex trading to 10:1…THIS WOULD HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT ON TENS OF THOUSANDS OF TRADERS AND THEIR FAMILIES WHO RELY ON 100:1 LEVERAGE AVAILABILITY TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILY AND THIS ECONOMY. Please do your part in helping to keep this country great and it’s [sic] freedoms true BY NOT ALLOWING ANYTHING LESS THAN 100:1.

Other comments regarding the leverage proposal include:

  • … strongly objects to new leverage of 10:1
  • … proposed reduction not consistent with futures, which allow a significantly higher leverage
  • … virtually no flexibility trading at 10:1 leverage unless trader has gigantic account balance
  • …reduction in leverage not fair to public…bad for America
  • … new leverage line “out of line with general idea of protecting consumers”
  • …limiting leverage to 10:1 is “a bad idea”
  • …current leverage limit is “more than enough”
  • … CFTC is “unintelligent” to change leverage to 10:1
  • … terrible idea to lower leverage
  • … leverage change is “perversion of the free markets”
  • …leverage restriction “grave injustice” for many who work to secure the American dream of prosperity for themselves and families
  • …leverage limits would delay achievement of financial independence
  • …leverage not dangerous; misuse is
  • …leverage decrease will kill forex business and worsen economic situation in states and worldwide
  • …amount of leverage needs to be at discretion of investors

Smaller Traders

Another argument is that lower leverage will making trading inaccessible for smaller traders but leave the door wide open for larger institutions, since lower leverage requires higher margin (meaning that more money needed to be invested in order to trade). Comments regarding this proposed rules potential affect on smaller traders include:

  • …will stamp out small-time investor
  • …drive smaller guys out of market or offshore
  • …anything lower would be insane for small-time traders
  • …gets rid of investors with small capital so rich can stay rich and poor can stay poor
  • …pushes out small-time investor
  • …denies small trader opportunity
  • …disparate and unintended impact on small traders with lower capital
  • …leave the small, independent traders alone
  • …small businesses are heart of US economy
  • …all small-scale actors will be stifled
  • …10:1 leverage will have unintended consequence of locking out hundreds or thousands of small traders
  • …quit treating the small guy like an idiot
  • …are you trying to allow only rich to trade forex?

Government Interference/Regulation

Many of the comments suggest anger with the government for interfering too much with the forex industry. Michael Thomas writes,

I do not live here in this “free” society to have someone from the government babysitting me. The message that your proposed rules send is that 1) we are not free to make our own choices. 2) The federal government believes that we the general public are too stupid to make decisions for ourselves….I don’t need you, or do I want you getting in the way of my being able to trade as I wish in the United States of America.

Other comments regarding an opposition to increased government interference include:

  • …don’t add more government
  • …not intention of our ancestors to create government which controlled/regulated all aspects of citizens’ lives
  • …the government has no right to control my ability to make profit
  • …unnecessary for Federal government to regulate against individual’s ability to take risks
  • …don’t need government protection; we’re adult traders
  • …not responsibility of government to take away choice from consumers
  • …”big brother” attempt to protect people from “evil” traders and forex hedge funds
  • …stay out of trying to run my personal life

Offshore Threat

In at least 25 of the comments, the public is arguing that the new rules, specifically lower leverage, will drive traders offshore to overseas brokers who may or may not be regulated. Further, a major argument is that the forex industry in the United States will essentially cease altogether as a result of traders moving their forex activities offshore. Comments regarding this offshore threat include:

  • …will send business to London and unregulated offshore markets
  • …consumers will take accounts offshore
  • …will drive smaller guys out of markets entirely or to offshore, unregulated brokers
  • …when traders move accounts offshore, CFTC and NFA will have no control of clients’ trading
  • …I’ve already moved my account offshore
  • …people will do business with offshore brokers

Government Regulation

In terms of the new regulation proposal as a whole, some people support more industry regulation while others are against the idea entirely. Bradford Smith writes,

I feel that regulation of firms is needed…regulation is needed to help people understand the risks such as risk disclosure. [Regulating] the  retail forex market in a similar fashion to how commodities and futures are regulated is a good idea. Stopping companies from trading against their clients is a high priority issue that needs to be stopped.

John M. Bland, on the other hand, who views the proposal as “unfair”,  writes,

…the CFTC has done a lot in recent years to correct many of the problems in the industry…this decision is unfair and anti-competitive.

Other comments regarding opposition to the proposal and/or government interference include:

  • …new rules will destroy US financial firms business and lead to loss of thousands of jobs during the worst economy in decades
  • …regulation should be aimed at encouraging economic growth and innovation vs. restricting it
  • …against proposal
  • …how did forex regulation get in the Farm Bill?
  • …whoever initiated proposal has no knowledge of forex…this rule is utter nonsense…rules for forex in the USA are already quite strict
  • …you are busybody bureaucrats with intrusive minds…you are interested in only one thing: bureaucratic power and complete control of every microscopic aspect of life…you are monsters
  • …rules will harm people who make an honest living trading currency
  • …important to educate and inform, not regulate and ban
  • …proposal is a disaster-in-warning for traders
  • …if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
  • …proposal is lunacy-communist-legislation
  • …I do not support the proposal…proposal closes doors for forex investors and will make forex market accessible to financial institutions only
  • …vehemently against new, narrow-sighted legislation

Agreement/Disagreement with Proposal

Many of the comments discuss that education about forex and trading risk is the best solution. On a similar note, many traders expressed the fact that anyone who trades in the forex market is aware of the inherent risks, so people who decide to trade are willing to take these risks. There is a general consensus that it is the individual’s, and not the government’s, responsibility to evaluate the level of risk that s/he is willing to take. Remember, higher leverage will be reflected in both your profits and your losses. Thus, if you have high leverage and profit, you will profit a lot more than if your trading had not been leveraged. But the same goes for losses; if you lose, you will lose a lot more based on the higher leverage.

Conclusions Thus Far

The biggest concern thus far is the proposed reduction in leverage to 10:1. Almost every comment mentioned a strong opposition to this rule. Furthermore, most people seem to be concerned that the new regulations will significantly decrease forex activity in the US—if not kill it off—and drive most investors overseas to offshore firms. We will continue to monitor comments received until the March 22 due date. Please leave us a comment below with your feedback. Should you feel inclined, you may submit your own comment to the CFTC through the methods listed above.

To view CFTC’s proposed rules, click here.

How to Comment

Comments must be received by March 22, 2010 and can be submitted the following ways:

  • Through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/search/index.jsp. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • By e-mail: [email protected] Include “Regulation of Retail Forex” in the subject line of the message.
  • By fax: (202) 418-5521.
  • By mail: Send to David Stawick, Secretary, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 1155 21st Street, NW., Washington, DC 20581.
  • Courier: Same as Mail above.

(Note that all comments received will be posted without change to http://www.cftc.gov, including any personal information provided.)

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Other related CFTC articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog and provides forex registration services to forex managers. Mr. Mallon also runs the Forex Law Blog.  He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

NFA Discusses Recent Forex Regulations

Answers Regarding Prohibition of Hedging Spot Forex Transactions

(www.hedgefundlawblog.com)  The NFA has certainly taken a lot of heat over its controversial rule to ban the practice of “hedging” in a single spot forex account.  Many retail investors have already begun establishing brokerage accounts offshore in order to utilize this trading strategy.  I recently talked with a compliance person at the NFA and they said that they are aware that US persons are going to offshore forex brokers in order to utilize this trading strategy.  We will see if in the future the NFA relents on this issue, but for now the NFA has provided guidance on some of the more technical aspects of the new Compliance Rule 2-43.

The NFA guidance is reprinted in full below and can also be found here.

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NFA Compliance Rule 2-43 Q & A

NFA has received a number of inquiries regarding the application of new NFA Compliance Rule 2-43. This Q & A answers the most common questions.

CR 2-43(a), Price Adjustments[1]

Q. Section (a)(1)(i) of the rule provides an exception from the prohibition on price adjustments where the adjustment is favorable to the customer and is done as part of the settlement of a customer complaint. Does that mean a Forex Dealer Member (“FDM”) can’t make a favorable adjustment if the customer does not complain?

A. It depends on the circumstances. The intent of this provision is to ensure that FDMs can settle customer complaints before or after they end up in arbitration. It was not meant to prohibit FDMs from adjusting prices on customer orders that were adversely affected by a glitch in the FDM’s platform. A firm may not, however, adjust prices on customer orders that benefited from the error (except as provided in section (a)(1)(ii)). Furthermore, an FDM may not cherry-pick which accounts to adjust.

Q. An FDM operates several trading platforms. Two provide exclusively straight-through processing, but one does not. Can the FDM make section (a)(1)(ii) adjustments for trades placed on the two platforms that provide straight-through processing?

A. No. The Board intended to limit the relief to those firms that exclusively operate a straight-through processing business model, and the submission letter to the CFTC uses this language when explaining the rule’s intent. NFA recognizes, however, that the use of the word “platform” in the rule itself may be confusing, and we intend to ask the Board to eliminate that word at its August meeting.

Q. For price adjustments made under section (a)(1)(ii), the rule requires written notification to customers within fifteen minutes. If the liquidity provider informs an FDM of the price change twenty minutes after the orders are executed, can the FDM still make the adjustment?

A. No. The rule provides that customers must be notified within fifteen minutes after their orders are executed, and it was written that way intentionally. Since a customer’s subsequent trading decisions may be based on the customer’s belief that a particular trade was executed at a particular price, the rule provides a narrow window for price adjustments.

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[1] For purposes of this discussion, the term “adjustment” also refers to cancellations.

CR 2-43(b), Offsetting Transactions

Q. CR 2-43(b) states that an FDM cannot carry offsetting positions. If a customer with a long position executes a sell order or a customer with a short position executes a buy order, does the FDM have to close the position immediately or can it wait until the end of the day?

A. The FDM may wait until the end of the day to offset the positions, but it must do so before applying roll fees.

Q. The rule provides that positions must be offset on a first-in-first-out (FIFO) basis. If the customer places a stop order on a newer likesize position and the stop is hit, may the FDM offset the executed stop against that position?

A. No. The only exception to the FIFO rule is where a customer directs the FDM to offset a same-size transaction, but even then the offset must be applied to the oldest transaction of that size.
Related Issues

Related Issues

Q. One of an FDM’s platforms is offered exclusively to eligible contract participants (ECPs). Does Rule 2-43 apply to transactions on that platform?

A. No. Rule 2-43 does not apply to transactions with ECPs.

Q. May an FDM transfer foreign customers to a foreign entity that allows customers to carry offsetting positions in a single account?

A. Yes. If done as a bulk transfer, however, the Interpretive Notice to NFA Compliance Rule 2-40 (located at ¶ 9058 of the NFA Manual) requires that the foreign entity must be an authorized counterparty under section 2(c) of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA).

Q. May an FDM transfer U.S. customers to a foreign entity that allows customers to carry offsetting positions in a single account?

A. Only if the transactions are not off-exchange futures contracts or options. The legal status of “spot” OTC transactions that are continually rolled over and almost always closed through offset rather than delivery is currently unsettled. Therefore, if an FDM chooses to transfer U.S. customers to a foreign entity so they can continue “hedging,” it does so at its own risk. In any event, a bulk transfer can only be made to a counterparty authorized under the CEA.

Q. If the transactions are not futures or options, does that mean none of NFA’s rules apply?

A. Most of NFA’s forex rules do not depend on how the off-exchange transactions are classified. This includes Compliance Rule 2-36(b)(1), which prohibits deceptive behavior, and Compliance Rule 2-36(c), which requires FDMs to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade. An FDM that misrepresents the characteristics of “hedging” transactions (e.g., by touting their “benefits”) or NFA’s purpose in banning them or that implies that transferring U.S. customers offshore will make the transactions legal violates those sections of CR 2-36. Furthermore, NFA Compliance Rule 2-39 applies these same requirements to solicitors and account managers.

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Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in starting a forex hedge fund or a forex managed account.  Other related forex law and regulation articles include:

FINRA to Regulate Member’s Retail Forex Activities

Comments on Proposed Retail Forex Rules Sought

The Finanacial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requested comments on a proposed rule to limit the leverage available to retail investors trading in the off-exchange foreign currency (forex) markets.  The proposed rule would be applicable to FINRA member firms and would limit leverage in forex transactions to 1.5 to 1.  The proposed leverage limits are significantly lower than the leverage limits currently offered in the industry (which can reach up to 100 to 1 or higher).  The leverage limitation would not be applicable to eligible contract participants.  The FINRA proposal is the latest step in a series of regulatory tightening measures which have been instituted with the goal of protecting retail investors from the risks of the forex markets (for more information please see New Forex Registration Requirements).  Comments on the proposal are due February 20, 2009.  Continue reading

NFA Makes Two Separate Announcements on New Forex Rules

(www.hedgefundlawblog.com) Today the NFA made two separate announcements regarding proposed new forex rules.  The announcements follow a series of similar announcements last week regarding new forex rules (see NFA Continues to Pursue Forex Regulation for Current Forex Dealer Members).  The first announcement dealt with additions to Compliance Rule 2-36 and related Interpretive Notice Changes.  The second announcement dealt with a completely new forex Compliance Rule 2-43.

NFA Proposes Addition to Compliance Rules 2-36 and Related Interpretive Notices – this announcement contained a hodge-podge of different rules the NFA staff felt needed to be addressed.  The announcement centrally focuses on (i) requirement that forex hypothetical results be subject to the anti-fraud provisions of NFA Compliance Rule 2-29(c),* (ii) require FDMs to have an Associated Person file the required weekly reports, (iii) require FDMs to adopt written policies regarding the calculation of rollover interest charges and payments, and (iv) prohibits FDMs from trading a customer’s account when they are a counterparty to the trade.  Continue reading

NFA Continues to Pursue Forex Regulation for Current Forex Dealer Members

Two new releases indicate that the NFA is serious about regulating the off-exchange foreign currency markets

On our sister website, www.forexlawblog.com, we have detailed the continued regulatory actions by the NFA with regard to the current regulation of the off-exchange forex markets.  The two notices, described in further detail below, apply to Forex Dealer Member and their interactions with their clients. While the CFTC has been slow to promulgate rules regarding the expected new Forex regulations, the NFA has acted swiftly and addressed many important issues.  However, forex managers should still get ready for coming forex regulations – a collegue of mine has recently discussed forex registration with a CFTC compliance person and that person expects that proposed rules will be promulgated within the first quarter of next year.  As always, stay tuned as we will continue to stay on top of this issue.

A summary of the two NFA actions is included below.  Continue reading