Tag Archives: OTC markets

Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009

Obama Administration to Regulate Derivatives Markets

Today the Treasury announced that the Obama Administration proposed a bill named the “Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009”.  The bill proposes to amend a number of the securities laws (including the Commodity Exchange Act, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934), to regulate the OTC derivatives markets.  A summary of the release is reprinted below.  For the full legislation, please see Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009.


August 11, 2009

Administration’s Regulatory Reform Agenda Reaches New Milestone: Final Piece of Legislative Language Delivered to Capitol Hill

For the legislative language, visit link.

Acting on its commitment to restoring stability in our financial system, the Administration delivered legislative language to Capitol Hill today focusing on the regulatory reform of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives. One of the most significant changes in the world of finance in recent decades has been the explosive growth and rapid innovation in the markets for credit default swaps (CDS) and other OTC derivatives.  These markets have largely gone unregulated since their inception.  Enormous risks built up in these markets – substantially out of the view or control of regulators – and these risks contributed to the collapse of major financial firms in the past year and severe stress throughout the financial system.

Under the Administration’s legislation, the OTC derivative markets will be comprehensively regulated for the first time.  The legislation will provide for regulation and transparency for all OTC derivative transactions; strong prudential and business conduct regulation of all OTC derivative dealers and other major participants in the OTC derivative markets; and improved regulatory and enforcement tools to prevent manipulation, fraud, and other abuses in these markets.

Today’s delivery marks an important new milestone, as the Administration has now delivered a comprehensive package of financial regulatory reform legislation to Capitol Hill.  Less than two months since the release of its white paper, “Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation,” on June 17, the Administration has successfully translated all of its proposals into detailed legislative text – a remarkable effort in both speed and scope.  The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to pass a comprehensive regulatory reform bill by the end of the year.

As part of the Administration’s proposed legislation, credit default swap markets and all other OTC derivative markets will be subject to comprehensive regulation in order to:

  • Guard against activities in those markets posing excessive risk to the financial system
  • Promote the transparency and efficiency of those markets
  • Prevent market manipulation, fraud, insider trading, and other market abuses
  • Block OTC derivatives from being marketed inappropriately to unsophisticated parties

These goals will be reached through comprehensive regulation that includes:

  • Regulation of OTC derivative markets
  • Regulation of all OTC Derivative dealers and other major market participants
  • Preventing market manipulation, fraud, insider trading, and other market abuses
  • Protecting unsophisticated investors

Regulation of OTC Derivative Markets

Require Central Clearing and Trading of Standardized OTC Derivatives:

  • To reduce risks to financial stability that arise from the web of bilateral connections among major financial institutions, the legislation will require standardized OTC derivatives to be centrally cleared by a derivatives clearing organization regulated by the CFTC or a securities clearing agency regulated by the SEC.
  • To improve transparency and price discovery, standardized OTC derivatives will be required to be traded on a CFTC- or SEC-regulated exchange or a CFTC- or SEC-regulated alternative swap execution facility.

Move More OTC Derivatives into Central Clearing and Exchange Trading:

  • Through higher capital requirements and higher margin requirements for non-standardized derivatives, the legislation will encourage substantially greater use of standardized derivatives and thereby will facilitate substantial migration of OTC derivatives onto central clearinghouses and exchanges.
  • The legislation proposes a broad definition of a standardized OTC derivative that will be capable of evolving with the markets.

o An OTC derivative that is accepted for clearing by any regulated central clearinghouse will be presumed to be standardized.
o The CFTC and SEC will be given clear authority to prevent attempts by market participants to use spurious customization to avoid central clearing and exchange trading.

Require Transparency for All OTC Derivative Markets:

  • Accordingly, all relevant federal financial regulatory agencies will have access on a confidential basis to the OTC derivative transactions and related open positions of individual market participants.
  • In addition, the public will have access to aggregated data on open positions and trading volumes.

Regulation of All OTC Derivative Dealers and Other Major Market Participants

Extend the Scope of Regulation to Cover all OTC Derivative Dealers and other Major Participants in the OTC Derivative Markets:

  • Our legislation will require, for the first time, the federal supervision and regulation of any firm that deals in OTC derivatives and any other firm that takes large positions in OTC derivatives.

Bring Robust and Comprehensive Prudential Regulation to all OTC Derivative Dealers and other Major Participants in the OTC Derivative Markets:

  • Under the legislation, OTC derivative dealers and major market participants that are banks will be regulated by the federal banking agencies.  OTC derivative dealers and major market participants that are not banks will be regulated by the CFTC or SEC.
  • The federal banking agencies, CFTC, and SEC will be required to provide robust and comprehensive prudential supervision and regulation – including strict capital and margin requirements – for all OTC derivative dealers and major market participants.
  • The CFTC and SEC will be required to issue and enforce strong business conduct, reporting, and recordkeeping (including audit trail) rules for all OTC derivative dealers and major market participants.

Preventing Market Manipulation, Fraud, and other Market Abuses

Provide the CFTC and SEC with the Tools and Information Necessary to Prevent Manipulation, Fraud, and Abuse:

  • The legislation gives the CFTC and SEC clear, unimpeded authority to deter market manipulation, fraud, insider trading, and other abuses in the OTC derivative markets.
  • The CFTC and SEC will be given the authority to set position limits and large trader reporting requirements for OTC derivatives that perform or affect a significant price discovery function with respect to regulated markets.
  • The full regulatory transparency that the legislation will bring to the OTC derivative markets will assist regulators in detecting and deterring manipulation, fraud, insider trading, and other abuses.

Protecting Unsophisticated Investors

Better Protect Unsophisticated Investors from Abuse in the OTC Derivative Markets:

  • The legislation will tighten the definition of eligible investors that are able to engage in OTC derivative transactions to better protect individuals and small municipalities.


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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, or if you have questions about investment adviser registration with the SEC or state securities commission, 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.


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

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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