The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently published the 2019 examination priorities for its three divisions. This marks the first time that the agency has published its divisions' examination priorities, which serves as part of the CFTC's efforts to advance its Project KISS (which stands for 'Keep It Simple, Stupid') initiative and demonstrates areas that the divisions view as particularly important to self-regulation in US derivatives markets for the coming year.
Towards the end of 2018, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) proposed significant revisions to the framework governing swap trading through swap execution facilities and designated contract markets. Many of these amendments are in line with recommendations contained in CFTC Chair J Christopher Giancarlo's white paper on swaps regulation reform. The proposed changes are intended to reflect developments in the swaps markets since the CFTC's implementation of its current regulations.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair J Christopher Giancarlo recently released a white paper recommending potential reforms to the agency's approach to the extra-territorial, or cross-border, application of its swaps trading rules. According to Giancarlo, the reforms are intended to create a territorial, risk-based approach that relies on greater deference to regulators in jurisdictions with comparable regulatory frameworks (comparable jurisdictions), where appropriate.
The National Futures Association (NFA) recently adopted an interpretive notice that requires futures commission merchants, introducing brokers, commodity pool operators and commodity trading advisers to disclose to customers certain potential risks involved when dealing with virtual currencies and virtual currency derivatives. The notice reflects the NFA's concern that, among other things, customers may not fully understand the nature of these products or the losses that could be sustained.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently proposed amendments to certain requirements for swap dealers and major swap participants to notify counterparties of their right to segregate initial margin for uncleared swaps. The proposal addresses several concerns previously raised by market participants about the existing rules, including through the CFTC's Project KISS initiative, which was intended to lift unnecessary regulatory burdens and reduce costs for market participants.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair J Christopher Giancarlo and Chief Economist Bruce Tuckman recently published a white paper on potential reforms to the CFTC's swaps trading rules. The white paper proposes a series of changes to rules relating to transactions on swap execution facilities. Accompanying statements note that commission staff is expected to propose a formal rulemaking in this area in Summer 2018.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of New York recently confirmed that virtual currencies are a commodity within the anti-fraud jurisdiction of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The ruling marks the first time that a federal court has affirmed the CFTC's 2015 determination that virtual currencies are 'commodities' as defined by the act. This provides the CFTC with further standing to police fraud in virtual currency spot markets.
Virtual currency exchange Gemini recently released a proposal to create the first self-regulatory organisation for US virtual currency exchanges. The so-called 'Virtual Commodity Association' (VCA), as envisioned, would be a non-profit, independent regulatory organisation that would operate to foster responsible virtual commodity markets. The VCA would also encourage greater cooperation with relevant regulators in an effort to assist with the maturation of the virtual commodity industry.
The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued a statement warning investors of potential risks involving digital asset exchanges. The statement aims to protect investors trading digital assets through online platforms and serves as a warning shot to exchanges dealing in digital assets that may be securities. This is the first time that the SEC has directly targeted exchanges and trading platforms in the context of virtual currencies and initial coin offerings.
Although changes in the regulatory landscape were limited in 2017, several steps, including the Capital Markets Report and Project KISS, may lay the groundwork for more significant developments to come, particularly now that regulatory agencies have new leadership and senior staff and have had an opportunity to review market participant feedback. There also remain a number of outstanding issues and emerging issues that are likely to demand regulatory attention in the coming year.
The US Department of the Treasury recently released its second in a series of four reports evaluating the US financial regulatory system. As it relates to the derivatives markets, the report does not advocate fundamental changes in the regulatory framework but suggests a change in regulatory emphasis. Further, it makes a series of specific recommendations that would broadly make incremental improvements suggested by market participants.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System recently adopted a final rule requiring US global systemically important banking institutions (GSIBs), their subsidiaries and the US operations of foreign GSIBs (covered entities) to amend many of their qualified financial contracts in order to restrict their counterparties' ability to immediately terminate such contracts in the event that the covered entity or an affiliate enters into bankruptcy or resolution proceedings.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has extended and revised no-action relief that provides an exemption from compliance with certain aggregation requirements for CFTC-specified position limits for futures and option trading. CFTC staff have indicated that they may consider further modifications to these requirements during the term of the relief.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission Division of Market Oversight (DMO) recently issued a time-limited no-action letter stating that, from February 2017 to August 2017, it will not recommend an enforcement action for failure to file a notice when relying on certain aggregation exemptions from federal position limit levels. The DMO also announced the availability of a portal that provides the form and manner for filing aggregation exemption notices.
The US prudential regulators – including the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the International Organisation of Securities Commissions – recently issued guidance as to the implementation of variation margin requirements on uncleared swaps. The guidance indicates how the respective supervisory authorities and regulators will approach compliance with the variation margin requirements.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently adopted amendments to the expiration dates in its interim final rules that provided exemptions for certain security-based swaps. The SEC noted that the extension has been granted to avoid disruption in the security-based swaps market while it continues to consider the impact of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act and whether regulatory action is appropriate.
The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight (DSIO) recently issued a time-limited no-action letter which provides that, from March 2017 to September 2017, the DSIO will not recommend an enforcement action against a swap dealer for failure to comply with the variation margin requirements for swaps that are subject to the compliance date.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently issued time-limited no-action relief to derivatives clearing organisations (DCOs) and reporting entities for certain swaps reporting obligations. The CFTC also announced no-action relief for entities submitting swaps for clearing with DCOs acting under exemptive orders or no-action relief that has been provided by the CFTC.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently issued a no-action relief letter for swaps executed between certain US swap market participants and counterparties located in Australia or Mexico. The letter permits US swap market participants to rely on a provision of the inter-affiliate exemption from required clearing that has previously been available to counterparties located in the European Union, Japan and Singapore.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Division of Enforcement recently issued two new enforcement advisories outlining the factors that it will consider in evaluating cooperation by individuals and companies in its investigations and enforcement actions. With the issuance of the advisories, the Division of Enforcement aims to further incentivise individuals and companies to cooperate fully and truthfully in CFTC investigations and enforcement actions.