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CFTC tackles reform of ‘unduly complex’ cross-border swaps

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has issued a white paper setting out how cross-border swaps can be reformed, saying that its current approach is 'unduly complex and operationally impractical'. It recommends greater support of G20 swaps reforms that are aligned with the US approach, as well as a better balance of systemic risk mitigation with healthy swaps market activity in support of broad-based economic growth.

The paper identifies a number of adverse consequences of the CFTC’s cross-border approach, including the following:

  • It is expressed in 'guidance' rather than formal regulation subject to the Administrative Procedure Act.
  • It is over-expansive, unduly complex and operationally impractical, increasing transaction costs and reducing economic growth and opportunity.
  • It relies on a substituted compliance regime that encourages a somewhat arbitrary, rule-by-rule comparison of CFTC and non-US rules under which a transaction or entity may be subject to a patchwork of CFTC and non-US regulations.
  • It shows insufficient deference to non-US regulators that have adopted comparable G20 swaps reforms and is inconsistent with the CFTC’s longstanding approach of showing comity to competent non-US regulators in the regulation of futures.

Chairman's reservations

The CFTC's chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo said: “I have been a constant supporter of the swaps market reforms passed by the US Congress in Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and the commitments made by the G20 leaders in Pittsburgh in 2009. Those are clearing standardized swaps through central counterparties, reporting swaps to trade repositories, and trading standardized swaps on regulated trading platforms. However, I have long said that I hold reservations about the CFTC’s current approach to applying its swaps rules to cross-border activities.”

Mr Giancarlo recommended the following changes to the CFTC’s cross-border approach:

  • Non-US CCPs: Expand the use of the CFTC’s exemptive authority for non-US CCPs that are subject to comparable regulation in their home country and do not pose substantial risk to the US financial system, permitting them to provide clearing services to US customers indirectly through non-US clearing members that are not registered with the CFTC.
  • Non-US Trading Venues: End the current bifurcation of the global swaps markets into separate US person and non-US person marketplaces by exempting non-US trading venues in regulatory jurisdictions that have adopted comparable G20 swaps reforms from having to register with the CFTC as swap execution facilities, thereby permitting such jurisdictions to each function as a unified marketplace, under one set of comparable trading rules and under one competent regulator.
  • Non-US Swap Dealers: Require registration of non-US swap dealers whose swap dealing activity poses a “direct and significant” risk to the US financial system; take into account situations where the risk to the US financial system is otherwise addressed, such as swap transactions with registered swap dealers that are conducted outside the United States; and show appropriate deference to non-US regulatory regimes that have comparable requirements for entities engaged in swap dealing activity.
  • Clearing and Trade Execution Requirements: Adopt an approach that permits non-US persons to rely on substituted compliance with respect to the swap clearing and trade execution requirements in Comparable Jurisdictions, and that applies those requirements in Non-Comparable Jurisdictions if they have a “direct and significant” effect on the United States.
  • ANE Transactions: Take a territorial approach to US swaps trading activity, including trades that are “arranged, negotiated, or executed” within the United States by personnel or agents of such non-US persons. Non-incidental swaps trading activity in the United States should be subject to US swaps trading rules. Such an approach addresses the current fragmentation of US swaps markets, with some activity subject to CFTC rules and some activity not subject to CFTC rules. This approach is consistent with the principle – one unified marketplace, under one set of comparable trading rules and under one competent regulator.

The Commission will consider these proposes and gather bipartisan input. The resulting guidance would replace the cross-border guidance issued by the CFTC in 2013 and the cross-border rules proposed by the CFTC in 2016, as well as address certain positions taken in CFTC staff advisories and no-action letters.

CTMfile take: These proposals could make it easier to participate in the US swaps market and could align guidance for those operating in some other jurisdictions outside the US. For more detail see the CFTC white paper here.

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