Attention Mutual Funds–Potential Relief for CPO and CTA Regulation in the 2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act

By Tom Watterson and Crystal Travanti

As the second part of our ongoing series on the 2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act, we wanted to highlight what could become important relief for mutual funds and their investment advisers with respect to registration as commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) or commodity trading advisers (“CTAs”).

In a late addition to the proposed 2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act, the House added a section 361, “Treatment of certain funds”, amending the definitions of a CPO and CTA in the Commodity Exchange Act to exclude investment advisers of mutual funds (registered investment companies) in certain circumstances. Section 361, as passed by the House, excludes from the definition of a CPO, investment advisers that provide advice to mutual funds where the only “commodity interests”, or CFTC regulated products, that the mutual fund invests in are “financial commodity interests.” Similarly, section 361 excludes from the definition of a CTA, investment advisers who provide advice to mutual funds where the adviser provides advice on commodity interests only in relation to “financial commodity interests.”

Section 361 would define “financial commodity interests” as “a futures contract, an option on a futures contract, or a swap, involving a commodity that is not an exempt commodity or an agricultural commodity.” Practically, a financial commodity interest would be a swap or future on interest rates, credit, foreign exchange, stock indices, indices based on rates or prices. For example, an adviser of a mutual fund using treasury futures to manage its duration, or using credit default swaps to gain credit exposure to certain entities would be covered by the exclusion in section 361. The exclusion would not apply to advisers of mutual funds that use futures or swaps on agricultural or energy products.

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The 2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act: An Ongoing Series

By Tom Watterson and Crystal Travanti

In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the CFTC, HR 4413, located here (the “2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act”), which includes a number of revisions to the Dodd-Frank Act and CFTC regulations. Most of these proposed changes are an attempt to limit some of the added regulatory burden for various swap end-users. We are beginning a series of posts that will further analyze the 2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act. The remainder of this post will provide a background on the reauthorization process.

Unlike many federal agencies, the CFTC, since its inception, has been authorized with 5 year sunset provisions (however this period often extends to longer than five years). As a result, every five years, Congress must reauthorize the existence of the CFTC. This requirement for reauthorization creates “built-in” opportunity for legislative changes and provides the means for a regular review of the CFTC and the Commodity Exchange Act.

The CFTC was most recently reauthorized in 2008 as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and the CFTC’s statutory authority lapsed in the Fall of 2013 (note that prior to the 2008 reauthorization, the CFTC’s authority had lapsed in 2005, so some delay can occur between a lapse and reauthorization). The 2014 CFTC Reauthorization Act will now be considered by the Senate and will need to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President prior to enactment.

To keep in touch with our periodic updates, keep checking this post, or subscribe to our automatic email updates at www.theswapreport.com (on the left side of the screen). The Swap Report

Breaking: ISDA Announces Credit Event for Argentina

Breaking–ISDA just announced that its Determination Committee decided that a "failure to pay" Credit Event has occurred with respect to the Argentine Republic.

The date of the Credit Event is July 30, 2014.

The ISDA Press Release can be found here, and the Determination Committee Decision can be found here.

The Swap Report

CFTC No-Action Relief from Potentially Burdensome Requirement for Automated Form 40S Response to CFTC ‘Special Calls’

On July 23, the CFTC staff issued No-Action Letter 14-95 (available here) extending the compliance date from August 15, 2014 to February 11, 2016 for use of new Forms 40/40S—reports solicited from market participants by “special call” of the CFTC—and the CFTC’s automated filing interface for such Forms.

We published a recent Client Alert, here, with a discussion of the No-Action Letter and a background on the new Form 40/40S. We also provide a summary below.

Under the CFTC Rules regarding large trader reporting, futures commission merchants , and certain other intermediaries, make periodic reports to the CFTC regarding accounts of customers that hold large positions in exchange traded futures and options. Once an account reaches a reportable size, the CFTC may then contact the customer directly and require that the trader file a Form 40 with more detailed information.

In 2011, the CFTC revised its Large Trader Reporting Rules to solicit information about certain swap positions. The CFTC then began receiving reports from swap dealers that identify the swap dealers’ counterparties to swaps that are linked to certain commodity futures contracts or the physical commodities underlying those contracts. The CFTC may then contact the swap counterparty directly and require that the counterparty file a “Form 40S,” the swap version of Form 40. The CFTC requirement for a company to file a Form 40 or Form 40S is called a “special call.”

In November 2013, the CFTC published its final new Large Trader Reporting FORMS—including new Form 40/40S to be used for its special call authority in respect of “swaps.” The new Form 40/40S requirements differ in several ways from the prior Form 40 rules. For example, once effective, the new CFTC rules will require Form 40/40S to be submitted electronically to the CFTC via an automated web interface. The new Form 40/40S rules also require the commercial entity that receives such a special call once to CONTINUE TO SUPPLEMENT AND UPDATE its Form 40S, whether or not the entity receives another periodic special call from the CFTC.

The CFTC has not yet developed the necessary automated web interface and as a result has extended the compliance date for the use of the new Form 40/40S to February 11, 2016. Note that if a company receives a special call, it still must comply through the use of the old Form 40 or otherwise following the CFTC directions in the special call.

The Swap Report

Commissioner Scott O’Malia to Become CEO of ISDA – Will ISDA Increase its Focus on the Energy Industry, Commercial Market Participants and Physical Commodity Markets?

By Patty Dondanville and Tom Watterson

Following the CFTC announcement that Commissioner Scott O’Malia has resigned his position effective August 8th (see our prior post about that announcement here), ISDA has now announced that O’Malia will become its CEO effective August 18th. ISDA’s Press Release is available here.

O’Malia’s leadership of ISDA could be a particularly important development for those in the energy industry and other commercial market participants, including “end-users.” O’Malia takes over the helm at ISDA from long-time financial industry stalwart Robert Pickel, and O’Malia brings his perspectives and background in the energy industry with him. With O’Malia on board, ISDA may increase its focus on the energy and physical commodity markets, and how those markets and commercial hedgers are impacted by increasingly complex global regulation.

O’Malia could expand ISDA’s traditional perspective from the financial trading and investment markets, where “sell-side” dealers provide products and the “buy-side” makes investments in those products to focus on the complex ways in which commercial enterprises use energy and other physical commodity derivatives to hedge global and dynamic commercial risks that arise from ongoing business operations.

As a CFTC commissioner, O’Malia had an open door policy when it came to the energy industry and other commercial groups. In his well documented dissents from some of the Commission’s final rules and other public statements, O’Malia focused attention on:

  1. the international nature of the energy and other physical commodity markets;
  2. the importance of maintaining liquid commodity and derivative trading markets to enable commercial end users to hedge the risks that arise from ongoing business operations; and
  3. the regulatory challenges faced by global commercial business enterprises, as distinguished from financial institutions and investors.

O’Malia also focused on understanding the complex legal structure of the OTC derivatives markets, and the policy implications of regulating the commercial world’s use of commodities and physical commodity-based derivatives. In recent months, O’Malia and former Acting Chairman/now Commissioner Wetjen repeatedly acknowledged the need to fix CFTC rules adopted in haste that are hampering commercial entities’ ability to hedge risks arising from business operations. The two-member commission also called for careful deliberation before moving forward with the important remaining CFTC rules on position limits and margin/collateralization.

We hope “soon-to-be former Commissioner” Scott O’Malia will continue his efforts on behalf of the energy industry and other commercial market participants as CEO of ISDA. The Swap Report

Commissioner O’Malia to Leave CFTC

On Monday, July 21st, the CFTC issued a press release noting that CFTC Commissioner Scott D. O’Malia tendered his letter of resignation, and intends to resign effective August 8th.

The CFTC press release can be found here, and his letter of resignation can be found here.

Commissioner O’Malia’s resignation will mark the fourth departure of a CFTC Commissioner in just over a year.

Farewell, Commissioner O’Malia. The Swap Report

Summer Reading: Financial Stability Board Consultative Document on Foreign Exchange Benchmarks

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) released a Consultative Document on Foreign Exchange Benchmarks about potential market abuse on foreign exchange (FX) fixings. You can access the full report here. The report may be of particular interest to currency ETFs, multi-currency funds and portfolios, and corporate entities that seek to execute at the benchmark fix price.

Following the Libor scandal, a number of concerns were raised about the integrity of FX benchmarks, which stemmed from the incentives for potential market abuse linked to the structure of trading around the benchmark fixings. The FSB formed a group to analyze the FX market structure and incentives that may promote certain trading activity around the benchmark fixings.
The FSB recommends that the FX fixing window be widened from its current width of one minute, and it seeks feedback from market participants as to the appropriate width.

The FSB also seeks feedback from market participants as to whether there is a need for alternative benchmark calculations (such as a volume weighted or time weighted benchmark price) calculated over longer time periods of up to and including 24 hours.

Enjoy the summer reading. The Swap Report
 

CFTC Extends Comment Period to August 4th for Aggregation and Position Limits Proposals

By Crystal Travanti and Tom Watterson

In the ongoing saga of the CFTC Position Limit Rules, the CFTC extended the comment periods for the Proposed Aggregation Rules and the Proposed Position Limits Rules until August 4, 2014.

The Proposed Position Limits Rules establish speculative position limits for 28 exempt and agricultural commodity futures and options contracts and the physical commodity swaps that are economically equivalent to such contracts. The Proposed Aggregation Rules amend existing regulations setting out the policy for aggregating the positions of affiliated entities under the CFTC position limits regime.  The CFTC extended the comment period to provide interested parties with an opportunity to comment on the issues regarding position limits for physical commodity derivatives, which were discussed at the CFTC Staff’s public roundtable on June 19, 2014.

Good day. Good commenting. TSR

District Court Affirms that Zero Purchase Price Repo Transactions May Be Considered “Repurchase Agreements” Under the Bankruptcy Code

By Todd Zerega and Luke Sizemore

INTRODUCTION

On February 18, 2013, we reported that the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (the “Bankruptcy Court”) found that individual repurchase transactions having a purchase price of zero may fall within the definition of “repurchase agreement” under the Bankruptcy Code provided that the master agreement governing such transactions acknowledges that each transaction constitutes consideration for every other transaction under the master agreement. On March 27, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware (the “District Court”) affirmed the Bankruptcy Court’s judgment, but disagreed with its rationale. This post examines the differences in the Courts’ logic.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In 2005, the debtor entered into a global master repurchase agreement (the “Master Agreement”) with a counterparty. The Master Agreement acknowledged that all individual transactions entered into thereunder constituted a single business transaction. The Master Agreement also provided that any payments, deliveries, and other transfers made by either of the parties in respect of any transaction shall be deemed to have been made in consideration of payments, deliveries and other transfers in respect of any other transactions entered into under the Master Agreement.

The debtor and its counterparty entered into numerous repurchase transactions under the Master Agreement. The written confirmations for certain, but not all, of these transactions showed a purchase price of zero (“Zero Price Repos”). Immediately prior to filing for bankruptcy, the debtor failed to pay the aggregate repurchase price on the date due, and the counterparty issued formal notices of default. An aggregate repurchase amount was owed because not all of the subject transactions were Zero Price Repos. Following the bankruptcy filing and the imposition of the automatic stay, the counterparty liquidated the securities subject to the Master Agreement, including but not limited to the Zero Price Repos, by auction, and used the auction proceeds to set off against the debtor’s aggregate unpaid repurchase amount.

BANKRUPTCY COURT PROCEEDINGS

Pursuant to the safe harbor provision of section 559 of the Bankruptcy Code, the counterparty to a “repurchase agreement” with the debtor may liquidate, terminate, or accelerate the repurchase agreement notwithstanding the imposition of the automatic stay. In the instant case, the counterparty believed that the Zero Price Repos qualified for these protections and, relying upon section 559, liquidated the securities without first seeking approval from the Bankruptcy Court. To the contrary, the debtor argued that the Zero Price Repos do not constitute “repurchase agreements,” as that term is defined in the Bankruptcy Code, and, as a result, the counterparty’s reliance on the safe harbor provision of section 559 was misplaced.

The term “repurchase agreement” is defined in the Bankruptcy Code, in part, as an agreement that provides for the transfer of one or more mortgage related securities against the transfer of funds by the transferee of such securities, with a simultaneous agreement by such transferee to transfer to the transferor thereof securities at a date not later than one year after such transfer or on demand, against the transfer of funds. 11 U.S.C. § 101(47)(A)(i) (emphasis added). There also is a “catchall provision” providing that the term “repurchase agreement” includes any security agreement or arrangement or other credit enhancement related to any agreement or transaction described above. 11 U.S.C. § 101(47)(A)(v).

The debtor argued that the Zero Price Repos cannot be “repurchase agreements” because the corresponding confirmations noted a zero purchase price, meaning that the securities were not transferred to the counterparty “against the transfer of funds.” The Bankruptcy Court disagreed. Relying upon the acknowledgment contained in the Master Agreements that each transaction thereunder constituted consideration for every other transaction, the Bankruptcy Court held that any transaction under the Master Agreements with a purchase price greater than zero provided sufficient consideration to satisfy the “transfer of funds” requirement with respect to the Zero Price Repos. Because the Zero Price Repos constituted “repurchase agreements” under the Bankruptcy Code, the Bankruptcy Court held that such transactions were entitled to the benefits provided to repurchase agreements under the safe harbor of section 559.

DISTRICT COURT’S ANALYSIS

The District Court agreed with this result, but not the Bankruptcy Court’s rationale. As a threshold matter, the District Court agreed that the acknowledgments in the Master Agreement make the Zero Price Repos part of a larger package for which there was consideration. However, citing to statements in the record, and without any analysis, the District Court found that the Zero Price Repos “could have been transferred back . . . without being ‘against the transfer of funds.’” Because of this possibility—that the Zero Price Repos could have been transferred back without consideration—the District Court concluded that the Zero Price Repos did not fall within the plain meaning of “repurchase agreement” under section 101(47)(A)(i) of the Bankruptcy Code.

The District Court then examined the “catchall provision” of section 101(47)(A)(v) and observed that there is no question that the Zero Price Repos were part and parcel of the Master Agreement. Consequently, the extra securities held by the counterparty in connection with the Zero Price Repos were within the umbrella of “credit enhancements” for the other undisputed repurchase transactions under the Master Agreement. As “credit enhancements,” the Zero Price Repos fall within the meaning of “repurchase agreement” under the catchall provision of section 101(47)(A)(v) of the Bankruptcy Code. Although the District Court’s rationale differs, the result is the same: liquidation of the securities associated with the Zero Price Repos was permitted by the safe harbor of section 559 of the Bankruptcy Code

The case may be found here.

Good day. Good liquidation. TSR

Potential New Clearing Determinations Under Consideration by the CFTC

By Andrew Cross and Tom Watterson

The CFTC is currently reviewing clearing determinations for two new classes of swaps.

The CFTC is currently reviewing what would be the first clearing determination for non-deliverable FX forwards (NDFs). The clearing determination would cover NDFs in USD with the following currencies:

  • Brazilian real (BRL)
  • Russian ruble (RUB)
  • Indian rupee (INR)
  • Chinese yuan (CNY)
  • Chilean peso (CLP)
  • Korean won (KRW)
  • Colombian peso (COP)
  • Indonesian rupiah (IDR)
  • Malaysian ringgit (MYR)
  • Philippines peso (PHP)
  • Taiwanese dollar (TWD)

In addition, the second clearing determination will mandate central clearing (unless an exception to central clearing applies) for fixed-for-floating interest rate swaps denominated in Australian dollars (AUD), Swiss francs (CHF), or Canadian dollars (CAD). Fixed for floating interest rate swaps denominated in US dollars (USD), British pounds (GBP), or Euros (EUR) are already subject to the central clearing mandate.

We expect that the CFTC will use the same implementation phase-in as for the interest rate and credit default index swaps, which was:

Category 1 Swap dealers, security-based swap dealers, major swap participants, major security-based swap participants, or active funds. 90 days after publication of the clearing determination
Category 2 Commodity pools, private funds, and persons predominantly engaged in activities that are in the business of banking, or in activities that are financial in nature (other than third party sub accounts or ERISA plans) 180 days after publication of the clearing determination
Category 3 All other entities not exempt from the clearing requirement 270 days after publication of the clearing determination

We note that nothing is final until we see a release from the CFTC, but we wanted to alert you to the potential requirements on the horizon.

Good day. Good alert. TSR

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