CFTC Gensler addresses customer protections, swaps at Senate hearing

Good morning Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Crapo and members of the Committee.  I thank you for inviting me to today’s hearing on implementation of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) swaps market reforms.  I am pleased to testify along with my fellow regulators.  I also want to thank the CFTC Commissioners and staff for their hard work and dedication.

The New Era of Swaps Market Reform

This hearing is occurring at an historic time in the markets.  The CFTC now oversees the derivatives marketplace – across both futures and swaps.  The marketplace is increasingly shifting to implementation of the common-sense rules of the road for the swaps market that Congress included in the Dodd-Frank Act.

For the first time, the public is benefiting from seeing the price and volume of each swap transaction.  This post-trade transparency builds upon what has worked for decades in the futures and securities markets.  The new swaps market information is available free of charge on a website, like a modern-day ticker tape.

For the first time, the public will benefit from the greater access to the markets and the risk reduction that comes with central clearing.  Required clearing of interest rate and credit index swaps between financial entities begins next month.

For the first time, the public will benefit from specific oversight of swap dealers.  As of today, 71 swap dealers are provisionally registered.  They are subject to standards for sales practices, recordkeeping and business conduct to help lower risk to the economy and protect the public from fraud and manipulation.  The full list of registered swap dealers is on the CFTC’s website, and we will update it as more entities register.

An earlier economic crisis led President Roosevelt and Congress to enact similar common-sense rules of the road for the futures and securities markets.  I believe these critical reforms of the 1930s have been at the foundation of our strong capital markets and many decades of economic growth.

In the 1980s, the swaps market emerged.  Until now, though, it had lacked the benefit of rules to promote transparency, lower risk and protect the public, rules that we have come to depend upon in the securities and futures markets.  What followed was the 2008 financial crisis.  Eight million American jobs were lost.  In contrast, the futures market, supported by earlier reforms, weathered the financial crisis.

Congress and President Obama responded to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and carefully crafted the Dodd-Frank swaps provisions.  They borrowed from what has worked best in the futures market for decades:  transparency, clearing and oversight of intermediaries.

The CFTC has largely completed swaps market rulewriting, with 80 percent behind us.  On October 12, the CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) foundational definition rules went into effect.  This marked the new era of swaps market reform.

The CFTC is seeking to consider and finalize the remaining Dodd-Frank swaps reforms this year.  In addition, as Congress directed the CFTC to do, I believe it’s critical that we continue our efforts to put in place aggregate speculative position limits across futures and swaps on physical commodities.

The agency has completed each of our reforms with an eye toward ensuring that the swaps market works for end-users, America’s primary job providers.  It’s the end-users in the non-financial side of our economy that provide 94 percent of private sector jobs. 

The CFTC’s swaps market reforms benefit end-users by lowering costs and increasing access to the markets.  They benefit end-users through greater transparency – shifting information from Wall Street to Main Street.  Following Congress’ direction, end-users are not required to bring swaps into central clearing.  Further, the Commission’s proposed rule on margin provides that end-users will not have to post margin for uncleared swaps.  Also, non-financial companies, other than those genuinely making markets in swaps, will not be required to register as swap dealers.  Lastly, when end-users are required to report their transactions, they are given more time to do so than other market participants.

Congress also authorized the CFTC to provide relief from the Dodd-Frank Act’s swaps reforms for certain electricity and electricity-related energy transactions between rural electric cooperatives and federal, state, municipal and tribal power authorities.  Similarly, Congress authorized the CFTC to provide relief for certain transactions on markets administered by regional transmission organizations and independent system operators.  The CFTC is looking to soon finalize two exemptive orders related to these various transactions, as Congress authorized.

The CFTC has worked to complete the Dodd-Frank reforms in a deliberative way – not against a clock.  We have been careful to consider significant public input, as well as the costs and benefits of each rule.  CFTC Commissioners and staff have met more than 2,000 times with members of the public, and we have held 22 public roundtables.  The agency has received more than 39,000 comment letters on matters related to reform.  Our rules also have benefited from close consultation with domestic and international regulators and policymakers.

Throughout this process, the Commission has sought input from market participants on appropriate schedules to phase in compliance with swaps reforms.  Now, over two-and-a-half years since Dodd-Frank passed and with 80 percent of our rules finalized, the market is moving to implementation.  Thus, it’s the natural order of things that market participants have questions and have come to us for further guidance.  The CFTC welcomes inquiries from market participants, as some fine-tuning is expected.  As it is sometimes the case with human nature, the agency receives many inquiries as compliance deadlines approach.

My fellow commissioners and I, along with CFTC staff, have listened to market participants and thoughtfully sorted through issues as they were brought to our attention, as we will continue to do.

I now will go into further detail on the Commission’s swaps market reform efforts.

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