CFTC Gensler addresses customer protections, swaps at Senate hearing

Transparency – Lowering Cost and Increasing Liquidity, Efficiency, Competition

Transparency – a longstanding hallmark of the futures market – both pre- and post-trade – lowers costs for investors, consumers and businesses.  It increases liquidity, efficiency and competition.  A key benefit of swaps reform is providing this critical pricing information to businesses and other end-users across this land that use the swaps market to lock in a price or hedge a risk.

As of December 31, 2012, provisionally registered swap dealers are reporting in real time their interest rate and credit index swap transactions to the public and to regulators through swap data repositories.  These are some of the same products that were at the center of the financial crisis.  Building on this, swap dealers will begin reporting swap transactions in equity, foreign exchange and other commodity asset classes on February 28.  Other market participants will begin reporting April 10.

With these transparency reforms, the public and regulators now have their first full window into the swaps marketplace. 

Time delays for reporting currently range from 30 minutes to longer, but will generally be reduced to 15 minutes this October for interest rate and credit index swaps.  For other asset classes, the time delay will be reduced next January.  After the CFTC completes the block rule for swaps, trades smaller than a block will be reported as soon as technologically practicable.

To further enhance liquidity and price competition, the CFTC is working to finish the pre-trade transparency rules for swap execution facilities (SEFs), as well as the block rule for swaps.   SEFs would allow market participants to view the prices of available bids and offers prior to making their decision on a transaction.  These rules will build on the democratization of the swaps market that comes with the clearing of standardized swaps.

Clearing – Lowering Risk and Democratizing the Market

Since the late 19th century, clearinghouses have lowered risk for the public and fostered competition in the futures market.  Clearing also has democratized the market by fostering access for farmers, ranchers, merchants, and other participants. 

A key milestone was reached in November 2012 with the CFTC’s adoption of the first clearing requirement determinations.  The vast majority of interest rate and credit default index swaps will be brought into central clearing.  This follows through on the U.S. commitment at the 2009 G-20 meeting that standardized swaps should be brought into central clearing by the end of 2012.  Compliance will be phased in throughout this year.  Swap dealers and the largest hedge funds will be required to clear March 11, and all other financial entities follow June 10.  Accounts managed by third party investment managers and ERISA pension plans have until September 9 to begin clearing.

Consistent with the direction of Dodd-Frank, the Commission in the fall of 2011 adopted a comprehensive set of rules for the risk management of clearinghouses.   These final rules were consistent with international standards, as evidenced by the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures (PFMIs) consultative document that had been published by the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (CPSS-IOSCO).

In April of 2012, CPSS-IOSCO issued the final PFMIs.  The Commission’s clearinghouse risk management rules cover the vast majority of the standards set forth in the final PFMIs.  There are a small number of areas where it may be appropriate to augment our rules to meet those standards, particularly as it relates to systemically important clearinghouses.  I have directed staff to work expeditiously to recommend the necessary steps so that the Commission may implement any remaining items from the PFMIs not yet incorporated in our clearinghouse rules.  I look forward to the Commission considering action on this in 2013.

I expect that soon we will complete a rule to exempt swaps between certain affiliated entities within a corporate group from the clearing requirement.  This year, the CFTC also will be considering possible clearing determinations for other commodity swaps, including energy swaps.

Swap Dealer Oversight - Promoting Market Integrity and Lowering Risk

Comprehensive oversight of swap dealers, a foundational piece of Dodd-Frank, will promote market integrity and lower risk to taxpayers and the rest of the economy.  Congress wanted end-users to continue benefitting from customized swaps (those not brought into central clearing) while being protected through the express oversight of swap dealers.  In addition, Dodd-Frank extended the CFTC’s existing oversight of previously regulated intermediaries to include their swaps activity.  Such intermediaries have historically included futures commission merchants, introducing brokers, commodity pool operators, and commodity trading advisors.

As the result of CFTC rules completed in the first half of last year, 71 swap dealers are now provisionally registered.  This initial group of dealers includes the largest domestic and international financial institutions dealing in swaps with U.S. persons.  It includes the 16 institutions commonly referred to as the G16 dealers.  Other entities are expected to register over the course of this year once they exceed the de minimis threshold for swap dealing activity.

In addition to reporting trades to both regulators and the public, swap dealers will implement crucial back office standards that lower risk and increase market integrity.  These include promoting the timely confirmation of trades and documentation of the trading relationship.  Swap dealers also will be required to implement sales practice standards that prohibit fraud, treat customers fairly and improve transparency.  These reforms are being phased in over the course of this year.

The CFTC is collaborating closely domestically and internationally on a global approach to margin requirements for uncleared swaps.  We are working along with the Federal Reserve, the other U.S. banking regulators, the SEC and our international counterparts on a final set of standards to be published by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).  The CFTC’s proposed margin rules excluded non-financial end-users from margin requirements for uncleared swaps.  We have been advocating with global regulators for an approach consistent with that of the CFTC.  I would anticipate that the CFTC, in consultation with European regulators, would take up a final margin rules, as well as related rules on capital, in the second half of this year.

Following Congress’ mandate, the CFTC also is working with our fellow domestic financial regulators to complete the Volcker Rule.  In adopting the Volcker rule, Congress prohibited banking entities from proprietary trading, an activity that may put taxpayers at risk.  At the same time, Congress permitted banking entities to engage in certain activities, such as market making and risk mitigating hedging.  One of the challenges in finalizing a rule is achieving these multiple objectives. 

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