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CFTC's Massad Testifies on New Reg Framework for Swaps Before Senate Agriculture Committee

| FinReg

As the U.S. Congress debates changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad testified before the Senate Agriculture committee earlier today. In wide-ranging remarks, he discussed the past, present, and future state of regulatory reform.

He first spoke to the need for the clearinghouse model:

Of course, central clearing is not a panacea. Clearing does not eliminate the risk that a counterparty to a trade will default – instead it provides us with powerful tools to monitor that risk, manage it, and mitigate adverse effects should a default occur. For central clearing to work well, active, ongoing oversight of clearinghouses is critical. And given the increasingly important role of clearinghouses in the global financial system, this is a top priority.

Over the last few years, the agency has strengthened its clearinghouse regulatory framework, incorporating international standards and taking other steps to bolster risk management practices and customer protection. Today, we are engaged in extensive oversight activities that include, among other things, daily risk surveillance, stress testing, and in-depth compliance examinations. Our oversight efforts also focus on risk at the clearing member and large trader levels. And while our goal is to never get to a situation where recovery or resolution of a clearinghouse must be contemplated, we are currently working with fellow regulators, domestically and internationally, on the planning for such contingencies, in the event there is ever a problem that makes such actions necessary.

Massad went on to discuss the need for high quality data in order for clearinghouses to function effectively:

We are focused on three general areas regarding data. First, we must have reporting rules and standards that are specific and clear, and that are harmonized as much as possible across jurisdictions, and we are leading an international effort in this regard. Only in this way will it be possible to track the market and be in a position to address emerging issues. We must also make sure the SDRs collect, maintain, and publicly disseminate data in a manner that supports effective market oversight and transparency. This means a common set of guidelines and coordination among registered SDRs. Standardizing the collection and analysis of swaps market data requires intensely collaborative and technical work by industry and the agency’s staff. We have been actively meeting with the SDRs on these issues, getting input from other industry participants, and looking at areas where we may clarify our own rules.

As one example of rule clarifications, I expect that very soon we will initiate a rulemaking to clarify reporting of cleared swaps as well as the role played by clearinghouses in this workflow. This rulemaking will propose to eliminate the requirement to report Confirmation Data for intended to be cleared swaps that are accepted for clearing and thereby terminated. This will simplify reporting burdens and improve the data that we receive.

Finally, market participants must live up to their reporting obligations. Ultimately, they bear the responsibility to make sure that the data is accurate and reported promptly. We have already brought cases to enforce these rules and will continue to do so as needed.

He followed by highlighting some of the issues the agency is currently dealing with when it comes to cross-border recognition and harmonization:

Following that agreement, the European Commission advised us that it was still not able to find our supervisory regime equivalent and grant recognition to our clearinghouses because it is concerned that the margin methodologies used by U.S. clearinghouses are inferior to theirs and create an unacceptable level of risk to Europe. We disagree, and our discussions have been focused on these issues, in particular our respective rules on margin methodology for futures. We follow a policy of gross collection and posting of customer margin for a minimum one-day liquidation period. That is, the clearing members must pass on to the clearinghouse the full amount of initial margin for each customer. The Europeans methodology is based on a two-day liquidation period, but it permits netting: if one customer’s exposures offset another’s, then the clearing member can post initial margin netted across customers. To see how these different approaches compare, we provided them an analysis using actual data for seven days.

We reconstructed what the required margin would be under each regime for the nine largest clearing members of one U.S. clearinghouse. These clearing members represent about 80% of the total customer margin. And what we found was that one-day gross was substantially higher than two-day net for each clearing member, and for each day. That is, the total amount of customer margin under one-day gross was as high as 421% of the amount under two-day net, and was never less than 160% of that amount. We have since looked at two other clearinghouses, and found even larger percentage differences.

In addition, it is also important to remember that margin requirements are only one part of an overall supervisory framework we have to mitigate risk. There are many other aspects of our supervisory framework that enhance financial stability and customer protection.

To read Chairman Massad’s full remarks, including those on oversight, agency funding, and various security challenges, please click here