The CFTC voted to propose amending its uncleared swap margin regulations to (i) extend the implementation date of initial margin requirements for 2020 and 2021 and (ii) exempt certain transactions with the European Stability Mechanism from uncleared margin requirements.
Initial Margin "Phase Five" Implementation
The CFTC unanimously approved a proposal to extend the "Phase Five" implementation date of the swaps initial margin requirements for firms with an aggregate average notional amount of between $8 billion and $50 billion to September 1, 2021. The proposal follows a similar proposal by the U.S. prudential regulators, and each follows a BCBS-IOSCO statement (see here and here). The current proposal also would make technical corrections to other aspects of Regulations 23.161.
CFTC Commissioners Brian Quintenz and Dawn Stump, each of whom supported the proposal, also urged the CFTC to seek further regulatory harmonization with other uncleared swap margin regimes in the United States and overseas.
European Stability Mechanism Exemption
By a vote of four to one, the CFTC Commission approved a proposal to exempt uncleared swaps with the European Stability Mechanism ("ESM") from uncleared swap margin requirements by explicitly excepting the ESM from the definition of "financial end user." The proposal follows on existing CFTC staff no-action relief, which the CFTC staff withdrew and replaced with a new no-action letter that will expire on the earlier of (i) when the CFTC makes a final decision regarding the proposal or (ii) April 14, 2020. Separately, the CFTC staff also issued another new no-action letter updating a no-action position regarding mandatory clearing for swaps with the ESM.
Mr. Quintenz dissented from this proposal, saying that he would object to any proposed EU relief until EU authorities reaffirm the 2016 Central Counterparty ("CCP") equivalence determination between the CFTC and the European Commission. Mr. Quintenz criticized the dedication of "precious staff resources to provide legal certainty to an EU agency" when the five EU-authorized U.S. CCPs remain in a legal grey area following the proposed implementation of EMIR 2.2. As previously covered, Mr. Quintenz argued that the proposed EMIR 2.2. would "unilaterally abandon" the 2016 CCP equivalence determination. In contrast, CFTC Chair Heath Tarbert said that the CFTC "aims to lead by example" in demonstrating regulatory deference to ensure "well-regulated and efficient markets." However, Mr. Tarbert reminded international regulators that deference is a "two-way street" and urged them to join the CFTC in its mission to harmonize cross-border derivatives regulation.
The FDIC proposed amending its rules governing margin requirements for uncleared swaps and security-based swaps.
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and IOSCO agreed to a one-year extension of the implementation of derivatives initial margin requirements.
The CFTC Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight clarified that "Phase Five" initial margin documentation requirements will not apply to trading relationships where initial margin requirements have not gone above the $50 million threshold.
On June 21, 2019, the SEC adopted new rules and rule amendments that establish security-based swap capital, margin and segregation requirements.
CFTC Commissioner Brian Quintenz urged European Union regulatory authorities to recommit to deference-based regulation of cross-border central counterparties.
CFTC Commissioners urged European Union regulators to continue cross-border regulatory deference, notwithstanding the United Kingdom's exit from the EU.
The CFTC Division of Clearing and Risk provided exemptive relief to three international financial institutions from the swap clearing requirement.
The CFTC issued no-action relief that exempts certain swap dealers from "Final Margin Rule" requirements when entering into uncleared swaps.
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