I. DERIVATIVES ISSUES

1. Inventory “relationship level” considerations in legal documentation that governs your derivatives trading relationships (ISDA Master Agreements, Futures Customer Agreements, Master Securities Forward Transaction Agreements, etc.)

a. Example: Decline in Net Asset Value Provisions (Common in ISDAs)

i. Identify the trigger decline levels and time frames at which transactions under the agreement can be terminated (25% over a 1-month period – is that measured on a rolling basis or by reference to the prior month’s end?)

ii. Confirm whether all or only some transactions can be terminated (typically, it is all transactions)

iii. Identify the notice requirements that apply when a threshold is crossed

iv. Identify whether the agreement includes a “fish or cut bait clause” that restricts the ability of the other party to designate the termination of the transactions under the trading agreement


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FINRA has recently submitted a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to propose another delay to the implementation of TBA margin requirements under Rule 4210. The new implementation date would be March 25, 2021.

FINRA has requested that the deferred implementation date becomes effective immediately upon filing of the rule change by FINRA with the SEC.  
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FINRA has made it official.  Earlier today, FINRA published Regulatory Notice 19-05, delaying TBA margin requirements until March 25, 2020.  FINRA explained:

FINRA is issuing this Notice to announce that FINRA is extending by an additional year, until March 25, 2020, the effective date of the margin requirements that otherwise would have become effective

On January 29th, FINRA released the following statement:

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) is filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) a proposed rule change to extend, to March 25, 2020, the implementation date of the amendments to FINRA Rule 4210 (Margin Requirements) pursuant to SR-FINRA-2015-036, other than the amendments pursuant to SR-FINRA-2015-036 that were implemented on December 15, 2016. 

FINRA has indicated that it will file the proposed rule change with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) with a request for “immediate effectiveness,” which means that FINRA is recommending to the SEC that the deferred implementation date will become effective  immediately upon filing of the rule change by FINRA with the SEC.  
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On October 31st, the CFTC’s Office of the Chief Economist (the “OCE”) issued a report about “Phase 5” of the uncleared margin rules (“UMR”) that are slated to go into effect on September 1, 2020.  The purpose of the report was “to guide regulators in their responses to industry requests for relief” from the scheduled application of Phase 5.

This post will provide an overview of the main conclusions of the report.  Any potential implementation of revisions to the UMR consistent with the conclusions in the report would have the effect of reducing the number of market participants subject to UMR, thereby simplifying compliance processes and burdens on entities that may have otherwise been impacted by the UMR.  It is too early to forecast whether regulators will propose and ultimately implement revisions to the UMR based upon this report.  Although, we believe that its issuance is a noteworthy development.

At the outset, the UMR are complex and their application to any particular trading activities should be undertaken in consultation with counsel familiar with these rules.  This post is not legal advice.


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Earlier today, the CFTC’s Division of Clearing and Risk issued an interpretation stating that, “variation margin (‘VM’) payments and all other payments in satisfaction of outstanding exposures on counterparty’s cleared swap positions constitute settlement of the outstanding exposure and not collateral against it.”  The practical effect of this interpretation
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In testimony earlier today before the House Agricultural Committee, CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo announced his advocacy of a one-year delay in the implementation of the reduction in swap dealer de minimis level.  As background, a bank or other market participant can engage in a de minimis level of swap dealing activity without having to register as a swap dealer.  Presently, the de minimis level is set at $8 billion,
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Earlier today, European regulators and the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency provided additional relief (of sorts) from the March 1st variation margin deadline and related amendments of credit support documentation for non-cleared swaps.   This relief was provided by the regulators in recognition of the challenges faced by market participants in amending trading and credit support documentation in time for the March 1, 2017 variation margin deadline.  The following is a “Plain English” overview of where things stand in less than 300 words:
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Many buy-side market participants are in the process of grappling with issues related to the amendment of their derivatives trading documentation in order to account for new U.S. margin requirements that will apply to non-cleared swaps beginning on March 1, 2017 (the “Implementation Date”).  But, in our experience, a large number of market participants have not yet begun to consider how they are going to implement the required changes despite the fact that the Implementation Date is only a little over three months away.  In this posting, we offer a few thoughts on a protocol that was recently published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (“ISDA”) to facilitate amendments to ISDA Master Agreements and related Credit Support Annexes that account for the new non-cleared swap margin rules recently enacted by U.S. regulators.
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