LIBOR Benchmark Transition Planning: ISDA Benchmarks Supplement

On September 19, 2018, ISDA published the ISDA Benchmarks Supplement (the “Supplement”) to enable parties to include fall back provisions in their trades if a benchmark ceases to be provided by the administrator to the benchmark or if a regulator of the administrator, the applicable central bank or applicable resolution authority announces that the administrator shall cease to provide a benchmark  (an “index cessation event”). The Supplement covers the following ISDA definitions booklets:

  • 2006 ISDA Definitions;
  • 2002 ISDA Equity Derivatives Definitions;
  • 1998 FX and Currency Option Definitions;
  • 2005 ISDA Commodity Definitions.

The Supplement also introduces the concept of an “Administrator/Benchmark Event” which applies if a benchmark or an administrator is not approved and therefore cannot be used by the parties in accordance with applicable law. Continue Reading

SEC Chairman Weighs in on the Transition to SOFR

On the heels of remarks by his U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) counterpart, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Chairman Jay Clayton recently commented on ongoing benchmark reform and the transition to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”).  As we noted earlier this week, Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo of the CFTC recently advocated for the adoption of SOFR as the appropriate replacement for LIBOR and added that the CFTC is already working on the transition.  He implored market participants and firms to immediately begin transacting in SOFR derivatives for the health of the transition.

In remarks on December 6, 2018, Chairman Clayton mentioned the transition away from LIBOR as a market risk that the SEC is currently monitoring.  For Chairman Clayton, the key risk stems from the fact that there are approximately $200 trillion in notional transactions referencing the U.S. Dollar LIBOR and that more than $35 trillion will not mature by the end of 2021, when banks currently reporting information used to set LIBOR are scheduled to stop doing so.  Listing potential issues with a transition away from LIBOR, Chairman Clayton raised questions such as what happens to the interest rates of the instruments that will not mature before 2021 but reference LIBOR?  Does an instrument’s documentation include any fallback language?  If not, will consents be required to amend the documentation? Continue Reading

CFTC Chairman and Market Participants Weigh in on the Transition to SOFR

On November 29, 2018, in remarks before the 2018 Financial Stability Conference in Washington, D.C., Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) supported the adoption of the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) as the new benchmark for short-term unsecured interest rates.  SOFR is currently produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) and is based on transactions in the repurchase agreement transaction (“repo”) markets.  Chairman Giancarlo’s statements and support of SOFR come on the heels of a series of market and regulatory developments relating to benchmark reform.

Since 2017, regulators and financial market industry leaders have been working to design alternative interest rate benchmarks.  Significantly, in June 2017, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (“ARRC”), an organization convened by the Federal Reserve Board (“FRB”) and the New York Fed, selected a broad repo rate as its preferred alternative reference rate.  In choosing a broad repo rate, ARRC considered factors including the depth of the underlying market and its likely robustness over time; the rate’s usefulness to market participants; and whether the rate’s construction, governance, and accountability would be consistent with the IOSCO Principles for Financial Benchmarks. Continue Reading

Know Thy Counterparty: SEC Enforcement Action Against Adviser for Failing to Perform Adequate Repo Counterparty Diligence

On November 6, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought an enforcement action against a (formerly) registered investment adviser (“Adviser”), for failing to meet its diligence and compliance responsibilities under the Investment Advisers Act (“IAA”) relating to certain repurchase agreement (“repos”) facilities it offered to its clients.

The Adviser offered nine repo facilities involving loans guaranteed by various government entities.  Under an agreement with First Farmers Financial (“FFF”), FFF purportedly pledged loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) as collateral for the repo.  However, the loans turned out to be fraudulent, and FFF and its corporate officers exhibited a number of red flags along the way, including providing falsified financial statements from a fake auditor.

The SEC found that the Adviser violated various provisions of the IAA and its rules by harming its advisory clients, which included a registered investment company, in two primary ways.  First, the SEC found that Adviser failed to pursue the truth about FFF’s repos in the wake of missing audited financial statements and warnings by Adviser employees and a private investigator.  And second, Adviser failed to adequately resource its compliance department and did not have or follow compliance policies and procedures that could have prevented the FFF issues in the first place.

Under the SEC’s enforcement order, Adviser must pay a civil monetary penalty of $400,000.  The SEC’s enforcement order against Adviser can be found here.

Good Day. DR2.

Initial Margin Phase 5: Report from CFTC’s Office of the Chief Economist

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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Swaps and Retail Commodity Transactions (Leverage, Margin or Financing: Will We Know It When We See It or Only After It Has Been Identified As Such?)

This post builds upon an idea presented in Part 4 of current series of posts on considerations for investment funds and advisers related to cryptocurrency derivatives.

In particular, this post provides additional perspectives on the relationship of leverage, margin, and financing to two commodity interests: “retail commodity transactions” and a “swaps”.  We decided to present these comments separate from the current multi-part series on cryptocurrency derivatives, since the topic may appeal to a broader audience than funds and advisers.

This post was co-authored with Michael Selig, an associate attorney in the New York office of Perkins Coie.

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Cryptocurrency Derivatives, Funds and Advisers: Key Considerations Under U.S. Commodity Laws (Part 4: About the Interests of Interest)

This post is the fourth in a series that outlines key considerations for investment funds and their advisers regarding the application of the U.S. commodity laws to cryptocurrency derivatives.  This post is intended to be a primer on the topic and is not legal advice.  You should consult with your counsel regarding the application of the U.S. Commodity laws to your particular facts and circumstances.

In this Part 4, we discuss the commodity interests that are likely to be of greatest interest to crypto funds and advisers: futures contracts, swaps and retail commodity transactions.

At the outset, a sincere thanks goes out to Conor O’Hanlon and Michael Selig for their invaluable assistance and time spent thinking through many of the issues that are at this heart of this post and, more generally, this series.

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Cryptocurrency Derivatives, Funds and Advisers: Key Considerations Under U.S. Commodity Laws (Part 3: Why Commodity Interests Are of Interest)

This post is the third in a series that outlines key considerations for investment funds and their advisers regarding the application of the U.S. commodity laws to cryptocurrency derivatives. This post is intended to be a primer on the topic and is not legal advice. You should consult with your counsel regarding the application of the U.S. commodity laws to your particular facts and circumstances.

In Part 1, we focused on the status of cryptocurrencies as commodities and how that status relates to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”). In Part 2, we provided an overview of the regulation of commodities and the commodity markets under the Commodity Exchange Act (the “CEA”), explaining in particular that while the authority to prevent fraud and manipulation may apply to any transaction in interstate commerce that involves a commodity, the CFTC’s “substantive regulation” applies only if a transaction involves a “commodity interest“.

Here, in Part 3, we explain why the concept of a commodity interest can be described as a “linchpin” to the substantive regulation  of CPOs and CTAs.

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Cryptocurrency Derivatives, Funds and Advisers: Key Considerations Under U.S. Commodity Laws (Part 2: The Regulation of Commodities – Quite Substantial, Even If Not Substantive)

This post is the second in a series that outlines key considerations for investment funds and their advisers regarding the application of the U.S. commodity laws to cryptocurrency derivatives. This posting is intended to be a primer on the topic and is not legal advice. You should consult with your counsel regarding the application of the U.S. commodity laws to your particular facts and circumstances.

In Part 1, we focused on the status of cryptocurrencies as commodities and how that status relates to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”). Here, in Part 2, we provide an overview of the regulation of commodities and the commodity markets under the Commodity Exchange Act (the “CEA”).

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Cryptocurrency Derivatives, Funds and Advisers: Key Considerations Under U.S. Commodity Laws (Part 1 – Cryptos Are Commodities (Except When They Are Not))

In this multi-part posting, we outline key considerations for investment funds and their advisers regarding the application of the U.S commodity laws to cryptocurrency derivatives.  This posting is intended to be a primer on the topic and is not legal advice.  You should consult with your counsel regarding the application of the U.S. commodity laws to your particular facts and circumstances.

First, a few words about our use of the word “cryptocurrency”… In this series of postings, we use the word cryptocurrency (and often the term “crypto”) to refer to traditional virtual currencies, like BTC and ETH, as well as tokens related to a particular software product development initiative (i.e., “coins” sold in an initial coin offering or “ICO”).  We recognize that there are different classifications of cryptos among different groups of market participants; however, when we say “crypto,” we mean cryptocurrency in the broadest sense (inclusive of virtual currencies and tokens).

Having dealt with the initial definitional matter, we now turn to the substance of this Part 1 – Cryptos are Commodities (Except When They Are Not).

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