Monday, June 14, 2010

EC Publishes Recommendations on Derivatives and Market Infrastructure

The purpose of the document (which can be downloaded here: is to obtain information from Member States, market participants and other stakeholders on the measures aimed at enhancing the resilience of derivatives markets and market infrastructures.

The European Commission adopted a Communication on "Ensuring efficient, safe and sound derivatives markets – future policy actions", on 20th October 2009 after a full consultation on a previous Communication of July 2009 (COM(2009)332) and accompanying Staff Working Paper and Consultation Paper (see IP/09/1546). In this Communication, the Commission outlined the policy actions it intended to take to address the problems of OTC (over-the-counter) derivatives markets.

Since then, the Internal Market and Services Directorate General of the European Commission has been developing more detailed measures in this respect. Following better regulation principles and considering the significant impact that the announced policy actions are likely to have on the markets, the Internal Market DG would now like to consult all interested stakeholders on these detailed measures. This consultation, which is open until 10 July 2010, is the final step before the Commission proposes legislative proposals in September.

What is the status of this consultation? Is this a legislative blue-print?

This document is a working document of the Internal Market DG for discussion and consultation purposes. It does not purport to represent or pre-judge the formal proposal of the Commission. However, it does give an overview of the Internal Market DG's current thinking on how to practically implement some of the actions outlined in October 2009.

How does the consultation fit with other Commission initiatives in response to the financial crisis?

In its 2009 October Communication, the Commission announced a series of policy actions to respond to the issues raised by OTC derivatives. The aim of these actions is to reduce systemic risk and increase transparency. These initiatives are in line with the agreement signed by the G20 leaders in Pittsburgh on 25th September 2009, which stipulates that "all standardised OTC derivatives contracts should be traded on exchanges or electronic trading platforms, where appropriate, and cleared through central counterparties by end-2012 at latest. OTC derivatives contracts should be reported to trade repositories. Non-centrally cleared contracts should be subject to higher capital requirements".

What is the objective of the measures put out for consultation?

The consultation document outlines the Internal Market DG's current thinking on how to implement four of the policy actions that were announced in October 2009, notably:

  • Mandatory clearing of all "standardised" OTC derivatives;

  • Mandatory reporting of all OTC derivatives to trade repositories;

  • Common rules for Central Counterparties (CCPs) and for trade repositories; and

  • More transparency through reporting to trade repositories.

Other measures are foreseen later in 2010 or beginning of 2011, notably the revision of the Capital Requirements Directive, MiFID (Market in Financial Instruments Directive) and the Market Abuse Directive.

On substance, the Commission's future proposal will focus on four points:

Reducing counterparty credit risk by mandating CCP-clearing where possible

Increasing transparency by mandatory reporting to trade repositories

Ensuring safe and sound CCPs through stringent and harmonised organisational, conduct of business and prudential requirements.

Improving efficiency in the EU post-trading market by removing barriers preventing interoperability between CCPs while preserving the safety of them.

What are the main issues you are consulting on?

Central clearing requirements: All eligible derivate contracts should be cleared through a CCP. A process needs to be developed for the determination of the eligibility of contracts. There are also questions relating to the scope of exemptions for non-financial corporate end-users.

- Requirements on CCPs: the consultation asks what rules are necessary to ensure that CCPs contain risk in the market instead of becoming a potential source of risk concentration themselves.

- Relationship with third countries: the consultation asks how to ensure that CCPs and trade repositories in third countries can continue to provide services in the EU and what is the right approach for a sector, which is by nature, a global one.

- Interoperability: the consultation asks how best to achieve interoperability between CCPs.

- Requirements on trade repositories: the consultation asks amongst other things how to ensure access to data and make sure that trade repositories are adequately organised to receive, process and store that data. And the consultation asks about reporting requirements for market participants to trade repositories..

Why are you considering introducing requirements on interoperability even if those were not announced in the October Communication?

The Commission services have in recent years repeatedly highlighted that Europe's post-trading sector (i.e. clearing and settlement) ) remains fragmented along national lines (see e.g. European Commission (2006) Draft Working Document on post-trading activities and Commission Staff Working Document (2009), The Code of Conduct on clearing and settlement: three years of experience). This undermines the efficiency of each national system and increases the costs of cross-border transactions. Interoperability (please explain in one sentence what interoperability is) was, and still is, considered as one possible way of solving these problems. However, the experience with the Code of Conduct has demonstrated that industry action alone is not sufficient to attain this goal.

Furthermore, the European Council in its December 2008 and 2009 Conclusions stressed the need for further progress on access and interoperability while ensuring the safety of these arrangements and the high prudential standards CCPs need to comply with.

The consultation contains no reference to authorisation and supervision of CCPs. Why? Will this be addressed in forthcoming legislation?

Authorisation to provide CCP services and supervision (ongoing monitoring of CCP activities) are of paramount importance. But these issues are not technical details which the Commission needs stakeholder input on, but a key political choice. To enable the Commission to take an informed decision on those matters, the Commission services are discussing these institutional arrangements in other, more appropriate fora (e.g. working groups with Member States).

If adopted, how would CCPs, trade repositories and users benefit from the technical measures under consideration?

The measures, if adopted, would establish a level playing field between market infrastructures, which would also benefit users . In particular, users would benefit from high prudential standards imposed on CCPs that will help ensure the safety and soundness of the wider system, and thus greater protection for users. CCPs will benefit from fair competition as common requirements will avoid competition on the margins. Trade repositories will be subject to common requirements: this will add clarity to what they should collect as data and how they should maintain the information recorded.

You are considering a comprehensive solution for all derivatives markets. How are you taking into account important differences between asset segments, e.g. in terms of risk?

Various segments of the OTC derivatives market differ in their characteristics, namely in terms of risk, operational arrangements and market participants. Therefore, at first sight, a specific regulatory approach for each market segment could seem warranted. However, the financial crisis has shown that problems such as lack of transparency and excessive counterparty credit risk are common to all segments. That is why a common policy approach is preferable. Such an approach is also justified by the fact that the boundaries between market segments are blurred, as any derivative contract can be partitioned and reconstructed into different but economically equivalent contracts. A segmented policy approach would enable market participants to exploit differences in rules to their advantage. Moreover, the approaches to some of the key obligations under consideration (e.g. mandatory clearing), contains a number of safeguards that, if adopted, would take into account differences between asset segments.

You are considering giving ESMA significant powers, notably as regards the clearing obligation. Isn't that too much for an Authority that does not yet exist?

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) needs sufficient powers to be effective. These powers will be set out in the supervision package, currently in the final stages of negotiation between the European Parliament and finance Ministers. We are considering entrusting ESMA with determining the contracts subject to the clearing obligation. This is important, as we need a single list of eligible contracts in Europe. A national approach whereby each Member State would decide in isolation could lead to 27 different clearing obligations for market participants. This would not reduce systemic risk and would only create legal uncertainty across the Single Market.

We are also considering endowing ESMA with responsibility for setting the thresholds above which non-financial institutions should be subject to the clearing obligation. Such thresholds need to take into account the technical and evolving characteristics of the market place; therefore, it is appropriate to give regulators a predominant role in setting them. Moreover, the data necessary for setting the thresholds will only be available after the implementation of the future legislation.

You are considering stringent requirements for CCPs. Should you not limit the future legislation to high level principles to leave room for the implementation of internationally agreed standards?

We need to find the right balance. We are responsible for ensuring that European CCPs are safe and sound institutions, and meet robust and harmonised binding prudential requirements that are the same across all 27 EU-Member States. They should not be allowed to compete on risk grounds. This requires stringent requirements for CCPs setting out the key prudential requirements they have to respect.

International consistency is desirable. We therefore strongly support the work done by central banks and financial market regulators working together in CPSS-IOSCO (Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems - International Organisation of Securities Commissions) ) to review the global non-binding recommendations for CCPs. The future legislation under consideration would leave room for technical details to be developed at a later stage. Accordingly, it would be possible to further integrate aspects of the CPSS-IOSCO review potentially not covered by the legislation.

Why are you considering different options for trade repositories? Would it not be preferable to have one global repository per asset class?

Market participants will be required to report their trades to a repository. Trade repositories will maintain this information, which is of key importance to regulators. It is therefore essential that regulators have access to the relevant information stored in those repositories. This needs to be taken into account when considering the trade repository market structure. All options - i.e. requiring location in the EU only if access to information is not guaranteed, requiring location as in the form of a subsidiary as a condition for registration, or requiring a self-standing EU trade repository, under consideration have pros and cons. We therefore believe it is important to seek the views of stakeholders on these different options so as to eventually have a proposal that would represent the best option.

How do the actions under consideration relate to Credit Default Swaps (CDS)?

If adopted in the forthcoming Commission's proposal, the actions under consideration would have two effects on CDS:

First, it would further increase transparency of CDS transactions by requiring all trades to be reported to trade repositories to which regulators would have full access.

Second, two of the requirements under consideration - the obligation to clear most derivatives with CCPs and the requirement to strengthen the risk management of non-cleared OTC derivatives – would, if adopted, increase the cost of engaging in OTC derivatives deals. Therefore, while the primary aim of these actions is to reduce the systemic risk, they would also increase the upfront cost of engaging in speculative derivatives deals.

The Commission is also considering an initiative on short-selling this autumn where measures on CDS are considered.

Annex – Glossary of key terms

For information purposes … not legally binding:

'Derivatives' means financial instruments as defined by Annex I Section C numbers (4) to (10) of Directive 2004/39/EC. In simple terms, a derivative is a financial instrument - a contract between two people or two parties - that has a value determined by the price of something else, the underlying. The "underlying" can be any kind of asset, for example a share, a currency, a commodity. There are many kinds of derivatives, the most notable being swaps, futures, and options. However, since a derivative can be placed on any sort of security, the scope is endless.

'Over the counter (OTC) derivatives' means derivative contracts whose execution does not take place on a Regulated Market as defined by Article 4(14) of Directive 2004/39/EC.

'Central counterparty (CCP)' means an entity that interposes itself between the counterparties to the contracts traded within one or more financial markets, becoming the buyer to every seller and the seller to every buyer and which is responsible for the operation of a clearing system.

'Trade repository' means an entity that centrally collects and maintains the records of OTC derivatives.

'Market infrastructure' means either a CCP or a trade repository.

'Clearing' means the process of establishing settlement positions, including the calculation of net positions, and the process of checking that financial instruments, cash or both are available to secure the exposures arising from a transaction.

'Interoperability' means two or more CCPs entering into an arrangement with one another that involves cross-system execution of transactions.

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