United States: CFTC Issues Proposed Rule Reducing Trade Option Obligations For End-Users

Last Updated: June 16 2015
Article by Nikiforos Mathews and Jonas Robison

On May 7, 2015, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC") published in the Federal Register a proposed rule (the "Proposed Rule") that would reduce the reporting and recordkeeping burdens of end-users engaging in commodity trade options.1

Under the Commodity Exchange Act, as amended by Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 ("CEA"), the definition of "swap" includes commodity options.2  However, the CFTC issued an interim final rule in April 2012 exempting qualifying commodity options ("trade options") from most swap regulations, subject to certain specified conditions (the "Trade Option Exemption").3  For a commodity option to qualify for the Trade Option Exemption, the commodity option must involve a nonfinancial commodity (i.e., either an exempt commodity, such as energy and metals, or an agricultural commodity) and the parties to the option must satisfy the following three-part test: (i) the offeror of the option is either an "eligible contract participant" (generally, a non-financial entity entering into a swap for purposes of hedging or mitigating commercial risk) or a commercial participant (a producer, processor, commercial user of, or merchant handling, the underlying physical commodity that is entering into the option solely related to its business as such); (ii) the offeree of the option is a commercial participant; and (iii) the parties intend to physically settle the option so that, if exercised, the option would result in the sale of a nonfinancial commodity for immediate (i.e., spot) or deferred (i.e., forward) shipment or delivery.

A commodity option that meets the foregoing test nevertheless may remain subject to certain regulatory requirements under the CEA, including: reporting and recordkeeping; large trader reporting; position limits; certain recordkeeping, reporting, and risk management duties applicable to swap dealers ("SDs") and major swap participants ("MSPs"); capital and margin for SDs and MSPs; and any applicable antifraud and anti-manipulation provisions.

Under the Trade Option Exemption, trade options must be reported to a registered swap data repository if either: (i) one of the counterparties is registered as an SD or MSP; or (ii) both parties to the trade option are end-users but at least one of the parties has been required to report non-trade option swaps during the 12 months prior to the trade option being entered into.  If neither end-user party has had to report non-trade options during this 12-month period, then each end-user must: (i) file by March 1 a Form TO reporting each trade option entered into in the previous calendar year; and (ii) notify the CFTC, through an email to TOreportingrelief@cftc.gov, no later than 30 days after entering into trade options having an aggregate notional value in excess of $1 billion during any calendar year.  Under CFTC No-Action Letter No. 13-08 ("No-Action Letter 13-08"), however, even an end-user that has had to report non-trade options during the 12 months prior to the trade option being entered into generally need not comply with the reporting requirements, provided that such end-user complies with the foregoing items (i) and (ii).4

The Trade Option Exemption also requires an end-user to keep basic business records (i.e., "full, complete and systematic records, together with all pertinent data and memoranda, with respect to each swap in which they are a counterparty"5) and potentially requires counterparties to create and maintain "unique swap identifiers" and "unique product identifiers" for each swap and to record the "legal entity identifier" of each counterparty.6  However, No-Action Letter 13-08 generally clarified that an end-user need not create and maintain "unique swap identifiers" and "unique product identifiers" for each swap and record the "legal entity identifier" of each counterparty, provided that: (i) if the end-user's counterparty is an SD or MSP, the end-user obtains and provides to its counterparty a legal entity identifier; and (ii) the end-user notifies the CFTC, through an email to TOreportingrelief@cftc.gov, no later than 30 days after entering into trade options having an aggregate notional value in excess of $1 billion during any calendar year.

The Proposed Rule would relax reporting and recordkeeping obligations under the Trade Option Exemption and No-Action Letter 13-08 by no longer requiring end-users to file a Form TO in connection with otherwise unreported trade options.7  End-users would continue to be required to notify the CFTC no later than 30 days after entering into trade options having an aggregate notional value in excess of $1 billion during any calendar year, but could reduce their monitoring burden by providing an "alternative notice" that they reasonably expect to exceed this $1 billion threshold.8  End-users would continue to be subject to basic recordkeeping requirements and be required to obtain and provide to a counterparty a legal entity identifier if that counterparty is an SD or MSP.9  However, under the Proposed Rule, end-users would not be required to identify their trade options in all recordkeeping by means of either a unique swap identifier or unique product identifier.10

Footnotes

1 Trade Options, 80 Fed. Reg. 26,200 (May 7, 2015).

2 See CEA Section 1a(47)(A)(i) (defining "swap" to include "[an] option of any kind that is for the purchase or sale, or based on the value, of 1 or more . . . commodities . . . ."

3 Commodity Options, 77 Fed. Reg. 25,320 (April 27, 2012).

4 CFTC No-Action Letter No 13-08 (April 5, 2013) (available at: http://www.cftc.gov/ucm/groups/public/@lrlettergeneral/documents/letter/13-08.pdf).

5 17 CFR § 45.2(a).

6 See id. at 3-4.

7 Proposed Rule at 26,203.

8 Id. at 26,203-04.

9 Id. at 26,204.

10 Id.

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