July 27, 2005
Mr. J. Eugene Marans
Dear Mr. Marans:
In your letter dated July 22, 2005, you request advice that, based on the circumstances stated in this letter, the Division of Market Regulation ("Division") will not recommend enforcement action to the Securities and Exchange Commission ("Commission") against:
The following equity, index, and ETF options traded on Eurex are the sole subject matter of this request:
The Equity Options, Index Options, and ETF Options may be referred to, collectively, as the "Options."
The relief you seek is similar to that previously granted by the Division to other non-U.S. exchanges.2
We understand the facts to be as follows:
Eurex is a fully electronic derivatives exchange that provides Eurex participants with decentralized and standardized access from access points located in Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.3 You note that the Eurex system allows U.S. Eurex participants to trade certain futures contracts and futures options contracts pursuant to no-action relief granted by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC").4 You represent that the Eurex trading system will not be made available for the trading of any Options, including trading by U.S. Eurex participants that currently trade futures and futures options pursuant to the relief granted by the CFTC in its 1999 Letter.
In this regard, you note that the Eurex trading system includes controls that restrict U.S. and other Eurex participants to the trading through the Eurex system of only the specific products for which they have received express authorization from Eurex. You state that to date, Eurex has granted U.S. Eurex participants authority to trade only futures contracts and futures options contracts through their participation in the Eurex trading system. You represent that these U.S. Eurex participants are systemically precluded from effecting trades in Options through their participation in the Eurex trading system, and will continue to be so precluded under the scope of the no-action relief you request in this letter.5
You note that Eurex Frankfurt holds all of the shares of U.S. Exchange Holdings, Inc., which owns 80% of the shares of U.S. Futures Exchange, LLC ("Eurex U.S."), a Chicago-based electronic derivatives exchange that the CFTC has designated as a contract market. Eurex U.S. commenced operations on February 8, 2004. You state that U.S. Exchange Holdings, Inc., also owns 100% of U.S. Exchange, LLC, which currently is inactive.
The predecessor to Eurex, Deutsche Terminbörse, was established in 1990 as Germany's first fully computerized exchange and the first German exchange for trading financial futures. In 1998, Deutsche Terminbörse and the Swiss Options and Financial Futures Exchange ("SOFFEX") created a new single platform for the trading of derivatives, including both futures and options-related products. Deutsche Terminbörse became Eurex, which is a public law entity under German law. Eurex's operating company, Eurex Frankfurt, is wholly-owned by Eurex Zurich AG (the former SOFFEX), which is jointly owned by DBAG and the Swiss Exchange. DBAG provides Eurex Frankfurt with various administrative services, including accounting, information technology, and related services. As a service provider to Eurex Frankfurt, DBAG maintains a representative office in Chicago in connection with the promotion of futures products in the U.S. In addition, as described below, DBAG's representative office in Chicago may make information concerning Eurex available to certain registered broker-dealers and large financial institutions in the U.S.
The regulatory framework of Eurex is governed primarily by two laws: the German Exchange Act and the Securities Trading Act. The German Exchange Act is designed to provide the means and measures necessary to maintain efficient and orderly trading and to protect investors and the public. To meet these objectives, the German Exchange Act establishes rules governing the establishment, organization, and supervision of exchanges, delegates self-regulatory authority to the exchanges, and regulates the admission of trading participants and securities to exchange trading. In addition, the German Exchange Act contains provisions designed to prevent price manipulation, fraud, and other deceptive practices. The Securities Trading Act establishes trade reporting obligations, insider trading rules, public disclosure rules, and rules of conduct for enterprises admitted to trading on an exchange that deal with the public.
At the exchange level, the responsibilities of the Eurex Board of Management include:
You represent that each Eurex participant is obligated to provide information or to assist Eurex otherwise in relation to activities carried out on Eurex.
The German Federal Financial Supervisory Agency (Budensanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht) (the "BAFin") and the Exchange Supervisory Authority in the State of Hesse also exercise certain supervisory powers over investment firms and banks.6 You note that the State of Hesse is responsible for exchange supervision as well as establishing and, in part, enforcing state regulations adopted under the purview of the German Exchange Act (e.g., regulations concerning the election of an exchange's council; the establishment, composition, and proceedings of an exchange's disciplinary committee; and regulations covering the status of exchange specialists (Kursmakler)).
You state that the BAFin is responsible for licensing, or denying licensing to, German enterprises that intend to commence activities in the securities business in Germany, as well as ensuring that licensed enterprises maintain compliance with the capital and organizational requirements of the German Banking Act. The BAFin also is charged with enforcement of the Securities Trading Act and has the general power to counter any irregularities that may impair the orderly conduct of securities trading, investment services, or ancillary investment services, or that may significantly disrupt the securities market. In addition, the BAFin has the authority to request information and to compel the production of documents from exchange trading participants within its jurisdiction (i.e., located in Germany) and their personnel.
You represent that the BAFin has the authority to cooperate with competent authorities of other countries in connection with the supervision of securities and derivatives markets and trading activity thereon, including by sharing non-public market surveillance information. You note that, in connection with this authority, the BAFin, at the request of a competent authority in another country (such as the Commission), may request that Eurex provide the BAFin with any non-public market surveillance information necessary for the BAFin to fulfill the request of any such competent authority. You state that such information may include, but is not limited to, any information that Eurex has the authority to obtain from a Eurex participant. As noted above, you represent that each Eurex participant is obligated to provide information or to assist Eurex otherwise in relation to activities carried out on Eurex.
You state that the exchanges outside of Germany that trade the component stocks of Index Options, the ETFs underlying ETF Options, and the equity securities underlying Equity Options are subject to active market surveillance by the government and self-regulatory organizations in their jurisdictions. You represent that the BAFin generally has access to surveillance data from those regulators with respect to the trading of these component and underlying securities outside of Germany pursuant to various information sharing memoranda of understanding, as described below. In addition, you note that the Trading Surveillance Office of Eurex can request such surveillance data from the BaFin for purposes of fulfilling its monitoring, compliance, and examination responsibilities with respect to Eurex participants.
With respect to information sharing memoranda of understanding, you note, in particular, that the BaFin and the regulators in all of the European jurisdictions, other than Switzerland, where the underlying securities or components of the Options trade are members of the Forum of European Securities Commissions ("FESCO").7 You state that the members of FESCO have entered into a Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding on the Exchange of Information and Surveillance Activities (the "FESCO MOU") that provides for the sharing of certain market surveillance data among FESCO members.8 You represent that Eurex may request that the BAFin obtain information from other regulators pursuant to the FESCO MOU and the other information sharing agreements. You also note that although Eurex does not have formal exchange-to-exchange information sharing arrangements with non-German exchanges, Eurex's Trading Surveillance Office is authorized under the German Exchange Act to obtain information directly from and to share information directly with similar trading surveillance offices of other exchanges or regulators outside of Germany.
With respect to surveillance information for Swiss equities, you note that the Swiss Exchange and virt-x collectively trade all of the components securities of the SMI and the securities underlying Swiss Equity Options and XMTCH on SMI Fund Options. You represent that the Swiss Exchange has full access to surveillance information concerning the trading of these underlying and component securities on both its own market and on virt-x, and that the Swiss Exchange has agreed to share with Eurex Zurich, the holding company of Eurex Frankfurt, relevant market surveillance information concerning trading activity in these underlying and component securities on the Swiss Exchange and virt-x. You represent that the Trading Surveillance Office of Eurex may, in turn, request from Eurex Zurich market surveillance information that Eurex Zurich receives from the Swiss Exchange for the purposes of fulfilling the Trading Surveillance Office's monitoring, compliance, and examination responsibilities with respect to Eurex participants. You represent that Eurex Zurich can provide this information to the Trading Surveillance Office of Eurex.
You state that admission to membership as a participant in Eurex is necessary to engage in the direct trading of Options on Eurex.9 Eurex has a single category of exchange membership which is limited to entities that: (i) enter into Options (and/or futures) transactions (A) for their own accounts or (B) in their names for the accounts of third parties; and (ii) are organized business entities (i.e., natural persons are not permitted to become participants in Eurex).
You state that each applicant for membership in Eurex must meet certain minimum requirements. Specifically, among other things, each applicant must:
Eurex Clearing, which was founded in 1998, clears all Eurex trades and functions as the central counterparty for all Options transactions. Every Eurex participant must participate in the process of Eurex Clearing.11 Eurex Clearing requires every Clearing Member to maintain sufficient margin to cover all of its contractual obligations. In addition, each Clearing Member must make a contribution to the clearing fund, which may be used to cover itself and other defaulting Clearing Members in the event of default.
Transactions generally are settled on a delivery versus payment ("DVP") basis through SIS SegaInterSettle AG, the Swiss central security depository, or through Clearstream Banking AG in Frankfurt. Both of these central securities depositories have set up omnibus accounts and established a cross-border DVP link. In addition to offering securities clearing and settlement facilities, these central securities depositories also offer Clearing Member facilities for the deposit of collateral. Cross-border cash settlement by Eurex Clearing is processed through the Central Bank of Germany (Deutsche Bundesbank) for euros, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in Zurich for Swiss francs, and correspondent banks for other currencies.
To facilitate trades in larger amounts of contracts in standardized Eurex products, Eurex offers an OTC Block Trade Facility. The OTC Block Trade Facility enables Clearing Members to submit to Eurex Clearing trades that have been negotiated directly with participants outside the Eurex system. Eurex Clearing performs clearing and margining in connection with each OTC block trade submitted to it. OTC block trades are only possible for products traded on the Eurex system and admitted to block trading. The minimum number of options contracts that must be traded is defined by Eurex Clearing with respect to each product and Eurex Clearing carries out a "validation," meaning that only block trades within a certain price range will be accepted by Eurex Clearing. Clearing Members who wish to use the OTC Block Trade Facility must accept the general conditions for participation and be approved for submission of block trades by Eurex Clearing.
Eurex Options Market
A Eurex participant purchases and sells Options by inserting an order into Eurex's central order book, where all orders are sorted automatically by type, price, and entry time.
Equity Options are quoted, bought, and sold in euros (with the exception of Equity Options on Swiss shares and Options on the XMTCH on SMI Fund, which are bought and sold in Swiss francs) and Index Options are quoted in index points and bought and sold in euros (with the exception of SMI Index Options, which are bought and sold in Swiss francs).
You state that Options are not evidenced by certificates. Transactions and positions are recorded in statements from Eurex Clearing to Clearing Members and statements from Clearing Members to customers.
You represent that Options are not fungible or interchangeable with options that are traded on any other market. Thus, each Option position issued by Eurex Clearing to a member can be closed only on Eurex and can be exercised by the member only by giving an exercise notice to Eurex, although Options may be exercised automatically if the Eurex participant sets an automatic exercise parameter in advance.
Equity Options and ETF Options feature American-style exercise. The underlying contract size of an Equity Option or ETF Option generally is based on 100 shares of the underlying instrument, but may vary depending on the price of the underlying instrument. Index Options feature European-style exercise. All Index Options are cash-settled and payable on the first exchange trading day after exercise.
Contracts are performed by settlement between Clearing Members and Eurex Clearing. Each Clearing Member is responsible for handling such settlements for its own customers and for the Non-Clearing Members it serves. Eurex Clearing rules require a Clearing Member to honor all obligations resulting from orders or quotes entered into Eurex by the Clearing Member as well as the Non-Clearing Members it serves. If a Non-Clearing Member fails to provide the margin fixed by its Clearing Member or to pay any daily settlement in a timely manner, the Non-Clearing Member may be excluded from trading for the duration of the failure by a decision of the Eurex Board of Management. If a Clearing Member fails to make any payments or deliveries due to Eurex Clearing, Eurex may exclude such Clearing Member, as well as any Non-Clearing Member it represents, for the duration of the failure.
Transactions with U.S. Customers
DBAG and Eurex Frankfurt wish to familiarize certain registered broker-dealers and large financial institutions in the U.S. with Options, and thus propose to take the limited steps described below with respect only to "Eligible Broker-Dealers" and "Eligible Institutions." To be Eligible, each such entity must meet the following standards:
Eurex participants will be required to take reasonable steps to assure themselves, before effecting any Option transaction for or with a customer located in the U.S., that: (1) the customer is an Eligible Broker-Dealer or an Eligible Institution; (2) the customer is acting for its own account or the account of another Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution or the managed account of a non-U.S. person (within the meaning of Rule 902(k)(2)(i) of Regulation S under the Securities Act); and (3) the customer has received the Eurex Disclosure Document referred to below. Eurex will advise Eurex participants that, under U.S. law, Eurex participants which are not U.S. registered broker-dealers may deal with Eligible Institutions only in accordance with Rule 15a-6 under the Exchange Act, principally through U.S. registered broker-dealers as provided in that Rule.
You represent that Eurex will institute rules requiring Eurex participants to furnish to Eligible Broker-Dealers and Eligible Institutions a Eurex Disclosure Document before accepting an order from that Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution to purchase or sell Options. The rules also will require that Eurex participants obtain written representations from any Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution seeking to purchase or sell Options, signed by an appropriate officer, to the following effect:
Copies of the Eurex Disclosure Document, in the form submitted to and reviewed by the Division, will be provided only to Eligible Broker-Dealers and Eligible Institutions. The Eurex Disclosure Document provides an overview of Eurex and the Options, with attention to significant differences from standardized options in the U.S. domestic options market, and sets forth special factors relevant to U.S. entities transacting in Options.
DBAG and Eurex Frankfurt will not engage in any general advertising concerning Options in the U.S. However, DBAG and Eurex Frankfurt will appoint certain DBAG and Eurex Frankfurt employees to act as their representatives in the U.S. Eurex representatives in the U.S. and outside the U.S. (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Representatives") will be available to respond to inquiries from Eligible Broker-Dealers and Eligible Institutions concerning Options. Any Representative may make personal calls on and correspond or otherwise communicate with entities whom such Representative reasonably believes to be Eligible Broker-Dealers and Eligible Institutions to familiarize them with the existence and operations of Eurex. Any Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution will be provided with the Eurex Disclosure Document upon its first visit, communication or inquiry regarding Options.12 The Representatives will maintain a reasonable supply of that document, and of the most recently published annual report of DBAG,13 to respond to requests therefor from Eligible Broker-Dealers and Eligible Institutions. A Representative also may participate in programs and seminars in the United States.
Representatives will not give investment advice or make any recommendations with respect to specific Options, nor will Representatives solicit, take, or direct orders, nor recommend or refer particular Eurex participants. If requested by an Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution, a Representative may make available to the requester a list of all Eurex participants empowered to take orders from the public and any registered U.S. broker-dealer affiliates of such Eurex participants.
Eurex will require that Eurex participants, before effecting a transaction with or for an Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution in Options, determine that the Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution has received the ODD and the Eurex Disclosure Document and maintain a record of that determination. Eurex will furnish the Division, at least 30 days prior to the date definitive copies of the Eurex Disclosure Document are furnished to Eligible Broker-Dealers or Eligible Institutions, with a copy of any amendment that is made to the Eurex Disclosure Document because the information contained in the previously submitted and reviewed Eurex Disclosure Document has become or will become materially inaccurate or incomplete, or because there is or will be an omission of material information that is necessary to ensure that the document is not misleading.
You represent that Eurex will continue to be an organized exchange operated and regulated outside the U.S. and that in making Options known to a particular, sophisticated segment of the U.S. financial community it will not be altering this fact.14 You represent that careful limitations also will be taken to assure compliance with applicable U.S. securities laws, and that DBAG, Eurex, Eurex Frankfurt, and Eurex Clearing will continue as necessary to establish further limitations to assure continued compliance with applicable U.S. securities laws.
Finally, you ask, on behalf of DBAG, Eurex, Eurex Frankfurt, and Eurex Clearing, that the Division confirm that it will not recommend that the Commission take enforcement action of the nature set forth in the opening paragraph of this letter, and that: (1) the furnishing of the Eurex Disclosure Document by a Representative, by a Eurex participant, or by an Eligible Broker-Dealer, in each case, to an Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution, will satisfy the obligation under Rule 9b-1(d) of the Exchange Act15 to furnish an options disclosure document before accepting an order from a customer to purchase or sell an Option; and (2) neither a Representative's furnishing of the Eurex Disclosure Document to an Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution, nor a Eurex participant's furnishing of a Eurex Disclosure Document to an Eligible Broker-Dealer or, in response to an unsolicited inquiry concerning Options, to an Eligible Institution, will constitute "solicitation" or the provision of a "research report" as those terms are used in Rule 15a-6(a) under the Exchange Act.
Based on the facts and representations set forth above, the Division will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission against Eurex Frankfurt, Eurex, Eurex Zurich, DBAG, Eurex participants, or their respective directors, officers, or employees under Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act if Eurex, Representatives, or Eurex participants act as you describe to familiarize Eligible Broker-Dealers and Eligible Institutions in the United States with Options without Eurex or Eurex participants registering with the Commission as broker-dealers under Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act. Also, the Division will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission against Eurex Frankfurt, Eurex, Eurex Zurich, DBAG, Eurex participants, or their respective directors, officers, or employees under Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act if, solely in connection with the satisfaction of obligations under Rule 9b-1(d) and under the limited circumstances set forth above, (1) a Representative, Eurex participant or Eligible Broker-Dealer provides the Eurex Disclosure Document to an Eligible Broker-Dealer and the Eurex participant effects transactions in Options with or for that Eligible Broker-Dealer pursuant to Rule 15a-6(a)(4) under the Exchange Act, or (2) a Representative furnishes a Eurex Disclosure Document to an Eligible Institution, or a Eurex participant furnishes a Eurex Disclosure Document to an Eligible Institution in response to an otherwise unsolicited inquiry concerning Options, and the Eurex participant effects transactions in Options with or for that Eligible Institution pursuant to Rule 15a-6(a)(1) under the Exchange Act. The staff notes in particular that Eurex will advise Eurex participants that is has been advised that, under U.S. law, Eurex participants that are not U.S. registered broker-dealers may deal with Eligible Institutions only in accordance with Rule 15a-6 under the Exchange Act, principally through U.S. registered broker-dealers as provided in that Rule.
Based on the foregoing, the Division also will not recommend that the Commission take enforcement action against Eurex Frankfurt, Eurex, Eurex Zurich, DBAG, Eurex Clearing, or their respective directors, officers, or employees, under Section 17A of the Exchange Act if Eurex Clearing operates solely in the manner described above for Options without registering with the Commission as a clearing agency. In addition, the Division will not recommend that the Commission take enforcement action against Eurex Frankfurt, Eurex, Eurex Zurich, DBAG, Eurex participants, or their respective directors, officers, or employees under Section 5 of the Exchange Act if Eurex operates solely in the manner described above with respect to Options without Eurex registering with the Commission as a national securities exchange under Section 6 of the Exchange Act.
Finally, the Division has reviewed the Eurex Disclosure Document. Based on our review of the Eurex Disclosure Document, the Division will not recommend that the Commission take enforcement action against an Eligible Broker-Dealer, Representative, or Eurex participant if the Eligible Broker-Dealer, Representative, or Eurex participant, in compliance with Rule 9b-1(d), furnishes the Eurex Disclosure Document to an Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution before the Eligible Broker-Dealer or Eligible Institution effects a transaction in Options, subject to the following conditions:
These positions of the Division concern enforcement action only and do not represent conclusions on the applicability of statutory or regulatory provisions of the federal securities laws. The Division has taken these positions based, in part, on the fact that: (1) the Commission has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the BAWe (the predecessor to the BAFin);17 (2) the U.S. Department of State and the German Foreign Office have exchanged Diplomatic Notes that provide a framework for mutual assistance in investigatory and regulatory matters;18 and (3) foreign broker-dealers, including Eurex participants, electing to deal with U.S. institutional investors pursuant to Rule 15a-6(a)(3) under the Exchange Act are required to provide directly to the Commission, upon request, information, documents, testimony, and assistance in taking evidence of persons that relate to transactions pursuant to Rule 15a-6(a)(3) under the Exchange Act. In addition, you have represented that each Eurex participant is obligated to provide information or assist Eurex otherwise in relation to activities carried out on Eurex. You also have represented that Eurex, through the procedures described above, would be able to obtain information concerning trading in a security underlying an Equity Option or ETF Option or the component securities of an Index Option for the purpose of investigating a suspected manipulation or other trading abuse involving Options or their underlying or component securities. Moreover, you represent that only Eurex participants have direct access to Eurex.
Finally, these positions are based on your representations that Eurex currently does not provide direct electronic access for Options trading to persons located in the U.S., and that Eurex will not make Options trading accessible in this fashion without express approval from the Commission.
The positions of the Division in this letter are based on the representations that you have made; any different facts or conditions might require a different response, and these positions are subject to modification or revocation if the facts and representations set forth above are altered.
Elizabeth K. King
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