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SEC Proposes Review Process for Mandatory Clearing of Security-Based Swaps Under Dodd-Frank Act

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Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today voted unanimously to propose rules required under the Dodd-Frank Act that would set out the way in which clearing agencies provide information to the SEC about security-based swaps that the clearing agencies plan to accept for clearing. This information is designed to aid the SEC in determining whether such security-based swaps are, in fact, required to be cleared.

The SEC also proposed rules that would set out the way in which those clearing agencies that are designated as “systemically important” must submit advance notices for changes to their rules, procedures, or operations that could materially affect the nature or level of risk presented at such clearing agencies.

“Promoting clearing wherever possible and appropriate is a key to building a regulatory framework for the derivatives market,” said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. “Through the clearing process itself, regulators will be more easily able to monitor transactions including prices and positions taken by traders, and thereby rein in the risks associated with these instruments.”

Public comments on the proposed rules should be received by the Commission within 45 days after their publication in the Federal Register.

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The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established a comprehensive framework for regulating the over-the-counter swaps markets. Among other things, Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act mandates that security-based swap transactions must be cleared through a clearing agency if they are of a type that the SEC determines must be cleared — unless an exception applies.

Essentially, the clearing agency generally acts as a middleman between the parties to a transaction, and assumes the risk should there be a default. When structured and operated appropriately, such clearing agencies can provide benefits such as improving the management of counterparty risk and reducing outstanding exposures through multilateral netting of trades. In other words, by “clearing” security-based swap transactions, a clearing agency helps to reduce the risk of cascading harm throughout the financial system in the event a party to a transaction fails to meet its obligations.

Through clearing agencies, regulators also are more easily able to monitor transactions, including prices and positions taken by traders.

Currently, self-regulatory organizations (SRO), including clearing agencies, are required to file with the Commission copies of any proposed rule or any proposed change in, addition to, or deletion from the rules of the SRO. Unless a clearing agency has rules that permit it to clear a security-based swap, it would need to obtain Commission approval of a proposed rule change in accordance with Section 19(b) of the Exchange Act in order to clear the applicable security-based swap.

The Dodd-Frank Act also requires the SEC to adopt rules for setting out the way in which clearing agencies must submit information to the SEC so that the SEC could determine whether such security-based swap is subject to mandatory clearing.

In addition to regulating security-based swaps transactions, the Dodd-Frank Act provided regulators with enhanced authority over financial market utilities, including clearing agencies that are designated as systemically important by the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

In particular, Title VIII requires any such designated financial market utilities to provide 60 days advance notice to its Supervisory Agency, such as the SEC, before changing its rules, procedures or operations that could materially affect the nature or level of risk that the entity presents. In connection with this notice requirement, the SEC is required to adopt rules that outline when such clearing agencies are required to file notices with the SEC.

Proposed Rule Regarding Submissions About Security-Based Swaps to Be Cleared

Under the proposed rule, a clearing agency would be required to file information with the SEC regarding any security-based swap, or any group, category -- type or class of security-based swaps — that a clearing agency plans to accept for clearing. These security-based swap submissions” would be filed electronically with the SEC using the existing Electronic Form 19b-4 Filing System and Form 19b-4.

The proposed rule, which would amend Rules 19b-4 and Form 19b-4 under the Exchange Act, would also describe the information that each submission must contain so that the SEC would be able to determine whether the security-based swap submission should be subject to mandatory clearing. This information includes quantitative and qualitative information to assist the SEC in the assessment of the factors set forth under Dodd-Frank Act which the Commission is required to take into account in its review of the mandatory clearing requirement.

The proposed rule also would specify how the clearing agency must notify its members about the submissions it makes. And, the rule would require clearing agencies to post copies of their submissions on their public websites within two business days.

Proposed Rule Regarding Advance Notice by “Systemically Important” Clearing Agencies

As with the proposed rule regarding security-based swap submissions, the SEC is proposing rules that would require a designated “systemically important” clearing agency to provide advance notice to the SEC before it makes certain changes to its rules or procedures. That notice would need to be filed electronically with the SEC using the existing Electronic Form 19b-4 Filing System and Form 19b-4.

The proposed rule also would generally require advance notice when:

  • The proposed change would affect the risk management functions performed by the clearing agency that are related to systemic risk.
  • The proposed change could affect the clearing agency’s ability to continue to perform its core clearance and settlement functions.

Changes that could require advance notice may include, but are not limited to, changes that materially affect participant and product eligibility, risk management, daily or intraday settlement procedures, default procedures, system safeguards, governance or financial resources of the designated clearing agency.

Changes that may not require advance notice include, but are not limited to changes concerned solely with the administration of the designated clearing agency.

Clearing agencies can file one form to accomplish the various purposes so long as the clearing agency meets the requirements of each applicable regulatory scheme before the applicable change becomes effective.

Additional Proposed Rules

In addition to the matters described above, the proposed rules would also:

  • Establish the procedure by which the SEC may stay the mandatory clearing requirement at the request of a counterparty to the security-based swap or on the Commission’s own initiative.
  • Seek to prevent evasion of the clearing requirement by clarifying that clearing needs to occur through a central counterparty.
  • Make form and rule changes to reflect new deadlines under the Dodd-Frank Act for proposed rule changes by self-regulatory organizations.

Recent Rulemaking

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Commission has been engaging in significant rulemaking:

  • Defining Security-based swap terms: Proposed — jointly with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — new rules that would further define a series of terms related to the security-based swaps market, including “swap dealer,” “security-based swap dealer,” “major swap participant,” “major security-based swap participant” and “eligible contract participant.”
  • Security-based swap reporting and dissemination: Proposed new rules entailing how security-based swap transactions should be reported and publicly disseminated.
  • Security-based swap data repositories: Proposed new rules that would specify the requirements for security-based swap data repositories.
  • Security-based swap fraud: Proposed a new rule to help prevent fraud, manipulation, and deception in connection with the offer, purchase or sale of any security-based swap — as well as in connection with ongoing payments and deliveries under a security-based swap.
  • Security-based swap conflicts: Proposed rules intended to mitigate conflicts of interest for security-based swap clearing agencies, security-based swap execution facilities, and national securities exchanges that post security-based swaps or make them available for trading.
  • Reporting of pre-enactment security-based swaps: Adopted an interim rule that requires certain swaps dealers and other parties to report any security-based swaps entered into prior to the July 21 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. This rule applies only to such swaps whose terms had not expired as of July 21.
  • Strengthening oversight of investment advisers: Proposed new rules to facilitate the registration of advisers to hedge funds and other private funds with the SEC; implement a mandate to require reporting by certain advisers that are otherwise exempt from SEC registration; increase the asset threshold for advisers to register with the SEC; and define “venture capital fund.”
  • Asset-backed securities: Proposed rules that would enhance ABS disclosure by:
    • Requiring registered ABS issuers to perform a review of the assets that underlie the ABS.
    • Requiring an ABS issuer to disclose the nature, findings and conclusions of this review of assets.
    • Requiring the issuer or underwriter for both registered and unregistered ABS offerings to disclose the findings and conclusions of any review performed by a third party that was hired to conduct such a review.
  • Whistleblower: Proposed a whistleblower program and rules that would reward individuals who provide the agency with high-quality tips that lead to successful enforcement actions.
  • Say-on-Pay: Proposed rules that would enable shareholders to cast advisory votes on executive compensation and “golden parachute” arrangements.
  • Municipal advisor registration: Adopted a temporary rule requiring municipal advisors to register with the SEC.

What’s Next?

The proposal seeks public comment and data on a broad range of issues relating to the proposed rules, including the costs and benefits associated with the proposal. Public comments are due 45 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. After careful review of comments, the SEC will consider whether to adopt the proposed rules or to modify them.



Modified: 12/15/2010