Should I stay or should I go?

Everyone knows that two of the busiest days around the office are the day before you leave on vacation and the day you return. For some of us at ISDA today is getaway day, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to spare a few thoughts on the current state of the derivatives markets.

We had something of a “July Surprise” with the announcement on July 11 that peace was at hand between the CFTC and European regulators on cross-border derivatives regulation. We viewed that announcement, as many people did, as a positive development and a serious attempt to advance the discussion of global regulation of a global business.

As is often the case with broad pronouncements, however, the detail is in the detail, to coin a phrase. The next day the CFTC provided its final guidance on cross-border issues and additional time for compliance under an exemptive order. It is clear from the detail that the process of determining substituted compliance is going to be a critical one. It will be important to get both the substance and the process right. You will be hearing more from ISDA on this in the days ahead.

The CFTC work plan for derivatives is largely complete, with the finalization of the cross-border guidance and the publication earlier in the summer of SEF rules and related rulemaking. We will continue to work through the implementation challenges our members face, including the third wave of mandatory clearing in early September, but the drumbeat of deadlines is fading on the US front.

But don’t think it will be a vacation from here on out — far from it. Still, at least there will be a change in locale — Europe in particular, but all over the globe as well.

Europe is considering its approach to mandatory clearing and our various product steering committees are reviewing ESMA’s discussion paper. Confirmations and portfolio reconciliation face mid-September deadlines. And the European approach to the G20 commitment on execution will be hashed out over the course of the Fall through the consideration of the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation in the trilogue process. We will be actively engaging with policy makers to identify areas with particular market sensitivity.

Globally, we are expecting approval by the G20 of the proposals on margin for uncleared derivatives. We have written extensively, both in derivatiViews and in submissions to regulators, about our significant concerns with the proposed initial margin requirements. It seems clear that initial margin in some form and quantum will be required, so we are also working on the development of a standard initial margin model to facilitate the introduction of any initial margin that might be required. Whatever the G20 decides will need to be implemented at national levels, so this issue is going to be on the front burner for months to come.

There are other things that await your return from vacation — major regulatory capital proposals, consideration of benchmarks, new credit derivative definitions, to name a few. In a few weeks, as summer ends (or winter for those of you in the southern hemisphere), and you feel the need to quickly get up to speed on all the developments affecting derivatives, consider attending our annual regional conferences in New York or London in September or in Asia in October. Details are on our website.

Wherever you may be headed—or even if you are staying put—safe travels and we look forward to your continued involvement and support.

Surf’s Up!

Summer is here and the beaches are open in the US, Europe and elsewhere. How appropriate then that the second wave of mandatory clearing has now hit US shores.

This is an important development, and marks a big step forward in reducing counterparty credit risk through clearing, which is one of the two major strategic G20 initiatives to reduce systemic risk.  (The other – increased regulatory transparency – is being accomplished through trade reporting and the establishment of trade repositories.) At this point, the vast majority of interest rate and credit default swaps in the US must be cleared.

The first wave of mandatory clearing in March covered the (relatively) low hanging fruit, entities like dealers and active traders that were already clearing or well-prepared to do so.

The June wave of mandatory clearing covers a wider swath of the asset manager and fund communities. The focus has been on putting in place legal documents and operational arrangements that will enable these entities to clear the interest rate and credit default swaps for which clearing is now mandated. Dealers, clients and regulators will be closely observing this experience as many of these entities will be clearing trades for the first time.

ISDA has worked with its members to address the challenges of this new wave of mandatory clearing. The phased implementation adopted by the CFTC was an outgrowth of discussions between ISDA and the CFTC dating back to 2011. The documentation that firms are using is based on the FIA-ISDA Clearing Addendum published a year ago. And we announced on Monday that four dealer firms have announced their support for the Clearing Connectivity Standard (CCS) we are developing with Sapient to facilitate reporting of cleared swaps. We believe CCS provides a sound basis for reporting and communication, initially here in the US and, in due course, around the world.

And the clearing tide is rising in other parts of the world. ISDA is working with its members and regulators in other jurisdictions to anticipate those developments. This week we announced, together with the Futures and Options Association, the publication of a clearing addendum for use in the European context in clearing arrangements that use a principal-to-principal arrangement, instead of the agency model (FCM) required in the US. While driven by the upcoming clearing requirements under EMIR, the ISDA-FOA addendum can be used in any jurisdiction where the principal arrangement is used.

The final wave of mandatory clearing in the US arrives in September. The experience of the first two waves and the efforts of ISDA and its members to date will, we believe, position the swaps industry well as that next wave comes ashore.

And let’s not lose sight of the broader landscape of regulatory reform and the progress that has been made.

The September 2009 G20 commitments in Pittsburgh provide the contours of reform, with clearing and trade reporting foremost among them. Sure, there are issues firmly on the horizon yet to be fully resolved (SEF implementation, MiFIR, extraterritoriality, initial margin, to name a few). But the progress made on clearing and trade reporting is significant, something we’ll be reporting on soon in our semiannual market analysis.

So that’s the lay of the land – and the sea – of derivatives regulatory reform.