CFTC announces successful results of limited FCM reviews

CFTC just released a short statement where it taps itself on the shoulder being proud that all FCMs that were

CFTC just released a short statement where it taps itself on the shoulder being proud that all FCMs that were tested (14 of the largest ones) came through ok during some tests it made. This in a way reminds me of the stress tests performed on banks which typically provide good results but don’t really mean those banks won’t fail.

This limited review is too little too late for thousands of MF Global clients who were hoping that their regulator would do such tests before and not after their funds disappear. From where I sit this move seems just like another cover-up by the CFTC for if and when another such occasion happens – they’ll just show these results and say we did everything we could. To be fair though I’d say that doing such tests is much more effective than imposing all kinds of limitations on brokers forcing them to go out of business.

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Unfortunately CFTC didn’t publish full results or even names of the tested FCMs.

CFTC did not find any material breaches of customer funds protection requirements during the spot check

Washington, DC – The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC or Commission) today released findings of limited reviews of futures commission merchants (FCMs) to assess compliance with requirements to segregate customer funds pursuant to Section 4d of the Commodity Exchange Act (ACT). The limited reviews also covered the FCMs’ obligation to set aside in secured accounts funds deposited by customers for trading on foreign boards of trade under Section 4(b) of the Act and Part 30 of the Commission’s regulations. As of the review date for each FCM, all of the FCMs were in compliance with the segregation or Part 30 secured amount requirements.

Last fall, after the collapse of MF Global, Inc., the Commission initiated a coordinated review with the CME and NFA of all FCMs that carried customer funds to assess compliance with the protection of customer funds and Commission regulations. There were 120 FCMs registered with the Commission as of October 31, 2011. Seventy of the FCMs held Section 4d segregated funds or Part 30 secured amount funds, and were subject to the limited reviews. The remaining 50 FCMs did not carry customer segregated or Part 30 secured funds, and were not subject to the limited reviews.

In order to obtain an immediate “snapshot” of each FCM’s compliance with the segregation and Part 30 secured requirements, staff of the CFTC’s Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight (DSIO), Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and National Futures Association (NFA) did not conduct an audit, which would entail a more detained and lengthy examination of the FCMs. The limited reviews relied to a great extent on the records and third-party source documents maintained at the FCMs. Staff did not confirm balances directly with depositories or other entities holding customer funds. However, several FCMs reviewed by the CME were subject to more detailed testing procedures, as the special limited reviews were incorporated into CME’s routine FCM examinations already in process during November and December 2011.

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The Commission directed CFTC staff to conduct limited reviews of 14 of the largest FCMs to determine whether the entities maintained sufficient assets in segregated and Part 30 accounts to meet their regulatory obligation to futures customers. The CME and NFA conducted similar reviews of the remaining 56 FCMs.

Findings

The limited reviews of the 70 FCMs found that, as of the review date, each firm maintained assets in Section 4d segregated accounts in excess of the net liquidating equities of each of its customers as required under Section 4d of the Act and Commission regulations. The limited reviews further found that, as of the review date, each FCM maintained assets in Part 30 secured accounts in excess of the aggregate margin required on all customers’ open futures positions, plus any unrealized gains and less any unrealized losses on the open positions, as required by Commission Regulation 30.7.

Additional findings are as follows:

  • The FCMs held a total of approximately $166 billion in segregated accounts, which was approximately $13 billion (or 9%) in excess of the $153 billion owed to customers. The FCMs also held approximately $48 billion in Part 30 secured accounts, which was approximately $7 billion (or 17%) in excess of the Part 30 secured amount obligation.
  • $137 billion of the total segregated funds of $166 billion (or 82.5%) and $42 billion of the total Part 30 secured funds of $48 billion (or 87.5%) was concentrated in the 14 FCMs reviewed by Commission staff.
  • The FCMs posted approximately $74 billion of segregated funds with Commission-designated derivatives clearing organizations. This represents 45% of the total segregated balance of $166 billion.
  • The FCMs held approximately $33 billion of the total Part 30 secured funds of $48 billion (or 68%) deposited by customers for trading on foreign futures and options markets at affiliated banks and affiliated foreign brokers. FCMs also invested approximately $3 billion of Part 30 secured funds in internal reverse repurchase transactions and reverse repurchase transactions with affiliated entities.
  • The FCMs held approximately $30 billion of Section 4d segregated funds (or 18% of the total segregated funds of $166 billion) with affiliated banks and/or custodian entities. FCMs also invested approximately $12 billion of Section 4d segregated funds in internal reverse repurchase transactions and reverse repurchase transactions with affiliated entities.

Methodology

To determine whether FCMs maintained sufficient assets in segregated accounts to meet their obligations to all futures customers, the Commission directed the DSIO to conduct limited reviews of 14 of the largest FCMs, and to coordinate with the CME and NFA the review of 56 other FCMs carrying customer funds. The principal goal of the limited reviews was to obtain an appropriate level of assurance that FCMs holding customer funds were not in violation of the segregation and Part 30 secured amount requirements as of the review date.

DSIO staff conducted an onsite limited review of 14 FCMs. DSIO staff obtained from each FCM a detailed listing of assets held in segregated and Part 30 secured accounts as reflected in the firm’s books and records. The listing of assets was compared to independent third-party source documents and reconciliations maintained at the FCM’s offices supporting the asset balances. Staff also reviewed the third-party account documentation to determine that the funds were maintained in properly titled segregated or secured accounts, as appropriate. In addition, staff reviewed each FCM’s reported segregation and Part 30 secured amount liabilities and reviewed underlying firm records to ensure that the records reflected such liabilities. The staffs of the CME and NFA performed comparable review procedures.

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