Designated Contract Markets (DCMs)

Designated contract markets (DCMs) are boards of trade (or exchanges) that operate under the regulatory oversight of the CFTC, pursuant to Section 5 of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), 7 USC 7. DCMs are most like traditional futures exchanges, which may allow access to their facilities by all types of traders, including retail customers.

DCMs may list for trading futures or option contracts based on any underlying commodity, index or instrument. Part 38 of the CFTC’s regulations, 17 CFR Part 38, details the procedures and requirements for operating as a board of trade (or exchange).

How to Become a Designated Contract Market

Any market that seeks to provide a trading facility for non-eligible contract participants to trade futures, options on futures or options on commodities must apply to the Commission to be designated as a contract market (DCM), unless some exemption or exclusion would apply to the facility. Criteria, procedures and requirements for designation as a DCM are set forth in Section 5 of the CEA, 7 USC 7, and Part 38 of the CFTC's regulations. Appendix A and B provide specific information on these requirements and guidance to applicants seeking to become designated as DCMs.

Security futures products are subject to special requirements such as joint CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversight, and can be offered only by markets that are either regulated by the CFTC and notice-registered with the SEC or regulated by the SEC and notice-registered with the CFTC. Options on securities and securities indexes can only be traded on a securities exchange under the jurisdiction of the SEC.

Ongoing Compliance with Core Principles

To obtain and maintain its designation, a DCM must also comply, on an initial and ongoing basis, with the following twenty-three Core Principles established in Section 5(d) of the CEA, 7 USC 7(d) and Part 38 of the CFTC's regulations and with the implementing regulations under Part 38 of the CFTC's regulations:

  1. Designation as Contract Market
  2. Compliance with Rules
  3. Contracts Not Readily Subject to Manipulation
  4. Prevention of Market Disruption
  5. Position Limitations or Accountability
  6. Emergency Authority
  7. Availability of General Information
  8. Daily Publication of Trading Information
  9. Execution of Transactions
  10. Trade Information
  11. Financial Integrity of Transactions
  12. Protection of Markets and Market Participants
  13. Disciplinary Procedures
  14. Dispute Resolution
  15. Governance Fitness Standards
  16. Conflicts of Interest
  17. Composition of Governing Boards of Contract Markets
  18. Recordkeeping
  19. Antitrust Considerations
  20. System Safeguards
  21. Financial Resources
  22. Diversity of Boards of Directors
  23. Securities and Exchange Commission

Appendix A to Part 38 of the CFTC’s regulations includes Form DCM, which contains instructions and a list of necessary information and documentation required to initiate the designation process.  Appendix B to Part 38 provides guidance on complying with certain core principles. For certain core principles, Appendix B also provides acceptable practices for meeting selected requirements.

The Division of Market Oversight's Examinations Branch conducts regular reviews of each DCM’s ongoing compliance with core principles and the implementing regulations under Part 38, examining the self-regulatory programs operated by the exchange in order to enforce its rules, prevent market manipulation and customer and market abuses, and ensure the recording and safe storage of trade information, among other requirements. These reviews are known as rule enforcement reviews (RERs).

Designated Contract Market Filings

DCMs may implement new rules or rule amendments by filing with the CFTC a certification that the rule or rule amendment complies with the CEA and CFTC regulations and policies and/or by requesting approval from the CFTC, pursuant to the requirements under Part 40 of the CFTC's regulations.  DCMs, like other entities, may submit requests that the CFTC take action on a number of other issues, including requesting no-action relief, interpretations, or guidance on particular issues.

DCMs also may list new products by filing with the CFTC, among other things, a certification that the product complies with the CEA and CFTC regulations and policies and/or by requesting approval from the CFTC.

Dormant Designated Contract Markets

A dormant contract market defined in CFTC Regulation 40.1, is any DCM on which no trading has occurred during a period of twelve consecutive calendar months, preceding the first day of the most recent calendar month.  (See attached list of dormant DCMs) Prior to listing or re-listing products for trading (including listing new contract months in existing products), a dormant DCM must reinstate its designation. To be reinstated, a dormant contract market submits an application for reinstatement under the procedures found in CFTC Regulation 38.3(a)(1) and (2), although the application might rely on previously submitted materials that still pertain to, and accurately describe, the contract market conditions.

Newly designated contract markets, however, are not considered to be dormant until the end of a grace period of 36 consecutive calendar months following the day that the order of designation is issued.

Vacated Exchange

Exchanges previously designated by the CFTC or by the Secretary of Agriculture prior to 1975 as contract markets under the CEA and subsequently vacated at the request of the exchange or whose designation was otherwise revoked must reapply to the CFTC for contract market designation prior to listing contracts for trading. For vacated exchanges see attached list.