The CFTC’s Reparations Program, administered through the Office of Proceedings, provides an inexpensive, expeditious, and fair forum to resolve disputes between derivatives customers and registered trading professionals. If you have tried and cannot resolve the matter on your own, and your complaint meets the filing requirements, the issue can be decided by a CFTC judgment officer who specializes in commodity derivatives law. Litigating your complaint through the CFTC Reparations Program can save you both time and money when compared to other forums. For more information about the Reparations Program, see Part 12 of the Code for Federal Regulations. The information on this page is not legal advice. If you believe you need to consult a legal adviser, see the FAQ “Do I need a lawyer?” below.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Proceedings has made some adjustments to its reparations procedures to protect staff and the public while continuing to fulfill its critical mission. These adjustments include:
- Complaints may be filed by email at [email protected] or other secure electronic means;
- Fees related to a proceeding may be submitted electronically using the CFTC’s Pay.gov web form;
- Staff will seek waiver of service of documents by mail and consent to serve documents by email instead; and
- For ongoing proceedings, the judgment officer will determine how documents in the case will be transmitted and received.
If you would like to file a complaint or have questions, please contact the Office of Proceedings by email at [email protected] or by phone at (202) 418-5506.
Submit a Reparations Complaint
Before you can start the reparations process you must first determine if your case meets the program’s requirements, know which type of proceeding you wish to pursue, and submit a complete Reparations Complaint Form. Follow the steps below for more information.
- Determine your eligibility
- Choose the appropriate proceeding
- Review the Reparations Complaint Checklist [PDF]
- Complete the Reparations Complaint Form
Submit the completed form, with the appropriate filing fee, in person or by mailing (preferably certified or registered mail) to:
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Office of Proceedings
1155 21st Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20581
Reparations Program FAQs
- What happens to my complaint after I submit it?
The Complaints Section of the Office of Proceedings will review your complaint to determine whether it meets the criteria for a valid claim. If it meets the claim requirements, the Complaints Section will send a copy of your complaint to the individuals and firms you named as respondents and will notify you that it has done so. If your complaint does not meet the claim requirements, the Complaints Section will contact you to discuss the deficiencies in your filing.
The individuals and firms you name in your complaint (“the respondents”) may do one of the following:
- They may file an answer denying any liability
- They may seek to negotiate a settlement with you
- They may not respond at all
- In some limited situations, generally where a complainant has a debit balance with the respondent, they may include a counterclaim against you with their answer.
If the respondents fail to respond, your case may be forwarded to a judgment officer for review as a default proceeding.
If the Complaints Section receives an answer, it will review the answer and forward the case to the proceedings clerk for assignment to a judgment officer.
- Can I withdraw my complaint after it is filed?
If you send a written “Notice of Withdrawal” to the CFTC before the Complaints Section sends the complaint to the respondents, you may withdraw your complaint. If you withdraw your complaint at this stage, you may be able to re-file it later with the CFTC or in another forum if the two-year deadline has not expired. The filing fee will not be refunded.
After the Complaints Section forwards your complaint to the respondents, you may not withdraw the complaint without the respondents’ consent. If you obtain the respondents’ consent, the Complaint Section will issue an “Order of Voluntary Dismissal.” If your complaint is dismissed through an Order of Voluntary Dismissal, you cannot re-file.
- Can the CFTC offer me legal advice?
No. CFTC staff cannot represent you or offer you legal advice, but they can explain the procedures to you, which may be helpful if you are not represented by an attorney. In addition, the parties are responsible for investigating their claims and submitting the necessary evidence to substantiate their claims.
- What is the minimum or maximum amount that I can claim?
You are not limited by a minimum or maximum amount of damages in your claim. However, you must explain how you calculated the damages you claim and provide evidence to support your claim.
Under the law, you are allowed to recover actual damages, which usually means your out-of-pocket trading losses and, if your account was churned, a refund of all commissions earned through churning.
The judgment officer can only grant punitive damages in cases involving intentional violations occurring in the execution of an order on an exchange floor.
- Can the respondent file a counterclaim against me?
Yes, but the counterclaim must stem from the same set of facts that are the subject of your claim. If filed, a counterclaim usually would seek to recover a debit balance in your account.
- What happens once my case is forwarded to a judgment officer?
You will receive a notice of the assignment of your case to a judgment officer. After you receive this notice, you can gather additional evidence, beyond what you already provided, in support of your claim.
- What evidence can I collect and how do I go about it?
You can provide evidence in many forms including:
- Affidavits (sworn statements)
- Account forms
- Trading statements and other records
- Tape recordings
- Order tickets
To obtain evidence that is in the hands of the respondents or held by third parties, each side may formally request information during the discovery process. All parties are required to respond to relevant discovery requests from the other side. You can request that the judgment officer issue a subpoena to obtain information from non-parties.
Discovery requests can be in any or all of three forms:
- Interrogatories – questions posed to other parties concerning factual matters (such as names of witnesses, the reasons for a trade recommendation, or the dates of a respondent's employment);
- Requests for production of documents – documents held by the other side (for example, a request could be filed to produce copies of order tickets or monthly statements); and/or
- Requests for admissions – factual matters that are important but not likely to be disputed (for example, a party could request that the other side admit that the account was first opened on a particular day or that a deposit or trade occurred on that day).
No party may request personal tax returns or personal bank records during discovery unless the judgment officer grants permission.
Abuse of the discovery rules can lead to sanctions, including assessment of costs against the abusing party.
- Do I need an attorney?
In many cases, the facts and issues are simple enough that one or both sides may be able to present their cases satisfactorily without the assistance of an attorney. Sometimes the amount of money at stake is small enough that hiring an attorney would not be cost-effective. However, if the facts are complicated or present technical legal questions, or if your claim involves a substantial amount of money, you may wish to consult an attorney. It is important to remember that the CFTC will not provide you with any legal advice or help you prove your claim.
- What if I cannot afford an attorney?
The Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association can provide you with referrals in your area. The law schools listed below offer legal representation to pro se parties who meet certain eligibility requirements. Please check directly with each law school clinic to determine whether you qualify for assistance with your Reparations case.
Disclaimer: Neither the CFTC nor this Office endorses or vouches for the quality of representation that the listed legal clinics and/or attorneys may provide to any Reparations client, nor does inclusion on this list constitute an endorsement of any of the organizations. In addition, this Office is not authorized to make any referrals concerning any potential representation or to engage in an ex parte communications concerning any ongoing Reparations matter. Any agreement for representation will be solely between the Reparations client and the legal clinic and/or attorney.
Clinic Contact Eligibility Information
Bluhm Legal Clinic, Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University
Bluhm Legal Clinic
357 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Client's household annual income generally cannot exceed $100,000.
Client's claim generally cannot exceed $100,000.
Securities Arbitration Clinic, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Securities Arbitration Clinic
55 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1116
New York, NY 10003
(212) 790-0200, x6646
Each request will be considered on an individual basis to see if the law school can help
Securities Arbitration Clinic, Fordham University School of Law
Securities Arbitration Clinic
150 W. 62nd Street 9th Floor
New York, NY 10023
Each request will be considered on an individual basis to see if the law school can help
- How long does the reparations process take?
The length of time it takes to receive a decision after you file a complaint can vary substantially. The time depends on a variety of factors, including the facts and complexity of your case; whether the parties are cooperative in discovery and submit their evidence quickly; whether an oral hearing is required and, if so, when it can be scheduled.
Although every case is different, typically a Voluntary Proceeding will be decided within 12 months. Summary and Formal Proceedings typically require between 12 to 18 months, longer if appeals are filed.
- Can the initial decision be appealed or reviewed?
It is important to note that if you and the respondents agree to use the Voluntary Procedure, neither you nor the respondents may appeal the decision to any higher level. The Commission, however, may decide on its own to review the decision within 30 days of the decision.
If your claim was considered in a Summary or Formal Procedure, you or one or more of the respondents may appeal an adverse decision on any point in dispute (even if you have won other parts of your case) to the Commission. There is a $50.00 filing fee for an appeal to the Commission. The Commission may reverse, modify or affirm the initial decision.
A decision by the Commission may be appealed to a U.S. Court of Appeals.
- If I win my case, when will I get my money?
Under the law, the respondents must pay within 45 days unless one of the respondents appeals the decision. If no respondent appeals and there is no proof that the award has been paid, the license and trading privileges of that respondent will be automatically suspended by the Commission until payment is made.
- If the respondent fails to pay me, will the CFTC collect my money for me?
The Commission can suspend the registration and trading privileges of the respondent, but the Commission cannot help you collect your award. If the respondent does not pay the award, you can ask the U.S. district court where the respondent lives or has a principal place of business to enforce the award. The proceedings clerk will send additional information on how to enforce an unpaid reparations award when the decision becomes final.
If the district court enforces the award, the court normally will require the respondent to pay all court costs and any legal fees you have incurred in connection with enforcing the award.
The judgment is directly enforceable in district court three years from the date of the decision, and post and pre-judgment interest can be awarded.
- How do I check the status of my case?
If your case has not been assigned to a judgment officer, you can check on the status of your complaint by calling the Complaints Section at (202) 418-5506. After you receive notice that your case has been assigned to a judgment officer, you should contact the staff of the judgment officer to whom the case is assigned (the telephone number will be given to you in the assignment notice.) After the judgment officer issues a decision, any further inquiries should be directed to the proceedings clerk at (202) 418-5508.
- Are there any restrictions regarding my contacts with the Office of Proceedings?
You may make inquiries and ask for procedural information at any time. However, after you receive notice that your case has been assigned to a judgment officer, you may not discuss the facts of your case with the judgment officer or any member of the judgment officer’s staff without the other parties being present or, in the case of written communications, without simultaneously sending a copy of your letter to the other parties. The same prohibition applies to respondents. (An exception can be made where the parties wish to have the judge help in settlement discussions.)
- Where can I find information about other alternatives, such as arbitration or civil court action?
For information about arbitration, contact:
- National Futures Association — (1-800-621-3570)
- American Arbitration Association — (1-800-778-7879) can provide information about arbitration as a method of resolving commodity futures-related disputes.
- Exchanges — Each exchange offers arbitration programs for disputes involving one or more exchange members.
Information about filing a civil court case in a U.S. district court is available from the clerk of court in your district. Find your local federal court or check your local library for the court’s address and telephone number.