Concurring Statement of Commissioner Sharon Y. Bowen Regarding the Order Exempting the Federal Reserve Banks from Sections 4d and 22 of the Commodity Exchange Act and Written Acknowledgment of Customer Funds from Federal Reserve Banks
August 8, 2016
I am pleased to concur with the two Commission actions: the “Order Exempting the Federal Reserve Banks from Sections 4d and 22 of the Commodity Exchange Act” and “Written Acknowledgment of Customer Funds from Federal Reserve Banks.” I have long believed that, in order to protect customer funds, we need to keep that money at our central bank. In the event of a major market event, I, and I believe the rest of the American people, would feel much better knowing that investors’ money is at the Federal Reserve instead of at multiple central counterparties. I am glad that our agency and the Federal Reserve have come to an agreement on an effective way to accomplish this.
I am similarly pleased with the Division of Clearing and Risk’s (DCR) “Staff Interpretation Regarding CFTC Part 39 In Light Of Revised SEC Rule 2a-7,” which clearly outlines the staff’s understanding that, given the limitations that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has imposed on redemptions for prime money market funds, that they are no longer considered Rule 1.25 assets. This is the correct interpretation. The key feature in a Rule 1.25 asset is that it must be available quickly in times of crisis or illiquidity. And we know that funds are more likely to close the gates on redemptions when market dislocation happens. That is just the time when futures commission merchants (FCMs) and customers would need access to their money, and a multi-day delay can mean catastrophe for some businesses.
For that very reason, I have concerns about the Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight’s (DSIO) “No-Action Relief With Respect to CFTC Regulation 1.25 Regarding Money Market Funds.” While the 4(c) exemption and the DCR interpretation are clearly customer protection initiatives, the DSIO no action letter is not. This no action letter would allow FCMs to keep money in segregated customer accounts that actually would not be readily available in a crisis. Thus, while it may appear that an FCM had considerable funds available to settle customer accounts during a market dislocation, in fact that would be only be an illusion; a portion of those funds could be locked down behind the prime money market funds’ gates and therefore not actually be available when needed.
I do not think that the staff of the Commission should be supporting this kind of “window dressing” – giving the impression of greater security than there actually is. If the funds are not suitable investments for customer funds, then they are not suitable for the additional capital that the FCMs put in those accounts to protect against potential shortfalls. Having lived through bankruptcies, such as MF Global and Peregrine, I have a healthy respect for the importance of having strong clearing members with a large cushion of funds that can be accessed when needed. This no action letter undermines that effort. Given the importance of this topic to the general public, we should at least have asked for comments or even held a roundtable before making this change. I therefore hope to reexamine this subject in the near future.
Last Updated: August 8, 2016