Supporting Statement of Commissioner Brian D. Quintenz Regarding Final Rules Amending the Real-Time Reporting Requirements (Part 43)
September 17, 2020
The Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) specifically directs the Commission to ensure that real-time public reporting requirements for swap transactions (i) do not identify the participants; (ii) specify the criteria for what constitutes a block trade and the appropriate time delay for reporting such block trades, and (iii) take into account whether public disclosure will materially reduce market liquidity. The Commission has long recognized the intrinsic tension between the policy goals of enhanced transparency versus market liquidity. In fact, in 2013, the Commission noted that the optimal point in this interplay between enhanced swap transaction transparency and the potential that, in certain circumstances, this enhanced transparency could reduce market liquidity “defies precision.” I agree with the Commission that the ideal balance between transparency and liquidity is difficult to ascertain and necessarily requires not only robust data but also the exercise of reasoned judgement, particularly in the swaps marketplace with a finite number of institutional investors trading hundreds of thousands of products, often by appointment.
Unfortunately, I fear the balance struck in this rule misses that mark. The final rule before us today clearly favors transparency over market liquidity, with the sacrifice of the latter being particularly more acute given the nature of the swaps market. In this final rule, the Commission asserts that the increased transparency resulting from higher block trade thresholds and cap sizes will lead to increased competition, stimulate more trading, and enhance liquidity and pricing. That is wishful thinking, which is no basis upon which to predicate a final rule. As numerous commenters pointed out, this increased transparency comes directly at the expense of market liquidity, competitive pricing for end-users, and the ability of dealers to efficiently hedge their large swap transactions. While the Commission hopes the 67% block calculation will bring about the ample benefits it cites, I think the exact opposite is the most probable outcome. I remain unconvinced that the move from the 50% notional amount calculation for block sizes to the 67% notional amount calculation is necessary or appropriate. Unfortunately, the decision to retain the 67% calculation, which was adopted in 2013 but never implemented, was not seriously reconsidered in this rule.
Instead, in the final rule, the Commission asserts that it “extensively analyzed the costs and benefits of the 50-percent threshold and 67-percent threshold when it adopted the phased-in approach” in 2013. Respectfully, I believe that statement drastically inflates the Commission’s prior analysis. I have no doubt the Commission “analyzed” the costs and benefits in 2013 to the best of its ability. However, the reality is that in 2013, as the Commission acknowledged in its own cost-benefit analysis, “in a number of instances, the Commission lacks the data and information required to precisely estimate costs, owing to the fact that these markets do not yet exist or are not yet fully developed.” In 2013, the Commission was just standing up its SEF trading regime, had not yet implemented its trade execution mandate, and had adopted interim time delays for all swaps – meaning that, in 2013 when it first adopted this proposal, no swap transaction data was publicly disseminated in real time. Seven years later, the Commission has a robust, competitive SEF trading framework and a successful real-time reporting regime that results in 87% of IRS trades and 82% of CDS trades being reported in real time. In light of the sea change that has occurred since 2013, I believe the Commission should have undertaken a comprehensive review of whether the transition to a 67% block trade threshold was appropriate.
In my opinion, the fact that currently 87% of IRS and 82% of CDS trades are reported in real time is evidence that the transparency policy goals underlying the real-time reporting requirements have already been achieved. In 2013, the Commission, quoting directly from the Congressional Record, noted that when it considered the benefits and effects of enhanced market transparency, the “guiding principle in setting appropriate block trade levels [is that] the vast majority of swap transactions should be exposed to the public market through exchange trading.” The current block sizes have resulted in exactly that - the vast majority of trades being reported in real time. The final rule, acknowledging these impressively high percentages, nevertheless concludes that because less than half of total IRS and CDS notional amounts is reported in real time, additional trades should be forced into real-time reporting. I reach the exact opposite conclusion. By my logic, the 13% of IRS and 18% of CDS trades that currently receive a time delay represent roughly half of notional for those asset classes. In other words, these trades are huge. In my view, these trades are exactly the type of outsized transactions that Congress appropriately decided should receive a delay from real-time reporting.
Despite my reservations, I am voting for the real-time reporting rule before the Commission today for several reasons. First, I worked hard to ensure that this final rule contains many significant improvements from the initial draft we were first presented, as well as the original proposal which I supported. For example, in order to make sure the CDS swap categories are representative, the Commission established additional categories for CDS with optionality. In addition, the Commission is also providing guidance that certain risk-reduction exercises, which are not arm’s length transactions, are not publicly reportable swap transactions, and therefore should be excluded from the block size calculations.
Second, while most of the changes to the part 43 rules will have a compliance period of 18 months, compliance with the new block and cap sizes will not be not be required until one year later, providing market participants with a 30-month compliance period and the Commission with an extra 12 months to revisit this issue with actual data analysis, as good government and well-reasoned public policy demands. This means that when any final block and cap sizes go into effect for the amended swap categories, it will be with the benefit of cleaner, more precise data resulting from our part 43 final rule improvements adopted today. It is my firm expectation that DMO staff will review the revised block trade sizes, in light of the new data, at that time to ensure they are appropriately calibrated for each swap category. In addition, as required by the rule, DMO will publish the revised block trade and cap sizes the month before they go effective. I am hopeful that with the benefit of time, cleaner data and public comment, the Commission can, if necessary, re-calibrate the minimum block sizes to ensure they strike the appropriate balance built into our statute between the liquidity needs of the market and transparency. To the extent market participants also have concerns about maintaining the current time delays for block trades given the move to the 67% calculation, I encourage them to reach out to DMO and my fellow Commissioners during the intervening 30-month window. That time frame is more than enough to further refine the reporting delays, as necessary, for the new swap categories based on sound data.
 CEA Section 2(a)(13)(E).
 Procedures to Establish Appropriate Minimum Block Sizes for Large Notional Off-Facility Swaps and Block Trades, 78 Fed. Reg. 32866, 32917 (May 31, 2013).
 Id. at 32870 n.41 (quoting from the Congressional Record—Senate, S5902, S5922 (July 15, 2010) (emphasis added)).