FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Joseph Cisewski, Senior Derivatives Consultant and Special Counsel for Better Markets, issued the following statement regarding the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) scheduled meeting to propose significant delays in derivatives trade reporting:
“In the darkest days of the 2008 meltdown, regulators, the public, and even Wall Street itself had no idea which investment banks held which derivatives, and in what amounts. Given that somewhere around $673 trillion notional of often high-risk, dangerous derivatives were outstanding at the time, this lack of transparency and information greatly amplified the panic and essentially extorted U.S. policymakers into assuming the worst. The result was hundreds of billions of dollars in direct taxpayer bailouts and trillions more in indirect, cumulative lending facilities, pledges, guarantees, and other arrangements.
“That is one reason why the Dodd-Frank Act made timely reporting of all derivatives trades a critical element of the financial reforms to the then-dark derivatives markets, and why the CFTC swiftly implemented that reform by instituting trade reporting for the first time more than 6 years ago.
“Timely trade reporting had a second critical purpose: it would increase market integrity, enhance risk management, and better ensure that the intended beneficiaries of the derivatives markets—like funds Americans use to save for retirement—know prices at which similar transactions have been executed and therefore could trade near that price instead of relying on derivatives dealers alone. That kind of transparency has been proven beneficial to market quality in other markets, including stock, bond, and futures markets, not to mention swaps markets themselves (as empirically shown in a recent Bank of England staff working paper on U.S. financial reforms and liquidity).
“Such transparency has not been welcomed by Wall Street’s biggest banks, which are also the biggest derivative dealers and control almost 90% of the U.S. trading market. Timely dissemination of trade information cuts into their profits because that transparency enables price comparison, accountability, and policing. That is why those dealers have fought against the public interest for years to maintain their informational advantages in the markets.
“The CFTC is meeting on Thursday and appears ready to deliver the profit-making darkness those Wall Street banks have been lobbying for since the beginning. We will have to see what happens, but the reporting indicates that the CFTC is going to grant those dealer banks more than a 19,000% increase in reporting delays over current 15-minute block trading delays for eligible trades.
“The CFTC reportedly claims that it is doing this to ‘improve management of trading data.’ That rationale is baseless, because there is absolutely no reason to believe that delaying public reporting of the basic economic terms of derivatives transactions—which the trading parties must know when they trade—will increase the accuracy of trade reporting. In fact, that rationale would be complete nonsense, as the dealers well know, and as we will point out if such a proposal is made.”
Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies – including many in finance – to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit www.bettermarkets.com.