On January 27, 2014, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) requested comments on proposed amendments to FINRA Rule 4210 that would establish, among other things, margin requirements for transactions in the To Be Announced (“TBA”) market1 and close-out requirements on firms that failed to timely post margin in that market.2 As FINRA explained, the TBA market includes transactions in adjustable rate mortgages (“ARMs”); Specified Pool Transactions; and Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (“CMOs”), with forward settlement dates.3 FINRA further stated that the proposed amendments are based on the best practices adopted by the Treasury Market Practices Group (“TMPG”) of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“FRBNY”), and are designed to reduce counterparty credit risk in the TBA market.4 According to FINRA, the proposed amendments would address this issue by imposing, among other things, maintenance margin and variation (or mark to market) margin requirements in the TBA market.5 The comment period expires on March 28, 2014, and interested parties should provide their views to FINRA about the proposed amendments.6
FINRA stated that most trading in agency mortgage-backed-securities (“MBS”) occurs in the TBA market, and that agency MBS is one of the largest fixed income markets.7 According to FINRA, however, “[t]he TBA market is one of the few markets where the exchange of margin has not been a common practice, thereby creating a potential risk from the counterparty exposure.”8 The TMPG similarly commented that a default on forward-settling agency MBS transactions could subject other market participants in the TBA market to significant losses and risks.9 Therefore, in October 2013, the TMPG recommended that TBA market participants should “substantially complete” the transition to a system of margining by December 31, 2013.10
The Proposed Amendments
Under the proposal, FINRA members would be required to collect variation margin for subject transactions when the current exposure exceeds $250,000.11 Members also would be required to collect maintenance margin (i.e. initial margin) from non-exempt counterparties (exempt accounts include, but are not limited to, broker-dealers, specified institutions, and high net worth persons).12 According to FINRA, the proposed amendments would include the following:
FINRA’s Request for Comment
FINRA requested that firms provide comments on all aspects of the proposed rule changes, including the following issues:
The proposed amendments to FINRA Rule 4210 could have significant impacts on the TBA market and its participants. Accordingly, interested parties should use the current comment period to express their views about FINRA’s proposed rule changes prior to the March 28, 2014, deadline.
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1 FINRA Requests Comment on Proposed Amendments to FINRA Rule 4210 for Transactions in the TBA Market, Regulatory Notice 14-02 (Jan. 27, 2014) (the “Notice”), available at http://www.finra.org/web/groups/industry/@ip/@reg/@notice/documents/notices/p439087.pdf.
2 Id. at 4 - 5. Under the proposed amendments, a firm would be required to take liquidating action if margin is not posted within five business days from the date the loss was created for transactions with both exempt and non-exempt accounts, discussed infra.
3 Id. at 9 n. 1.
4 Id. at 1.
6 Morgan Stanley’s Comments, received by FINRA on Feb. 7, 2014, are available at http://www.finra.org/Industry/Regulation/Notices/2014/P439088. On Feb. 12, 2014, FINRA extended the expiration of the comment period from Feb. 26, 2014 to Mar. 28, 2014.
7 Notice at 2.
9 Id. at 1- 2 (citation omitted).
10 TMPG, Frequently Asked Questions: Margining Agency MBS Transactions (Oct. 25, 2013), available at http://www.newyorkfed.org/tmpg/marginingfaq10252013.pdf.
11 Notice at 3. Firms would be required to deduct the amount of margin outstanding under the net capital rule (Rule 15c3-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934). Id. at 5.
12 Id. at 3 and 10 n.17.
13 Id. at 3-4. Transactions cleared through a registered clearing agency that are subject to the margin requirements of the agency would not be subject to the proposed requirements. Id. at 4. The proposed amendments also would not apply to transactions with central banks. Id. at 5.
14 Notice at 4.
18 Id. at 5.
19 Id. (five percent of the member’s tentative net capital for a single account or group of commonly controlled accounts or 25 percent of the member’s tentative net capital for all accounts combined).
20 Notice at 5 - 6.
21 Id. at 6 - 7.
22 Id. at 7.
26 Notice at 7.
27 Id. at 8.
This article was originally published by Bingham McCutchen LLP.