March 31, 2011 – By Christopher Doering
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. futures regulator must swallow its pride and ask Congress for a delay in implementing derivatives regulations, some lawmakers and businesses said on Thursday as they criticized the agency for moving too fast.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has increasingly come under fire from Republican lawmakers, along with those affected by the new rules, for emphasizing speed over deliberation in the rule-writing. Some have called for a delay to collect more data and determine how the new measures will affect the market.
"The CFTC can't possibly comprehend the cumulative impact over 40 proposed regulations will have on the markets or the economy," said Chairman Frank Lucas of the House Agriculture Committee who has vowed to slow down the CFTC. "We simply cannot impose a wave of new regulations that are rushed and poorly vetted."
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms of 2010 gave the CFTC, new found responsibility including oversight of the roughly $600-trillion global over-the-counter derivatives market. It has proposed dozens of new rules, but most have not been finalized.
James Field, the chief financial officer at Deere & Co, told lawmakers a "workable" timetable is needed "given the complexity of the business issues involved, the number of potentially affected market participants, and the potential disruption to legitimate risk mitigation strategies."
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U.S. businesses such as MillerCoors and Caterpillar have argued for a generous exemption to certain requirements because they use derivatives solely to hedge risk from wild swings in prices of raw materials or fluctuations in interest rates. They insist they're not at risk of destabilizing the financial system.
The Dodd-Frank bill was thought to exempt commercial end users, such as energy firms, farmers and airlines, from posting costly margin when they clear their trades as long as it was done to minimize risk at their business -- freeing up millions of dollars they could instead use to invest in their company.
But confusion over what Congress intended has effectively left it up to the CFTC to determine what happens to end users and whether they must post margin. Field urged lawmakers for clarity to the language he deemed "imprecise."
The farm and construction machinery maker recently had more than $15 billion notional amount of derivative transactions outstanding. Deere also had over $25 billion of credit extended to its customers and dealers to help finance things such as purchases and equipment repairs.
"We interpret the full value of these notes to fall under the exception, but others might interpret this differently," said Field. "We are seeking further clarity that reflects Congress' intent while not adding burdensome requirements."
The CFTC has scheduled its next rule-making meeting on April 7 to introduce another batch of proposals. Capital and margin requirements for non-bank companies, and a definition for the types of swaps that will be required to clear and trade have yet to be introduced.
While CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler offered no timetable, he said he supported excluding cash forward contracts -- a transaction where a seller agrees to provide a specific commodity at some point in the future -- from the swap definition.
He said the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission hope to jointly propose the products definitions rule in the near future.
(Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)