Thank you, Chairman Schapiro.
The Dodd-Frank Act sets out a new regime to regulate the security-based swap (“SBS”) market. To this end, Section 764 of Dodd-Frank amends the Exchange Act to provide for new rules, to be promulgated by the SEC, that establish business conduct standards for security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants (“SBS Entities”). Pursuant to this authority, the Commission is advancing the proposal we are considering this morning.
I support the recommendation before us. But we need to be mindful that, depending on how the new regulatory regime ultimately takes shape, certain parties – most notably, certain special entities – could lose access to the security-based swap market, and those states, municipalities, pension plans, endowments, and other counterparties of SBS Entities that can access the SBS market could find it more costly to transact. If SBS Entities become less willing to transact with certain counterparties because the business conduct standards prove to be too burdensome and unpredictable, those counterparties may lose out on the benefits that SBS transactions afford them, such as more efficient risk management. To this point, it is worth recognizing that the Commission’s proposed business conduct standards go beyond what the agency is mandated by Dodd-Frank to promulgate.
The proposing release solicits comment on a range of topics and asks a number of thoughtful questions. As always, I look forward to considering the comments we will receive. I am particularly interested in comments that address the following:
The release acknowledges that the Commission is proposing more business conduct obligations than Dodd-Frank requires. “Know your counterparty” requirements and “suitability” standards are just two features of the proposal that would add to what Dodd-Frank mandates. What are the potential consequences of these additional obligations when layered on top of what Dodd-Frank requires? To what extent, and in what ways, might these additional regulatory demands impact a market participant’s access to SBS transactions?
If adopted, how will the proposal likely impact the ability of special entities to transact in security-based swaps? What consequences will special entities face if they find it more difficult to access the SBS market?
Just as one recognizes the benefits of the new regulatory regime, one also should consider that certain costs of the proposal might ultimately be borne by special entities and other counterparties of SBS Entities. Accordingly, to what extent should an intended beneficiary of the regime be afforded more choice to decide for itself the degree of protection it wants from regulation? In other words, under what circumstances, if any, should the counterparty of an SBS Entity be allowed to opt out of some or all of the new regulation?
The proposing release explains, “[A]bsent special circumstances, it would be appropriate for SBS Entities to rely on counterparty representations in connection with certain specific requirements under the proposed rules.” The release offers two alternatives for when it might not be appropriate for an SBS Entity to rely on a counterparty’s representations. Under one alternative, an SBS Entity could rely on a counterparty’s representation “unless [the SBS Entity] knows that the representation is not accurate.” Under the second alternative, an SBS Entity could rely on a counterparty’s representation “unless the SBS Entity has information that would cause a reasonable person to question the accuracy of the representation.”
I am keenly interested in commenters’ views on the pros and cons of these two alternatives. For example, under which alternative would an SBS Entity have greater legal certainty concerning its business conduct obligations? If an SBS dealer is not confident that it can rely on a special entity’s representations in establishing that the dealer is not advising the special entity, will the SBS dealer be less willing to transact with the special entity?
The proposal states that an SBS dealer “acts as an advisor to a special entity,” thus triggering a duty to act in the “best interests of the special entity,” when the SBS dealer makes a recommendation, unless certain conditions are met. Should a dealer have to do more than make a recommendation to be found to be acting as an advisor? How, if at all, should the “best interests” standard be defined to address the tension that may arise if an SBS dealer finds itself acting as both a counterparty and an advisor to a special entity?
I am interested in hearing from commenters on how, if at all, the Commission’s rulemaking should account for any concerns that are presented when the SEC’s business conduct regime and the Department of Labor’s ERISA fiduciary regime interact.
I join my colleagues in thanking the staff – particularly those from the Division of Trading and Markets – for your hard work on this rulemaking.