This week the CFTC and the SEC approved jointly written rules and guidance to further define “swap”, “security-based swap,” and other related terms for use in regulating over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives. The Dodd-Frank Act defines these terms but also requires both the SEC and CFTC to jointly define the terms further and jointly establish regulations regarding “mixed swaps” as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of swap and security-based swap regulation under the Act. The SEC and CFTC final rules and guidance identify specific products and services that do and do not fall within the further-defined terms. The approved rules will take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. The approval of the definitions also triggers the period for swap dealers to comply with other Dodd-Frank Act rules put in place to regulate the OTC derivatives markets. The CFTC also approved a final rule that implements an exemption to the clearing requirement for non-financial entities and financial institutions with total assets of $10 billion or less that hedge or mitigate business risk through swaps.
DOJ Announces LIBOR-related Criminal Charges and Penalties, Regulators Announce Parallel Civil Enforcement Actions
On December 19, both federal law enforcement and U.S. and foreign regulatory authorities announced that a Japanese bank and its Swiss bank parent company agreed to pay more than $1.5 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations into the firms’ role in the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a global benchmark rate used in financial products and transactions. The DOJ announced that the Japanese bank has signed a plea agreement, whereby the bank agreed to pay a $100 million fine and plead guilty to one count of engaging in a scheme to defraud counterparties to interest rate derivatives trades by secretly manipulating LIBOR benchmark interest rates. In addition, its parent company entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA), whereby the parent company agreed to pay an additional $400 million penalty, admit to specified facts, and assist the DOJ with its ongoing LIBOR investigation. The DOJ explained that the NPA reflects the parent company’s substantial cooperation in discovering and disclosing LIBOR misconduct within the institution and recognizes the significant remedial measures undertaken by new management to enhance internal controls. Domestic and foreign regulators also announced penalties and disgorgement to resolve parallel civil investigations, including a $700 million penalty obtained by the CFTC, $259.2 million as a result of a U.K. Financial Services Authority action, and $64.3 million to resolve a Swiss Financial Markets Authority action.