This blog post originally appeared in GARP.
Now that the global regulators are in full swing of finalizing the rules that are expected to substantially change the way the financial markets operate, we are left with a growing list of disparate requirements. That is, rules promulgated by certain jurisdictions that differ from other jurisdictions, as well as rules imposed by various governing bodies of the same jurisdiction that differ from each other.
In defense of the requirements gaps, regulators assert that since processes, participation, and market cultures vary, the rules will inherently follow suit.
However, in real terms, the disparity is likely to inspire regulatory arbitrage. Regulatory arbitrage exists in circumstances where any marginal distinction creates a seemingly risk-free advantage or opportunity. Here, trading firms, banks, as well as commercial hedgers may change their strategy and move transactions to jurisdictions that provide risk-free advantages, including favorable regulatory treatment, a safe haven from onerous processing, or reduced costs.
One issue of concern is the mandate to analyze credit valuation adjustment (CVA). CVA is a calculated value representing the possibility of a counterparty’s default. Simply, CVA is variable value, usually calculated daily, representing a counterparty’s credit risk profile.
The CVA requirement is part of the Basel Accord, and is intended to provide a basis for the real- or near real-time monitoring of counter party credit risk. Significantly, because Basel is an advisory directive and each jurisdiction may, and generally does, implement it differently, Congress has introduced a bill to address the potential negative effects of Basel on the U.S. economy by possibly mandating the discovery of articulable jurisdictional CVA differences.
To this end, and to address the looming reality of regulatory arbitrage, on May 7, 2013, the Financial Competitive Act, H.R. 1341, was sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. The bill, if passed, will require the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to generally measure the regulatory implementation differences between the United States and other jurisdictions.
Specifically, this proposed legislation calls for a comprehensive study on the possible or likely effects posed by any differences, including the method and manner, between the U.S. and other jurisdictions in their implementation of CVA.
The statutory language also calls for a competitive forecast analysis, including the impact on end users of derivatives. For instance, the bill requires consideration of all input variables, assumptions and capital costs concluding with an analysis of extent to which differences in the CVA capital requirement could move derivatives trading to other jurisdictions.
In addition, the analysis must explore the interaction between differing CVA capital requirements and margin rules.
Now that we have approached the crossroads of defined regulatory differences, bills, such as the Financial Competitive Act, H.R. 1341, will attempt to close gaps that regulators assert are inherent in the rule-making process. Generally, legislation that purports to seek clarification or other corrective measures should not, on its face, be construed by market participants to lessen the regulatory burden; rather, the sole intent is to force more seamless harmonization.
However, in this instance, the express language of H.R. 1341 calls for recommendations by the FSOC concerning any corrective measures necessary to minimize the negative effects on U.S. financial institutions, derivatives markets, and end users.
For instance, under Basel within the European Union (EU), a directive known as the Capital Requirements Directive IV (CRD IV) exempts EU registered swap dealers from certain capital requirements — specifically CVA — when doing business with non-financial end users. Here, CRD IV provides an express advantage and will necessarily result in the type exploitation or burden that H.R. 1341 is intended to prevent.
For example, Rep. David Scott (D-GA), a co-sponsor of H.R. 1341 said that “certainty and uniformity are needed on the calculation of the derivatives credit valuation adjustment as it relates to Basel III capital requirements.” Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Cal), a supporter of H.R. 1341, observed that regulators must ensure the uniformity of CVA and that the calculation does not put U.S. financial institutions at a disadvantage.
As a result, the U.S. securities industry supports H.R. 1341 as part of an effort to promote consistent international standards.
This is true because previously the industry has raised concerns that securities-based derivatives transactions may be subject to different capital requirements under U.S. CVA rules. This could distort the transaction pricing while contributing to liquidity compression, as U.S. transactions would not receive the CRD IV exemption.
The Financial Competitive Act, H.R. 1341, and its narrow focus on CVA is one of many likely extra-territorial legislative gap fillers. It is likely that the U.S. Congress will proffer additional correction bills that seek to close, or at least limit, the gaps that could invite regulatory arbitrage.