Over the past month, the Commodity Futures Trading Commissions (CFTC) stance on transparency and accountability in swap markets has been stronger than Suella Braverman’s immigration rhetoric – and that is saying something!

The most recent actions, simultaneously filing and settling charges against Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, should serve as a major wake-up call for the industry. These charges highlight a persistent issue: a significant number of financial institutions are failing to fulfill their responsibilities when it comes to swaps reporting. But why, despite the CFTC’s increasingly hard line stance, is this happening? And perhaps more importantly, what can be done to address the root causes?

Firstly, it’s essential to understand the complexity of the derivatives market and, in particular, the world of swaps. Swaps are intricate financial instruments with numerous variables, including interest rates, credit default events, and currency exchange rates. Handling these complex transactions and ensuring accurate reporting is no small feat. Financial institutions often grapple with the challenges of collecting and reconciling information from multiple sources, dealing with differing reporting requirements across jurisdictions, and ensuring that the data is consistent and error-free.

Moreover, the sheer volume of swaps traded daily is staggering. According to the Bank of international Settlements (BIS) 2022 report, turnover of OTC interest rate derivatives averaged $5.2 trillion per day (“net-net basis). Keeping track of every swap transaction in real-time and reporting it accurately to regulators can strain the resources of even the strongest banks. This is particularly true for those institutions engaged in a wide range of activities, from trading to asset allocation.

Another factor contributing to reporting failures is the lack of standardised reporting requirements worldwide. Different jurisdictions have their own rules and regulations, often leading to confusion and inefficiencies. US financial institutions now have to navigate a maze of reporting standards, making compliance a convoluted and costly process.

In response to these challenges, there is no doubt significant investments in technology and infrastructure have been made to improve reporting capabilities. However, implementing strong systems and processes takes time, and even with substantial resources allocated, errors can still occur. Furthermore, compliance efforts often compete with other strategic priorities, creating a balancing act for financial institutions. So, what can be done to address this ongoing issue?

It should not all rest on the shoulders of the CFTC. Regulators around the world should work collaboratively to establish standardised reporting requirements and harmonise regulations. This would simplify compliance efforts for financial institutions operating across borders. Similarly, it is not just about the investment bank. Bank, brokers, dealers and fund managers should collaborate and share best practices to collectively improve reporting standards and ensure compliance. Above all, firms need to continue to invest in advanced technology, including data analytics and automation, to improve data accuracy and reporting efficiency.

The most recent actions by the CFTC serve as a stark reminder that reporting failures in the swaps market remain a significant concern. The complexity of these financial instruments, coupled with the challenges of managing large volumes of data and navigating varying global regulations, create a perfect storm for compliance lapses. However, it is in the best interest of financial institutions, regulators, and the market as a whole to work together to overcome these challenges, ensuring that transparency and accountability are upheld in the world of swaps trading. Only through continued collaboration and innovation can we hope to address this critical issue and prevent future reporting failures.


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