Archive for the ‘MF Global’ Category

U.S. FCM Violations: Customer Segregated and Secured, Minimum Capital Violations

September 27, 2013

UPDATE:Updating, 10/13/2014 with additional CFTC finding in 2014.

UPDATE: I am going to start adding Secured (30.7) violations and FCM minimum capital violations too. I also changed the blog post title. This post still does not include LIBOR violations, nor various precious metal scams, nor simple supervision violations.

Since, alas, it has become so hard to keep track of all the FCM violations of Customer Seg Funds regulations, I decided to create this so I have one place to refer to in the future. Note please that these are only Customer Seg violations, not violations of 30.7 regs nor of Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer (RFED) net capital requirements. Not various and sundry other ponzi schemes, fraudulent precious metal scams, or other violations. These are all just violations of the U.S. Customer Segregation rules and regulations. This post also doesn’t include the many and varied enforcement actions against all the bankers caught up in the LIBOR rip-off/scandal.

Source: Enforcement actions as archived on the CFTC website.

2014
October 8, 2014: Friedberg Mercantile Group (FMG): Firm was under-secured (30.7) in early February, 2013. Friedberg.

September 24, 2014: FXDirectDealer, LLC undercapitalized, under he CFTC’s FCM/Retail FX Dealer adjusted net capital rule requiring a minimum of $20MM. FXDirectDealer, LLC

May 19, 2014: Global Futures & Forex, Ltd., undercapitalized, under he CFTC’s FCM/Retail FX Dealer adjusted net capital rule requiring a minimum of $20MM. Global Futures & Forex, Ltd.

March 27, 2014: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, under in Secured (30.7) funds and commingling customer and firm funds. MSSB.

2013
September 30, 2013: ADM Investor Services (ADMIS): Ugh. Add ADM to the list. Caught commingling customer and prop accounts in their Customer Seg account. ADMIS This appears to have ended in July 2011 and probably was self-reported.

September 27, 2013: Vision Financial: fined for Seg violations in 2008/09. Vision Financial

September 27, 2013: R.J. O’Brien: an inter-account transfer from Secured (30.7) to Seg, for a non-clearing FCM for whom RJO cleared, put the non-clearing FCM into a Secured deficit. RJO Ops apparently made the transfer to cover a Seg margin deficiency for the omnibus account but never told the non-clearing FCM, nor called the non-clearing FCM for additional funds. R.J. O’Brien

June 19, 2013: ABN Amro Chicago: fined for violations in 2011. ABN Amro

April 9, 2013: Interactive Brokers: the firm “failed to compute on a currency-by-currency basis the amount of customer funds on deposit and required to be on deposit in segregated accounts.” Interactive Brokers

February 19, 2013: Enskilda Futures Limited (EFL), a London-based Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) fined $125,000 for failure to maintain adequate capital after undermargining a proprietary omnibus account. Enskilda

January 3, 2013: Muzuho Securities fined for Secured 30.7 violations. Mizuho Securities

2012
December 3, 2012: MBF: Federal Court Orders MBF Clearing Corp. to Pay $650,000 for Violating Customer Fund Segregation Requirements. MBF judgement

November 21, 2012: Cantor Fitzgerald:operational inadequacies and under seg. Cantor Fitz

October 10, 2012: Farr Financial. (I had somehow missed this one last year. I’d also never heard of Farr Financial before now.) Improper investment of customer segregated funds. Farr Financial

July 10, 2012: Peregrine Financial: the infamous Russ Wasendorf theft of $215 million. Peregrine Financial and Russ Wasendorf.

April 4, 2012: JP Morgan: fined $20 million for using the customer seg funds of a FCM called LBI as “net free equity” covering intra-day credit that JP Morgan extended to LBI over a 22-month period. During the Lehman bankruptcy, when LBI requested JP Morgan to release the customer seg funds, JP Morgan refused because it was using the customer money to cover LBI proprietary credit lines. J. P. Morgan 2012

March 13, 2012: MBF: This is the original CFTC complaint against MBF, settled on December 3rd above. MBF original charges.

New CFTC FCM Data Released (May 2013)

July 16, 2013

http://cftc.gov/MarketReports/FinancialDataforFCMs/index.htm

CFTC just published the May month-end report for FCM Financial Data. The raw link is above. I have sorted the data differently, ad posted the resorted data below.

This is from FCM 1FR reports, or CFTC/SEC FOCUS reports if the FCM is also a broker-dealer. Attached here is the CFTC report sorted by customer assets in Seg, and another version sorted by Customer Seg Required. I believe this is the best metric for measuring the depth and breadth of the U.S. futures industry, much moreso than simple exchange volumes and or FCM trading volumes. To me, trading volume is a good measurement of exchange/clearinghouse health (and revenue, naturally). But for industry health, I think customer assets is a better measurement.

Here is the May 2013 CFTC FCM Data sorted by Seg assets, and…

here is the same data sorted by U.S. Customer Seg Required.

Note that those are both download-able Excel Spreadsheets.

Weird fact: JP Morgan and Goldman are the two biggest FCMs as measured by U.S. Customer Seg amounts. Interestingly, Goldman has higher Seg Required (column J) than JPM, by about $1B. But JPM has more assets in Seg than GS, by about $600MM.

The four largest FCMs – GS ($17.5B), JPM $16.5B), Newedge ($14.3B), Deutsche Bank ($14.1B) – completely dwarf the rest. The 5th biggest FCM – UBS ($8.4B) – has way less than half the Cust Seg Required that Goldman carries.

The largest FCM, measured by U.S. Customer Seg Required, that is also *not* a broker dealer: RJ O’Brien, with $3.7MM in Cust Seg Required.

The largest FCM that has zero required in 30.7 funds (from foreign boards of trade): McVean Trading in Memphis. This means that 100% of their customer positions and assets are on U.S. boards of trade.

The total amount of Customer Seg required across all FCMs is $143.4B. Total Customer Seg assets is $154.5B, so an excess of $11.1B exists in FCM Seg bank accounts.

49.5% of all Customer Seg is carried at the top five FCMs: JPM, Goldman, Newedge, Deustsche Bank, and UBS. Nearly 75% of U.S. Customer Seg Required is carried at the top ten FCMs: the top five above plus Merrill, Citi, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Barclays.

The total number of FCMs even carrying U.S. Customer Seg balances – meaning the number of FCMs clearing customer business – was 70 in May, 2013. In November 2003 that number was 102, so we’re down more than 30% in FCMs clearing customer business in less than 10 years. In 2003, 102 FCMs reported $67.1B in Customer Seg. May 2013 reports showed $143.4B spread among 30% fewer FCMs.

I would argue that the number of FCMs carrying customer business is really on the only sign of ill-health in the U.S. futures industry. All other signs, especially growth of Customer Seg (and also exchange volumes) point to good health in the futures industry.

I’d be very interested to know what you all have to think about the signs of health in the futures industry, still recovering from MF Global and the Wasendorf fraud. What do these figures mean to you?

U.S. Futures Customers Pulled $10 Billion Out of the Futures Market

September 13, 2012

As many know, the CFTC publishes a list of U.S. futures commission merchants (FCMs) and the amount of customer money they have in their Segregated U.S. Funds bank balances. Today they published the list for month-end July, 2012, to their website.

The CFTC report comes from the FCM’s CFTC 1-FR reports, which are part of the SEC FOCUS report if the FCM is also a broker/dealer in U.S securities. If the FCM is not also a broker/dealer registered with the SEC, then they submit just the 1-FR to CFTC.

Here is the latest report from CFTC: Latest CFTC Report

Here is the same list, sorted by FCMs’ Customer Segregated Funds balances. fcmdata0712-sorted-by-Seg

There is a lot of interesting information and data in the report: RJ O’Brien is the largest FCM in the U.S. as measured by Customer Seg, that is not also an SEC-registered broker/dealer in U.S. securities, for example. Another example: 8 of the top 10 names on the list all use the same vendor back-office system. There are 69 FCMs that reported Customer Seg to SEC and/or CFTC. (There were 71 as-of last October, when MF Global turned on their money vaporizer; there were 70 until Peregrine went down.)

But that’s not the most interesting thing to me. To me, the most revealing thing about the current report is this: In June of 2011, 13 months ago, FCMs in the U.S. reported a cumulative $153,881,560,188.00 in Customer Segregated Funds. (I used the CFTC report from that date to generate this post, where the data was sorted: June 2011 Sorted Data.

Today’s report from CFTC shows a cumulative Customer Seg figure of $143,561,983,577.00.

That means that customers of U.S. FCMs have pulled $10,319,576,611 out of their FCMs in the past 13 months of CFTC reporting.

Even if one assumes that MF Global lost/stole/vaporized $1.6 billion and that Russ Wasendorf at Peregrine stole another $200 million, there is still a full $8 billion-plus that customers of FCMs took out, entirely on their own.

FCM customers have options: ETFs, mutual funds, stocks (with SIPC protection), etc. It looks like many are utilizing the options, and departing the futures industry.

FCM Data – May 31 Report from CFTC

July 13, 2012

By now most folks know that Peregrine Financial Group, variously called PFG or PFGBest, has gone belly up amid allegations of the theft of $220 million dollars of customer money. The company’s sole owner was found by employees parked behind the corporate HQ in Cedar Falls, IA with a hose running from his exhaust pipe to the passenger seats of his car. He has survived. There are reports of a suicide note that talks of “financial irregularities.”

Today the CFTC released the monthly FCM Data report of Customer Segregated Funds (and 30.7 Secured Funds). Peregrine is on the list, at #38, having reported $371,453,743 as the firm’s Seg Requirement, and reporting $376,523,865 as Customer Seg on hand. This means the firm reported a $5,070,122 excess in their Seg balances. It is interesting to note the PFG is on this list, when MF Global was removed from the list on the first report after their bankruptcy last October 31.

Of course, now we know that these reports, for Peregrine, were falsified. Reports are that they told regulators that the firm had some $220 million in a Segregated bank account, but regulators (NFA, the National Futures Association) have been told by the back that there was less than $10 million on hand.

According to the NFA’s Member Responsibility Action (MRA) this has been going on for at least two and a half years.

The CFTC releases the report sorted by FCM, alphabetically. I usually sort the data by Seg amounts. Here is a link to the CFTC FCM Data Report, sorted by Customer Segregated Funds Required (column J).

fcmdata0512-xls Sorted By Seg

A Tip of the Cap to CME Group

April 4, 2012

News broke today that CME Group would begin requiring clearing member firms to report every day their Customer Segregated Funds balances.

Details here, via John Lothian’s Newsletter.

This is great news, and is something that was advocated on this blog back in January.  The CME took it even further with the announcement that FCMs would be required to report twice-monthly on investments of Customer Seg Funds, which is a great idea too.

It isn’t everything I hoped it would be. There is no daily reportable file. Instead, reporting will be 1FR (FCM) and FOCUS (broker/dealer) based, and forms submitted or filled out on Windjammer. And there is no tracking of each customer account’s contribution to an FCMs Customer Seg balance.

But still, this is a great start.

Well done, CME. Well done indeed.

A Modest Proposal For A Better Way For Regulators To Track U.S. Futures Customer Segregated Funds

January 30, 2012

John Lothian has created a website where he is asking for users/registrants to add ideas for ways that the U.S. futures industry can recover from the collapse of future commission merchant (FCM) MF Global following the disclosure that hundreds of millions, possibly as much as $1.2 billion, of Customer Segregated Funds is “missing” from MF Global’s bank accounts. Lothian’s Futures Crowd Site

For the uninitiated: Customer Seg Funds are funds are cash balances and collateral deposited at FCMs, or funds earned from trading, that are, by rule and by law, required to be kept separate from firm money, and are intended to be held for the exclusive benefit of FCMs’ clients. I do not share the opinion that the Seg Funds “missing” from MF Global are missing due to any accounting error or “mistake.” I believe that the Seg Funds were taken by someone or some multiple people at the failed FCM to cover firm shortfalls. If and when this proves to be true, someone or some multiple people could well face prison, but that may be years from now.

In the meantime, John Lothian is asking for interested parties to offer ideas on how the U.S. futures industry can move forward after the apparent “disappearance” of millions of dollars of client funds. One of the ideas that was proposed was that missing client money should be restored immediately. That Suggestion Is Here. The original post was this:

“The number one priority: make customers whole…The number one priority to restore customer confidence should be to make the customers whole. Agree or disagree? No specific mechanism for making them whole is suggested here.

I concur with this idea and added the following comment:

I completely agree that the top priority is to make customers whole. I have had this argument with others and I do not buy into the “Slippery Slope” argument. I do not buy into the notion, though, that CME should make all the customers whole. Why not ICE, OCC, MGE, KCBOT too?

The American taxpayers got stuck bailing out so-called TBTF financial institutions. Know what really is Too Big To Fail? The U.S. Futures Industry, that’s what.

For one-six-hundreth of the cost of those bailouts, American taxpayers can restore integrity to the market, and make whole famers, retail investors, locals, and yes, even (GASP) speculators. . That needs to happen.

It won’t happen without industry-led regulatory changes, though. I have a proposal that is germinating in my mind about what that can and should look like. I will be adding that in the next day or two.

FCMs that are also broker-dealers must file a Financial and Operational Combined Uniform Single Report (FOCUS report) with the SEC every month. Part of the FOCUS report required for broker-dealers that are also FCMs is the Supplement Report called “Statement of Segregation Requirements and Funds in Segregation For Customers Trading on U.S. Commodity Exchanges.” I took a look at this report last November. For broker-dealers, the SEC passes along the Statement of Segregated Funds to the CFTC from each broker-dealers FOCUS report. The CFTC reports on this each month when it releases “FCM Data” and I’ve talked about those CFTC releases several times in the past: November, 2011 and June, 2011 and February, 2011 and January, 2011, for example.

FCMs that are not also broker-dealers must complete the exact same report – called the CFTC 1FR-FCM report – and submit it to the CFTC every month. The FCM 1-FR reports are incorporated into the CFTC FCM Data reports along with the FOCUS reports for broker-dealers.

As we see from the Statement of Segregation reports, whether from FOCUS (broker-dealer) or 1-FR (FCM), the FCMs track all required aspects of Customer Seg money on a regular basis. Each FCM must put this information together, at the very least, once per month. Some, it seems likely, do so daily as a normal part of their daily client processing. Those that do not calculate these figures daily certainly should. But none of them report the information, daily, in any meaningful way.

They should. Here’s how: today, every day, during an FCM’s night processing cycle, they calculate CFTC Large Trader position reports and create a print-image file (which gets archived in their data warehouse, whether it is Laser Vault, Speedscan, whatever). At the same time, the FCM creates an 80-byte Large Trader disk file which is delivered to the CFTC electronically, typically via FTP. The CFTC uses this information to track economic data and create economic reports.

I’d propose that FCM back-office systems be modified to do the same thing, for Customer Segregated Funds, on a daily basis. The systems already generate print-image reports that FCMs and broker-dealers use to complete their 1-FRs or FOCUS reports. These reports simply aggregate back-office system data at user-defined levels and create print-image reports (which are archived in data warehouses). The aggregation can be done monthly for regulatory reporting to SEC and/or CFTC – that’s already proven, FCMs do that regularly, so systems and functionality already exists for that. What does not exist today – what should be added – is creation of electronic files which can be delivered to regulators daily and used to track Customer Seg Funds, not just at the firm (FCM) level, but at the individual account level. (That’s what the back-office reports already do today, they generate detail reports at the customer level and also at the firm level. An FCM reports the firm-level, and archives the backing detail reports.)

The following fields need to be tracked, daily, for each FCM, for each customer account, and delivered electronically to CFTC, SEC, or some other outside entity that can use the data to track for anomalies, discrepancy, or other issues. If FCMs know that customer segregated funds are being tracked and analysed and reviewed daily, they’d be much more likely to preserve those funds when the FCM is in duress. And the data included in these new data files would likely make it much easier, in the event of an FCM failure, to move funds and positions to other FCMs in good standing, since they’d have ready access to the information.

1. Net Ledger Balance for each FCM client account.
1a. Cash
1b. Market Value of Securities

2. Net Unrelized P&L on futures positions (Open Trade Equity)

3. Option Value
3a. Add value of LONG options
3b. Subtract value of SHORT options

4. Net Equity: add lines 1, 2 and 3

5. Accounts liquidating to the negative Seg balance
5a. gross amount
5b. less market value of securities in those debit-balance accounts.

6. Amount to be Segregated (add lines 4 plus 5)

The figures above are the “client side” or the amounts in the bookkeeping system for clients. The figures below are the “house side” or the amounts that MUST be available. These figures might not be – and often are not – in the back-office bookkeeping system. Lines 1 though 5 should be generated for each client account, every day. Line 6 is the total amount of client funds that must be segregated. The lines below should also be tracked daily – and this might require changes to operational procedures at an FCM.

7. Amount deposited in Segregated Bank Accounts
7a. Cash
7b. Market value of securities posted by clients
7c. Market value of securities purchased with client money

8. Margin amount posted at regulated clearinghouses (DCOs)
9. Net Settlement (pay/collect) due to/from regulated clearinghouses (DCOs)

10. Option values cleared by FCM
10a. Add LONG option value
10b. Subtract SHORT option value

11. Amounts held at other FCMs for the clients of the FCM
11a. Net liquidating equity
11b. MArket value of securities purchased with customer funds
11c. FCM client securities pledged to the other FCM

12. Segregated funds in hand (petty cash)

13. Total (add lines 7 – 12)
14. Amount actually in Segregation (line 13 less line 6)

NOTE: I am closing the comment thread here (once I figure out how I figured out how) so the discussion can be encapsulated in one place. The place to discuss this topic is at John Lothian’s Futures Crowd website, in the Idea Thread for this topic. The link to that comment thread is here.

Catching Up: CFTC FCM Data in a Post-MF Global World

January 16, 2012

It has been a few months since I took a look at the CFTC FCM Data reports, which list FCM Customer Segregated Funds, Customer Secured Funds (also called 30.7 funds), and other data. As most readers will already know, MF Global flamed out spectacularly at the end of October, and with that collapse it was revealed that somewhere between $600 million and $1.2 billion of Customer Seg money is “missing” from the FCM. The hunt for that money, and the hunt for the perpetrators of this fraud and theft, continues to this day.

(If you don’t know about MF Global’s bankruptcy and scandal, this probably isn’t the blog, much less the blog post, for you.)

As MF Global was falling apart, the customer accounts and what remained of the customer money was divided up among FCMs in good-standing with clearinghouses (mainly CME) and regulators. I was told anecdotally that CME ordered the division of client business among multiple FCMs in a somewhat arbitrary way. For example, some of MF Global’s energy clients were assigned to FCMs that were not terribly active in the energy markets; additionally, MF Global “local” business (individual trader accounts) had to be divided up among the diminishing number of FCMs that continue to clear that business.

In the weeks and months that followed MF Global’s demise, some of the business that was (as I was told) somewhat arbitrarily assigned to FCMs had the opportunity to move to other FCMs in a more orderly manner than in those hectic weeks following the bankruptcy filing. Now that the dust is starting to settle a little bit, it seems like a good time to take a look at the CFTC FCM data in a post-MF Global world.

The source for the CFTC data is here.

The Starting Point

The last known “good” date for FCM data that included MF Global was August, 2011. The September report, which presumably would have included the failed FCM, has MF Global conspicuously missing. So, let’s take a look at August’s report.

fcmdataAugust2011 Sorted By Seg

In August, 2011 the top FCM measured by Customer Seg was Goldman Sachs, at $23.166 billion; second was Newedge at $22.348 billion. JP Morgan, Deutsche and Citi rounded out the top 5.

The next five FCMs were Merrill Lynch, UBS, MF Global, Barclays, and CSFB (USA).

MF Global, at 8th largest FCM in terms of Customer Seg, reported $7.270 billion. As such, MF Global reported 4.27% of all the Customer Seg funds in August, 2011. In contrast, the top 2 FCMs each had more than 13% of all Seg funds, and had nearly 27% among them. The top 5 FCMs comprised 53% of all the Customer Seg Funds reported to CFTC in August, 2011. The total Customer Seg funds reported for August, including MF Global, was $170,185,554,883.

The Most Recent Month

FCM Data Sorted By Seg Nov2011

The most recent month for which CFTC FCM data is available is November, 2011. As stated above, MF Global’s figures were mysteriously omitted from the September, 2011 report, and of course, by the October reporting date, the FCM has collapsed into bankruptcy. In November, Goldman Sachs again topped the list, with $22.299 billion in Customer Seg. JP Morgan was second with $17.597 billion and Newedge had slipped to third, with $17.447 billion. Deutsche and Citi rounded out the top five again.

With MF Global now gone, the next five FCMs are UBS, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, CSFB (USA) and Morgan Stanley.

Total FCM-reported Customer Seg Funds stood at $149,071,676,345, down more than $20 billion from the days before as much as $1.2 billion of customer money vanished from MF Global. I don’t know if that figure is somehow seasonal, but a drop of $20 billion in Customer Seg funds over three months is astonishing to me.

With the top five-or-so FCMs remaining relatively constant in terms of Customer Seg, and a drop of $20 billion overall, the percentages also provide some insight. Goldman now holds almost 15% of Customer Seg Funds (14.95889%). JP Morgan and Newedge are both at almost 12%. The top 5 FCMs hold more than 55% of all Customer Seg funds as of the November reporting period.

I’d be interested to hear what you all think of the numbers-crunching provided here. Do any of these stats/statements stand out to you, as surprising or as expected? Please let me know your thoughts.


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