Thursday, May 14, 2009

U.S. Moves to Regulate Derivatives Trade

Federal regulators outlined plans to regulate the giant market for derivatives, a move aimed at avoiding a repeat of the turmoil created last year by certain financial institutions whose risk-taking in exotic financial instruments went largely unchecked.

Under a proposed raft of reforms, regulators could be given authority to force many standard over-the-counter derivatives to be traded on regulated exchanges and electronic-trading platforms. That would make it easier to see prices and make markets more transparent.

Firms with large derivative exposures or that trade more-complex derivatives would be subject to new reporting requirements. The proposal also calls for all standardized derivatives to go through clearinghouses that will guarantee trades and help cushion the impact of a collapse of a large financial institution.

The regulatory overhauls are in response to growing concerns of outsize risk and leverage among derivatives that trade directly between pairs of firms. Much trading in this market, estimated to total hundreds of trillions of dollars, now happens privately, and contracts are typically negotiated over the phone.

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