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09 June 2015

ESMA: Verena Ross delivers keynote speech at IDX 2015

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Her keynote address focused on EMIR and MiFID II, arguing that there are plenty of important reforms that are essential for the orderly functioning and the safety of derivatives markets.

“Another key area of our current MiFID II work is the regime for position limits for commodity derivatives. We are, in the EU, on the verge of implementing the world’s most ambitious and comprehensive position limits regime to date. Spot month and other months position limits will apply to all commodity derivative contracts traded on an EU trading venue –Regulated Market, MTFs, OTFs –and to contracts traded OTC which are deemed to be economically equivalent to the contracts traded on a trading venue. Because of some unknowns such as the new category of OTFs, the number of contracts captured is not known but we do know that we are talking about thousands of contracts.

It’s worth turning to probably the most well-known position limits regime today which is that of the US and has been in place for several decades. The CFTC intends to expand its existing position limits regime, applying to 9 agricultural contracts, to 28 core physical commodity contracts -the most liquid contracts -and to contracts which are economically equivalent to them. The scope of the new EU regime compared to even the new, beefed-up, US regime is vast.

The comparison to the US regime is important because it shows that in the EU we are putting in place something on a scale which has not been done before and are doing so in record time (a couple of years). ESMA is charged with the herculean task of crafting a methodology which has to bring a number of contradictory elements together:

·         it has to apply to, and work for, both very liquid and very illiquid contracts;

·         it has to provide for a consistent approach to avoid arbitrage opportunities whilst allowing sufficient flexibility to deal with a wide range of contracts;

·         it has to ensure limits are low enough to avoid squeezes without killing off contracts with only two or three participants.

All these elements mean that this is one of the most controversial areas of MiFID II and one of the most scrutinised parts of ESMA’s work. ESMA’s approach is what we call, informally, the snake in the tunnel approach: the methodology needs to allow enough flexibility or wriggle room for the competent authorities to set limits on a vast array of contacts but within constraints –the tunnel–so that the competent authorities do apply limits in a consistent way and reach similar levels for similar contracts.”

Full speech


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