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Welcome to the online version of NFA's rulebook, the NFA Manual. We update this version on an ongoing basis. If you want to check out what changes have most recently been made to the NFA Manual, go to Recent Manual Updates. You may view a categorized list of the Interpretive Notices by visiting the Index of Interpretive Notices page.

Interpretive Notices



9054 - COMPLIANCE RULE 2-34: PERFORMANCE REPORTING AND DISCLOSURES
(Board of Directors, November 20, 2003; effective May 1, 2004)

INTERPRETIVE NOTICE

In July 2003, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission adopted a core principle for calculating rate of return (ROR) for partially-funded accounts. The Commission noted, however, that its core principle approach would not preclude NFA from developing more explicit guidance or performance standards.

NFA's Board of Directors believes that Member CTAs should use a uniform calculation to make it easier for clients to compare the performance of different CTAs. The Board also believes that ROR should be based on the amount that is the basis for the CTA's trading decisions so that ROR measures the CTA's true performance rather than its client's various cash management practices. Therefore, NFA's Board has adopted NFA Compliance Rule 2-34 to provide performance standards for Member CTAs and to require certain disclosures to ensure that clients understand the consequences of partially funding their accounts. The Board has also adopted this Interpretive Notice to provide additional guidance to CTA Members regarding performance reporting and disclosure.

CTAs will not be required to restate their previous performance, although they may choose to do so. As with any other information, however, a CTA must make any additional disclosures that are necessary to ensure that its performance record is not misleading.

Documenting the Nominal Account Size

The Board recognizes a client may elect to partially fund its account by depositing less funds with the FCM carrying its account than the client has directed the CTA trading the account to use as the basis for trading decisions. The Board believes that the nominal account size should be documented to provide "discipline in the denominator" by assuring that the client and the CTA have agreed on the account size before the account begins trading. This documentation will also provide an objective audit trail to verify past performance records.

Compliance Rule 2-34(b) requires the CTA to document the trading program and nominal account size for each client who partially funds its account by either receiving a written confirmation from or providing a written confirmation to the client with the required information. For example, the information could be included in the advisory agreement or delivered to the client as a separate document. Although NFA assumes that most CTAs will receive or provide this confirmation at the same time the CTA enters into an advisory agreement to direct or guide the client's account, NFA Compliance Rule 2-34(b) only requires that it occur before the CTA places the first trade.

The Rule does not require the CTA to get the client's written acknowledgement to a confirmation provided by the CTA, although the CTA may choose to do so. If the CTA does not require a written acknowledgement, the confirmation should inform the client that the client must notify the CTA, within a reasonable period specified in the confirmation, if the client does not agree with the terms included in the confirmation. The confirmation may be delivered in any manner consistent with CFTC requirements for delivery of account statements by commodity pool operators under CFTC Regulation 4.22(i).

Disclosure

Compliance Rule 2-34(c) requires CTAs to provide certain information to clients with partially-funded accounts if those clients are not QEPs. This information is designed to ensure that less sophisticated customers understand the effects of partial funding so that they can make informed decisions when funding their accounts.

Subsection (c)(2) requires the CTA to explain how each element of cash additions, cash withdrawals, and net performance will affect the nominal account size. If these items will not affect the nominal account size, the CTA may make an affirmative statement to that effect.

Under Compliance Rule 2-34(c)(5), the CTA must provide a description, by example or formula, of the effect of partial funding on ROR and drawdown percentages. A CTA may provide this information by example using a simple matrix showing the effect of partial funding at different funding levels. In the alternative, it may provide the client with the formula for converting ROR percentages based on the nominal account size to ROR percentages based on the partial funding level, e.g.:

    (nominal account size / actual funds) * n = a

    where n is the ROR percentage based on the nominal account size and a is the ROR percentage based on actual funds

This same formula may, of course, be used to convert any other information that is given as a percentage of the nominal account size, such as estimated commissions and fees.

The disclosures required by Compliance Rule 2-34(c) can be included in the CTA's disclosure document or the advisory agreement. They can also be provided in a separate document delivered to the client before the CTA places the first trade for the client.

Actual Funds

Compliance Rule 1-1(b) defines actual funds as the equity in a commodity trading account over which a CTA has trading authority and funds that can be transferred to that account without the client's consent to each transfer. Funds that are not in the trading account, often referred to as committed funds, qualify as actual funds only if they meet the following four tests:1

1. The ownership of the accounts must be identical;

2. The funds must be available for transfer (e.g., free credit balances that are not committed to another CTA's trading program);

3. The client must agree in writing that the FCM can transfer the funds to the managed account at the CTA's request; and

4. The CTA must be able to verify the amount of these funds.2

Materiality Standards

As a general rule, accounts in the same trading program will be included in the same composite performance capsule.3 Since Compliance Rule 2-34(a) requires ROR to be calculated on nominal account size, the RORs for these accounts should be materially the same. Accounts with materially different RORs should not, however, be included in the same performance capsule.4

Whether RORs are materially the same may vary depending on the circumstances. However, as long as the accounts are part of the same trading program, the following test provides a safe harbor for determining whether the accounts have materially the same ROR.5

  • If the composite ROR including the account and the composite ROR excluding the account average 10 percent or more, they are materially the same if the difference between the two RORs is less than 10 percent of their average.
  • If the composite ROR including the account and the composite ROR excluding the account average less than 10 percent and greater than 5 percent, they are materially the same if the absolute difference between the two RORs is no more than 1.5 percent.
  • If the composite ROR including the account and the composite ROR excluding the account average 5 percent or less, they are materially the same if the absolute difference between the two RORs is no more than 1 percent.

The primary reason for this materiality test is to objectively demonstrate that each account included in the performance capsule is part of the same trading program. For that reason, the materiality test should use gross trading profits and losses rather than net performance. If a particular account in the capsule has a material effect on the capsule's net performance due to account-specific factors (e.g., commissions or interest), the CTA may continue to include that account in the capsule if it meets the materiality test using gross trading profits and losses.6 However, the CTA should disclose the difference in net performance and identify the factors that are responsible for that difference.

Additions and Withdrawals

Large additions and withdrawals during the reporting period may distort ROR. A CTA is not required to adjust its ROR calculation unless those additions and withdrawals have a material effect on ROR under the above test.7 If they do have a material effect, however, the CTA must use an approved method to minimize the distortion. Appendix B to the CFTC's Part 4 Rules describes two methods that CTAs can use to adjust for additions and withdrawals when calculating ROR: the compounded rate of return method and the time-weighted method. These methods are available to all CTAs under the terms described in Appendix B.

CTAs may also use a third method that adjusts for additions and withdrawals by temporarily excluding certain accounts when calculating ROR.8 This method can be used if the following conditions are met:

1. As with any performance information, all of the accounts - whether included in or excluded from the ROR calculation - are part of the same trading program;

2. Excluding the accounts does not result in the systematic exclusion of any material costs (e.g., accounts with withdrawals or that are closed during the reporting period must be included in ROR if there is a significant exit fee that is only charged when funds are withdrawn or accounts are closed);

3. Only accounts that meet one of the following requirements are excluded:

  • The account was opened during the reporting period,

  • The account was closed during the reporting period,

  • The account had no open positions and did not trade during the reporting period because it has not yet been approved for trading or because the client intended to - and did - close the account shortly after the reporting period ended,9 or

  • The net additions and withdrawals in the account exceeded 10% of the beginning net nominal account value for the period for that individual account;

4. Use of this method does not produce an ROR that is materially different from the ROR expected to be produced by either the compounded rate of return method or the time-weighted method over time; and

5. The method does not exclude a significant percentage of the accounts in the trading program.

In general, the CTA should use one method consistently except where that method would produce results that are materially different from the actual experience of accounts in the trading program.10 The CTA should disclose the method that is consistently used and, if the CTA uses a different method for a particular reporting period, the CTA should disclose the method actually used for that reporting period and describe why that method was used.11

CTAs may use any of these three methods without obtaining prior approval from NFA or the CFTC. Appendix B to Part 4 states that "a commodity pool operator or commodity trading advisor may present to the Commission proposals regarding any alternative method of addressing the effect of additions and withdrawals on the rate of return computation, including documentation supporting the rationale for use of that alternative method." Therefore, a CTA may use another method if the CTA can demonstrate to the CFTC, prior to use, that the alternate method provides an accurate picture of the CTA's ROR and is more appropriate for that CTA.

* * * * *

All performance information must be presented in a manner that is balanced and is not misleading. CTAs have an obligation to disclose all material information even if it is not specifically required by CFTC or NFA rules. Compliance Rule 2-34 and this Interpretive Notice do not relieve CTAs of that obligation.


1 These tests are derived from CFTC Advisory 87-2, [1986-1987 Transfer Binder] Comm. Fut. L. Rep. (CCH) paragraph 23,624 (June 2, 1987).

2 Compliance Rule 2-34(a) provides that Member CTAs may include interest earned on actual funds but may not impute interest on other funds when calculating net performance. The CTA must be able to verify the amount of interest earned on the funds if the CTA includes that interest as part of its net performance.

3 Accounts in the same trading program generally have the same pattern of trading.

4 Accounts that use different trading strategies should not be included in the same performance capsule even if their RORs are materially the same.

5 This same materiality test can be used in other contexts. For example, NFA's interpretive notice entitled "NFA Compliance Rule 2-10: The Allocation of Bunched Orders for Multiple Accounts" (paragraph 9029) requires CTAs to modify their allocation methods if accounts in the same trading program have materially different performance results. This is another instance where materiality would be measured using gross trading profits and losses.

6 As with the test for material differences in trading results, whether the account has a material effect on net performance is determined by comparing the net performance of the composite with and without the account.

7 A CTA is also not required to adjust its ROR calculation if additions and withdrawals are each less than 10% of the beginning net nominal account value for the period.

8 The accounts can only be excluded when calculating ROR. They must be included in the CTA's capsule performance for other purposes.

9 An account that was open for the entire reporting period and had open positions or trading activity during the reporting period cannot be excluded even if it has not yet caught up to the performance of the other accounts in the program (unless its net additions and withdrawals exceeded 10% of its beginning net nominal account value for the period). An account with a trading pause cannot be excluded solely because of the trading pause, especially if the program dictated the trading pause. If the trading pause results from client-imposed restrictions that cause the account to be idle or traded differently from the other accounts in the trading program, however, the account may belong in a different performance capsule.

10 These instances should be rare. If the CTA's principal method frequently produces results that are materially different from the actual experience of accounts in the trading program, the CTA should change to a more consistent method.

11 This information should be included in a footnote to the performance capsule. If the trading program experienced an unusual change in the number or size of additions, withdrawals, accounts opened, or accounts closed during the reporting period, the CTA should also highlight that change in a footnote and should describe the reason for the change, if known.

 
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