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Interpretive Notices


(Staff, March 19, 1987; revised July 1, 2000)


Mandatory membership in NFA is the cornerstone of NFA's regulatory structure. From the earliest stages of its formation, NFA's founders recognized that the creation of a meaningful and effective industrywide self-regulatory organization would be completely impossible unless all persons required to be registered as FCMs, IBs, CPOs or CTAs were required to be Members. The founders of NFA considered the issue to be of such critical importance that they not only prohibited the conduct of customer business with non-Members through NFA Bylaw 1101, but included that prohibition as one of NFA's fundamental purposes in Article III, Section 1(f) of NFA's Articles of Incorporation.

Given the importance of the mandatory membership concept, NFA Bylaw 1101, which tracks the language of Article III, Section 1(f), states the prohibition in the strongest possible terms. [See Bylaw 1101.]

The rule by its terms imposes strict liability on any Member conducting customer business with a non-Member that is required to be registered. The rule does not require proof that the Member firm was at fault or failed to exercise due diligence, simply that it transacted customer business with a non-Member that is required to be registered. NFA Bylaw 1101 requires Members to make two determinations: whether it is doing business with an entity which is required to be registered, and if so, whether that person is a Member of NFA. The second of these determinations is relatively simple. Any Member can check the BASIC system on NFA's web site at, send a request to NFA through the "contact" feature of the web site, or call NFA's Information Center at a toll-free number (800) 621-3570 to receive current and accurate information concerning the membership status of any person. The determination of whether a particular person is required to be registered can obviously be much more difficult. Any Member could, despite its best efforts, be transacting customer business with a person who is actually required to be registered as an FCM, IB, CPO or CTA. In such a case, the Member is in technical violation of the strict liability terms of NFA Bylaw 1101.

A review of NFA policy, procedures and past disciplinary actions, however, clearly indicates that NFA Bylaw 1101 has not been enforced unreasonably. In making its recommendations in cases involving apparent Bylaw 1101 violations, staff has consistently not relied on the strict liability standard set by the rule itself. Staff has recommended the issuance of complaints in Bylaw 1101 cases in which the evidence indicates that the Member knew or should have known of the violation. Of course, under NFA Compliance Rules, the ultimate decision of whether a particular violation of NFA Rules warrants prosecution rests with the Members of NFA's Business Conduct Committee ("BCC"). BCC Members exercise their informed business judgment in making these decisions, and are certainly aware that some violations of Bylaw 1101 may occur in spite of reasonably diligent efforts to comply with the rule.

The question of whether a Member should have known of a violation of NFA Bylaw 1101 depends in large part on the adequacy of its procedures to prevent such violations. Though it would be impossible to describe all of the situations which should put a Member on notice that a particular person is required to be a Member or NFA, there are certain minimal steps which should be taken to reduce the possibility of a violation of NFA Bylaw 1101:

    1. FCM Members should ensure that all omnibus accounts they carry are held by FCM Members of NFA;
    2. Each Member should review the list of CFTC registrants with which it does business to determine if they are NFA Members. A Member can determine whether a particular entity is a CFTC registrant by checking the BASIC system on NFA's web site located at, sending a request to NFA through the "contact" feature on the web site, or calling NFA's Information Center toll-free at (800) 621-3570.
    3. Each Member should review its list of customers. If a customer's name indicates that it may be engaged in the futures business, the Member should inquire as to its registration and membership status;
    4. When a FCM or IB Member carries an account controlled by a third party (other than an AP of the FCM or IB or a member of the same family as the account owner), the FCM or IB Member should check to see if the account controller is registered as a CTA and, if not registered, should inquire as to the basis of any exemption and, if applicable, should verify that account controller has made the required filings with the CFTC and NFA;
    5. If any customer is operating a commodity pool but claims to be exempt from registration as a CPO, the Member should verify that the customer has made the required filings with the CFTC and NFA;
    6. Members should ensure that their branch offices are not separately incorporated entities. The CFTC Division of Trading and Markets has issued an interpretive letter stating that branch offices which are separately incorporated entities are required to be registered as introducing brokers; and
    7. FCM Members should determine whether non-Member foreign brokers for whom the Member carries accounts solicit U.S. customers for transactions on U.S. exchanges.

As mentioned above, these suggested steps do not purport to be a dispositive list of internal procedures required to prevent violation of NFA Bylaw 1101. Though under some circumstances a Member following these suggestions could still be found liable for a violation of NFA Bylaw 1101, the suggested procedures should help foster compliance with NFA Bylaw 1101 and greater protection to the investing public.