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9068 - NFA COMPLIANCE RULES 2-4 AND 2-36: PROHIBITION ON THE USE OF CERTAIN ELECTRONIC FUNDING MECHANISMS
(Board of Directors, May 15, 2014; effective January 31, 2015 and July 1, 2019.)
NFA Compliance Rule 2-4 requires Members and Associates to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade in the conduct of their commodity futures business and swaps business. Similarly, NFA Compliance Rule 2-36(c) requires Forex Dealer Members (FDM) and their Associates to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade in the conduct of their forex business.
NFA's Board of Directors (Board) recently reviewed information regarding the use of credit cards1 by FDM retail customers to fund their forex trading accounts, which indicates that retail forex customers overwhelmingly fund their trading accounts using a credit card. For the reasons described below, the Board believes that permitting customers to invest in commodity interest markets using a credit card is inconsistent with a Member's obligation to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.
Credit cards, by their very nature, permit easy access to borrowed funds. Given the highly volatile nature of the commodity interest markets, the substantial risk of loss, and the possibility that a total loss may occur in a very short period of time, the Board has concluded that Members should be prohibited from permitting customers to use credit cards to fund commodity interest accounts.
The Board also recognizes that the retail commodity interest businesses are largely Internet based, electronic payments are the acceptable payment method for most Internet based businesses, and that certain electronic funding methods may provide some convenience to customers. Therefore, the Board is not prohibiting all forms of electronic payment mechanisms.
Specifically, the Board believes that certain electronic funding mechanisms are acceptable and appear consistent with a Member's obligation to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade. Those electronic funding mechanisms, however, must be tied to a customer's bank account at a financial institution. In particular, the Board is aware that with an electronic payment made through a debit card, the funds are drawn directly from the customer's bank account and therefore this payment method functions in a manner very similar to a check drawn on a customer's account. The Board also understands that certain other electronic payment facilitators may draw funds directly from a customer's bank account.
The key factor differentiating a credit card payment from an electronic funding method that is directly tied to the customer's account at a financial institution is that with the latter method, the customer has funds on hand and those funds are immediately transferred from the customer's bank account to the FDM or FCM, which significantly reduces the likelihood that the customer is borrowing funds to invest. The Board also believes, however, that in order to accept an electronic funding method such as a debit card, the Member must be able to distinguish, prior to accepting funds, between a debit card or other electronic funding method that draws money from the customer's checking or savings account at a financial institution and a traditional credit card, and be able to reject the credit card before accepting funds. For example, in processing electronic payments, Members may utilize a third-party provider that uses technology to differentiate between a credit or debit card transaction.
As always, any FCM or FDM offering this type of funding mechanism should make sure that adequate risk disclosure is provided to a customer in light of the customer's financial circumstances.
1 For purposes of this Interpretive Notice, the term credit card also includes other electronic payment facilitators (e.g., Paypal) that commonly draw funds from a customer's credit card.