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9053 - FOREX TRANSACTIONS
(Board of Directors, December 1, 2003; revised November 9, 2004; June 13, 2005; September 15, 2005; November 30, 2005; April 30, 2006; July 31, 2006; October 1, 2006; February 13, 2007; March 7, 2007; March 9, 2007; March 31, 2007; May 7, 2007; June 5, 2007; July 1, 2007; September 21, 2007; October 1, 2007; October 25, 2007; December 17, 2007; December 21, 2007; June 1, 2008; July 1, 2008; October 31, 2008; April 1, 2009; June 1, 2009; November 30, 2009; December 17, 2009; October 1, 2010; October 18, 2010; February 1, 2011; October 1, 2011; January 2, 2012; February 1, 2012; July 26, 2012; July 1, 2016; September 19, 2016; March 15, 2019; September 30,2019; January 1, 2020 and September 10, 2020.)
The Commodity Exchange Act (CEA or Act) gives the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC or Commission) jurisdiction over certain off-exchange foreign currency transactions offered to or entered into with retail customers.
As described below, NFA Bylaw 306 creates a Forex Dealer Member category for NFA Members who act as counterparties to forex transactions with retail customers. This category allows NFA to exercise appropriate regulatory jurisdiction over the retail forex activities of these Members.
NFA Bylaw 1507(b) defines forex as foreign currency futures and options and any other agreement, contract, or transaction in foreign currency that is offered or entered into on a leveraged or margined basis, or financed by the offeror, the counterparty, or a person acting in concert with the offeror or counterparty on a similar basis that are:
- offered to or entered into with persons that are not eligible contract participants as defined in Section 1a(18) of the Act (retail customers); and
- not executed on or subject to the rules of a contract market, a derivatives transaction execution facility, a national securities exchange registered pursuant to Section 6(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or a foreign board of trade.1
Bylaw 1507(b) also excludes the following from the forex definition if the transaction is not a futures or options contract:
- securities (other than security futures products);
- any contract of sale that results in actual delivery within two days; and
- any contract of sale that creates an enforceable obligation to deliver between a seller and buyer that have the ability to deliver and accept delivery, respectively, in connection with their line of business.
Given the differences between off-exchange forex transactions and traditional exchange-traded futures and options, NFA's Board of Directors has adopted Compliance Rule 2-36 and this Interpretive Notice to establish specific requirements for forex transactions, Forex Dealer Members and their Associates.
In developing its forex requirements, NFA's primary concern was to ensure that they provide adequate protection for retail customers without imposing undue burdens on NFA Members. NFA also believes that its requirements should, where consistent with customer protection, promote innovation and competition. In order to provide Members with as much flexibility as possible, NFA has chosen to deal with a number of issues by providing guidance under NFA Compliance Rule 2-36 instead of by adopting additional rules.
NFA Compliance Rule 2-36 sets out the general standards that apply to Forex Dealer Members and their Associates in connection with forex transactions. Subsection (b) prohibits Forex Dealer Members and their Associates from engaging in fraudulent activities, subsection (c) requires Forex Dealer Members and their Associates to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade in connection with their forex business, subsection (d) prohibits Members from accepting forex orders or accounts from, handling a forex transaction for or on behalf of, receiving compensation for forex transactions from, or paying compensation for forex transactions to any non-Member of NFA that is required to be registered with the Commission as a FCM, RFED, IB, CPO, or CTA in connection with its forex activities, subsection (e) requires Forex Dealer Members and their Associates with supervisory duties to supervise their employees and agents, subsection (f) requires Forex Dealer Members to provide customers (at account opening and annually thereafter) with written information regarding NFA’s BASIC, subsection (g) provides that communication with the public and promotional material used by a Forex Dealer Member or its Associate must comply with all of the requirements of NFA Compliance Rule 2-29 and the Interpretive Notices related to this rule, subsection (i) requires Forex Dealer Members to notify NFA prior to commencing customer business, subsection (j) requires Forex Dealer Members to designate a Chief Compliance Officer and subsection (l) requires Members and Associates to obtain specific customer information and provide required risk disclosure at the time of account opening. Compliance Rule 2-39 extends these provisions to other Members and their Associates who solicit, introduce or manage forex accounts.
This notice has three sections. The first section explains who qualifies as a Forex Dealer Member under NFA Bylaw 306, the second section provides additional guidance about the requirements in Compliance Rule 2-36, and the third section covers other miscellaneous requirements.
A. BYLAW 306
Forex Dealer Members are NFA Members who act as counterparties to forex transactions. This is a self-executing requirement, which means that any Member who qualifies is automatically a Forex Dealer Member. There is no application form and no approval requirement.
Members who do not act as counterparties are not Forex Dealer Members, even if they introduce or manage forex accounts. Under NFA Compliance Rule 2-39, however, Members who introduce or manage forex accounts are required to comply with subsections (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (g), (h) and (l) of NFA Compliance Rule 2-36.
B. COMPLIANCE RULE 2-36
As noted above, this section provides additional guidance on what Compliance Rule 2-36 requires. Certain sections specifically refer to Forex Dealer Members. All other provisions of this notice also apply to Members and their Associates who solicit, introduce or manage forex accounts.
1. Disclosure - Members must provide forex customers with understandable and timely disclosure on essential features of forex trading.
At or before the time a customer first engages in a forex transaction, a Forex Dealer Member and its Associates should provide the customer sufficient information concerning the characteristics and particular risks of entering into forex transactions. Members and Associates introducing or managing accounts should know what information has been provided and should supplement it when necessary. At or before the time a customer first engages in a forex transaction, a Member and its Associates should also disclose how the Member will be compensated for the services it will provide to the customer. Forex Dealer Members should provide both the bid and the offer when the customer enters an order. Members should update any material information that has changed prior to entering into new transactions with current customers if failing to update the information would make it misleading.
2. Supervision - Members and their Associates having supervisory responsibilities must diligently supervise the Member's forex business, including the activities of the Member's Associates and agents. Members must establish, maintain, and enforce written supervisory procedures.
NFA has provided Members with guidance on minimum standards of supervision through interpretive notices issued under NFA Compliance Rule 2-9.2 In these interpretive notices NFA recognized that, given the differences in the size of and complexity of the operations of NFA Members, there must be some degree of flexibility in determining what constitutes "diligent supervision" for each firm. This principle also applies to the supervision of a Member's forex business.
Although Members have the flexibility to design procedures that are tailored to their own situation, an adequate program for supervision would include procedures for performing day-to-day monitoring. These procedures would include:
- screening prospective Associates to ensure that they are qualified and to determine the extent of supervision the person would require if hired;
- screening persons with whom the Member intends to do forex business to determine if they are required to be registered with the Commission and, if so, to ensure that they are Members of NFA;
- monitoring communications with the public, including sales solicitations and web sites, and approving promotional material;
- reviewing the information obtained from and the information provided to customers solicited by the firm and its employees to ensure that the necessary account information has been obtained and the appropriate information provided; and
- handling and resolving customer complaints;
- reviewing disclosures given to customers to ensure they are understandable, timely, and provide sufficient information;
- reviewing and analyzing the forex activity in customer accounts, including discretionary customer accounts; and
- handling customer funds, including accepting security deposits, if applicable.
A Forex Dealer Member and a listed principal that is also a registered associated person (see Financial Requirements 15(c)) must supervise the preparation of a Forex Dealer Member's financial books and records. Diligent supervision includes hiring and retaining qualified staff. In determining whether an individual responsible for preparing the Member's financial books and records is qualified, the firm and its financial principal should consider the following:
- Is the individual qualified for the position by experience or training?
- Does the individual exercise independent judgment?
- Has the individual ever been sanctioned or refused membership or licensing by NFA, the CFTC, the SEC, NASD or FINRA, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or any other financial regulator?
- Has the individual ever been sanctioned or refused membership by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or any other accounting organization?
- Has any firm for which the individual performed auditing, accounting, or bookkeeping been subject to an emergency action or sanctioned by NFA, the CFTC, the SEC, NASD or FINRA, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or any other financial regulator for failure to comply with financial requirements or for having inadequate books and records while the individual was engaged in those activities?
- Are there any pending actions against the individual or a firm for which the individual performed auditing, accounting, or bookkeeping?
This is not an exclusive list. If the individual or a firm for which the individual worked (either as an independent contractor or an employee) was subject to an emergency action, sanctioned by a financial regulator, or is subject to a pending action, the FDM and the listed principal/registered AP responsible for the FDM's financial books and records should consider the nature and seriousness of the conduct (or alleged conduct) and the individual's role in it. An NFA Member Responsibility Action or an emergency action by another financial regulator is always an extremely serious matter.
The Forex Dealer Member and its financial principal must also conduct due diligence and consider analogous information when selecting an independent public accountant to certify the firm's annual financial statements.
An adequate supervisory program should include on-site visits to branch offices and guaranteed introducing brokers that conduct forex business on behalf of the Member. The Member needs to determine the frequency and nature of these visits. Members should refer to NFA Interpretive Notice 9019 - Compliance Rule 2-9: Supervision of Branch Offices and Guaranteed IBs for the minimum standards for a supervisory program for branch offices and guaranteed IBs, including the inspection requirement.
Finally, a Member's supervisory responsibilities include the obligation to ensure that its employees are properly trained to perform their duties. The formality of a training program will depend on the size of the firm and the nature of its business. Procedures should be in place to ensure that supervisory personnel know and understand the firm's supervisory procedures and that employees receive adequate training to abide by NFA requirements and to properly handle customer accounts.
3. Communications with the Public and Promotional Material - No Member or Associate shall make any communication with potential or current customers that is not in accordance with the requirements set forth under NFA Compliance Rule 2-29 and the Interpretative Notices related to this rule.
Further, the Forex Dealer Member and its Associates must also comply with the following requirements, which are exclusive to communications relating to forex transactions:
No Member or Associate may represent that forex funds deposited with a Forex Dealer Member are given special protection under the bankruptcy laws. No Member or Associate may represent or imply that any assets necessary to satisfy its obligations to customers are more secure because the Member keeps some or all of those assets at a regulated entity in the United States or a money center country.
No Member or Associate may represent that its services are commission free without prominently disclosing how it is compensated in near proximity to that representation.
No Member or Associate may represent that a customer will have direct access to the interbank-market because the Member is actually the counterparty to every customers' forex transactions. Similarly, no Member or Associate that is straight through processing orders can suggest that they are not the counterparty to the customers' trade (i.e., the FDM is simply acting as a middleman between the customer and the Prime Broker in the interbank market).
No Member or Associate may represent that it offers trading with "no-slippage" or that it guarantees the price at which a transaction will be executed or filled, unless:
- It can demonstrate that all orders for all customers have been executed and fulfilled at the price initially quoted on the trading platform when the order was placed3; and
- No authority exists, pursuant to a contract, agreement, or otherwise, to adjust customer accounts in a manner that would have the direct or indirect effect of changing the price at which an order was executed.4
Members and Associates may not solicit customers based on the leverage available unless they balance any discussion regarding the advantages of leverage with an equally prominent contemporaneous disclosure that increasing leverage increases risk.
Members may also be subject to discipline for promotional material promoting forex trading systems developed by third parties. For example, a Member has direct responsibility for misleading promotional material if the Member prepares or distributes it; has agency responsibility if the trading system developer is an agent of the Member under established principles of agency law; and has supervisory responsibility if the Member fails to supervise its own employees when linking to a third-party trading system developer's website, recommending a third-party's trading system, or entering into a referral agreement with a third-party system developer.
4. Customer Information and Risk Disclosure- Members and Associates are required to acquaint themselves sufficiently with the personal and financial circumstances of each forex customer and provide the customer with certain required risk disclosures as well as other facts, explanations and disclosures needed in order for the customer to make an informed decision on whether to enter into forex transactions.
Every Member should determine what information it will obtain from a prospective forex customer. At a minimum, the Member soliciting the customer to engage in forex transactions must obtain the information and provide the disclosures required by Compliance Rule 2-36(l). Members and their Associates need to ensure that each customer they solicit has received adequate information concerning the risks of forex transactions so that the customer can make an informed decision as to whether forex transactions are appropriate for the customer. There may be some customers for whom the additional disclosure will portray forex trading as too risky for that customer. In these instances, the only adequate risk disclosure by the Member and Associate is that forex trading is too risky for that customer. However, NFA believes that a determination of who those customers are cannot be made except on a case-by-case basis, because no objective criteria can be established that will apply to all customers. The essential feature of the Rule is the link between "knowing the customer" and providing risk disclosure. Once that has been done and the customer has been given adequate disclosure, the customer is free to make the decision whether to trade forex and the Member is permitted to accept the account. Members and Associates, however, are prohibited from making individualized recommendations to any customer for which the Member or Associate has or should have advised that forex trading is too risky for that customer. Finally, although it is the responsibility of the Member soliciting the account to comply with these requirements, Members may agree in writing that the Member acting as the counterparty to the transaction will be responsible for fulfilling the requirements of Compliance Rule 2-36(l). Members should refer to NFA Interpretive Notice 9004 – NFA Compliance Rule 2-30: Customer Information and Risk Disclosure for additional guidance on the requirements of this section.
5. BASIC Disclosure - Members must provide forex customers with information on NFA's BASIC system.
NFA Compliance Rule 2-36(g) requires Forex Dealer Members to provide customers with written information regarding NFA's Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC), including the web site address. Forex Dealer Members may comply with this requirement by providing customers with a copy of NFA's brochure entitled "Background Affiliation Status Information Center: An Information Resource for the Investing Public," which is available in print and on NFA's website at www.nfa.futures.org. This information must be provided when the customer first opens an account and at least once a year thereafter.
Forex Dealer Members may provide the information electronically but must do it in a way that ensures each customer is aware of it. For example, merely having the information on the Member's web site is not adequate, but sending customers an e-mail including a link to that information and explaining what the link is would be sufficient in most circumstances.
C. OTHER REQUIREMENTS
This section of the notice provides guidance on dues, capital requirements, and security deposits. These requirements apply only to Forex Dealer Members.
1. Bylaw 1301
NFA Bylaw 1301(e) requires Forex Dealer Members to pay annual dues that are graduated according to the firm's gross annual revenue from customers (e.g., commissions, mark-ups, mark-downs) for its forex activities. Profits and losses from proprietary trades are not to be included.
The following table shows the dues to be assessed for Forex Dealer Members:
|Amount of Annual Gross Revenue From Forex Transactions||Dues if NFA is the DSRO||Dues if NFA is not the DSRO|
|$5 million or less||$125,000||$25,000|
|More than $5 million, but not more than $10 million||$250,000||$25,000|
|More than $10 million, but not more than $25 million||$500,000||$25,000|
|More than $25 million, but not more than $50 million||$750,000||$25,000|
|More than $50 million||$1,000,000||$25,000|
These dues apply when a firm first becomes approved as a Forex Dealer Member or accepts a forex trade (whichever is earlier). New Members' initial dues will be the minimum dues ($125,000), payable quarterly. If an existing Member becomes approved as a Forex Dealer Member, NFA will send the Member an invoice for the minimum dues ($125,000) minus any amount already paid for that membership year. Thereafter, the dues will be assessed on the firm's membership renewal date, will be invoiced and paid quarterly, and will be based on the Forex Dealer Member's latest certified financial statement.
The only exception to the dues set forth above is a situation in which NFA does not serve as the DSRO for a Forex Dealer Member and the DSRO has agreed to examine the Forex Dealer Member's forex activities. In this case, the membership dues paid by the Forex Dealer Member, regardless of gross annual revenue, is $25,000. Accordingly, for such a Forex Dealer Member the dues to be assessed at the time it offers to be a counterparty to a forex transaction or accepts a forex trade (whichever is earlier), and on its membership renewal date thereafter, will be $25,000.
Each Forex Dealer Member is also required to pay an assessment of $.003 on each order segment submitted by the Forex Dealer Member to NFA's Forex Transaction Reporting Execution Surveillance System. For purposes of this requirement, an order segment is a record of any line of data associated with an order, and includes when an order is added, modified, cancelled or filled. In addition, unfilled open orders that are carried over by the system are considered a new order segment the next day.
NFA will invoice the Member monthly for the Forex Transaction Reporting Execution Surveillance System assessment amount and the Member must remit the assessment to NFA within 30 days after the date of the invoice.
2. Financial Requirements Section 11(a)
Forex Dealer Members must maintain adjusted net capital equal to or in excess of the greatest amount specified in subsections (a)(i), (a)(ii), and (a)(iii) (if applicable). Subsection (a)(ii) applies to Forex Dealer Members that execute any customer transactions and that also have liabilities to customers of more than $10 million. Where it applies, the Member’s capital requirement is the minimum capital required by subsection (a)(i) plus 5% of the liabilities over $10 million. The formula is:
- Amount required by (a)(i) + .05(customer liabilities - $10,000,000)
For example, if the minimum capital requirement is $20 million, a Forex Dealer Member that operates a dealing desk and has $208 million in liabilities to customers would be required to maintain adjusted net capital equal to or in excess of $29.9 million.
3. Financial Requirements Section 11(b)
Section 11(b) prohibits a Forex Dealer Member from including assets held by an affiliate or an unregulated person in the firm's current assets for purposes of determining its adjusted net capital under CFTC Regulation 5.7(b)(2)(v)(A). This means an FDM may not count any part of those assets for capital purposes.5
An unregulated person is any person that is not:
(i) a bank or trust company regulated by a U.S. banking regulator;
(ii) a broker-dealer registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a member of FINRA;
(iii) a futures commission merchant registered with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a Member of NFA;
(iv)a retail foreign exchange dealer registered with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a Member of NFA; or
(v) a bank or trust company regulated in a money center country which has in excess of $1 billion in regulatory capital.
NFA will not accept requests to approve an affiliate or unregulated person under NFA Financial Requirements Sections 11(b) or 11(c) or CFTC Regulation 5.7.
4. Financial Requirements Section 11(c)
Section 11(c) prohibits Forex Dealer Members from considering offsetting currency transactions or positions executed with or held by or through an affiliate or unregulated person for purposes of determining net currency positions and the required capital deductions under CFTC Regulations 1.17(c)(5) and 5.7(b)(2)(v)(A).
The rule does not prohibit Forex Dealer Members from entering into positions with an affiliate or unregulated counterparty. They may not, however, count positions with those counterparty when calculating their net positions or covered positions for purposes of CFTC Regulations 1.17(c)(5) and 5.7(b)(2)(v)(A).
5. Financial Requirements Section 13
Section 13 obligates FDMs to file daily reports regarding an FDM's capital position and its ability to meet its obligation to retail Forex customers. Among other daily reporting obligations, FDMs must indicate the net aggregate notional value for all open futures and options Forex positions.
In addition, NFA requires FDMs to provide operational information on a monthly basis. These monthly reports must specify the number of retail and ECP Forex customers as well as how many customers are active, US domiciled or foreign domiciled. Also, FDMs must file monthly reports with respect to the FDM's risk management of its market exposure. NFA may require an FDM to file additional information on a monthly basis as needed. These monthly operational reports must be filed within seventeen business days of the month for which the report is prepared.
FDMs must also file quarterly reports containing the most updated performance disclosures required by CFTC Regulation 5.5(e)(1)(i) – (iii). This report must include the total number of non-discretionary retail forex customer accounts maintained by the FDM for the prior quarter, the percentage of such accounts that were profitable during the quarter and the percentage of accounts that were not profitable during the quarter. These quarterly reports must be filed within seventeen business days of the quarter for which the report is prepared.
NFA may also require FDMs to file other reports regarding the FDM's capital position, its operations or any other information which NFA deems relevant in assessing the FDM's overall compliance with NFA requirements.
1 The Board of Directors has declared that these transactions are a proper subject of NFA regulation and oversight under Article XVIII, paragraph (k).
2 See, for example, Interpretive Notice 9019 - Compliance Rule 2-9: Supervision of Branch Offices and Guaranteed IBs; Interpretive Notice 9037 - NFA Compliance Rules 2-9, 2-10, 2-29, 2-36 and 2-39: Guidance on the Use and Supervision of Websites, Social Media and Other Electronic Communications; Interpretive Notice 9046 - Compliance Rule 2-9: Supervision of the Use of Automated Order-Routing Systems (the principles included in this Interpretive Notice apply to forex activities.)
3 The Forex Dealer Member is not required to give the customer a price that is no longer reflected on the platform at the time the order reaches it. The Forex Dealer Member is not responsible for transmission delays outside its control. If a Forex Dealer Member, however, advertises "no-slippage" or that it guarantees fill prices, it must prominently disclose that transmission delays might result in customer orders being executed at a price other than that seen by the customer.
4 This includes force majeure provisions.
5 Where the CFTC's requirements for holding current assets are more stringent, those requirements apply.