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Screenshot of a breaking news alert e-mail from Q2 2017
LeapRate Exclusive… LeapRate has learned that the US Securities and Futures Commission (SEC) has quietly filed a notice indicating that as of July 31, broker-dealers will no longer be able to engage in leveraged foreign exchange transactions with traders, other than what it calls “eligible contract participants”, SEC-speak for institutional traders.
The ban covers all broker-dealers regulated by the SEC – including those brokers-dealers which are ‘dually registered’ with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as Future Commission Merchants (FCMs).
What this effectively means is that only standalone CFTC registered and National Futures Association (NFA) member FCMs or retail FX dealers, as well as certain banks, may serve as counterparties in retail forex transactions.
The move should therefore benefit (at least in the near term) the ‘big three’ US-licensed retail forex brokers: FXCM Inc (NYSE:FXCM), the Forex.com unit of Gain Capital Holdings Inc (NYSE:GCAP) and Oanda. Those three are FCM-only brokers, and are likely to pick up most if not all of the retail forex business from broker-dealers which will be banned as of July 31.
Most US broker-dealers, including online brokers, are not very active in retail forex. E*Trade used to operate an FXCM white label, but that was terminated more than a year ago. TradeKing (recently acquired by Ally Financial) operates TradeKing Forex as an introducing broker to Gain Capital. TD Ameritrade is #4 after FXCM, Forex.com and Oanda in terms of retail forex assets in the US.
However overall, the majority of retail forex trades in the US already occur at FCM-only brokers. So this shouldn’t cause a major shift in the industry, just a good opportunity for the big FCMs to pick up some business.
LeapRate spoke with a senior securities lawyer in the US who believes that this is likely just the first step by US regulators to possibly ban altogether highly leveraged retail forex trading. While the SEC might not have consulted with the futures and forex industry regulators (CFTC, NFA) in making its decision regarding the broker-dealers, those regulators will likely keep an eye on the SEC’s action – and it is not inconceivable that they could take similar action at some point in the future.
A good summary of the new rule (or rather, the expiry of an existing exemption for broker-dealers) can be seen at the National Law Review, written by Ignacio Sandoval at law firm Morgan Lewis.
The SEC notice on the matter, dated May 20, 2016, can be seen here.