ISDA white paper: Clearing Incentives, Systemic Risk and Margin Requirements for Non-cleared Derivatives

Central clearing of standardized derivatives and margin requirements for non-cleared derivatives are two of the basic tenets of global financial regulatory reform. They are also inter-related: the purpose of margin requirements is to both reduce systemic risk and promote or incentivize central clearing.

Recent studies and research into clearing incentives and margining raise questions about whether certain aspects of the requirements do in fact support these key policy goals. These questions include:

  • Does the scope of the current margin framework for non-cleared derivatives appropriately support the goal of systemic risk mitigation? Or does it impose costs on firms that pose little or no systemic risk, and can it potentially have an adverse impact on their risk management activities?
  • Does margining of non-cleared derivatives (which is higher than margining for cleared derivatives) incentivize central clearing? If and when it is not a major factor, then are the higher margin costs for non-cleared derivatives versus cleared derivatives appropriate, especially in situations where the risks of both may be similar?

This paper draws on research done internally by ISDA and recent studies by policy-makers to analyze and answer these questions. Based on this data and analysis, ISDA suggests:

  • IM should not be required for counterparties that pose little or no systemic risk. Toward this end, the current threshold of €8 billion in notional outstanding could be raised to €100 billion (and restricted to IM eligible trades) – a level that addresses systemic risk issues and avoids adverse and unnecessary consequences for hundreds of firms that pose no such concerns.
  • The role of margin as a clearing incentive should be re-calibrated, with consideration given for the existing inherent benefits of clearing, such as multilateral netting.

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