ESMA stands strong on variation margin rules deadline

EU regulator confirms the 1 March deadline for variation margin rule is still in place, despite the US being given a six-month relief period.

Despite the US buy-side being given a six-month relief period for the impending variation margin rules, the European regulator has decided to uphold the original deadline of 1 March 2017.

The European Securities and Market Authority (ESMA) explained the deadline was part of a globally agreed framework and the timeline for implementation has been known in the EU since 2015.

“It is unfortunate that the financial industry has not managed to prepare for the implementation. Any further delays of the application of the EU rules would formally need to be implemented through EU legislation, which is not possible at this point in time due to the lengthy process for adopting EU legislation,” it said.

Earlier this month, the US derivatives regulator delayed enforcement of the strict rules for asset managers and pension funds by six months.

The ‘no-action’ relief from the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission (CFTC) will mean it will not punish pension funds, asset managers and insurance companies for failing to post and exchange variation margin (VM) for bilaterally traded derivatives until 1 September.

“The facts on the ground cannot be ignored that as much as 90% of those end-users are not ready to meet the new requirements despite their best efforts to do so,” said Christopher Giancarlo, acting chairman of the CFTC.

Trade associations across the world called for regulatory patience through a six-month grace period, highlighting a number of documentation and operational challenges.

The International Securities Derivatives Association, along with the Global FX division of the Global Financial Markets Association, the Investment Association, Financial Services Roundtable, the ABA Securities Association and the American Council of Life Insurers all contributed to a letter sent to regulators.

“The associations understand that as much as six months may be needed by many market participants to complete the legal and operational processes to comply with variation margin regulations,” the trade bodies said.