By Dorothy Davis
In 2010 Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act with the primary goal of re-regulating the financial system with stronger consumer protections and greater transparency. But the act's broadly written rules also inadvertently folded in an array of day-to-day transactions carried out by the U.S. energy industry, which frequently uses derivative contracts that are not easily standardized.
Of major concern to energy companies was the possible inclusion of physically deliverable forward contracts as swaps and being designated as swaps dealers if the notional value of their transactions fell into ranges as low as $100 million annually.
Energy companies often enter into long- and short-term physical transactions to buy and sell electricity, natural gas and other fuels to serve customer needs, and sometimes use financial hedges to manage volatile prices, outlines Reuters.
After two years of deliberation, federal regulators have at last approved a definition for swaps under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Agency, which includes crucial exemptions for many energy companies.
The two agencies overseeing the implementation of the new rules - the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission - approved the rule on Wednesday, setting in motion more than 20 separate regulations that were waiting only on a definition for swaps.
The financial instruments are intended to help control the risks facing companies by exchanging two distinct streams of revenue. However, there were some worries that certain contracts allowing energy companies to purchase fuel in response to changing consumer demand could fall under the definition, potentially raising costs around the country.
Risk magazine notes that the CFTC ultimately proved receptive to concerns from the energy industry about unnecessarily raising costs in a sector that relied on swaps contracts for legitimate hedging, both with the definition of swaps and the inclusion of an end-user exemption to clearing requirements.
Businesses meeting the newly revised definition of a swap dealers will have 60 days to register after the final rule is published.