On August 6, the European Commission (EC) adopted new rules in the form of a delegated regulation (Delegated Regulation) requiring the mandatory clearing of certain over-the-counter (OTC) interest rate derivatives contracts (IRDs) through central counterparties (CCPs) pursuant to the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR).

The Delegated Regulation covers the following classes of IRDs that must settle in a single settlement currency in either EUR, GPB or USD, which is detailed in Annex 1 to the Delegated Regulation:

  • fixed-to-float (IRS), referencing either EURIBOR or LIBOR, with a maturity of 28 days to 50 years (this category also includes IRS settling in JPY);
  • float-to-float swaps (basis swaps), referencing either EURIBOR or LIBOR, with a maturity of 28 days to 50 years (this category also includes IRS settling in JPY);
  • forward rate agreements (FRAs), referencing either EURIBOR or LIBOR, with a maturity of three days to three years; and
  • overnight index swaps (OIS), referencing the Euro OverNight Index Average, FedFunds or the Sterling OverNight Index Average, with a maturity of seven days to three years (collectively, Covered IRDs).

Article 1 of the Delegated Regulation, however, provides an exemption from the mandatory clearing obligation for those Covered IRDs that are concluded with covered bond issuers or with cover pools for covered bonds, which satisfy all of the certain conditions. These conditions include usage, registration and recording obligations, insolvency provisions, credit ranking, and collateralization requirements.

Articles 2 and 3 of the Delegated Regulation specify which types of counterparties are subject to the mandatory clearing obligation and the applicable timing. These four categories and applicable compliance dates are:

  • Category 1 – clearing members of a recognized or authorized CCP of at least one of the classes of Covered IRDs – six months after the Delegated Regulation is entered into force;
  • Category 2 ­– financial counterparties (FCs) (as defined under EMIR) and alternative investment funds (AIFs) (as defined under the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive) that are non-financial counterparties (NFCs), which belong to a group whose aggregate month-end average of outstanding gross notional amount of non-centrally cleared derivatives is above EUR 8 billion (Threshold) – 12 months after the Delegated Regulation is entered into force;
  • Category 3 – FCs and AIFs whose aggregate month-end average of outstanding gross notional amount of non-centrally cleared derivatives is below the EUR 8 billion Threshold – 18 months after the Delegated Regulation is entered into force; and
  • Category 4 – all remaining NFCs – three years after the Delegated Regulation is entered into force.

For purposes of determining the Threshold, all of a group’s non-centrally cleared derivatives, including foreign exchange forwards, swaps and currency swaps, must be included. When an applicable counterparty is either an AIF or an undertaking for collective investment in transferable securities as defined in Article 1(2) of Directive 2009/65/EC (UCITS), the Threshold applies individually at the fund level. When a Covered IRD is transacted between counterparties in different categories, the date from which the clearing obligation takes effect for that contract will be the later date.

The Delegated Regulation, subject to certain conditions, provides time-limited relief for the clearing of intra-group Covered IRDs, which is dependent upon whether or not an equivalence decision has been adopted for the third country pursuant to EMIR (Equivalence Decision) in which the EU group counterparty is established. If an Equivalence Decision has not been determined, clearing will be required three years after the Delegated Regulation is entered into force. If an Equivalence Decision has been determined, clearing will be required from the later of 60 days after an Equivalence Decision has been made and the applicable timing for Categories 1, 2 and 3.

Article 4 of the Delegated Regulation specifies such minimum maturities applicable to the frontloading requirement under EMIR (i.e., the mandatory clearing of all swaps entered into between March 18, 2014, the date of the first authorization of a CCP, and the date on which the clearing obligation actually takes effect). The minimum maturities range from six months to 50 years and frontloading will be required with an effective date of either two or five months after the entry into force of the Delegated Regulation.

Before the Delegated Regulation can be entered into force, it must be reviewed by the European Parliament and the European Council, which can take up to three months. Once the Delegated Regulation is published in the Official Journal of the European Union, it will enter into force 20 days after such publication. Because the review period for the European Parliament will not commence until after the summer recess has ended in September 2015, the earliest the Draft Regulation could be entered into force would be October 2016, with mandatory clearing of the Covered IRDs commencing in April 2016 for Category 1 counterparties; October 2016, for Category 2 counterparties; April 2017 for Category 3 counterparties; and October 2019, for Category 4 counterparties.

The text of the Delegated Regulation can be found here. The text of Annex 1 to the Delegated Regulation can be found here.