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Public Statements

Nonbank Financial Companies

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I would like to discuss the derivatives title of the Wall Street reform legislation with chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, Senator Lincoln.

I would like to first commend the Senator and her staff's hard work on this critically important bill, which brings accountability, transparency, and oversight to the opaque derivatives market.

For too long the over-the-counter derivatives market has been unregulated, transferring risk between firms and creating a web of fragility in a system where entities became too interconnected to fail.

It is clear that unregulated derivative markets contributed to the financial crisis that crippled middle-class families. Small businesses and our manufacturers couldn't get the credit they needed to keep the lights on, and many had to close their doors permanently. People who had saved money and played by the rules lost $1.6 trillion from their retirement accounts. More than 6 million families lost their homes to foreclosure. And before the recession was over, more than 7 million Americans had lost their jobs.

The status quo is clearly not an option.

The conference between the Senate and the House produced a strong bill that will make sure these markets are accountable and fair and that the consumers are back in control.

I particularly want to thank the Senator for her efforts to protect manufacturers that use derivatives to manage risks associated with their operations. Whether it is hedging the risks related to fluctuating oil prices or foreign currency revenues, the ability to provide financial certainty to companies' balance sheets is critical to their viability and global competitiveness.

I am glad that the conference recognizes the distinction between entities that are using the derivatives market to engage in speculative trading and our manufacturers and businesses that are not speculating. Instead, they use this market responsibly to hedge legitimate business risk in order to reduce volatility and protect their plans to make investments and create jobs.

Is it the Senator's understanding that manufacturers and companies that are using derivatives to hedge legitimate business risk and do not engage in speculative behavior will not be subjected to the capital or margin requirements in the bill?

Mrs. LINCOLN. I thank the Senator for her efforts to protect manufacturers. I share the Senator's concerns, which is why our language preserves the ability of manufacturers and businesses to use derivatives to hedge legitimate business risk.

Working closely with the Senator, I believe the legislation reflects our intent by providing a clear and narrow end-user exemption from clearing and margin requirements for derivatives held by companies that are not major swap participants and do not engage in speculation but use these products solely as a risk-management tool to hedge or mitigate commercial risks.

Ms. STABENOW. Again, I appreciate the Senator's efforts to work with me on language that ensures manufacturers are not forced to unnecessarily divert working capital from core business activities, such as investing in new equipment and creating more jobs. As you know, large manufacturers of high-cost products often establish wholly owned captive finance affiliates to support the sales of its products by providing financing to customers and dealers.

Captive finance affiliates of manufacturing companies play an integral role in keeping the parent company's plants running and new products moving. This role is even more important during downturns and in times of limited market liquidity. As an example, Ford's captive finance affiliate, Ford Credit, continued to consistently support over 3,000 of Ford's dealers and Ford Credit's portfolio of more than 3 million retail customers during the recent financial crisis--at a time when banks had almost completely withdrawn from auto lending.

Many finance arms securitize their loans through wholly owned affiliate entities, thereby raising the funds they need to keep lending. Derivatives are integral to the securitization funding process and consequently facilitating the necessary financing for the purchase of the manufacturer's products.

If captive finance affiliates of manufacturing companies are forced to post margin to a clearinghouse it will divert a significant amount of capital out of the U.S. manufacturing sector and could endanger the recovery of credit markets on which manufacturers and their captive finance affiliates depend.

Is it the Senator's understanding that this legislation recognizes the unique role that captive finance companies play in supporting manufacturers by exempting transactions entered into by such companies and their affiliate entities from clearing and margin so long as they are engaged in financing that facilitates the purchase or lease of their commercial end user parents products and these swaps contracts are used for non-speculative hedging?

Mrs. LINCOLN. Yes, this legislation recognizes that captive finance companies support the jobs and investments of their parent company. It would ensure that clearing and margin requirements would not be applied to captive finance or affiliate company transactions that are used for legitimate, nonspeculative hedging of commercial risk arising from supporting their parent company's operations. All swap trades, even those which are not cleared, would still be reported to regulators, a swap data repository, and subject to the public reporting requirements under the legislation.

This bill also ensures that these exemptions are tailored and narrow to ensure that financial institutions do not alter behavior to exploit these legitimate exemptions.

Based on the Senator's hard work and interest in captive finance entities of manufacturing companies, I would like to discuss briefly the two captive finance provisions in the legislation and how they work together. The first captive finance provision is found in section 2(h)(7) of the CEA, the ``treatment of affiliates'' provision in the end-user clearing exemption and is entitled ``transition rule for affiliates.'' This provision is available to captive finance entities which are predominantly engaged in financing the purchase of products made by its parent or an affiliate. The provision permits the captive finance entity to use the clearing exemption for not less than two years after the date of enactment. The exact transition period for this provision will be subject to rulemaking. The second captive finance provision differs in two important ways from the first provision. The second captive finance provision does not expire after 2 years. The second provision is a permanent exclusion from the definition of ``financial entity'' for those captive finance entities who use derivatives to hedge commercial risks 90 percent or more of which arise from financing that facilitates the purchase or lease of products, 90 percent or more of which are manufactured by the parent company or another subsidiary of the parent company. It is also limited to the captive finance entity's use of interest rate swaps and foreign exchange swaps. The second captive finance provision is also found in Section 2(h)(7) of the CEA at the end of the definition of ``financial entity.'' Together, these 2 provisions provide the captive finance entities of manufacturing companies with significant relief which will assist in job creation and investment by our manufacturing companies.

Ms. STABENOW. I agree that the integrity of these exemptions is critical to the reforms enacted in this bill and to the safety of our financial system. That is why I support the strong anti-abuse provisions included in the bill.

Would you please explain the safeguards included in this bill to prevent abuse?

Mrs. LINCOLN. It is also critical to ensure that we only exempt those transactions that are used to hedge by manufacturers, commercial entities and a limited number of financial entities. We were surgical in our approach to a clearing exemption, making it as narrow as possible and excluding speculators.

In addition to a narrow end-user exemption, this bill empowers regulators to take action against manipulation. Also, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission will have a broad authority to write and enforce rules to prevent abuse and to go after anyone that attempts to circumvent regulation.

America's consumers and businesses deserve strong derivatives reform that will ensure that the country's financial oversight system promotes and fosters the most honest, open and reliable financial markets in the world.

Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Chairman for this opportunity to clarify some of the provisions in this bill. I appreciate the Senator's help to ensure that this bill recognizes that manufacturers and commercial entities were victims of this financial crisis, not the cause, and that it does not unfairly penalize them for using these products as part of a risk-mitigation strategy.

It is time we shine a light on derivatives trading and bring transparency and fairness to this market, not just for the families and businesses that were taken advantage of but also for the long-term health of our economy and particularly our manufacturers.


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