FINRA Proposes New Liquidity Reporting Requirements

FINRA requested comments on proposed amendments to FINRA Rule 4521 (Notifications, Questionnaires and Reports). The amendments are intended to “improve FINRA’s ability to monitor for events that signal an adverse change in the liquidity risk of the firms that would be subject to these new requirements.” The proposed amendments would require certain broker-dealers to notify FINRA within 48 hours of the occurrence of a material negative event with respect to the firm’s access to liquidity.

The amendments also include a new Supplemental Liquidity Schedule (“SLS”) that these broker-dealers would be required to file along with their FOCUS reports. Specifically, these firms would be required to report “information related to specified financing transactions and other sources or uses of liquidity” including the financing term, collateral types, and large counterparties.

The amendments would apply to carrying or clearing firms that have more than $25 million in total credits and firms with at least $1 billion aggregate amounts outstanding under repurchase agreements, securities loan contracts and bank loans. According to FINRA, approximately 110 firms would be subject to the new requirements, about half of which would be subsidiaries of bank holding companies.

Among the events that would trigger the requirement to notify FINRA of adverse liquidity events are the early termination by a counterparty of its financing agreement with a broker-dealer, a counterparty indicating that it will no longer provide financing to the broker-dealer, and a significant increase in the level of collateral required by a material counterparty.

Comments on the proposed amendments must be submitted by March 8, 2018.

Lofchie Comment: This rule will be adopted, in one form or another. Accordingly, firms planning to comment should focus on the specifics of the proposal’s requirements – most significantly, the information that they would be required to monitor. Firms should also consider whether the triggers for notification to the regulators have been set at an appropriate level.

Here are a few questions to consider: will the imposition of reporting requirements as to liquidity eventually result in the adoption by FINRA of substantive liquidity requirements? Once an information requirement is adopted, will the SEC and FINRA be satisfied with firms using their own judgment as to an acceptable level of liquidity?

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