Brooksley Born, chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairwoman, promised Friday to put off regulation of swaps until January, but other financial regulators insisted on a longer delay.
Officials from the Federal Reserve Board, Treasury Department, and Securities Exchange Commission urged the House Banking Committee to prevent the Futures Commission from creating rules on swaps until at least October 1999. They said more time is needed to debate whether new rules are necessary.
Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke Jr. warned that derivatives trading will move to foreign markets if the Futures Commission moves forward with plans to regulate over-the-counter swaps. "Some derivatives business is already beginning to be shifted abroad because of the legal uncertainty in the U.S.," he said.
Driving derivatives transactions overseas will make the U.S. banking system risker, added Michael L. Brosnan, deputy comptroller of the currency for risk evaluation. "It might well have the effect of ... diminishing the competitiveness of U.S. banks while lessening the influence of U.S. regulatory supervision," he said.
But Ms. Born said the warnings are overblown. "Our economists have not seen any ascertainable evidence of business moving offshore," she said.
Ms. Born promised not to propose new regulations on swaps until Congress reconvenes next year. She stood firm on her argument that the agency has authority to regulate swaps.
"It is clear that the commission's jurisdiction extends to off-exchange futures," she wrote in a letter Friday to House Agriculture Chairman Robert Smith. "A transaction does not escape status as a futures contract because it is an over-the-counter derivative or is denominated as a swap."
The Futures Commission sparked this controversy in May by asking for industry comment on a series of questions that indicated the agency might try to regulate swaps. House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach introduced legislation in June that would bar the commission from creating rules on swaps until fiscal year 2000.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the issues July 30 with many of the same witnesses.