WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Friday that the administration would propose broad parameters for standardizing derivatives contracts that are traded over the counter, a move that could bring a large portion of them onto central clearing platforms and regulated exchanges.
At a joint hearing of the House Financial Services and Agriculture committees, Geithner said the definition of standardization would be "capable of evolving with the markets" and "difficult to evade."
"Attributes of a standardized contract will include a high volume of transactions in the contract and the absence of economically important differences between the terms of the contract and the terms of other contracts that are centrally cleared," he said.
Members of both committees pressed Geithner for details, but he said they had not yet been settled.
Lawmakers remain concerned about the division of jurisdiction over different kinds of derivatives between the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Geithner said the two agencies had "made a tremendous amount of progress on many things" but "they're not quite there yet."
Committee members have also met with officials from the two agencies to discuss progress on coordinating their derivatives regulation.
Though Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said he did not expect a jurisdictional fight between the two panels on derivatives regulation, committee members did appear split on how far to carry the changes in oversight.
Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson repeated his goal of forcing all credit derivatives onto exchanges, but Frank said this would be too extreme.
Geithner's position appeared closer to Frank's. He emphasized the need to maintain a space for customized contracts that businesses and banks could use to hedge their exposure to variations in currencies and interest rates.
In his testimony, Geithner proposed requiring higher capital reserves for counterparties trading customized contracts. The rules would, overall, encourage counterparties to move "a substantial portion of OTC derivatives" onto clearing platforms or exchanges, he said.
Geithner also proposed a records system for all derivatives trades that would give regulators "access on a confidential basis to the transactions and open positions of individual market participants."