The United States and Britain on Thursday proposed a global summit of futures market regulators to devise better customer protections in the aftermath of the collapse of the Barings investment bank.
"The Barings failure gives us a unique opportunity to ensure that our house is in order and to work with our colleagues around the world to achieve the best possible regulatory standards for our markets," Mary Schapiro, chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said in a speech at the Futures Industry Assn.'s annual meeting.
Britain's oldest investment bank collapsed last month amid massive losses on Asian futures markets that the company blamed on trader Nicholas Leeson, now jailed in Germany.
Barings' sudden demise jolted global markets and focused attention on whether regulators have sufficient policing and coordination abilities.
Schapiro said she hopes regulators of the world's 10 largest futures markets can meet by mid-May. She did not list all the countries but said the group would include the United States, Britain, Japan and Singapore, where Leeson worked. Futures are also traded in most European nations, Canada, Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa.
Her British counterpart, Andrew Winckler, executive director of the Securities and Investments Board of Britain, said a global approach to regulation is needed to keep up with the increasingly easy electronic flow of money across borders. But, he cautioned, "you cannot change a set of national laws overnight."
Schapiro said a summit would attempt to enhance communication among regulators and markets during financial crises, foster protection of customer funds and promote national bankruptcy laws that shield customers from paying debts of insolvent firms.
"Firms will get in trouble," she said, "but how do we handle that to minimize the impact on customers and other markets?"
She said U.S. customer funds at risk from the Barings failure totaled $350 million before the CFTC persuaded Barings and Asian exchanges to release the money.
Schapiro said she hoped other regulators would follow the CFTC's lead in requiring brokerage firms to report large trading positions that could destabilize markets.
Sharing of such information would allow regulators to track trades on exchanges with international linkages. Such linkages, also known as mutual-offset agreements, allow traders to buy futures contracts on one exchange and sell them on another.