Securities Law & Instruments

Headnote

National Policy 11-203 Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions – relief from certain specified derivatives and custodial requirements to permit mutual funds to enter into swap transactions that are cleared through a clearing corporation – relief required because of U.S. requirements to clear over-the-counter derivatives including swaps – decision treats cleared swaps similar to other cleared derivatives – National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds.

Applicable Legislative Provisions

National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds, ss. 2.7(1) and (4), 6.8(1), 19.1.

December 18, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF
THE SECURITIES LEGISLATION OF
ONTARIO
(the Jurisdiction)

AND

IN THE MATTER OF
THE PROCESS FOR EXEMPTIVE RELIEF APPLICATIONS IN MULTIPLE JURISDICTIONS

AND

IN THE MATTER OF
RBC GLOBAL ASSET MANAGEMENT INC.
(the Filer) DECISION

Background

The principal regulator in the Jurisdiction has received an application from the Filer for a decision under the securities legislation of the Jurisdiction of the principal regulator (the Legislation), pursuant to section 19.1 of National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds (NI 81-102), exempting each Existing RBC GAM Fund (as defined below) and all current and future mutual funds, including exchange-traded funds, managed by the Filer that enter into Swaps (as defined below) in the future (each, a Future RBC GAM Fund and, together with the Existing RBC GAM Funds, each, a RBC GAM Fund and, collectively, the RBC GAM Funds):

(i)            from the requirement in subsection 2.7(1) of NI 81-102 that a mutual fund must not purchase an option or a debt-like security or enter into a swap or a forward contract unless, at the time of the transaction, the option, debt-like security, swap or contract has a designated rating or the equivalent debt of the counterparty, or of a person or company that has fully and unconditionally guaranteed the obligations of the counterparty in respect of the option, debt-like security, swap or contract, has a designated rating;

(ii)           from the limitation in subsection 2.7(4) of NI 81-102 that the mark-to-market value of the exposure of a mutual fund under its specified derivatives positions with any one counterparty other than an acceptable clearing corporation or a clearing corporation that clears and settles transactions made on a futures exchange listed in Appendix A to NI 81-102 shall not exceed, for a period of 30 days or more, 10 percent of the net asset value of the mutual fund; and

(iii)          from the requirement in subsection 6.1(1) of NI 81-102 to hold all portfolio assets of a mutual fund under the custodianship of one custodian in order to permit each RBC GAM Fund to deposit cash and other portfolio assets directly with a Futures Commission Merchant (as defined below) and indirectly with a Clearing Corporation (as defined below) as margin,

in each case, with respect to cleared Swaps (the Requested Relief).

Under the Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions (for a passport application):

(a)           the Ontario Securities Commission is the principal regulator for this application; and

(b)           the Filer has provided notice that subsection 4.7(1) of Multilateral Instrument 11-102 Passport System (MI 11-102) is intended to be relied upon in each of the other provinces and territories of Canada (the Other Jurisdictions).

Interpretation

Terms defined in NI 81-102, National Instrument 14-101 Definitions, and MI 11-102 have the same meaning if used in this decision, unless otherwise defined. Capitalized terms used in this decision have the following meanings:

“CFTC” means the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

“Clearing Corporation” means any of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc., ICE Clear Credit LLC and LCH.Clearnet Limited and any other clearing organization that is permitted to operate in the Jurisdiction or the Other Jurisdiction, as the case may be, where the RBC GAM Fund is located

“Dodd-Frank” means the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

“Existing RBC GAM Fund” means each of RBC Bond Fund, RBC Global Bond Fund, RBC Global Corporate Bond Fund, RBC Balanced Fund, RBC Global Balanced Fund, RBC Jantzi Balanced Fund, BlueBay Global Monthly Income Bond Fund, BlueBay Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund and BlueBay Global Convertible Bond Fund (Canada)

“Futures Commission Merchant” means any futures commission merchant that is registered with the CFTC and is a member of a Clearing Corporation

“OTC” means over-the-counter

“Sub-Advisors” means each of the Filer, RBC Global Asset Management (UK) Limited, RBC Investment Management (Asia) Limited, RBC Global Asset Management (US) Inc., BlueBay Asset Management LLP and their affiliates, and each third party portfolio manager retained from time to time by the Filer to manage the investment portfolio of one or more RBC GAM Funds

“Swaps” means the swaps that are, or will become, subject to a clearing determination issued by the CFTC, including fixed-to-floating interest rate swaps, basis swaps, forward rate agreements in U.S. dollars, the Euro, Pounds Sterling or the Japanese Yen, overnight index swaps in U.S. dollars, the Euro and Pounds Sterling and untranched credit default swaps on certain North American indices (CDX.NA.IG and CDX.NA.HY) and European indices (iTraxx Europe, iTraxx Europe Crossover and iTraxx Europe HiVol) at various tenors

“U.S. Person” has the meaning attributed thereto by the CFTC

Representations

This decision is based on the following facts represented by the Filer:

1.             The Filer is, or will be, the investment fund manager of each RBC GAM Fund. The Filer is registered as an adviser in the category of portfolio manager and as a dealer in the category of exempt market dealer under the securities legislation of each of the Jurisdictions, is registered as an investment fund manager in each of British Columbia, Ontario, Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador and is also registered in Ontario as a commodity trading manager. The head office of the Filer is in Toronto, Ontario.

2.             The Filer is, or will be, the portfolio manager to the RBC GAM Funds. One of the Sub-Advisors is, or will be, the sub-advisor to the RBC GAM Funds.

3.             Each RBC GAM Fund is, or will be, a mutual fund created under the laws of the Province of Ontario and is, or will be, subject to the provisions of NI 81-102.

4.             Neither the Filer nor the RBC GAM Funds are, or will be, in default of securities legislation in the Jurisdiction or any Other Jurisdiction.

5.             The securities of each RBC GAM Fund are, or will be, qualified for distribution pursuant to a prospectus that was, or will be, prepared and filed in accordance with the securities legislation of the Jurisdiction and the Other Jurisdictions. Accordingly, each RBC GAM Fund is, or will be, a reporting issuer or the equivalent in the Jurisdiction and each Other Jurisdiction.

6.             The investment objective and investment strategies of each RBC GAM Fund permit, or will permit, the RBC GAM Fund to enter into derivative transactions, including Swaps. Each Sub-Advisor of the Existing RBC GAM Funds considers Swaps to be an important investment tool that is available to it to properly manage each Existing RBC GAM Fund’s portfolio. Each Existing RBC GAM Fund currently uses or intends to use interest rate swaps and/or credit default swaps in its portfolio.

7.             Dodd-Frank requires that certain OTC derivatives be cleared through a Futures Commission Merchant at a clearing organization recognized by the CFTC. Generally, where one party to a Swap is a U.S. Person, that Swap must be cleared, absent an available exception.

8.             Currently, the Existing RBC GAM Funds enter into Swaps on an OTC basis with a number of Canadian, U.S. and other international counterparties, which are entered into in compliance with the derivative provisions included in NI 81-102.

9.             In order to benefit from both the pricing benefits and the reduced trading costs that can be achieved through common trade execution practices for all managed investment funds and other accounts and from the reduced costs associated with cleared OTC derivatives as compared to other OTC trades, the Filer wishes to have the RBC GAM Funds enter into cleared Swaps.

10.          In the absence of the Requested Relief, each Sub-Advisor will need to structure the Swaps entered into by the applicable RBC GAM Funds so as to avoid the clearing requirements of the CFTC. The Filer respectfully submits that this would not be in the best interests of the RBC GAM Funds and their investors for a number of reasons, as set out below.

11.          The Filer strongly believes that it is in the best interests of the RBC GAM Funds and their investors to be able to execute OTC derivatives with U.S. Persons, including U.S. swap dealers.

12.          In its role as a fiduciary for the RBC GAM Funds, the Filer has determined that central clearing represents the best choice for the investors in the RBC GAM Funds to mitigate the legal, operational and back office risks faced by investors in the global swap markets.

13.          A Sub-Advisor may use common trade execution practices for all of its accounts, including the RBC GAM Funds. If these practices involve the use of cleared Swaps and if the RBC GAM Funds are unable to employ these trade execution practices, then the Sub-Advisor would have to create separate trade execution practices only for the RBC GAM Funds and would have to execute trade for the RBC GAM Funds on a separate basis. This would increase the operational risk for the RBC GAM Funds and would prevent the RBC GAM Funds from benefitting from the pricing benefits and reduced trading costs that a Sub-Advisor may be able to achieve through common practices for its advised accounts. In the Filer’s opinion, best execution and maximum certainty can best be achieved through common trade execution practices, which, in the case of OTC derivatives, involves the execution of cleared Swaps.

14.          As a member of the G20 and a participant in the September 2009 commitment of G20 nations to improve transparency and mitigate risk in derivatives markets, Canada has expressly recognized the systemic benefits that clearing OTC derivatives offers to market participants, such as the RBC GAM Funds. The Filer respectfully submits that the RBC GAM Funds should be encouraged to comply with the robust clearing requirements established by the CFTC by granting them the Requested Relief.

15.          The Requested Relief is analogous to the treatment currently afforded under NI 81-102 to other types of derivatives that are cleared, such as clearing corporation options, options on futures and standardized futures. This demonstrates that, from a policy perspective, the Requested Relief is consistent with the views of the Canadian securities authorities in respect of cleared derivative trades.

16.          For the reasons provided above, the Filer submits that it would not be prejudicial to the public interest to grant the Requested Relief.


Decision

The principal regulator is satisfied that the decision meets the test set out in the Legislation for the principal regulator to make the decision.

The decision of the principal regulator under the Legislation is that the Requested Relief is granted provided that, in respect of the deposit of cash and portfolio assets as margin:

(a)           in Canada,

(i)            the Futures Commission Merchant is a member of a SRO that is a participating member of CIPF; and

(ii)           the amount of margin deposited and maintained with the Futures Commission Merchant does not, when aggregated with the amount of margin already held by the Futures Commission Merchant, exceed 10 percent of the net asset value of the RBC GAM Fund as at the time of deposit; and

(b)           outside of Canada,

(i)            the Futures Commission Merchant is a member of a Clearing Corporation and, as a result, is subject to a regulatory audit;

(ii)           the Futures Commission Merchant has a net worth, determined from its most recent audited financial statements that have been made public or from other publicly available financial information, in excess of the equivalent of $50 million; and

(iii)          the amount of margin deposited and maintained with the Futures Commission Merchant does not, when aggregated with the amount of margin already held by the Futures Commission Merchant, exceed 10 percent of the net asset value of the RBC GAM Fund as at the time of deposit.

This decision will terminate on the earlier of (i) the coming into force of any revisions to the provisions of NI 81-102 that address the clearing of OTC derivatives, and (ii) two years from the date of this decision.

“Vera Nunes”
Manager, Investment Funds and Structured Products Branch
Ontario Securities Commission