News & Opinion

Conversation with Justin Schack, Partner and Head of Market Structure, Rosenblatt Securities

Rosenblatt is a boutique securities firm based in New York whose core business is institutional brokerage in US equities. Its roots are on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where it pioneered in offering asset managers direct access to NYSE trading during the 1980s. Today, it is the biggest broker on the NYSE floor, offering clients services unique to floor brokers, such as greater flexibility when participating in the closing auction. Rosenblatt also serves the buy side through its upstairs desk, which specialises in portfolio trades for quantitative asset managers as well as single-stock execution.

In April, the global banking and capital markets authorities together announced a mid-course correction to their work transforming central counterparty clearing of OTC derivatives contracts. In their search in 2009 for the answer to the ‘OTC counterparty risk problem’ that had so brutally hit the world’s financial system and economy, the authorities grasped at a notion then circulating in central banking circles: if clearing houses had proven themselves able to manage the risk of on-exchange transactions during the market turmoil of 2008 and the failure of Lehman Brothers, then they ought to be called upon to do the same for the off-exchange business that had gone off the rails.

Thomas Murray has always understood and supported the value of bespoke OTC derivatives contracts, which meet highly specific economic needs not found in the regulated marketplaces. What cannot be overlooked, however, is that OTC derivatives contributed significantly to the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009. One factor behind this contribution was the poor information on bilateral positions. Contracts had not been confirmed with counterparties, different terms were noted on contract notes, and on and on the information gaps went: there was no overall picture in the autumn of 2008 as to who owed what to whom, and what a given counterparty’s positions and ability to meet its commitments were, not to mention the sudden realisation that nobody knew the true value of the contacts. And so the OTC markets largely froze.

The data IOSCO gathered from its members last year made it clear that individual investors continue to be serious buyers of complex, leveraged OTC products. If there were not a genuine world-wide investor protection problem, IOSCO would hardly have bothered to write extensively on the state and extent of the question, prepared suggestions for national capital markets regulators, and submitted those to public review before endorsing final recommendations.

A core function of Thomas Murray is to provide independent, detailed third-party monitoring of post-trade service providers in the world’s capital markets. It has done so for over two decades, and has established a considerable database across 100+ marketplaces, expertise, and a reputation for rigour.


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