Written by Jay Gould, Michael Wu and Peter Chess

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) recently amended its registration rules regarding Commodity Pool Operators (“CPOs”) and Commodity Trading Advisors (“CTAs”), which will require many general partners and managers of private investment funds that previously relied on an exemption from registration to now register with the CFTC.  After a public comment period in which the industry overwhelmingly supported the continuation of these exemptions, the CFTC decided to rescind the CPO exemption under CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(4) and amend the CPO exemption under CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3).  Rule 4.13(a)(4) previously exempted private pools from registering as a CPO with the CFTC for funds offered only to institutional qualified eligible purchasers (“QEPs”) and natural persons who meet QEP requirements that hold more than a de minimis amount of commodity interests.

The CFTC’s amendment did not change the application of CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3) to a fund of a hedge fund (“Fund of Funds”).  However, due to the repeal of these exemptions, many of the general partners or managers of a Fund of Funds’ underlying funds may be required to register as CPOs, thereby requiring registration of the Fund of Funds manager.  The CFTC has provided guidance with respect to when a Fund of Funds manager may continue to rely upon an exemption from registration as a CPO.  We have summarized these circumstances below:     

  • If a fund (i) allocates a Fund of Fund’s assets to one or more underlying funds, which do not satisfy the trading limits of CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3)[1] (“Trading Limits”) and each of which is operated by a registered CPO, and (ii) does not allocate the Fund of Fund’s assets directly to commodity interest trading, that fund may only rely on Section 4.13(a)(3) if the Fund of Funds itself satisfies the Trading Limits.
  • If a fund (i) allocates a Fund of Fund’s assets to one or more underlying funds, each having a CPO who is either (a) exempt under CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3) or (b) a registered CPO that complies with the Trading Limits, and (ii) does not allocate the Fund of Fund’s assets directly to commodity interest trading, that fund may rely on Section 4.13(a)(3).
  • If a fund (i) allocates a Fund of Fund’s assets to one or more underlying funds, each of which satisfies the Trading Limits, and (ii) does not allocate the Fund of Fund’s assets directly to commodity interest trading, that fund may multiply the percentage restriction applicable to each underlying fund by the percentage of the Fund of Fund’s allocation of assets to such underlying fund, to determine whether that fund may rely on Section 4.13(a)(3).
  • If a fund (i) allocates the Fund of Fund’s assets to one or more underlying funds, and it has actual knowledge of the Trading Limits of the underlying funds (e.g., where the underlying funds or their CPOs are affiliated with a fund), and (ii) does not allocate the Fund of Fund’s assets directly to commodity interest trading, that fund may aggregate the commodity interest positions across the underlying funds to determine compliance with the Trading Limits and whether or not that fund may rely on CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3). 
  • If a fund (i) allocates no more than 50% of the Fund of Fund’s assets to underlying funds that trade commodity interests (regardless of the level of trading engaged by such underlying funds), and (ii) does not allocate the Fund of Fund’s assets directly to commodity interest trading, that fund may rely on CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3).

The CFTC amended Section 4.13(a)(3) to address how to calculate the notional value of swaps and how to net swaps.  In addition, the CFTC will now require a CPO relying on Section 4.13(a)(3) to submit an annual notice to the National Futures Association affirming its ability to continue relying on the exemption.  If a CPO cannot affirm its ability to do so, the CPO will be required to withdraw the exemption and, if necessary, apply for registration as such.

For additional information on whether these rule amendments will require you to register as a CPO or CTA, or whether the CFTC guidance or another exemption might provide a further exemption from registration, please contact your Pillsbury Investment Funds Attorney.


[1]   CFTC Rule 4.13(a)(3) requires that at all times either: (a) the aggregate initial margin and premiums required to establish commodity interest positions does not exceed five percent of the liquidation value of the Fund’s investment portfolio; or (b) the aggregate net notional value of the Fund’s commodity interest positions does not exceed one-hundred percent of the liquidation value of the Fund’s investment portfolio.