CFTC – (PDF file):
CFTC’-s Concept Release on the Appropriate Regulatory Treatment of Event Contracts
II. Commodity Options and Futures and the Attributes of Event Contracts
The Commission, with some exceptions, has exclusive jurisdiction over two relevant types of derivative instruments —-commodity options and commodity futures contracts.
Section 4c(b) of the Act gives the Commission plenary jurisdiction over commodity options, and provides that “-[n]o person shall * * * enter into * * * any transaction involving any commodity regulated under this Act which is of the character of, or is commonly known to the trade as, an option * * * contrary to any rule, regulation or order of the Commission[.]”-
Section 2(a)(1)(A) of the Act provides that the Commission shall have exclusive jurisdiction with respect to accounts, agreements, and transactions (including options) involving contracts of sale of a commodity for future delivery.
Event contracts, depending on their underlying interests, can be designed to exhibit the attributes of either options or futures contracts.
A significant number of event contracts are structured as all-or-nothing binary transactions commonly described as binary options. 8 Binary event contracts typically pay out a fixed amount when an outcome either occurs or does not occur. The trading of such contracts can facilitate the discovery of information by assigning probabilities, through market-derived prices, to discrete eventualities. For example, a binary contract based on whether a particular person will run for the presidency in 2012, can pay a fixed $100 to its buyer if and only if that individual runs for the presidency in 2012. If the contract’-s traders believe that the likelihood of the individual’-s candidacy in 2012 is around 17 percent, the price of the contract will be around $17, and will approximate the market’-s consensus expectation of the individual’-s candidacy.
8 See, e.g., Intrade Prediction Markets, Current Events Contracts
In addition to binary event transactions, the term event contract has also been used to identify transactions, based on interests other than market prices, which resemble futures contracts. For instance, these types of event contracts can price consensus estimates of moving values, such as the number of hours the average U.S. resident spends in traffic or the share of votes that a particular candidate for political office may receive. Unlike binary transactions, and similar to any commodity futures contract, this type of contract creates continuous and ongoing obligations that are linked to moving measures or levels, as opposed to being dependent on the outcome of a single discrete occurrence.
III. The Commission’-s Regulatory Purview
For the purpose of discussion and analysis, the types of event contracts that Commission staff has reviewed can be categorized, albeit imperfectly, as contracts that are based on narrow commercial measures and events, contracts based on certain environmental measures and events, and contracts based upon general measures and events.
Narrow commercial measures quantify and reflect the rate, value, or level of particularized commercial activity, such as a specific farmer’-s crop yield.
Narrow commercial events, on the other hand, are events that might, in and of themselves, have commercial implications, such as changes in corporate officers or corporate asset purchases.
Environmental measures can be characterized as quantifications of weather phenomena, such as the volatility of precipitation or temperature levels, that do not predictably correlate to commodity market prices or other measures of broad economic or commercial activity.
By comparison, environmental events can include the formation of a specific type of storm, within an identifiable geographic region, the likelihood of which will not predictably correlate to commodity market prices or measures of broad economic or commercial activity.
General measures can be described as measures that are not commercial or environmental measures. As such, general measures do not quantify the rate, value, or level of any commercial or environmental activity and can, for example, include the number of hours that U.S. residents spend in traffic annually or the vote-share of a particular presidential candidate.
Similarly, general events, such as whether a Constitutional amendment will be adopted or whether two celebrities will decide to marry, can be described as events that do not reflect the occurrence of any commercial or environmental event. The category of general measures and events can be further divided into a multitude of subcategories, such as political or entertainment measures or events.
Since 1992, Commission-regulated exchanges have listed for trading a variety of commodity futures and options contracts with payout terms based on interests other than price-based interests. These contracts involve interests as diverse as regional insured property losses, the count of bankruptcies, temperature volatilities, corporate mergers, and corporate credit events. 12
While not strictly price-based, the interests underlying these contracts have been viewed by Commission staff as having generally-accepted and predictable financial, commercial or economic consequences.
In other words, unlike the interests that event contracts cover, these underlying interests have been viewed as measures and occurrences that reasonably could be expected to correlate to market prices or other broad-based commercial or economic measures or activities.
12 For example, the Chicago Board of Trade’-s catastrophe single event insurance option contracts (which are no longer listed) paid out a fixed amount if and only if insured property damage exceeded $10 billion for a specific region during a specified interval of time.