Brokerage Chief: Bitcoin Futures Must Be Quarantined

NEWS
Stan Higgins
Nov 15, 2017 at 20:45 UTC

A well-known electronic brokerage firm is issuing dire warnings against the CME Group's plan to launch a bitcoin futures contract next month.

But Interactive Brokers, in a comment letter dated Nov. 14, suggested a way to mitigate the risk it sees from such activity: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), under the auspices of J. Christopher Giancarlo, should sequester systems that handle cryptocurrency derivatives.

"This letter is to request that the Commission require that any clearing organization that wishes to clear any cryptocurrency or derivative of a cryptocurrency do so in a separate clearing system isolated from other products," wrote Thomas Peterffy, chairman of Interactive Brokers.

The open letter, published on the firm's website  (and reportedly included in a full-page ad in today's Wall Street Journal), comes on the heels of CME's announcement that it would look to offer cryptocurrency-tied derivatives products. Earlier this week, CME CEO and chairman Terry Duffy indicated that the first product could go live as early as the second week of December.

Yet that outcome would pose a significant danger, Peterffy argued, suggesting that a hypothetical plunge in the price of a particular cryptocurrency could send CME reeling financially.

He went on to write:

"If the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or any other clearing organization clears a cryptocurrency together with other products, then a large cryptocurrency price move that destabilizes members that clear cryptocurrencies will destabilize the clearing organization itself and its ability to satisfy its fundamental obligation to pay the winners and collect from the losers on the other products in the same clearing pool."

Doubling down on the argument, Peterffy went on to write that "a catastrophe in the cryptocurrency market that destabilizes a clearing organization will destabilize the real economy."

"The only way to protect clearing organizations and their members (and the financial system as a whole) from the unique risks inherent in clearing cryptocurrencies is to require that they be cleared in a separate clearing system, isolated from other products," he concluded.

Disclosure: CME Group is an investor in Digital Currency Group, CoinDesk's parent company. 

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DerivativesFuturesCMEInteractive Brokers