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COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION ET AL. v. BRITISH AMERICAN COMMODITY OPTIONS CORP. ET AL.

August 8, 1977

COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION ET AL
v.
BRITISH AMERICAN COMMODITY OPTIONS CORP. ET AL.



ON APPLICATION TO VACATE STAYS

Author: Marshall

[ 434 U.S. Page 1316]

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, Circuit Justice.

The Solicitor General, on behalf of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and its members, has applied to me as Circuit Justice to vacate stays of mandate entered by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit pending applications for certiorari by the respondents herein. The stays have the consequence, for their limited duration, of preventing a Commission regulation that has yet to be enforced, Rule 32.6, 17 CFR § 32.6 (1977), from going into effect. The regulation, promulgated under the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Act of 1974 (CFTA), 88 Stat. 1389, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1-22 (1970 ed. and Supp. V), would require commodity options dealers to segregate in special bank accounts 90% of the payments made by each of their customers until such time as the customer's rights under his options are exercised or expire. Having examined the written submissions of the Solicitor General and the responses thereto, I have concluded that this case does not present the exceptional circumstances required to justify vacation of the stays.

[ 434 U.S. Page 1317]

     I

 Prior to the enactment of CFTA, trading in options on certain agricultural commodities was prohibited under § 4c of the Commodity Exchange Act, 49 Stat. 1494, 7 U.S.C. § 6c, but options transactions in other commodities were wholly unregulated. Unsound and fraudulent business practices developed with respect to the unregulated options, and at least one major dealer went bankrupt, causing substantial losses to investors. In order to prevent such abuses in the future, CFTA created the Commission as an independent regulatory body and gave it the power to prohibit or regulate options transactions in the previously unregulated commodities. See 7 U.S.C. § 6c (a) (1970 ed., Supp. V).

Pursuant to this authority, the Commission immediately adopted an antifraud rule, and on November 24, 1976, after informal rulemaking proceedings, the Commission promulgated a comprehensive set of regulations that included the segregation requirement at issue in this application. The latter set of regulations also included provisions requiring options dealers (1) to be registered with the Commission; (2) to maintain certain minimum amounts of working capital; and (3) to provide customers with disclosure statements setting forth information about commissions and fees and explaining the circumstances under which customers would be able to make a profit. The segregation requirement was to go into effect on December 27, 1976; the other regulations were to take effect variously on December 9, 1976, and January 17, 1977.

Respondents, the National Association of Commodity Options Dealers (NASCOD) and a number of its members, brought suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking pre-enforcement review of the November 24 regulations. The Commission defended the segregation requirement as a reasonable means of protecting investors in the event that a dealer holding

[ 434 U.S. Page 1318]

     options on their behalf becomes insolvent or otherwise unable to execute the options; presumably, the investors could at least recoup most of their initial outlay from the segregated fund. But respondents argued that the rule would drive them out of business;*fn* was unnecessary in light of other existing safeguards; and might not even be effective in facilitating return of customers' investments should a dealer go bankrupt.

The District Court concluded that the segregation rule threatened respondents with irreparable harm and that respondents had a reasonable likelihood of success in having it overturned as arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, on December 21, 1976, six days before the rule was to go into effect, the District Court preliminarily enjoined its enforcement. At the same time it granted summary judgment in favor of the Commission as to the remainder of respondents' claims, and the other regulations went into effect as scheduled.

On cross-appeals, the Court of Appeals reversed the order insofar as it granted a preliminary injunction, holding "that the Commission's decision to impose a segregation requirement was a reasonable exercise of its discretion in an effort to protect the public," and affirmed the District Court in all other respects. British ...


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