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Another Bailout: FXCM To Forgive 90% Of Its Mostly Foreign "Negative Balance" Customers

Two weeks after FXCM was on death's door, and only a last minute vulture investment by Jefferies prevented the company from filing, FXCM has decided that it can't afford to blow up the bulk of its clients who traded the EURCHF on the wrong side, and as the company reported moments ago, will forgive their negative balances. In other words, another bailout for HFTs, and the rich and those habitually addicted to gambling in rigged markets, who just happen to be the lifeblood of companies like FXCM.

From the press release:

FXCM to Forgive Majority of Clients Who Incurred Negative Balances

 

FXCM Inc.announced today its decision to forgive approximately 90% of its clients who incurred negative balances in certain jurisdictions, on January 15, 2014 as a result of the Swiss National Bank announcement on that date. FXCM will notify the applicable clients and adjust applicable client account statements in the next 24-48 hours.

 

"FXCM worked diligently to reach this decision and we are extremely appreciative of our clients for their patience and loyalty as we worked through this," said Drew Niv, CEO of FXCM.

 

The SNB announcement, extreme price movements and the resulting lack of liquidity were exceptional and unprecedented events causing many market participants to incur trading losses. These events were unforeseen and beyond the control of FXCM.

 

FXCM will also notify certain clients (such as institutional, high net worth, and experienced traders who generally maintain higher account balances) requesting payment of negative balances, pursuant to the terms of the FXCM master trading agreements.  This group represents approximately 10% of clients who incurred negative balances  which comprises over 60% of the total debit balances owed.

Because without whale clients, no exchange can continue to skim off the bid/ask margin while suckering in more "overnight wannabe millionaires" with 200x leverage.

So who are the generous beneficiaries of this Jefferies-funded bailout? For the answer we go to the WSJ:

Retail foreign-exchange broker FXCM Inc. was nearly felled by outsize bets made by foreign customers who aren’t subject to U.S. regulations, according to people familiar with regulators’ review of the firm.

 

While some U.S. clients lost money when the Swiss National Bank scrapped a cap on the country’s currency, the bulk of the losses were borne by clients at FXCM’s affiliates in London, Singapore and other locations abroad, the regulators said. Those affiliates weren’t subject to leverage caps imposed by U.S. regulators, allowing overseas clients to make bigger bets—and take bigger losses.

 

As a result, FXCM said its customers owed the firm about $225 million, potentially putting the company in violation of capital requirements and forcing it to take a $300 million rescue from investment firm Leucadia National Corp.

 

The fallout illustrates both how a firm’s losses abroad can find their way to U.S. shores and that even relatively strict U.S. regulation can’t prevent losses in less-regulated jurisdictions. While regulators don’t believe the firm’s near-collapse posed any broader risks to the financial system, the incident is prompting them to consider whether their capital and leverage requirements are adequate for firms like FXCM, the people familiar with the review said.

 

In the U.S., the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association, a self-regulator, currently limit leverage on transactions for retail, or individual, currency investors at 50 to 1. That means an investor can borrow $50 for every dollar put in. This is because currency moves are typically small. Many overseas jurisdictions have much looser limits, particularly in Europe.

It may not be Mrs. Watanabe exactly: meet Monsier Trepreau:

Maxime Trepreau, a 33-year-old engineer from Houilles, France, placed a bet on the euro to rise against the Swiss franc several months ago, after seeing the position recommended by an analyst on Daily FX, an FXCM-owned website. On the morning of Jan. 15, Mr. Trepreau saw the value of his account rapidly declining, despite an automated order he had to exit from the position and keep losses to a minimum if the trade went the wrong way. Currency traders say liquidity evaporated as the euro made a sudden fall, which would make it difficult to execute preset orders.

 

By the time his order was executed, Mr. Trepreau’s loss of €50,000 (more than $56,000 at today’s rate) had eaten up all of the funds in his FXCM account and left him with a negative balance of €2,000.

 

Mr. Trepreau says FXCM hasn’t told him whether he is on the hook for that amount. Mr. Trepreau believes he shouldn’t be.

And just like Apple, the bulk of marginal growth when it comes to FX gambling is now in Asia:

In 2014, 41.5% of FXCM’s business by volume came from Asia; followed by 35.9% from Europe, the Middle East and Africa; 13% from the U.S.; and 9.6% from the rest of the world, according to its website.

In shart, thank you Dick Handler: Mrs. Watanabe, and Mr. Trepreau, are most grateful.