EU gives banks, pension funds more breathing space over derivatives

LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The European Commission will give banks in the EU another six-month exemption until December from having to hold extra capital to cover transactions at clearing houses that don't meet the bloc's standards.

"The decision will give the market the legal certainty it needs for the next six months," EU financial services commissioner, Jonathan Hill, said in a statement on Thursday. "Meanwhile we are continuing to work hard on solving the underlying issues."

Hill had little choice as talks with the United States on accepting each other's rules on clearing financial derivatives have failed to find enough common ground.

As the rules are currently written, a bank would have to hold more capital in some cases to cover exposure to a European clearing house than to an American one.

American regulators say their overall framework is superior and have shown no sign of backing down.

"The extension of the deadline is not surprising but the fact that there is a need for it is disappointing and points to a bigger problem: the lack of a workable mechanism to deal with the conflicting and duplicative financial services regulation that cross-border actors are increasingly facing," said Alexandria Carr, a regulatory lawyer at Mayer Brown.

The Group of 20 economies (G20) called for new rules to make derivatives markets safer after their opacity hindered regulatory responses during the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Clearing houses stand between two sides of a trade, making the transaction transparent. They are set to grow substantially as rules require more trades to be centrally cleared.

Hill also said the European Commission will on Friday give pension funds more time until an obligation to centrally clear their off-exchange or over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives contracts, kicks in.

"I hope that the pension fund industry will be pleased with the decision that the commission will adopt tomorrow, to continue to exempt pension funds from the clearing obligations for another two years," he said in a speech in Amsterdam.

This would provide a greater degree of certainty, which the industry was understandably asking for, Hill added.