CFTC 'astounded' as Congress prepares to cut budget

FILE PHOTO - Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Christopher Giancarlo discusses financial regulation in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which has pushed for a budget increase to fund its job of overseeing the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market, said on Thursday it was “absolutely astounded” that the U.S. Congress is preparing to cut its funding.

The CFTC would receive $249 million in a recently released government funding bill that Congress is trying to pass before midnight Friday. That is $1 million less than the CFTC’s current budget, driving the regulator and its chairman, Christopher Giancarlo, to directly criticize Congress.

“We are absolutely astounded by the decrease in the CFTC’s budget,” said Erica Elliott Richardson, the CFTC’s director of public affairs. “Chairman Giancarlo takes this budget decrease incredibly personally, and is currently meeting with our finance team to figure out a path forward for the agency.”

When the funding bill was unveiled late Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee said the funding level would “ensure robust swaps, futures, and options markets while prioritizing resources.”

For years, the CFTC has argued its budget is insufficient, given its expanded responsibilities monitoring derivatives following the passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Its budget has been flat for four years.

The agency actually went so far as to split with the White House in 2017, asking for $31.5 million more in funding than the Trump administration requested.

The CFTC had requested the same amount, $281.5 million, in its most recent budget request in February. The new White House budget proposed levying $31.5 million in fees on derivatives users to grow the agency’s budget.

Giancarlo told lawmakers in March it represented “the level of funding necessary to fulfill our statutory mission.”

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by David Gregorio