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CME Exploring Use of Clearinghouses to Hold Client Funds

By Jacob Bunge CME Group Inc. (CME) is looking into using its clearinghouse as a depository for the money that ranchers, power companies and asset managers use to trade futures markets, according to a letter sent Monday by the company to its customers. The move could further strengthen protections for customer money after the high-profile flame-outs of two major brokerage firms in less than a year, CME executives wrote in the letter. Utilizing clearinghouses as a sanctuary for more customer money follows a raft of revamps already planned by the futures industry. CME Group outlined the potential for further moves after the July 10 bankruptcy filing of Peregrine Financial Group Inc., or PFG, preceded by the attempted suicide of Chief Executive Russell Wasendorf Sr. and regulators' allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars in customer money appeared to have gone missing from the firm. Clearinghouses such as the one operated by CME retain customer money currently in use to back up outstanding trades on derivatives markets. Expanding the function could see such clearinghouses also become the depository for excess client money, which typically parked with brokerages in the event that clients need to meet a margin call, or wish to put on additional trades. CME said in the letter that it also plans to ramp up surprise inspections of futures brokers that operate under the futures exchange company's oversight, alongside requiring daily reporting of customer account balances and electronic confirmation of such figures. Write to Jacob Bunge at jacob.bunge@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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