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Why do we need a List of Brokers for US Traders?
The United States hosts a few of the largest financial centers and in the world and the U.S. Dollar is the De Facto foreign exchange reserve currency. Despite the importance of U.S. Dollar and hosting global financial hubs like Wall Street, there are very few foreign exchange brokers operating in this land of opportunities.
In fact, our research suggests that only three reputed foreign exchange brokers are based in the United States and operating to serve U.S. Citizens who are interested in investing in the global currency market. Besides, Oanda, Gain Capital, and TD Ameritrade there are virtually no other options for U.S. Forex traders.
Even if you decide to go with one of these three reputed brokers, you will soon find that according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules, you need to maintain an overnight balance of $25,000 for day trading. On top of that, you will not be able to hedge your positions as brokers need to strictly maintain First-In-First-Out rules, and get only 50:1 leverage when trading Major currency pairs and a mere 20:1 leverage when you would like to explore trading opportunities with Minor currency pairs!
Moreover, when U.S. residents want to open Forex brokerage accounts with brokers located abroad, they find it rather difficult to find a suitable one as there are not many companies who are willing to take on U.S. based Forex traders - owing to the existing overregulation that hinders companies from providing service to the residents of the United States.
Why Financial Regulation in the United States is So Stringent
After the sub-prime crisis and subsequent market crash that prompted the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, lawmakers in the United States introduced strict regulatory measures to limit the operational scope of financial institutions. One of the key regulatory measures was the enaction of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 21, 2010.
This piece of Federal legislation introduced a series of restrictions on low net worth investors and outsourced the enforcement of the said law on financial institutions operating in the United States.
The first major hindrance created by the Dodd-Frank act is the requirement of a $20 million bond to operate as a Forex broker. Not all brokers are financially equipped to deal with this requirement. Furthermore, by law, Forex brokers operating under the regulatory environment in the United States are only allowed to offer 50:1 leverage on Major currency pairs such as EUR/USD, GBP/USD, USD/CHF, USD/JPY, etc. On the other hand, if you want to trade minor or exotic currency pairs like the EUR/BRL, U.S. based brokers cannot offer you more than 20:1 leverage.
The problem is, by offering higher leverage, brokers can help clients trade large volumes. The fees and spreads charged by a Forex broker are directly linked to how large the trading volume is.
Hence, with the requirement of a $20 million bond and leverage capped at 50:1, Forex brokers face a double-edged problem. On one hand, their cost of capital goes up and on the other hand, their profit potential is limited by leverage caps and so, from a business perspective, it makes very little sense to operate as a Forex broker under the NFA regulations.
Also, with the introduction of the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) Rule, all client transactions need to be conducted based on when the order was placed. Effectively, this FIFO rule means that Forex traders cannot hedge their positions as any counter order will trigger the sale of previous exposures. Without the ability to hedge, Forex traders lose an important risk management tool.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC) introduced some rules to protect the so-called retail investors who have a net worth south of $10 million. And, these rules are not binding for large-cap investors and investment banks.
Hence, the regulatory measures basically killed the Forex brokerage industry in the United States. As a result, while there were around forty Forex brokers operating under the National Futures Association (NFA) regulations, almost all of them ceased to operate after the Dodd-Frank act came into effect. Within a few years of the introduction of these rules, most brokers simply moved their businesses offshore where the regulatory framework is more business-friendly.
Then came the final straw when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the tax authority of the United States Government, introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). It required Foreign Financial Institutions (FFIs) and other non-financial foreign entities to report about the foreign assets held by clients from U.S. origins. Under the FATCA, if FFIs do not report about their U.S. account holders, the U.S. Government reserved the right to withholding on withholdable payments. As compliance with U.S. regulatory authorities became cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive, most foreign exchange brokers outside the United States stopped accepting U.S. traders altogether.
While the Dodd-Frank act killed the domestic foreign exchange brokerage business in the United States, the FATCA rules effectively stopped U.S. traders from participating in the global interbank market as their choice of Forex brokers got severely restricted.
Why U.S. Based Forex Brokers Should Open Account with Foreign Brokers
Keep in mind that the laws enacted to protect low net worth investors do have some positive aspects. Trading with U.S. regulated brokers offers higher protection to clients and their funds. Anyone can look-up the status of a broker in the U.S. by visiting the Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC) portal. And if you complain about misconduct by your broker to the NFA, there is a high chance that you will be able to mitigate the issue.
One of the major drawbacks of trading with an offshore broker (that is willing to accept US Citizen's) is that often they are unregulated or regulated by weak governments located in obscure places â€“ often in small offshore financial hubs, so trading with some of these unregulated brokers poses risks of business malpractice like dealing with bucket-shop style brokers.
However, the nature of the free market is that you can fool a customer once. But soon everyone gets to know about your dishonesty and malpractice, which is especially true in the new age of social media. So, most of these shady brokers tend not stay in business for a long time. The offshore brokers that accept U.S. traders would understand that if they do not run a tight ship, they will soon be out of business. As a result, many offshore Forex brokers, even a few unregulated ones, have stood the test of time and despite located in places with the lax regulatory framework, some of these brokers offer true ECN and STP brokerage services and run their businesses with high integrity and standards.
US traders often find that the benefits and advantages of trading with an offshore Forex broker outweigh the drawbacks of trading with a Forex broker based in the United States.
The obvious advantages of trading with an offshore Forex broker would be enjoying higher leverage and low margin requirements, the freedom and ability to hedge positions, and not having to maintain an unrealistically high equity balance. Under the hood, however, there are many more benefits.
With only a handful of domestic Forex brokers operating on U.S. soil, the market structure has turned into an oligopoly. Hence, the cost of doing business - and Forex trading is a business â€“ has gone up considerably in terms of fees and spreads with U.S. brokers.
Foreign brokers have to compete with hundreds of other companies and the competitive nature of the global Forex industry ensures that inefficient business models that charge higher fees and spreads from clients will lose market share and profitability. Hence, by the virtue of the free market, trading with a foreign broker may be a reasonable choice.
With the current volatile political climate in the United States and deep partisan divide on key issues, it is unlikely that the Dodd-Frank act will suddenly cease to exist. Hence, for small retail Forex traders, finding a suitable Forex broker will continue to be difficult in the near future.
Meanwhile, offshore Forex brokers have continued to fill this huge gap in the market. Over the last few years, several offshore Forex brokers have geared up to provide services to U.S. traders with the same, if not better, trading platforms and customer support.
While it is desirable for U.S. traders to invest their money with brokers approved by the National Futures Association, the regulatory environment is too strict for brokers to run a successful business in the country. Therefore, U.S. traders should consider transitioning from demo accounts to live accounts by signing up with one of the many offshore Forex brokers who require a much smaller initial deposit.
Once they gain experience and demonstrate good trading performance with a small investment, then it would be much easier to scale up the business of trading Forex by investing large sums of capital. At that point, U.S. based traders can decide to invest with brokers regulated in the U.S. or continue to trade with foreign brokers.
Below is a list of both onshore and offshore brokers that accept US clients.