Expiration Related Liquidations

Background: 

In addition to the policy of force liquidating client positions in the event of a real-time margin deficiency, IB will also liquidate positions based upon certain expiration-related events which, after giving effect to, would create undue risk and/or operational concerns.  Examples of such events are outlined below.

Option Exercise

IB reserves the right to prohibit the exercise of stock options and/or close short options if the effect of the exercise/assignment would be to place the account in margin deficit. While the purchase of an option generally requires no margin since the position is paid in full, once exercised the account holder is obligated to either pay for the ensuing long stock position in full (in the case of a call exercised in a cash account or stock subject to 100% margin) or finance the long/short stock position (in the case of a call/put exercised in a margin account).  Accounts which do not have sufficient equity on hand prior to exercise introduce undue risk should an adverse price change in the underlying occur upon delivery. This uncollateralized risk can be especially pronounced and may far exceed any in-the-money value the long option may have held, particularly at expiration when clearinghouses automatically exercise options at in-the-money levels as low as $0.01 per share.

Take, for example, an account whose equity on Day 1 consists solely of 20 long $50 strike call options in hypothetical stock XYZ which have closed at expiration at $1 per contract with the underlying at $51. Assume under Scenario 1 that the options are all auto-exercised and XYZ opens at $51 on Day 2. Assume under Scenario 2 that the options are all auto-exercised and XYZ opens at $48 on Day 2.

Account Balance Pre-Expiration

Scenario 1 - XYZ Opens @ $51

Scenario 2 - XYZ Opens @ $48
Cash
$0.00 ($100,000.00) ($100,000.00)
Long Stock   $0.00 $102,000.00 $96,000.00

Long Option*

$2,000.00 $0.00 $0.00
Net Liquidating Equity/(Deficit) $2,000.00 $2,000.00 ($4,000.00)
Margin Requirement
$0.00 $25,500.00 $25,500.00
Margin Excess/(Deficiency) $0.00 ($23,500.00) ($29,500.00)

*Long option has no loan value.
 

To protect against these scenarios as expiration nears, IB will simulate the effect of expiration assuming plausible underlying price scenarios and evaluating the exposure of each account assuming stock delivery. If the exposure is deemed excessive, IB reserves the right to either: 1) liquidate options prior to expiration; 2) allow the options to lapse; and/or 3) allow delivery and liquidate the underlying immediately thereafter.  In addition, the account may be restricted from opening new positions to prevent an increase in exposure.

IB also reserves the right to liquidate positions on the afternoon before settlement if IB’s systems project that the effect of settlement would result in a margin deficit. To protect against these scenarios as expiration nears, IB will simulate the effect of expiration assuming plausible underlying price scenarios and evaluating the exposure of each account after settlement.  For instance, if IB projects that positions will be removed from the account as a result of settlement (e.g., if options will expire out of the money or cash-settled options will expire in the money), IB’s systems will evaluate the margin effect of those settlement events.

If IB determines the exposure is excessive, IB may liquidate positions in the account to resolve the projected margin deficiency.  Account holders may monitor this expiration related margin exposure via the Account window located within the TWS. The projected margin excess will be displayed on the line titled “Post-Expiry Margin” (see below) which, if negative and highlighted in red indicates that your account may be subject to forced position liquidations. This exposure calculation is performed 3 days prior to the next expiration and is updated approximately every 15 minutes.

Note that IB generally initiates expiration related liquidations 2 hours prior to the close, but reserves the right to begin this process sooner or later should conditions warrant. In addition, liquidations are prioritized based upon a number of account-specific criteria including the Net Liquidating Value, projected post-expiration deficit, and the relationship between the option strike price and underlying.

 

Physically Delivered Futures

With the exception of certain futures contracts having currencies as their underlying, IB generally does not allow clients to make or receive delivery of the underlying for physically settled futures or futures option contracts. To avoid deliveries in an expiring contract, clients must either roll the contract forward or close the position prior to the Close-Out Deadline specific to that contract (a list of which is provided on the website under the Trading and then Delivery, Exercise & Actions menu options). 

Note that it is the client’s responsibility to be aware of the Close-Out Deadline and physically delivered contracts which are not closed out within the specified time frame may be liquidated by IB without prior notification.

FAQs - U.S. Securities Option Expiration

Overview: 

The following page has been created in attempt to assist traders by providing answers to frequently asked questions related to US security option expiration, exercise, and assignment.  Please feel free to contact us if your question is not addressed on this page or to request the addition of a question and answer. 

Click on a question in the table of contents to jump to the question in this document.

Table Of Contents:

How do I provide exercise instructions?

Do I have to notify IB if I want my long option exercised?

What if I have a long option which I do not want exercised?

What can I do to prevent the assignment of a short option?

Is it possible for a short option which is in-the-money not to be assigned?

Can IB exercise the out-of-the-money long leg of my spread position only if my in-the-money short leg is assigned?

What happens to my long stock position if a short option which is part of a covered write is assigned?

Am I charged a commission for exercise or assignments?

What happens if I am unable to meet the margin requirement on a stock delivery resulting from an option exercise or assignment?

 

Q&A:

How do I provide exercise instructions?
Instructions are to be entered through the TWS Option Exercise window. Procedures for exercising an option using the IB Trader Workstation can be found in the TWS User's Guide.

Important Note: In the event that an option exercise cannot be submitted via the TWS, an option exercise request with all pertinent details (including option symbol, account number and exact quantity), should be created in a ticket via the Account Management window. In the Account Management window, click on "Inquiry/Problem Ticket". The ticket should include the words "Option Exercise Request" in the subject line. Please provide a contact number and clearly state in your ticket why the TWS Option Exercise window was not available for use.

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Do I have to notify IB if I want my long option exercised?

In the case of exchange listed U.S. securities options, the clearinghouse (OCC) will automatically exercise all cash and physically settled options which are in-the-money by at least $0.01 at expiration (e.g., a call option having a strike price of $25.00 will be automatically exercised if the stock price is $25.01 or more and a put option having a strike price of $25.00 will be automatically exercised if the stock price is $24.99 or less). In accordance with this process, referred to as exercise by exception, account holders are not required to provide IB with instructions to exercise any long options which are in-the-money by at least $0.01 at expiration. 

Important Note: in certain situations (e.g., underlying stock halt, corporate action), OCC may elect to remove a particular class of options from the exercise by exception process, thereby requiring the account holder to provide positive notice of their intent to exercise their long option contracts regardless of the extent they may be in-the-money. In these situations, IB will make every effort to provide advance notice to the account holder of their obligation to respond, however, account holders purchasing such options on the last day of trading are not likely to be afforded any notice.

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What if I have a long option which I do not want exercised?
If a long option is not in-the-money by at least $0.01 at expiration it will not be automatically exercised by OCC. If it is in-the-money by at least that amount and you do not wish to have it exercised, you would need to provide IB with contrary instructions to let the option lapse. These instructions would need to be entered through the TWS Option Exercise window prior to the deadline as stated on the IB website.

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What can I do to prevent the assignment of a short option?
The only action one can take to prevent being assigned on a short option position is to buy back in the option prior to the close of trade on its last trading day (for equity options this is usually the Friday preceding the expiration date). When you sell an option, you provided the purchaser with the right to exercise which they generally will do if the option is in-the-money at expiration.

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Is it possible for a short option which is in-the-money not to be assigned?
While is unlikely that holders of in-the-money long options will elect to let the option lapse without exercising them, certain holders may do so due to transaction costs or risk considerations. In conjunction with its expiration processing, OCC will assign option exercises to short position holders via a random lottery process which, in turn, is applied by brokers to their customer accounts. It is possible through these random processes that short positions in your account be part of those which were not assigned.

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Can IB exercise the out-of-the-money long leg of my spread position only if my in-the-money short leg is assigned?
No. There is no provision for issuing conditional exercise instructions to OCC. OCC determines the assignment of options based upon a random process which is initiated only after the deadline for submitting all exercise instructions has ended. In order to avoid the delivery of a long or short underlying stock position when only the short leg of an option spread is in-the-money at expiration, the account holder would need to either close out that short position or consider exercising an at-the-money long option.

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What happens to my long stock position if a short option which is part of a covered write is assigned?
If the short call leg of a covered write position is assigned, the long stock position will be applied to satisfy the stock delivery obligation on the short call. The price at which that long stock position will be closed out is equal to the short call option strike price.

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Am I charged a commission for exercise or assignments?
There is no commissions charged as the result of the delivery of a long or short position resulting from option exercise or assignment of a U.S. security option (note that this is not always the case for non-U.S. options).

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What happens if I am unable to meet the margin requirement on a stock delivery resulting from an option exercise or assignment?
If an option exercise or assignment results in the delivery of a long or short stock position and the account holder does not maintain sufficient equity to meet the ensuing margin requirement, IB will act to liquidate positions to restore margin compliance. While IB retains the right to liquidate at any time in such situations, liquidations involving U.S. security positions will typically begin at approximately 9:40 AM ET as of the business day following expiration.

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