Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. The Trump Stock Market Trap May Be Triggered - Barry_M_Ferguson
2.Why are Central Banks Buying Gold and Dumping Dollars? - Richard_Mills
3.US China War - Thucydides Trap and gold - Richard_Mills
4.Gold Price Trend Forcast to End September 2019 - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Money Saving Kids Gardening Growing Giant Sunflowers Summer Fun - Anika_Walayat
6.US Dollar Breakdown Begins, Gold Price to Bolt Higher - Jim_Willie_CB
7.INTEL (INTC) Stock Investing to Profit From AI Machine Learning Boom - Nadeem_Walayat
8.Will Google AI Kill Us? Man vs Machine Intelligence - N_Walayat
9.US Prepares for Currency War with China - Richard_Mills
10.Gold Price Epochal Breakout Will Not Be Negated by a Correction - Clive Maund
Last 7 days
JOHNSON AND JOHNSON - JNJ for Life Extension Pharma Stocks Investing - 17th Aug 19
Negative Bond Market Yields Tell A Story Of Shifting Economic Stock Market Leadership - 17th Aug 19
Is Stock Market About to Crash? Three Charts That Suggest It’s Possible - 17th Aug 19
It’s Time For Colombia To Dump The Peso - 17th Aug 19
Gold & Silver Stand Strong amid Stock Volatility & Falling Rates - 16th Aug 19
Gold Mining Stocks Q2’19 Fundamentals - 16th Aug 19
Silver, Transports, and Dow Jones Index At Targets – What Direct Next? - 16th Aug 19
When the US Bond Market Bubble Blows Up! - 16th Aug 19
Dark days are closing in on Apple - 16th Aug 19
Precious Metals Gone Wild! Reaching Initial Targets – Now What’s Next - 16th Aug 19
US Government Is Beholden To The Fed; And Vice-Versa - 15th Aug 19
GBP vs USD Forex Pair Swings Into Focus Amid Brexit Chaos - 15th Aug 19
US Negative Interest Rates Go Mainstream - With Some Glaring Omissions - 15th Aug 19
GOLD BULL RUN TREND ANALYSIS - 15th Aug 19
US Stock Market Could Fall 12% to 25% - 15th Aug 19
A Level Exam Results School Live Reaction Shock 2019! - 15th Aug 19
It's Time to Get Serious about Silver - 15th Aug 19
The EagleFX Beginners Guide – Financial Markets - 15th Aug 19
Central Banks Move To Keep The Global Markets Party Rolling – Part III - 14th Aug 19
You Have to Buy Bonds Even When Interest Rates Are Low - 14th Aug 19
Gold Near Term Risk is Increasing - 14th Aug 19
Installment Loans vs Personal Bank Loans - 14th Aug 19
ROCHE - RHHBY Life Extension Pharma Stocks Investing - 14th Aug 19
Gold Bulls Must Love the Hong Kong Protests - 14th Aug 19
Gold, Markets and Invasive Species - 14th Aug 19
Cannabis Stocks With Millennial Appeal - 14th Aug 19
August 19 (Crazy Ivan) Stock Market Event Only A Few Days Away - 13th Aug 19
This is the real move in gold and silver… it’s going to be multiyear - 13th Aug 19
Global Central Banks Kick Can Down The Road Again - 13th Aug 19
US Dollar Finally the Achillles Heel - 13th Aug 19
Financial Success Formula Failure - 13th Aug 19
How to Test Your Car Alternator with a Multimeter - 13th Aug 19
London Under Attack! Victoria Embankment Gardens Statues and Monuments - 13th Aug 19
More Stock Market Weakness Ahead - 12th Aug 19
Global Central Banks Move To Keep The Party Rolling Onward - 12th Aug 19
All Eyes On Copper - 12th Aug 19
History of Yield Curve Inversions and Gold - 12th Aug 19
Precious Metals Soar on Falling Yields, Currency Turmoil - 12th Aug 19
Why GraphQL? The Benefits Explained - 12th Aug 19
Is the Stock Market Making a V-shaped Recovery? - 11th Aug 19
Precious Metals and Stocks VIX Are About To Pull A “Crazy Ivan” - 11th Aug 19
Social Media Civil War - 11th Aug 19
Gold and the Bond Yield Continuum - 11th Aug 19
Traders: Which Markets Should You Trade? - 11th Aug 19
US Corporate Debt Is at Risk of a Flash Crash - 10th Aug 19
EURODOLLAR futures above 2016 highs: FED to cut over 100 bps quickly - 10th Aug 19
Market’s flight-to-safety: Should You Buy Stocks Now? - 10th Aug 19
The Cold, Hard Math Tells Netflix Stock Could Crash 70% - 10th Aug 19
Our Custom Index Charts Suggest Stock Markets Are In For A Wild Ride - 9th Aug 19
Bitcoin Price Triggers Ahead - 9th Aug 19
Walmart Is Coming for Amazon - 9th Aug 19

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Top AI Stocks Investing to Profit from the Machine Intelligence Mega-trend

Financial Crisis Solution, Ban Credit Default Swaps?

Politics / Credit Crisis 2009 Jul 15, 2009 - 06:28 AM GMT

By: Money_Morning

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleMartin Hutchinson writes: Ask U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, about credit default swaps and she’ll offer this warning: Ban them now or expect a reprise of the ongoing global financial crisis – which the derivative securities helped create.


When it comes to elected officials, Congresswoman Waters is not one I would typically feel that I have a lot in agreement with. A representative of a low-income district in Los Angeles, Waters is a senior member of the House Committee on Financial Services and has distinguished herself in the past by her sharp attacks on the financial sector and capitalism in general – what her own Web site describes as her “no-holds-barred style of politics.”

However, Congresswoman Waters’ bill to prohibit credit default swaps – introduced last Friday (July 10) – is strangely appealing, even for a crusty old capitalist like myself.

If you want a more pro-capitalist confirmation of Waters’ view (and George Soros doesn’t count) try Warren Buffett’s sidekick Charles T. Munger, who has called the CDS prohibition the best solution, and said “it isn’t as though the economic world didn’t function quite well without it, and it isn’t as though what has happened has been so wonderfully desirable that we should logically want more of it.”

Waters has also pointed out – quite reasonably – that unless credit default swaps are banned outright, “the industry will find a way to loosen standards and widen exemptions for customized contracts and we will be right back to where we are today.” 

When There’s No “Free” in Free Market

As a free-market enthusiast, my natural instinct is to resist such calls. But I have to recognize that, as we speak, we’re actually not operating in a free market. Key U.S. banks were bailed out by the U.S. government last fall, after which such financial institutions as Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM), Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) have been permitted to carry on as though nothing bad ever happened.

Furthermore, a number of big players in the CDS market – most notably Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) – were bailed out through the rescue of busted insurer American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG). In that case, the government injected $180 billion into AIG, largely to allow it to make good on the CDS contracts it had written – $13 billion of which were with Goldman Sachs.

If Citi, Fannie, and Freddie had gone bankrupt – as they would have done in a free market – and Goldman had lost the best part of $13 billion (which might well have sent it bankrupt in turn) the financial market today would look very different. The financial industry would be rife with unemployment and apple-selling ex-Citibankers would be on the streets of New York keeping bankers’ salaries and bonuses way down from their pre-crash levels.

But such as it is, Goldman Sachs is said to be heading for record profits in 2009, and its partners are expecting record bonuses. The investment-banking firm reported stellar second-quarter profits of $3.44 billion yesterday (Tuesday). [For a related story on Goldman Sachs’ quarterly financial report that appears in today’s issue of Money Morning, please click here.]

If U.S. taxpayers are going to be called on to subsidize the very banks that got us into this mess – just so these institutions can continue to carry on as if it was still 2007 – then another expensive and damaging financial crash is almost certainly in the making.

There are a number of product areas in which such a crash might occur, but for my money, credit default swaps top the list. That makes it crucial for us to at least rein in the derivative securities with the utmost urgency. And Congresswoman Waters makes an excellent point when she says that it may prove impossible to rein in credit default swaps without actually banning them altogether.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Ban ‘Em

Indeed, there are two fundamental problems with CDS securities, neither of which appears easy to solve:

  • First, there is no watertight way of settling credit default swaps in case of default. The current method is by a mini-auction of the obligations on which the swaps are written to determine a settlement price. But this doesn’t work because the mini-auction relates to only a few million dollars of paper, whereas the credit default swaps in question may have a nominal value of billions – hence it’s in the interest of holders to play games at the auction and distort prices. This might not be a problem for non-participants in the CDS market, but it causes huge risks to the financial system – which in extreme cases, must be bailed out by taxpayers, as was the case with AIG.
  • The second problem is that holders of credit default swaps have an incentive to push companies into bankruptcy. In the 1930s, short sales of stock (except on an “uptick”) were prohibited to prevent speculators from driving companies into bankruptcy. Well, the leverage available on CDS securities is much greater than on stock, and in the case of financial institutions, the amount of CDS outstanding is also much greater. That means speculators have correspondingly more incentive to load up on CDS and push a company into bankruptcy.

And it doesn’t end there: Since CDS holders also hold a company’s debt, their position in bankruptcy negotiations is a completely false one. This has already been a problem in the bankruptcies of the Canadian paper company Abitibi-Bowater and the shopping centre developer General Growth; it also caused problems in the massive General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GMGMQ) reorganization.

The stellar bonus prospects of the lucky employees at Goldman Sachs, in a year that has been thoroughly lousy for legitimate financial business, are an indication that we are not currently operating in a free market. Credit default swaps provide a means whereby Wall Street insiders can make huge amounts of money on corporate bankruptcies and disrupt the U.S. economy while doing so.

Until we can be absolutely sure that the poisons of the most-recent global financial bubble have been fully eradicated from the financial system, the safest measure is to ban those financial products like CDS that seem likely to cause the most trouble.

Congresswoman Waters may go too far in wishing to ban credit default swaps altogether. However, I see no reason not to impose a five-year moratorium on the securities.

If, by 2014, the poisons of speculation have been removed from the world’s financial system, and a newly sober Wall Street can convince us that credit default swaps are both useful and sound, the derivative securities can then be reinstituted on a controlled basis, most likely restricted as swaps on “indices” of credit representing an entire sector or country, rather than on single companies alone. That would make it more difficult for CDS dealers to engage in their dangerous bankruptcy games.

Perhaps Goldman Sachs employees can do without that third Porsche – at least or now …

[Editor's Note: When it comes to global investing, longtime market guru Martin Hutchinson is one of the very best – because he knows the markets firsthand. After years of advising government finance ministers, crafting deals with global investment banks, and analyzing the world's financial markets, Hutchinson has used his creative insights to create a trading service for savvy investors.

The Permanent Wealth Invesor assembles high-yielding dividend stocks, profit plays on gold and specially designated "Alpha-Dog" stocks into high-income/high-return portfolios for subscribers. Hutchinson's strategy is tailor-made for periods of market uncertainty, during which investors all too often go completely to cash - only to miss some of the biggest market returns in history when market sentiment turns positive. But it can work in virtually every market environment.

To find out about this strategy - or Hutchinson's new service, The Permanent Wealth Investor - please just Click Here.]

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

©2009 Monument Street Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Monument Street Publishing. 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201, Email: customerservice@moneymorning.com

Disclaimer: Nothing published by Money Morning should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investment advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication, or 72 hours after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Money Morning should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Money Morning Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules