May 20, 2015

CDS were bought more for their capacity to reduce equity requirements for banks, than as insurance against defaults.

Sir, I refer to Joe Rennison’s report “Wall St looks to revive niche CDS” May 20.

It states: “single-name credit default swaps, a derivative contract that tracks the risk of default by a company that sells bonds. Regulators sought to clamp down on the market after the crisis because it was widely blamed for helping to inflate the credit bubble”.

That is not telling it like it really was!

According to Basel II, if a bank wanted to hold a bond that for instance was rated BBB+, it needed to hold 8 percent in equity… meaning it could leverage about 12 to 1.

But, if it bought a CDS for that bond from an AAA rated company, like from AAA rated AIG, then it needed to hold only 1.6 percent in equity and could therefore leverage about 60 to 1.

And that is what really drove the incredible artificial demand for these CDS that helped to inflate the credit bubble.

If CDS are to work, as they should, they need to be traded on their own merits of how they provide insurance against defaults, and not because of regulatory distortions.

Do not let failed regulators get away with their own favorite version of history!