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Credit Default Swaps, Clearinghouses, and Exchanges

A Squam Lake Working Group Paper

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Credit Default Swaps, Clearinghouses, and Exchanges - credit-default-swaps-clearinghouses-and-exchanges

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date July 2009

8 pages


Credit default swaps (CDS) are contracts that provide protection against the risk of default by borrowers. The buyer of the CDS makes periodic payments to the seller, and in return the buyer will receive a payoff if the borrower defaults, analogous to an insurance contract. While credit default swaps can be a valuable tool for managing risk, they can also contribute to systemic risk. CDS contracts are currently traded over the counter rather than on exchange, raising concerns over counterparty risk. The failure of one important participant in the CDS market can destabilize the financial system by inflicting significant losses on many trading partners simultaneously. A clearinghouse could in theory reduce counterparty risk by standing between the buyer and seller of protection, insulating the counterparties’ exposure to each other’s default. This Working Paper, the fifth in the Squam Lake Working Group series distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, analyzes the market for credit default swaps and makes specific recommendations about appropriate roles for clearinghouses and about how they should be organized.

More About This Publication

The Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation is a nonpartisan, nonaffiliated group of fifteen academics who have come together to offer guidance on the reform of financial regulation.

The group first convened in fall 2008, amid the deepening capital markets crisis. Although informed by this crisis—its events and the ongoing policy responses—the group is intentionally focused on longer-term issues. It aspires to help guide reform of capital markets—their structure, function, and regulation. This guidance is based on the group’s collective academic, private sector, and public policy experience.

To achieve its goal, the Squam Lake Working Group is developing a set of principles and their implications that are aimed at different parts of the financial system: at individual firms, at financial firms collectively, and at the linkages that connect financial firms to the broader economy.

The members of the group are

Martin N. Baily
Brookings Institution

Andrew B. Bernard
Dartmouth College

John Y. Campbell
Harvard University

John H. Cochrane
University of Chicago

Douglas W. Diamond
University of Chicago

Darrell Duffie
Stanford University

Kenneth R. French
Dartmouth College

Anil K Kashyap
University of Chicago

Frederic S. Mishkin
Columbia University

Raghuram G. Rajan
University of Chicago

David S. Scharfstein
Harvard University

Robert J. Shiller
Yale University

Hyun Song Shin
Princeton University

Matthew J. Slaughter
Dartmouth College

René M. Stulz
Ohio State University

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