George Soros: Credit default swaps need much stricter regulation

In all the uproar over AIG, the most important lesson has been ignored. AIG failed because it sold large amounts of credit default swaps (CDS) without properly offsetting or covering their positions. What we must take away from this is that CDS are toxic instruments whose use ought to be strictly regulated: Only those who own the underlying bonds ought to be allowed to buy them. Instituting this rule would tame a destructive force and cut the price of the swaps. It would also save the U.S. Treasury a lot of money by reducing the loss on AIG’s outstanding positions without abrogating any contracts.

CDS came into existence as a way of providing insurance on bonds against default. Since they are tradable instruments, they became bear-market warrants for speculating on deteriorating conditions in a company or country. What makes them toxic is that such speculation can be self-validating.

Up until the crash of 2008, the prevailing view — called the efficient market hypothesis — was that the prices of financial instruments accurately reflect all the available information (i.e. the underlying reality). But this is not true. Financial markets don’t deal with the current reality, but with the future — a matter of anticipation, not knowledge. Thus, we must understand financial markets through a new paradigm which recognizes that they always provide a biased view of the future, and that the distortion of prices in financial markets may affect the underlying reality that those prices are supposed to reflect.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Credit Markets, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Stock Market, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

2 comments on “George Soros: Credit default swaps need much stricter regulation

  1. Dilbertnomore says:

    It is just too, too rich for George Soros to be weighing in on bringing regulatory control to the credit default swap market. No real argument with the words on the page, but for Soros to say anything to be considered seriously about market manipulation is just flat beyond even suspension of disbelief. This is the Billioniare who torpedoed the British Pound in the early ’90’s through currency speculation on a gargantuan scale and since dabbler in political manipulation on equally grand scale. Under his signature, this can’t ever pass the laugh test.

  2. tgs says:

    #1 – agreed and seconded.