In “Credit Default Swaps (Long Yield, Baby, Yield),” we discussed credit default swaps and the ongoing battle between hedge funds in the Hovnanian matter.* The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has finally weighed in. There were no minced words:
"The CDS market functions based on the premise that firms referenced in CDS contracts seek to avoid defaults, and as a result, the instruments are priced based on the financial health of the reference entity. However, recent arrangements appear to involve intentional, or ‘manufactured,’ credit events that could call that premise into question. In a public statement dated April 11, 2018, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) board of directors criticized manufactured credit events, writing that they ‘could negatively impact the efficiency, reliability, and fairness of the overall CDS market,’ and ISDA’s board indicated that it advised its staff ‘to consult with market participants and advise the Board on whether...amendments to the ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions should be considered’ to address manufactured credit events.
"Manufactured credit events may constitute market manipulation and may severely damage the integrity of the CDS markets, including markets for CDS index products, and the financial industry’s use of CDS valuations to assess the health of CDS reference entities. This would affect entities that the CFTC is responsible for overseeing, including dealers, traders, trading platforms, clearing houses, and market participants who rely on CDS to hedge risk. Market participants and their advisors are advised that in instances of manufactured credit events, the Divisions will carefully consider all available actions to help ensure market integrity and combat manipulation or fraud involving CDS, in coordination with our regulatory counterparts, when appropriate.”
Better late than never we guess. You’d think they would have awakened to these issues after Codere, Radio Shack, and others. But, hey. Regulators. Enough said.
Enough said, indeed. Query whether the The Commodity Futures Trading Commission will have more to say given the aforementioned “cherry on top” in the McClatchy transaction.
What is the cherry? Well this — per Bloomberg:
It seemed like a sure-fire bet: short the debt of a highly leveraged newspaper company that’s losing money. And for a while, it worked as investors piled up almost $500 million of wagers by buying credit-default swaps on the publisher, McClatchy Co.
That is until hedge fund Chatham Asset Management stacked the deck with a deal that’s threatening to make those swaps all but worthless.
The McClatchy situation is the latest trade that’s drawing jeers from critics who say the $11 trillion CDS market has devolved into a haven for manipulation.
At issue is the “newly established LLC” bit we noted above. As Bloomberg further explains,
Because the new debt would be shifted away from the parent and into the new unit, it’s fueling speculation that the Chatham deal will create what’s commonly known in the CDS world as an orphaned contract. In other words, anyone who bought insurance on a McClatchy default would effectively be paying insurance on an entity with no significant debt.
Which, naturally, begs the question: who is on the other side of the contract? Well, Chatham, of course. Because CDS! There’s no measure of how America has become great again like one fund ripping off other funds. Take a look at this chart: