The uniquely recalcitrant debtor is happy—eager, even—to chat with Paul Singer and friends about resolving their little situation, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof says. Not eager enough for Kicillof to stick around for a couple of days to chat, but all the same.
The thing about antitrust law is that it’s so understandable. Not in the sense that a human can easily understand antitrust law, particularly, just that it’s easy to understand where the people who violate it are coming from.1 This EU antitrust case against 13 banks for “colluding to prevent the lucrative global business of trading credit derivatives from moving onto regulated exchanges and away from markets controlled by the banks themselves,” for instance. Like, here you are in 2006 or whatever, and you’re a big bank, and you’ve built yourself a nice little business buying and selling credit default swaps. This generates information and that information is useful; it’s even more useful if you share it with your other CDS-trading friends. So you and your big-bank friends and your ISDA and your Markit get together to share trade data, just like those guys did under that buttonwood tree that one time. Once you’ve got trade data, for instance, you can make an index, and so you can trade index CDS, which means you can move from having a weird niche product to a macro credit product, and it is good. Also you can gouge customers because, y’know, it’s OTC and stuff.
Anyway one day an exchange comes to you and says “we’d like to take all your data and use it to massively undercut you on price and drive you out of this lucrative little business you got here, whaddaya say?” And so obviously you say no. Read more »
The European Union will be very cross if it finds out that the International Swaps and Derivatives Association conspired with its members to keep out would-be members. Read more »
“It’s sort of like a half-nelson or even a full-nelson in wrestling terms being applied to bondholders under Greek law. They’re all being forced to go along.” [Bloomberg]
Okay so all systems appear to be go on the Greek debt exchange, which means its time to decide What This Means, and, I just. Really. Greece. Come on. All I want is to talk about 13D reporting requirements, and now I have to pay attention to Portugal? No. Just no.*
Still here is arguably a fun factoid:
On Wednesday, Swiss bank UBS AG started quoting a “gray market” in new Greek sovereign bonds … using as a guide details of the debt swap Greece has put on the table for private investors to accept until Thursday evening. The “bid” price for a batch of future Greek bonds due in 2042, or the highest price the dealer was willing to pay, was around 15 cents on the dollar; the “offer” price, or the most the dealer was willing to sell at, was 17 cents on the dollar, the first person said. … The prices quoted by UBS imply that losses private creditors to Greece will take are more like 79% of face value, not the original haircut of 70-75% many had expected.
Yeah but. If you believe this horrible CDS mechanics stuff that various people including me have been yammering about for weeks – here is the best explanation – that means that if for some reason you had the foresight to be long Greek bonds and hold CDS against them you’d end up with a package worth (1) 21 on the bonds and (2) 83 on the CDS (assuming that the 17 offer for the 2042 bonds represents a real price for the cheapest-to-deliver new bond in the Greek auction) for (3) 104 total which is (4) more than par, so you win this particular game, yay. Which you were at risk of losing – a week ago one of our fearless commenters spotted the longest new bonds at 25ish vs. 24ish for the old-bond-y package, for a total of 99 for the hedged holder – losing 1 point versus par.** Read more »
ISDA decided today that there has been no credit event for purposes of Greek CDS. Obvs! And by “obvs!” I mean what I said the other day, which is that with 100% certainty there’s been no credit event yet, but with 100% certainty there will be, so everyone should just chill out.
Except that it seems like that last part may be wrong. So go ahead and panic.
I used to make convertible bonds and some of my time was spent answering questions about what happened to things upon Events. The most popular was: what happens after a merger? If you have a convertible that converts into 10 shares of XYZ stock, but now XYZ is being acquired and each share of XYZ is being acquired for $30 in cash and 4.5 shares of PQR stock and a pony – what happens to the convertible? And the answer I would give usually started with “don’t trouble your pretty little head about it.” Like, it’s fine: you have a convertible that converts into 10 Things, and before the merger each Thing was an XYZ share, and after each Thing is exactly what an XYZ share transformed into, so you convert into $300 and 45 PQR shares and 10 ponies. It just works because it has to work. Economic interests follow without interruption from changes in form; derivative securities poof into derivatives of things that the underlying poofs into. There is no arbitrage!
That assumption is central to doing any sort of derivative work, and it spoiled me a bit. Sometimes people would come up with more complicated scenarios involving dividends, multiple-step transactions, weird splits and spinoffs and sales, etc. etc. And I would generally start from the bias “it has to work, so I am sure the document written in the way that works.” Where “works” means “the economics and intent of the trade are preserved after the change in form.” But of course the document was written by humans, often specifically me, and those humans, often including me, are fallible. So there may well be documents from my former line of work that don’t “work” in the sense that an issuer could do some structural tricks that would screw holders out of their economics – where the derivative doesn’t follow the underlying everywhere it might go. These tricks are unlikely enough that I don’t lose sleep over them. You can’t predict everything.
I sort of assumed that Greek CDS also had to just work but here is Felix Salmon at Reuters saying no. Lisa Pollack at FT Alphaville said something similar a week ago but I could not fathom that she meant it so I read it to mean something else. But she means it, and Felix does too. Go read it but the basic gist of this theory is: Read more »
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the socialist conspiracy politburo set up to allow Elizabeth Warren to terrorize the banks until her Senate seat is ready for her, or something, today released a new model credit card agreement. It’s two pages long and looks sort of comforting and friendly, like a new Facebook competitor or something. Matt Yglesias likes it:
Basically what they did was sit down and try to apply some basic design principles to the question “how can we convey to consumers information about their credit card.” Currently the way credit card agreements are written is more like the reverse, they apply basic design principles to the question “how can we maximize the chances that consumers will neglect something or get confused while meeting our technical legal obligations toward disclosure.” In an increasingly attention-constrained world, these kind of design questions around disclosure rules matter more and more.
I had my doubts that a two-page agreement in a normal font size could convey the level of detail and obfuscation you can get in a good credit card agreement, but I agree with him, this is a nice effort. The way they manage to keep it to two pages is by putting all the definitions on the CFPB web page. So you have a very skeletal document that just fills in basic numeric and economic terms – your APR, how long you have to dispute charges – while all the legalese, and lots of things that have economic effect like how interest is calculated, are squirreled away in definitions that you can find elsewhere.
Now because I was once a derivatives marketer, rather than a human, this made me think of the ISDA documentation system, which basically allows dealers and customers to send each other two-page confirmations documenting their derivatives transactions while all the nasty guts of the agreement are buried elsewhere, in a Master Agreement or in ISDA definitions. And so you get two pages that say things like “Fixed Rate: 1.25%,” which is pretty clear and very efficient, but also things like “Loss and Second Method apply,” which is totally inscrutable. Read more »