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 OCC report on bank derivative activities is rarely what you would call a laugh riot but I enjoyed that the 2Q2012 one released today gives the London Whale a belated sad trombone:
Commercial banks and savings associations reported trading revenue of $2.0 billion in the second quarter of 2012, 69 percent lower than the first quarter of 2012, and 73 percent lower than in the second quarter of 2011, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reported today in the OCC’s Quarterly Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activities.
“Trading revenues were weak in the second quarter,” said Martin Pfinsgraff, Deputy Comptroller for Credit and Market Risk. “While both normal seasonal weakness and reduced client demand played a role, it was clearly the highly-publicized losses at JPMorgan Chase that caused the sharp drop in trading revenues.” Mr. Pfinsgraff noted that JPMorgan Chase reported a $3.7 billion loss from credit trading activities, causing the bank to report an aggregate $420 million trading loss for the quarter.
How big a deal Whaledemort is depends on your denominator: compared to JPMorgan’s assets, or even its revenues, he’s a drop in the ocean, but his misadventures in credit derivatives did wipe out two-thirds of all derivative trading revenues among all US banks. And he’s a good enough excuse to talk about a random assortment of other credit-derivative-trading things from the last few days. First is a neat Bloomberg article (appears to be terminal-only now) about CDX NA HY 19: Read more »