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CDS as Insurance: Leaky Lifeboats in Stormy Seas

In this paper we update the traditional insurance economics framework to incorporate key features of the credit default swap (CDS) market. First, we allow for insurer insolvency, with asymmetric information as to its probability. We find that stable insurers become less stable because they are forced to compete on price. When insurer type is known, increased competition among insurers can create instability for the same reason. Second, we allow the insured party to have heterogeneous motivations for purchasing CDS. For example, some may own the underlying asset and purchase CDS for risk management, while others buy these contracts purely for speculation. We show that speculators will choose to contract with less stable insurers, resulting in higher counterparty risk in this market relative to that of traditional insurance; however, a regulatory policy that disallows speculative trading can, perversely, cause market counterparty risk to increase. Third, we relax the standard assumption of contract exclusivity, which does not apply to the CDS market, by allowing the insured to purchase contracts from many insurers. In contrast to the traditional insurance model, we show that separation of risk type among insured parties can be achieved through insurer choice. We use our model to shed light on the debate over Central Counterparties (CCP). We show that requiring CDS contracts to be negotiated through CCPs can push stable insurers out of the market, mitigating the benefi t of risk pooling.

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Paper provided by University of Alberta, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011-9.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: 16 Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ris:albaec:2011_009
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  1. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1975. "Speculation and Equilibrium: Information, Risk, and Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 519-42, November.
  2. Xavier Vives T., 2010. "Competition and Stability in Banking," Journal Economía Chilena (The Chilean Economy), Central Bank of Chile, vol. 13(2), pages 85-112, August.
  3. Rodrigo Cifuentes & Hyun Song Shin & Gianluigi Ferrucci, 2005. "Liquidity Risk and Contagion," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 556-566, 04/05.
  4. Rene M. Stulz, 2010. "Credit Default Swaps and the Credit Crisis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(1), pages 73-92, Winter.
  5. Stephens, Eric & Thompson, James, 2012. "Separation Without Mutual Exclusion in Financial Insurance," Working Papers 2012-8, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
  6. Hoy, Michael & Polborn, Mattias, 2000. "The value of genetic information in the life insurance market," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(3), pages 235-252, November.
  7. Viral V. Acharya & Alberto Bisin, 2011. "Counterparty Risk Externality: Centralized Versus Over-the-counter Markets," NBER Working Papers 17000, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James R. Thompson, 2010. "Counterparty Risk in Financial Contracts: Should the Insured Worry about the Insurer?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1195-1252, August.
  9. Kupiec, Paul H. & Ramirez, Carlos D., 2013. "Bank failures and the cost of systemic risk: Evidence from 1900 to 1930," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 285-307.
  10. James R. Thompson, 2007. "Credit Risk Transfer: To Sell or to Insure," Working Papers 1131, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  11. Patrick Bolton & Martin Oehmke, 2011. "Credit Default Swaps and the Empty Creditor Problem," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(8), pages 2617-2655.
  12. Doherty, Neil A & Schlesinger, Harris, 1990. "Rational Insurance Purchasing: Consideration of Contract Nonperformance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 243-53, February.
  13. Gianni De Nicoló & Giovanni Favara & Lev Ratnovski, 2012. "Externalities and Macroprudential Policy," IMF Staff Discussion Notes 12/05, International Monetary Fund.
  14. John H. Boyd & Gianni De Nicolã, 2005. "The Theory of Bank Risk Taking and Competition Revisited," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(3), pages 1329-1343, 06.
  15. Parlour, Christine A. & Winton, Andrew, 2013. "Laying off credit risk: Loan sales versus credit default swaps," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(1), pages 25-45.
  16. Spiegel, Matthew & Subrahmanyam, Avanidhar, 1992. "Informed Speculation and Hedging in a Noncompetitive Securities Market," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 5(2), pages 307-29.
  17. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
  18. Robert R. Bliss & Robert Steigerwald, 2006. "Derivatives clearing and settlement: a comparison of central counterparties and alternative structures," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q IV, pages 22-29.
  19. Cummins, J David & Mahul, Olivier, 2003. " Optimal Insurance with Divergent Beliefs about Insurer Total Default Risk," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 121-38, October.
  20. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "The Theory of Speculation under Alternative Regimes of Markets," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(4), pages 975-99, September.
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