In testimony before the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Insurance, Robert Pickel, chief executive officer of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA), today addressed the importance of the credit default swap (CDS) market to the state’s and the nation’s economy.
“CDS benefit the broader economy by facilitating lending and corporate finance activity, which is especially crucial in today’s tight credit environment,” said Mr. Pickel in his testimony. “They perform a valuable signaling function and allow investors to express a view on the market.”
Pickel emphasized that CDS has remained the only credit products consistently available to allow companies and investors to transfer credit risk and express a view on credit performance. While cash, securities and money markets have seized up, CDS have continued to function. Illiquidity in the financial markets would likely be worse if companies and investors did not have a healthy CDS business available.
During the testimony, Pickel discussed New York’s role in the CDS marketplace. ISDA recently conducted an informal survey of major credit derivatives dealers with New York based operations. Based on the survey, the Association estimates that the revenues produced by CDS trading and prime brokerage in New York to be approximately $15 billion annually. ISDA also estimates that these activities provide New York City with roughly 18,000 jobs paying a total annual payroll of about $5 billion.
The OTC derivatives industry has been a wellspring of growth and revenue for the New York economy. To continue to nurture such growth and innovation, ISDA is supports a globally coordinated regulatory approach that doesn’t place New York or any state or federal jurisdiction at a disadvantage to other jurisdictions.
Pickel outlined in his testimony the industry’s and ISDA’s ongoing efforts to identify and reduce the sources of risk in the privately negotiated derivatives business. For example, since 2005, ISDA and its members have worked together with the President’s Working Group, the Federal Reserve, the SEC and other regulators towards operational enhancements in the CDS industry. One result of these efforts is that central counterparty clearing of CDS (CDS CCP) is expected to commence operations before the end of 2008.
In addition to these ongoing efforts, market participants have taken a significant step towards addressing concerns about transparency by publishing, on a weekly basis, aggregate market data.
Pickel also stated that New York has played an important role in spurring national discussion concerning a comprehensive regulatory structure for the CDS market. He said that ISDA looks forward to further working with the State Assembly and state and federal regulators to ensure these markets continue to operate in a safe, healthy and sound manner, consistent with good public policy.
A complete transcript of Robert Pickel’s testimony is available at www.isda.org.