Large Banks Promise not to Terminate Distressed Derivatives Contracts

Philip Stafford and Tracy Alloway report in the FT that under the stewardship of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, large banks

have agreed to give up their rights to immediately end derivatives contracts with crisis-hit rivals after global regulators pressed for an industry cross-border agreement to stop counterparties terminating deals with troubled institutions.

The agreement covers 90% of the OTC derivatives market. Incentives to live up to it are weak; not amending one’s contracts with counter parties amounts to the dominant strategy in a prisoners’ dilemma situation. Moreover, institutional investors may have fiduciary duties to end their contracts if a counter party defaults so attaining the cooperative equilibrium may not be possible without legal changes.

DN: But if the initiative succeeds, could it undermine the effective seniority status of derivatives?