Greenlight’s Einhorn Seeks CDS Ban

Nov 9 2009 | 12:17pm ET

He made millions from them, but now Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn wants to see an end to credit-default swaps.

In a recent speech to the Value Investing Conference, Einhorn called the controversial derivatives “anti-social,” because they make some companies more valuable dead than alive to investors. On that point, Einhorn has come to the side of the Wall Street CEOs whose ire he raised during the financial crisis, when he earned big returns shorting the likes of Lehman Brothers.

CDS give investors “an incentive to use their position as bondholders to force bankruptcy, triggering payments on their CDS rather than negotiate out-of-court restructurings or covenant amendments with their creditors,” he said.

Einhorn compared making safer CDS to making safer asbestos, and has little faith in the ability of a central clearinghouse to solve the problem, the Financial Times reports. In fact, Einhorn said, such an institution could make matters worse, raising the spectre of socialism.

“The reform proposal to create clearinghouse does nothing more than maintain the private profits and socialized risk by moving the counterparty risk from the private sector to a newly-created too-big-to-fail entity,” he argued. And since “there is no way a clearinghouse could demand enough collateral,” which could lead to further government bailouts.

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