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Systemic Risk: Regulatory Oversight and Recent Initiatives to Address Risk Posed by Credit Default Swaps

GAO-09-397T Published: Mar 05, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 05, 2009.
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The U.S. financial system is more prone to systemic risk today because (1) the current U.S. financial regulatory system is not designed to adequately oversee today's large and interconnected financial institutions, (2) not all financial activities and institutions fall under the direct purview of financial regulators, and (3) market innovations have led to the creation of new and sometimes complex products that were not envisioned as the current regulatory system developed. Credit default swaps (CDS) are one of the products that have assumed a key role in financial markets. My statement will discuss (1) the extent to which U.S. financial regulators and the UK regulator oversee CDS, (2) risks and challenges that CDS present to the stability of financial markets and institutions and similar concerns that other products may pose, and (3) the recent steps that financial regulators and the industry have taken to address risks pose by CDS and similar efforts that may be warranted for other financial products. GAO reviewed research studies and congressional testimonies. We interviewed financial regulators and a variety of financial market participants. In January 2009, GAO designated the financial regulatory system as a high-risk area in need of congressional attention. Issues involving systemic risk regulation in general and CDS in particular should be considered as part of that effort.

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