There is much surprise that the German government has declared a ban on naked short selling, including CDS, as of midnight tonight, with no prior notice and the courtly deference demanded by the Banks when government chooses to regulate them. This action seems to have perturbed some and confused many.
The reason for this may be quite simple.
After tonight, when hedge funds and The Banks call upon German financial firms and European governments to make payments on Credit Default Swaps or other financial instruments that are subject to the ban, the Germans will have a rather large hammer in hand to help them to negotiate the terms, and respond to any threats and coercion.
Since the CDS will be deemed to be no longer legal, at least in the quantity and leverage desired by those gaming the system, the opportunity to default on them with the backing of the government may be an option. This seems quite similar to the stance that the Chinese government took on behalf of some Chinese firms that were caught on the wrong side of energy derivatives.
I have heard from several sources that there was a general disappointment in Europe and in some parts of Asia at the lack of progress being made in the US Congress towards creating meaningful reforms in their financial system. In fact, there is a widespread belief that Washington is being dictated to by the Banks, and that their lobbyists are directing the conversation, and in many cases writing the actual legislation. The final straw was when the Obama Administration itself sought to water down and block key provisions of the legislation to limit the power and size of the Banks.
"To some degree this is a battle between the politicians and the markets," she said in a speech in Berlin. "But I am firmly resolved -- and I think all of my colleagues are too -- to win this battle....The fact that hedge funds are not regulated is a scandal," she said, adding that Britain had blocked previous efforts to do this. "However, this will certainly have taken place in Europe in three weeks," she said, without giving more details." Reuters 6 May 2010
"German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the financial industry of playing dirty. 'First the banks failed, forcing states to carry out rescue operations. They plunged the global economy over the precipice and we had to launch recovery packages, which increased our debts, and now they are speculating against these debts. That is very treacherous,' she said. 'Governments must regain supremacy. It is a fight against the markets and I am determined to win this fight.'"UK Telegraph 6 May 2010The financiers have been saying that 'Europe cannot print money faster than Goldman Sachs can create naked Credit Default Swaps.' Well, Goldman can still create those swaps, but they may have trouble finding counterparties for them in Europe. And those who buy them may do so at their peril, since Europe is obviously seeking to isolate itself from the consequences of speculative excess by an overleveraged financial system.
Merkel said she was going to reassert the primacy of government over the multinational speculators.
This is only the opening salvo. It will not be effective without further effort. And it is likely to draw the ire and criticism of the corporate media in NY and London, and the financiers' well-kept demimonde.
"Oh no, naked CDS are essential to price discovery. Naked shorting adds liquidity. The system will fall apart if you do not let the Banks have their way with the global economy. Oh my God, someone in government actually did something that was not vetted and pre-approved by the Wall Street Banks. They have actually outlawed naked shorting, which is tantamount to legalized counterfeiting. How dare that headstrong and impertinent frau Dr. Merkel attempt to protect her people from the gangs of New York!"But one has to admit that the lady has style, and, unlike her American counterpart, is not afraid to occasionally take the wheel and drive, rather than sit in the back seat offering platitudes, and fine sounding words, and toothlessly petulant criticism.
Germany to Ban Naked Short-Selling at Midnight
By Alan Crawford
May 18, 2010
May 18 (Bloomberg) -- Germany will temporarily ban naked short selling and naked credit-default swaps of euro-area government bonds at midnight after politicians blamed the practice for exacerbating the European debt crisis.
The ban will also apply to naked short selling in shares of 10 banks and insurers that will last until March 31, 2011, German financial regulator BaFin said today in an e-mailed statement. The step was needed because of “exceptional volatility” in euro-area bonds, the regulator said.
The move came as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition seeks to build momentum on
financial-market regulation with lower- house lawmakers due to begin debating a bill tomorrow authorizing Germany’s contribution to a $1 trillion bailout plan to backstop the euro. U.S. stocks fell and the euro dropped to $1.2231, the lowest level since April 18, 2006, after the announcement.
“You cannot imagine what broke lose here after BaFin’s announcement,” Johan Kindermann, a capital markets lawyer at Simmons & Simmons in Frankfurt, said in an interview. “This will lead to an uproar in the markets tomorrow. Short-sellers will now, even tonight, try to close their positions at markets where they can still do so -- if they find any possibilities left at all now.”
Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have called for curbs on speculating with sovereign credit-default swaps. European Union Financial Services Commissioner Michel Barnier this week called for stricter disclosure requirements on the transactions.
Allianz SE, Deutsche Bank AG, Commerzbank AG, Deutsche Boerse AG, Deutsche Postbank AG, Muenchener Rueckversicherungs AG, Hannover Rueckversicherungs AG, Generali Deutschland Holding AG, MLP AG and Aareal Bank AG are covered by the short-selling ban.
“Massive” short-selling was leading to excessive price movements which “could endanger the stability of the entire financial system,” BaFin said in the statement.
The European Union last month proposed that the Financial Stability Board, the group set up by the Group of 20 nations to monitor global financial trends, should “closely examine the role” of CDS on sovereign bond spreads. Merkel said earlier today that she will press the Group of 20 to bring in a financial transactions tax.
“In some ways, it’s a battle of the politicians against the markets” and “I’m
determined to win,” Merkel said May 6. “The speculators are our adversaries.”
Germany, along with the U.S. and other EU nations, banned short selling of banks and insurance company shares at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. The country still has rules requiring disclosure of net short positions of 0.2 percent or more of outstanding shares of 10 separate companies.
The disclosure of the rules drew criticism from lawyers who said that they should have been announced well ahead of time.
“The way it’s been announced is very irresponsible, and it’s sent many market participants into panic mode,” said Darren Fox, a regulator lawyer who advises hedge funds at Simmons & Simmons in London. “We thought regulators had learned their lessons from September 2008. Where is the market emergency that necessitates the introduction of an overnight ban?”
Short-selling is when hedge funds and other investors borrow shares they don’t own and sell them in the hope their price will go down. If it does, they buy back the shares at the lower price, return them to their owner and pocket the difference.
Credit-default swaps are derivatives that pay the buyer face value if a borrower -- a country or a company -- defaults. In exchange, the swap seller gets the underlying securities or the cash equivalent. Traders in naked credit-default swaps buy insurance on bonds they don’t own.
A basis point on a credit-default swap contract protecting $10 million of debt from default for five years is equivalent to $1,000 a year.