Theses Doctoral

Clearinghouse Default Resources: Theory and Empirical Analysis

Cheng, Wan-Schwin Allen

Clearinghouses insure trades. Acting as a central counterparty (CCP), clearinghouses consolidate financial exposures across multiple institutions, aiding the efficient management of counterparty credit risk. In this thesis, we study the decision problem faced by for-profit clearinghouses, focusing on primary economic incentives driving their determination of layers of loss-absorbing capital. The clearinghouse's loss-allocation mechanism, referred to as the default waterfall, governs the allocation and management of counterparty risk. This stock of loss-absorbing capital typically consists of initial margins, default funds, and the clearinghouse's contributed equity.
We separate the overall decision problem into two distinct subproblems and study them individually. The first is the clearinghouse's choice of initial margin and clearing fee requirements, and the second involves its choice of resources further down the waterfall, namely the default funds and clearinghouse equity. We solve for the clearinghouse's equilibrium choices in both cases explicitly, and address the different economic roles they play in the clearinghouse's profit-maximization process.
The models presented in this thesis show, without exception, that clearinghouse choices should depend not only on the riskiness of the cleared position but also on market and participants' characteristics such as default probabilities, fundamental value, and funding opportunity cost.
Our results have important policy implications. For instance, we predict a counteracting force that dampens monetary easing enacted via low interest rate policies. When funding opportunity costs are low, our research shows that clearinghouses employ highly conservative margin and default funds, which tie up capital and credit. This is supported by the low interest rate environment following the financial crisis of 2007--08. In addition to low productivity growth and return on capital, major banks have chosen to accumulate large cash piles on their balance sheets rather than increase lending. In terms of systemic risk, our empirical work, joint with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), points to the possibility of destabilizing loss and margin spirals: in the terminology of Brunnermeier and Pedersen (2009), we argue that a major clearinghouse's behavior is consistent with that of an uninformed financier and that common shocks to credit quality can lead to tightening margin constraints.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
Thesis Advisors
Capponi, Agostino
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 28, 2017