Creative monetization

VC Nigel Brown has a cool new idea. By creating notional shares of a given musical instrument, he can both allow investors, or contributors as he calls them, to invest in fine instruments and allow the artists, who would otherwise be priced out of playing those instruments, to play and profit from the piece’s appreciation. Nifty.

27. March 2012 by Chris
Categories: Art, Finance | Leave a comment

The cost of CDS liquidity

Yields on the new Greek 2042 bonds have jumped 3% this week to 16.93%. Prices, which move inversely to yields, on these new bonds are going down is because market participants are unable to hedge the risk inherent in these sovereign debt instruments. The reason for this lack of hedging ability stems from the ISDA‘s 2009 Supplement to the 2003 ISDA Credit Derivatives Definitions document. Let me explain.

After the 2003 Definitions were published, a credit event that occurred on or after the trade date of the CDS could trigger payout. While this provided a healthy amount of protection to buyers, who were hedged immediately upon buying a CDS, this same immediacy could make some CDS contracts not fungible. For example, if a CDS transaction occurs on January 1st and a credit event occurs on January 12th and a second CDS transaction occurs on January 20th, the first CDS and the second CDS are not fungible because the first CDS can be triggered by the January 12th credit event while the second CDS cannot be triggered by the January 12th credit event.

At first blush, this seems like the way the market should work. However, the problem occurs when you examine how derivatives function in the real world. A simple derivative like a call option grants the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying security for a predetermined price by a predetermined date. In reality, the underlying security is rarely bought and sold in this situation. What actually happens is the call option seller offsets their obligation by buying an identical call option when the call option buyer executes their option. Eventually, somebody somewhere must buy the underlying security but not in the vast majority of party/counter-party pairs. In order for our hypothetical seller to be able to offset their obligation, the two call options must be identical; they must be fungible. This was not the case after the 2003 Definitions came into being because CDS contracts with different trade dates were treated differently if a credit event occurred between the two trade dates.

This begs a more fundamental question, of course: why should a CDS purchased after a credit event be interchangeable with a CDS purchased prior to a credit event? Answer: to allow sell-side market participants to cover their obligations to their counter-parties after a credit event has occurred. Because CDS settlement is a long process involving complex procedures like an auction, market makers need time to cover their obligations to their counter-parties.

The 2009 Supplement changed this by allowing market participants more time and thus giving CDS contracts more liquidity. According to law firm Allen & Overy, “the Supplement provides that any credit event that occurred more than 60 calendar days prior to the date on which a request [to declare a credit event] is submitted to [the] ISDA … will not be able to trigger settlement of a credit derivative.” This means that sell-side market participants have 60 days to cover their obligations to their counter-parties by buying CDS contracts.

The feared corollary to this is that a credit event that occurs less than 60 days prior to the ISDA request date can be used to trigger CDS payout. As the FT reported, “Bankers want the ISDA to make a swift ruling that [backstop] clauses in CDS contracts cannot be used to activate fresh payouts on any new protection.” Without this assurance from the ISDA, buyers of new CDS contracts could trigger payout immediately under the 2009 Supplement 60 day backstop provision.

As a result, the last time Markit, who requires at least three banks to provide CDS prices in order to give CDS quotes, quoted CDS prices was on March 9th. Simply put, no sell-side market participant wants to take the risk of having a freshly written CDS executed on them and thus none of them are giving CDS quotes. This state will remain until either the ISDA rules that 60 day backstop provisions cannot be used to trigger payout on new CDS contracts or 61 days elapses from the March 9th credit event date.

Until one of these two conditions is met, it seems likely to me that that Greek yields will continue climb as bond buyers are unable to hedge the risk of another Greek credit event.

My interest in all this was piqued after reading the previously linked FT article. Of course, my explanation above is merely my understanding of the forces moving Greek yields and may be incorrect or incomplete and should not be taken as legal or financial advice of any kind.

25. March 2012 by Chris
Categories: Finance, Thought Experiments | Leave a comment

Mixed signals?

The FT reports that private sector holders of Greek debt are warming to the debt swap while Greek CDS rates are increasing. Odd, no?

04. March 2012 by Chris
Categories: Business | Leave a comment

No finance in literature

Author John Lanchester in this weekend’s FT talks about why the world of finance is absent from modern literature.

04. March 2012 by Chris
Categories: Art, Business | Leave a comment


From the New York Times:

Some said they were fighting the legal doctrine of corporate personhood; others, not fully understanding what that meant, believed it meant corporations paid no taxes whatsoever.


25. September 2011 by Chris
Categories: Business | Leave a comment

A backward interpretation of piracy

From the always entraining, if never convincing, TorrentFreak:
File sharing isn’t theft.File sharing is sharing information and a lot of people get it wrong when they say the cost of production of that sharing is zero. The cost is paid by all of us, for our devices and connections, for all the little cells that go into making up the internets.

When we share information, be it works of art, technical or scientific information, we increase the pool of wisdom and knowledge available to everyone. The cultural and scientific revolution fostered by the internets is only just beginning, and has already changed how we live in countless ways.

Trying to impose artificial scarcity on a system capable of infinitely replicating information across a cloud of self-maintaining component parts is not only futile, it is morally, ethically and logically corrupt. If the law is out of sync with morality, ethics and logic, then the law requires changing.

File sharing isn’t theft.

27. August 2011 by Chris
Categories: Law | Leave a comment

François Pinault on Art

The Financial Times’s always entertaining weekend interview is with François Pinault this week. His thoughts on art:

Everyone knows Venice. It’s Italian but belongs to the world, it’s open to the orient. And the presence of the old, Tintoretto, Titian, in confrontation with the [contemporary] Biennale: we see art continue here. We must die but life continues in art. During wars, the crisis in Japan, art always delivers this small hope, never despair. Artists have a capacity to anticipate the world towards which we are going. The glory of Tintoretto is that art is not dead, the movement hasn’t stopped.

09. April 2011 by Chris
Categories: Art | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A $1 billion lawsuit for not acting fast enough

FastCompany’s overview of a new $1 billion suit against Facebook and the legal implications such motions introduce for the future:

… a thought experiment. (Facebook has dismissed the suit as “without merit.”) If a page on Facebook advocated violence, and violence were to result, would Facebook have blood on its hands? The arc of technology does not inherently bend towards justice; radio was used to enflame the Rwandan genocide, for instance. And if so, would it be financially responsible for damages? How swiftly must it act? Would all pages need to undergo Facebook approval, like apps in the Apple app store? Facebook has what amounts to its own police force, but no force is large enough to constantly be monitoring all the speech that occurs on Facebook. How can it all be monitored, and how to strike the balance between freedom and security of users? Some call this an “ethical quandary for social sites.” But, frivolous though Klayman’s suit may be, they could also become a legal quandary some day.

Image: vichie81 /

04. April 2011 by Chris
Categories: Law, Tech | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Kandinsky and Stylistic Evolution During the Early Bauhaus Years

Had Ad Reinhardt lived longer and continued his work after “making the last painting anyone can make” in 1965, art historians would have the same questions about him as they do about Wassily Kandinsky – did the artist go back on his word or was there a true evolution in the art. (Reinhardt 13) That is, after fully exploring a vein in one’s own style there is nowhere else to go but on to a different, though often related, vein. In Reinhardt’s case, he wrote a handful of plays prior to passing away in 1967, before he had a chance to return to the canvas. Unlike Reinhardt, Kandinsky reached a fulcrum midway through his career, giving him ample opportunity to explore the second vein of his art. Continue Reading →

04. April 2011 by Chris
Categories: Academic writings, Art | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Lazzarini’s Teacup

While the rarity of the piece is nothing to write home about – an unknown albeit large number were made as part of the Peter Norton Family Christmas Gift for 2003 – the draw of the piece for me has more to do with the content rather than the value.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, increasingly my interests (at least as far as acquisition interests) have been circling pieces that deal in the visual distortion realm. Teacup fits the bill. Continue Reading →

04. April 2011 by Chris
Categories: Academic writings, Art | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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