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Editor's Note: Credit default swaps, the risky derivatives that starred in the last financial crisis, never truly disappeared – and now they've made a comeback. The latest system-gaming scheme, which Shah first exposed in 2014, may be even more maniacal than the last…
The madness of the manipulation machinery on Wall Street knows no bounds.
Remember credit default swaps (CDS)? They're the risky financial derivatives traded among FDIC-insured banks that, during the 2007-08 financial crisis, took down Lehman Bros. and almost bankrupted giant insurer AIG Inc. (NYSE: AIG).
Well, they never went away. And now they're making a comeback, and Wall Street is using them in ever more maniacal ways.
Today, I'm going to show you how Wall Street manipulators are using CDS and a false front of "activism" to make huge profits from troubled companies – and why that's becoming routine.
Good Idea Gone Bad
This is about outright, legitimized (as in it's not only legal – it's business as usual) manipulation.
Think of CDS as a kind of insurance. Companies issue debt, and investors buy their obligations to collect interest and expect their principal to get paid back at maturity.
But sometimes debtors get into trouble. CDS sellers offer the holders of debt insurance against the debtor defaulting.
That's not a bad idea. In fact, it's a good product.
But, Wall Street being Wall Street, that good idea became a great way to gamble. That's because there's no limit on how many "insurance policies" can be written on any company's debts.
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For example, RadioShack had about $1.4 billion in outstanding debt in 2014, and so the storied retailer was in trouble. Speculators betting on RadioShack defaulting, however, had bets that add up to about $23.5 billion.
That's like everyone in your neighborhood taking out fire insurance on your house. These gamblers would be hoping your house burned down so they could collect.
Sooner or later, someone might toss in a match to light the pile of potentially profitable bets.
Of course, that's happening on Wall Street.
About the Author
Shah Gilani boasts a financial pedigree unlike any other. He ran his first hedge fund in 1982 from his seat on the floor of the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. When options on the Standard & Poor's 100 began trading on March 11, 1983, Shah worked in "the pit" as a market maker.
The work he did laid the foundation for what would later become the VIX - to this day one of the most widely used indicators worldwide. After leaving Chicago to run the futures and options division of the British banking giant Lloyd's TSB, Shah moved up to Roosevelt & Cross Inc., an old-line New York boutique firm. There he originated and ran a packaged fixed-income trading desk, and established that company's "listed" and OTC trading desks.
Shah founded a second hedge fund in 1999, which he ran until 2003.
Shah's vast network of contacts includes the biggest players on Wall Street and in international finance. These contacts give him the real story - when others only get what the investment banks want them to see.
Today, as editor of Hyperdrive Portfolio, Shah presents his legion of subscribers with massive profit opportunities that result from paradigm shifts in the way we work, play, and live.
Shah is a frequent guest on CNBC, Forbes, and MarketWatch, and you can catch him every week on Fox Business's Varney & Co.