Financial stability depends on the effective regulation of central counterparties (CCPs), which must take account of the incentives that drive CCP behavior. This paper studies the incentives of a for-profit CCP with limited liability. It faces a trade-off between fee income and counterparty credit risk. A better-capitalized CCP sets a higher collateral requirement to reduce potential default losses, even though it forgoes fee income by deterring potential traders. I show empirically that a 1% increase in CCP capital is associated with a 0.6% increase in required collateral. Limited liability, however, creates a wedge between its capital and collateral policy and the socially optimal solution to this trade-off. The optimal capital requirements should account for clearing fees.
Time is valuable, particularly in stressed markets. As central counterparties (CCPs) have become systemically important, we need to understand the dynamics of their exposure towards clearing members at high frequencies. We track such exposure and decompose it which leads to the following insights. The composition of CCP exposure is fundamentally different in the tails. At extreme levels or during rapid increases, there is elevated crowding. This is the result of clearing members all concentrating their positions on a single security or a particular portfolio, desirable if motivated by hedging, worrying if due to speculation.
Fragmenting clearing across multiple central counter-parties (CCPs) is costly. This is because dealers providing liquidity globally, cannot net trades cleared in different CCPs and this increases their collateral costs. These costs are then passed on to their clients through price distortions which take the form of a price differential (basis) when the same products are cleared in different CCPs. Using proprietary data, we document an economically significant CCP basis for dollar swap contracts cleared both at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the London Clearing House (LCH) and provide empirical evidence consistent with a collateral cost explanation of this basis.