Scholars have traditionally assumed that lenders that protect themselves using credit derivatives like credit default swaps (CDS) have limited interest in debt governance. The rationale behind this proposition seems straight-forward. Lenders that have bought credit protection should have little incentive to invest in monitoring and disciplining a borrower where they know they will be repaid under the CDS. Indeed, scholars argue, lenders that have purchased CDS protection have considerable interest in seeing a borrower fail. When this happens, they can easily and cheaply exit their investment by triggering repayment on the CDS.
This paper, the New Market in Debt Governance, recently made available on SSRN, challenges this consensus and proposes a new theory of governance in the context of credit derivatives trading. While scholars have traditionally focused on lenders that protect themselves using CDS, they overlook the role of financial firms that sell this credit protection and thereby assume economic risk on the underlying borrower. These protection sellers take on the risk of a borrower defaulting, but possess no legal tools with which they can discipline the borrower to stave off default. As a result, unlike ordinary lenders, protection sellers have no direct means to control a borrower’s risk-taking. They possess no legal powers to influence how much leverage a borrower takes on, its use of collateral, cash reserves or its acquisitions and enterprise strategy. Given this precarious position, it follows that protection sellers possess powerful incentives to seek out ways to influence how a borrower company is run to better control how risky it is allowed to become.