CHICAGO – The lawsuit filed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission against Goldman Sachs for securities fraud, charging the bank with misrepresenting the way a collateralized debt obligations (CDO) had been formed, has revived public disgust at credit default swaps (CDS), the instrument used to bet against these CDOs. Before the 2008 financial crisis, CDSs were an esoteric product, known only to a restricted number of sophisticated investors and specialized academics. Today, they are a household name, synonymous with unruly speculation, boundless greed, and, ultimately, systemic instability.
Indeed, CDSs are blamed as one of the main causes of the financial crisis. The legality of Goldman Sachs’ behavior will be determined by a court of law, but CDSs’ odious reputation is jeopardizing the survival of this instrument in the court of public opinion.