The derivatives bubble is often estimated to exceed one quadrillion dollars (a quadrillion is 1,000 trillion). The entire GDP of the world is estimated at $105 trillion, or 10% of one quadrillion; and the collective wealth of the world is an estimated $360 trillion. Clearly, there is not enough collateral anywhere to satisfy all the derivative claims. The majority of derivatives now involve interest rate swaps, and interest rates have shot up. The bubble looks ready to pop.

Who were the intrepid counterparties signing up to take the other side of these risky derivative bets? Initially, it seems, they were banks – led by four mega-banks, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. But according to a 2023 book called The Great Taking by veteran hedge fund manager David Rogers Webb, counterparty risk on all of these bets is ultimately assumed by an entity called the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), through its nominee Cede & Co. (See also Greg Morse, “Who Owns America? Cede & DTCC,” and A. Freed, “Who Really Owns Your Money? Part I, The DTCC”). Cede & Co. is now the owner of record of all of our stocks, bonds, digitized securities, mortgages, and more; and it is seriously under-capitalized, holding capital of only $3.5 billion, clearly not enough to satisfy all the potential derivative claims. Webb thinks this is intentional.

What happens if the DTCC goes bankrupt? Under The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) of 2005, derivatives have “super-priority” in bankruptcy. (The BAPCPA actually protects the banks and derivative claimants rather than consumers; it was the same act that eliminated bankruptcy protection for students.) Derivative claimants don’t even need to go through the bankruptcy court but can simply nab the collateral from the bankrupt estate, leaving nothing for the other secured creditors (including state and local governments) or the banks’ unsecured creditors (including us, the depositors). And in this case the “bankrupt estate” – the holdings of the DTCC/Cede & Co. – includes all of our stocks, bonds, digitized securities, mortgages, and more.

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