Commentators have also argued that the popularization of financial products such as teaser-rate hybrid loans for subprime homebuyers and credit default swaps for investors is to blame for the financial crisis. We find little evidence for this. Housing data indicate that the majority of subprime hybrid loans that have entered default had not undergone interest rate resets, and the default rate for subprime hybrid loans is not much higher than for subprime fixed rate loans. Concerning swaps, although their introduction may increase financial inflows into risky sectors, their execution through a clearing-house or regulation via other means would not necessarily have avoided the mispricing of risks in underlying contracts. Capital requirements for the credit default swaps that were used to insure mortgage-backed securities would have been low because housing investments were not considered risky.
The Cato Institute
October 8, 2009