Difference between revisions of "Credit value adjustment"

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Revision as of 10:42, 9 November 2019

The Jolly Contrarian’s Glossary

The snippy guide to financial services lingo.™
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Warning: ramblings of an untutored maniac here. A credit value adjustment — to its friends CVA — is a calculation made by financial reporting types to financial instruments one holds to account for changes in the creditworthiness of the issuer of those instruments since their issue. For a liquid instrument the CVA ought really to be baked into the mark-to-market value of the instrument. For a collateralised one, it ought to be small. As far as this bear of little brain can see, it ought really to be the difference between the present value of the notional cashflows due on that instrument (that is, ignoring the risk of default) and the price at which that instrument is trading.

The imposition of CVA adjustments during the global financial crisis — it is a Basel requirement — where counterparties had, effectively, to discount the value of their claims under derivative contracts due to deterioration in their counterparties’ creditworthiness, led resourceful types to wonder whether they shouldn’t also be able to discount the book value of their obligations under the same contracts due to a deterioration in their own creditworthiness.

There is a neat logic to this — if I consider this obligation my term indebtedness, then if my prospects have worsened, I would be able to buy this back at a discount to its face value for exactly the same reason, so why shouldn’t I mark it down? — but you would not be alone if you felt something tugging at your gut saying this feels wrong. And so it is.

If you think your own-credit deterioration is an excuse to book a profit, you should get your coat. Just because, as you lurch towards insolvency, the value of your liabilities to others tends to zero, it doesn’t mean their cost to you tends to zero. You are still fully liable for the risk-free amount of that indebtedness, come what may. That you should have collapsed into ignominious torpor of bankruptcy before being able to honour it does not mean that obligation doesn’t exist, and it certainly doesn’t go to your pnl.

“But,” I hear you cry, “I could buy that indebtedness back in the market at the discounted va —”

WITH WHAT, DEAR LIZA? The theory is your business is swan-diving into the side of a hill. If you had free cash available to buy out all your debts, said hill would not be filling up your entire field of vision. You don’t have any goddamn money to buy your debts back. That is your exact problem.

“But I could borrow so —” and here, dear reader, follows a pause. “Oh, hang on. I think I see the problem here.”

Right. You don’t have any money, so you would have to borrow it. Even if you could find someone prepared to lend to a sopon-to-be-bankrupt company (look, it does happen), it would lend to you at your current state of indebtedness. So you would be trading your apparently cheap indebtedness for more expensive indebtedness.