Mom, Apple Pie, and… Credit-Default Swaps?

Daniel Indiviglio says Main Street might be forced to pony up a trillion dollars of collateral on derivatives because of the financial-reform bill.

The new financial regulation bill is advertised as a crack down on Wall Street excess, but if one provision is left as is, it could cost Main Street companies as much as $1 trillion. The rule would expose so-called “end-users,” which are non-financial firms that use derivatives to hedge, not speculate, to new margin requirements on their derivatives. The bill that Congress may pass tonight or tomorrow still includes the provision.

Leaving aside the question of whether you should trust a press release by the derivatives lobby on the issue, the idea that Main Street—especially directly—is going to pay for such a thing is misleading.

Unless your definition of “Main Street” is “everything not on Wall Street.” But I don’t know anybody who thinks the corporate interests of BP or Philip Morris (okay, Altria), say, are the same as those of regular Americans and small businesspeople. To say so—going farther than even the derivatives lobby in the rhetoric—is unhelpful.

I’m pretty sure that Joe and Jane Salon Owner aren’t hedging their hairspray costs with grain futures.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.