Risks in Settlement


The following two kinds of risks are inherent in a settlement system:

(1) Counterparty Risk: This arises if parties do not discharge their obligations fully when due or at any time thereafter. This has two components, namely replacement cost risk prior to settlement and principal risk during settlement.

(a) The replacement cost risk arises from the failure of one of the parties to transaction. While the non-defaulting party tries to replace the original transaction at current prices, he loses the profit that has accrued on the transaction between the date of original transaction and date of replacement transaction. The seller/buyer of the security loses this unrealised profit if the current price is below/above the transaction price. Both parties encounter this risk as prices are uncertain. It has been reduced by reducing time gap between transaction and settlement and by legally binding netting systems.

(b) The principal risk arises if a party discharges his obligations but the counterparty defaults. The seller/buyer of the security suffers this risk when he delivers/makes payment, but does not receive payment/delivery. This risk can be eliminated by delivery vs. payment mechanism which ensures delivery only against payment. This has been reduced by having a central counterparty (NSCCL) which becomes the buyer to every seller and the seller to every buyer. A variant of counterparty risk is liquidity risk which arises if one of the parties to transaction does not settle on the settlement date, but later. The seller/buyer who does not receive payment/delivery when due, may have to borrow funds/securities to complete his payment/delivery obligations. Another variant is the third party risk which arises if the parties to trade are permitted or required to use the services of a third party which fails to perform. For example, the failure of a clearing bank which helps in payment can disrupt settlement. This risk is reduced by allowing parties to have accounts with multiple banks. Similarly, the users of custodial services face risk if the concerned custodian becomes insolvent, acts negligently, etc.


(2) System Risk: This comprises of operational, legal and systemic risks. The operational risk arises from possible operational failures such as errors, fraud, outages etc. The legal risk arises if the laws or regulations do not support enforcement of settlement obligations or are uncertain. Systemic risk arises when failure of one of the parties to discharge his obligations leads to failure by other parties. The domino effect of successive failures can cause a failure of the settlement system. These risks have been contained by enforcement of an elaborate margining and capital adequacy standards to secure market integrity, settlement guarantee funds to provide counter-party guarantee, legal backing for settlement activities and business continuity plan, etc.

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