Presettlement vs Settlement Risk

Counterparty credit risk consists of both presettlement and settlement risk. Preset-tlement risk is the risk of loss due to the counterparty's failure to perform on an obligation during the life of the transaction. This includes default on a loan or bond or failure to make the required payment on a derivative transaction. Presettlement risk can exist over long periods, often years, starting from the time it is contracted until settlement.

In contrast, settlement risk is due to the exchange of cash flows and is of a much shorter-term nature. This risk arises as soon as an institution makes the required payment until the offsetting payment is received. This risk is greatest when payments occur in different time zones, especially for foreign exchange transactions where no-tionals are exchanged in different currencies. Failure to perform on settlement can be caused by counterparty default, liquidity constraints, or operational problems.

Most of the time, settlement failure due to operational problems leads to minor economic losses, such as additional interest payments. In some cases, however, the loss can be quite large, extending to the full amount of the transferred payment. An example of major settlement risk is the 1974 failure of Herstatt Bank. The day it went bankrupt, it had received payments from a number of counterparties but defaulted before payments were made on the other legs of the transactions.

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