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Ag committee on credit default swaps?

I’m listening in on a hearing going on right now by the House Agriculture Committee that is focusing on the role of credit default swaps and the SEC’s Erik Sirri (see his opening statement here) is taking some tough questions from a few House members.

Here’s a snippet from Jim Marshall of Georgia: “To suggest that the SEC is innocent in all of this in a stretch.” And just before that statement, Bob Etheridge just tried to get Sirri to answer a question about what role CDS played in the downfall of Bear Stearns, but Sirri said he would have to get back to him.

But here’s my question: why is the Ag Committee, which normally focuses on farm-related issues diving into the CDS market?

I’ll be listening in on the rest of this.

UPDATE: Here’s a Bloomberg story that summarizes the hearing, which was actually pretty interesting. When one committee member asked the SEC’s Sirri about “the next shadowy world to emerge”, Sirri said this, “We’re (the SEC) always playing catch-up and it’s a criticism that we hear.” Talk about reassuring words!
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s the money quote from yesterday’s hearing: —There is an estimated $55 trillion in credit default swaps somewhere out there, but no one knows for sure if any of these swaps offset each other, exactly who is on the hook for these swaps, who is trading with who and on what terms; and worst of all, no one has any idea who is solvent and who is upside down.” That was from Committee Chairman Collin Peterson. The full release is here.