"Speculators have also flooded into the credit insurance market recently because these securities make it easier to bet on the health of a company than using corporate bonds.
Both factors have resulted in a market of credit swaps that now far exceeds the face value of corporate bonds underlying it. Commercial banks are among the biggest participants — at the end of the third quarter of 2007, the top 25 banks held credit default swaps, both as insurers and insured, worth $14 trillion, the currency office said, up $2 trillion from the previous quarter.
JPMorgan Chase, with $7.8 trillion, is the largest player; Citibank and Bank of America are behind it with $3 trillion and $1.6 trillion respectively.
In 2000, $900 billion of credit insurance contracts changed hands. Since then, the face value of the contracts outstanding has doubled every year as new contracts have been written. In the first six months of 2007, the figure rose 75 percent; the market now dwarfs the value of United States Treasuries outstanding."