Head of derivatives lobbying group ISDA to step down

April 17 Thu Apr 17, 2014 11:39am EDT

April 17 (Reuters) - Derivatives lobbying association the International Swaps and Derivatives Association said on Thursday its Chief Executive Officer Robert (Bob) Pickel will step down from the role this year.

An attorney by training, Pickel has worked at ISDA in various positions for 17 years and was CEO of the association from 2001 to 2009, returning to the top role in 2011.

Derivatives are undergoing dramatic reform as new regulations meant to make the markets safer, more transparent and more competitive are being slowly implemented.

Pickel said that the transition of the markets makes it a good time to step down from his role.

"With many reforms implemented or largely under way, I believe that now is a good time to explore other opportunities," Pickel said in a release.

Pickel became well known during the credit crisis of 2007-2009 when he touted the benefits of opaque, privately traded credit derivatives at a time when many were blaming trading in the then-$60 trillion market as a key contributor to the financial panic that resulted in the U.S. government having to backstop the country's largest banks.

This included an appearance on "60 Minutes" in 2008 where Pickel, sweating under the hot studio lights, defended the role of credit default swaps but added that investors failed to see the risks of subprime mortgages underlying the contracts.

Credit default swaps are used to protect against the risk of non-payment by a company, government or other borrower, or to speculate on their credit quality.

Large banks and investors across the globe took massive losses during the crisis from packaged deals that in some cases used derivatives to transfer the risks of mortgages.

ISDA noted Pickel's role in facilitating industry reforms, including before the crisis. These include industry protocols meant to facilitate the transfer of trading positions, the standardization of credit and interest rate swaps and the introduction of terms to help settle payments on credit default swaps after a borrower defaults.

"Bob has been a tireless advocate for ISDA and our mission to ensure safe, efficient markets," Eraj Shirvani, former ISDA chairman and managing director, head of fixed income EMEA at Credit Suisse, said in the release.

Pickel will continue to work with the association as it works to appoint a successor. (Reporting by Karen Brettell; Editing by Marguerita Choy)