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May 17, 2023

Wall Street’s CEOs Are Right: Chaos If Not Calamity Could Result from a Default and Even a Dumb Debt Ceiling Deal

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Dennis M. Kelleher, Cofounder, President and CEO, issued the following statement in connection with today’s statements by Wall Street’s CEOs regarding the debt ceiling:

“With virtually every financial instrument priced off of the risk-free rate of U.S. debt, a United States default on its debt for the first time in history and the resulting ratings downgrade would almost certainly cause chaos and possibly even a financial calamity.  If U.S. debt is no longer risk-free, then virtually all financial assets would have to be repriced based on that new and unprecedented reality.  In addition, the status of the dollar as a reserve currency would be damaged with unforeseeable consequences.

“The pillars of U.S. global economic power are stability, predictability, and credibility.  The full faith and credit of the United States based on always paying its bills is the foundation for those pillars.  That’s what is at stake in the debt ceiling fight.

“Wall Street’s CEOs are right to warn of the perilous impacts that a debt default would have on the U.S. financial system and economy.  However, as was witnessed in 2011, even this debt brinksmanship where one party takes the U.S. economy hostage as a bargaining chip can have very negative economic impacts.  For example, the U.S. didn’t default in 2011, but one rating agency nonetheless downgraded U.S. debt.  Finally, a debt deal with provisions that slow the economy even more or add uncertainty will be a dumb, needless, self-inflicted wound at the worst possible time.

“This conduct is beneath the status of a great country.  The debt ceiling must be lifted quickly and the U.S. debt must be paid.”


Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies—including many in finance—to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit


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