No, they're not. I say this as a person who has actually read credit-default swaps--Enron-made CDS, no less--back in 2001. I plowed through six bank boxes of Enron paper related to a quarter-billion dollar deal the company made with a quasi-public trash company in Connecticut. They were written in English, just like a home mortgage. There were lots of funny acronyms, like "LIBOR." But everything in them was defined at the top, and it wasn't hard to figure out that these were nothing more than low-grade, unregulated insurance contracts backed by the full faith and credit of, in that case, Enron.