Bilateral financial contracts typically require an assessment of counterparty risk. Central clearing of these financial contracts allows market participants to mutualize their counterparty risk, but this insurance may weaken incentives to acquire and to reveal information about such risk. When considering this trade-off, participants choose central clearing if information acquisition is incentive compatible. If it is not, they may prefer bilateral clearing, when this choice prevents strategic default while economizing on costly collateral. In either case, participants independently choose the efficient clearing arrangement. Consequently, mandating central clearing can be socially inefficient.