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Stricter regulation for U.S. trading banks on the horizon for Wall Street

U.S. banks brace for tighter regulation as revised Volcker rule on trading curbs is finalized this week

Wall Street is in for some changes soon, as U.S. regulators are expected to finally approve a stricter version of the Volcker rule, which will create more restrictions on what trading banks can actually do with their funds. The Volcker rule, named after Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman, was originally created as an overhaul of financial regulation known as Dodd-Frank to make the financial system safer and more controlled.

The new rule, which is a finished version of the trading curbs, was first proposed by President Obama back in 2010 and will be voted on by five agencies on or around Dec. 10.  According to a recent MarketWatch report, the votes will result in tighter restrictions on certain trading activities that go beyond what regulators had agreed to just a few weeks ago. Since then, regulators have been locked in tense negotiations that threatened to upend the provision.

The final rule will include regulators closely tracking trading activities, with a specific focus on whether certain trades known as hedges are designed to post a profit rather than create risks that usually come along with trading. The rule actually protects U.S banks affected by the trading curbs, since they won't be allowed to engage in certain self-destructive activities. 

Although the Volcker rule won’t be enforced until 2015, it will provide banks with some breathing room in the meantime since most banks already have done away with desks focused on proprietary trading. 

However, the last minute changes to the original Volcker rule could become a gift and a curse to many Wall Street execs. MarketWatch explained that other new rules already have reined in banks in some businesses and made it costlier to remain others. 

Unfortunately, one issue that can arise with approval of this rule is that banks may have the potential to enter trades loosely tied to those positions that were actually designed to post a profit and find a back-end way to continue engaging in proprietary trading. In order to reduce that risk, they pushed for requirements specifically tying hedges to the risk of losses, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Once the rule is officially approved, we’ll find out if the final regulations will actually follow the law and create the safeguards necessary to prevent future financial disasters. Stay tuned for the final verdict.

 

For more news on regulation, check out these related articles:

Dodd-Frank compliance is a burden for small banks, experts say

Deputy U.S. attorney general finds banks' compliance lacking

Federal Reserve reveals new stress tests for nation’s largest banks

Contributing Author

Stefanie Mosca

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