The U.S. securities industry is applauding changes to the so-called Volcker Rule, which was adopted in the wake of the financial crisis to help insulate banks from trading risks.
On Tuesday, U.S. financial regulators approved amendments to the rule designed to simplify its requirements and ease some of the restrictions it imposed on banks.
“The limits and protections put in place by the prior version of the ‘Volcker Rule’ remain to ensure inappropriate risk practices do not recur. At the same time, we have made substantial progress eliminating ineffective complexity and addressing aspects of the rule that restrict responsible banking activity based on our experience with the rule,” said U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Joseph Otting, in a statement.
Among other things, the Volcker Rule prohibits banks from engaging in proprietary trading, and from controlling hedge funds and private equity funds.
Yet, this seemingly simple policy goal has also faced significant implementation and compliance challenges.
“Distinguishing between what qualifies as proprietary trading and what does not has proven to be extremely difficult. Meanwhile, banks that do relatively little trading are required to go through substantial compliance exercises to ensure that activities that have long been considered traditional banking activities do not run afoul of the Volcker Rule,” noted FDIC chairman, Jelena McWilliams.
Last year, U.S. regulators, including the the FDIC, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) proposed amendments designed to address some of the challenges for firms and regulators.
U.S. industry trade group, the U.S. Securities and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), endorsed the regulators’ effort to revise the rule.
“SIFMA supports the [regulators’] goal of reducing compliance-related inefficiencies of the Volcker Rule,” SIFMA president and CEO, Kenneth Bentsen, Jr., said in a statement.
“The revisions approved today will help ensure the rule does not negatively and unnecessarily impact market liquidity, capital formation and economic growth, which could be exacerbated during times of stress,” he added.
“These revisions do not in any way negate the statutory prohibition on proprietary trading by banks. However, we expect the revisions will provide market participants with more clarity on compliance as they implement the continuing legal restrictions under the rule, and they will make it easier for the regulators to ensure compliance,” Bentsen noted.