A top bank regulator took the first step Tuesday toward rewriting the Volcker Rule, one of the main provisions of the post-financial crisis clampdown on Wall Street.
Keith Noreika, the acting comptroller of the currency and a Trump appointee, announced Tuesday he would solicit comments on revisiting the rule, a prelude to what would have to be a major multi-agency effort to change it.
"A bipartisan consensus has emerged that the Volcker Rule needs clarification and recalibration to eliminate burden on banks" that don't present a risk to the financial system, Noreika said in a statement.
The Volcker Rule, a part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law namd for former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, is meant to prevent banks from speculating for profit with federally-insured deposits. Under the rule, banks are prohibited from having profit-seeking trading desks or owning hedge funds. The basic idea is to prevent a situation in which banks get cheap funding, thanks to the government insurance for deposits, and accordingly make riskier bets than they would if it was only their own money at stake.
Critics have raised concerns that the rule places too great a burden on smaller banks, and that it could prevent large banks from maintaining liquidity in bond markets during a panic -- a view given some basis in Federal Reserve research.
Noreika's Office of the Comptroller of Currency, responsible for regulating national banks, is set to publish a request for comments in the Federal Register on Tuesday that will specifically ask whether smaller or less complex banks could be exempted from the rule. It will also ask for comments on what constitutes a speculative trade, rather than one meant to serve customers' needs.
The next step would be for the OCC and other agencies to issue a notice that they intend to change the rule. That is coming "soon," Noreika suggested.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the effort to overhaul the rule was underway. The Volcker Rule was a topic of dicussion at a Friday meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the super-group of banking regulators chaired by Mnuchin.
While lessening the burden of the Volcker Rule on community banks is an idea with some support from Obama-appointed regulators, a Trump administration effort to ease the regulation for larger banks will face pushback from Democrats in Congress.
That undertaking, however, will likely take a long time. It took years for the rule to be wrapped up by the five agencies responsible for it: The OCC, Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.