Federal Reserve, FDIC approve Volcker rule

The FDIC’s board voted unanimously to seek comments on the proposal through 13 January. The Federal Reserve also stated it would accept feedback by that date.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve requested public comment this week on restrictions in the Dodd-Frank Act that would ban banks from owning or sponsoring private equity and hedge funds and from making short-term trades for their own accounts.

The Volcker rule, moved forward 11 October by the FDIC and the Fed, was in part created to combat “systemic risk”.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker developed the rule, which originally called for US banks to choose between running private equity and private equity real estate operations and taking deposits.

The rule would ban banks from taking positions held for 60 days or less, change the way traders involved in market-making are compensated and make senior bankers responsible for compliance.

The proposal includes a number of exemptions regarding trading. A bank could be free of the Volcker rule restrictions if it is hedging a specific position or a portfolio of risks across multiple trading desks.

However, if a bank does engage in those exempted behaviours, it must set up an internal compliance programme to ensure it stays within the boundary of the Volcker rule and its regulations.

Banks with major trading operations must also provide data to regulators allowing them to identify potential Volcker violations or other high-risk trading or assets.

The FDIC and Fed worked on the draft rule with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. A final version is slated to take effect on 21 July 2012.

In anticipation of the final version of the rule — and other regulations in Europe — several banks have already been selling down their private equity holdings. Citi has completed several major sales of its LP interests, as well as Bank of America, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays.

Market sources have said the publication of the rules this month would motivate financial institutions to hit the secondary market with more private equity offerings. In general, sources believed secondary deal flow will remain steady through 2012 because of banks divesting portfolios.