August 13, 2019 / 4:53 PM / 8 days ago

U.S. regulators to drop accounting test in 'Volcker' rewrite: sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators have circulated a new draft of the “Volcker Rule” that would further ease its requirements and scrap a proposed new test that had been met with fierce resistance from Wall Street, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The changes will be a relief for Wall Street, which had worried the proposed changes would actually create more headaches for the industry.

Regulators are aiming to vote in coming weeks on the revamped version of the rule, which was introduced following the 2007-2009 global financial crisis to bar banks that accept taxpayer-insured deposits from engaging in short-term speculative trading.

In May 2018, U.S. regulators unveiled a plan to modify the rule, aiming to make compliance easier for firms such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley, which have long complained the rule is too complex and subjective.

That first rewrite proposed a new test for assessing whether trades are speculative that would focus on the accounting treatment of the instruments traded, replacing a more subjective test that aims to identify if a trader intended a trade to be speculative. Banks detested the original “intent” test, saying it was unworkable and unfair.

But the industry was equally unhappy with the proposed accounting test, warning it could end up ensnaring a host of other assets that were never meant to be covered by the rule.

The regulators, led by the Federal Reserve, are expected to drop the “accounting prong” and rely primarily on two other tests in the original rule to police trading by large banks, the people said.

They are aiming to wrap up the rewrite by the fall, suggesting banks may enjoy relief earlier than anticipated. Some industry executives had worried regulators would open the rule up to industry consultation a second time, further delaying the project by several months.

The regulators also plan to propose changes to a separate part of the Volcker Rule which governs the relationships banks can have with hedge and private equity funds, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The regulators will propose simpler rules around those so-called “covered funds” relationships that should make life easier for many overseas firms caught by that part of the rule.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; editing by Michelle Price and Jonathan Oatis

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