Federal financial regulators said Thursday they plan to make it easier to let banks invest in venture capital funds and also relax some limitations on derivatives trading. The moves, a loosening of some of the more onerous parts of the so-called Volcker Rule, lifted bank stocks.
The Volcker Rule, part of the broader Dodd-Frank bill enacted in 2010 following the meltdown of big banks in 2008, sought to crack down on risky behavior by Wall Street firms. It was named after former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker, who passed away in December.
Many banks and brokerages were using their company’s own money to invest in derivatives such as mortgage-backed securities and other complex financial instruments.
The eventual collapse of the subprime mortgage market – loans to borrowers with poor credit histories – created a ripple effect that led to the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual and countless other firms.
Giant banks wound up needing to receive hundreds of billions of dollars in federal bailout money to stop the bleeding.
But the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation along with the Fed, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said Thursday that was issuing a new rule to modify and clarify some of these restrictions.
The regulators said that the changes wlll allow banks to “allocate resources to a more diverse array of long-term investments in a broader range of geographic areas, industries, and sectors than they may be able to access directly.”
The new rules are the latest example of how regulators in the Trump administration are undoing much of the Obama-era rules put into place to curb bad behavior by big banks.
The FDIC, Fed and other agencies had already neutered the part of the Volcker rule that restricted so-called proprietary trading by banks, the practice of investing with the firm’s own funds instead of bets for clients.
Bankers cheered the changes.
“We welcome the measured steps taken today by the FDIC, which will allow banks to further support the economy at this challenging time for the nation,” said Rob Nichols, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association in a statement..
But critics of America’s largest financial firns are crying foul and expressing worries that banks – which are in much better shape now than 2008 partly because of tougher rules – could be headed for another crisis.
“The FDIC and other banking regulators have unnecessarily increased risks to the US banking system and jeopardized the savings of every American with money deposited at Wall Street’s biggest FDIC insured banks that are involved in global derivatives dealing,” said Joseph Cisewski, senior derivatives consultant and special counsel with Better Markets, a nonprofit group.
The new rules come just a few hours before the Fed is set to release the results of the so-called stress tests for big banks – a kind of report card that has been in place since the financial crisis.
CNN Business’ Matt Egan, Anneken Tappe and Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this story.