Merkley and Levin Statement on Final Volcker Rule

Washington, DC – Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Carl Levin (D-MI) released the following joint statement after approval by the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) of the final Volcker Rule, a firewall between traditional banking and hedge fund style gambling. Merkley and Levin led the fight to pass the provision during the debate over the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act in 2010. 

“We fought for the Merkley-Levin provision of the Dodd-Frank Act in order to put a strong firewall between banks and hedge fund-style high-risk trading. Today is a big step toward that goal. We are still reviewing the details of the final rule, but early indications suggest that persistence and common sense can prevail in the face of even the fiercest special interest lobbying campaigns: hedging looks tougher, market-making looks simpler, trader compensation remains appropriately structured, and CEOs are required to set the tone at the top.  No regulation is ever perfect, and we will carefully monitor implementation and hold regulators and firms accountable. If problems emerge – for whatever reason –  we will quickly press regulators to address them.  Overall, though, the final rule looks improved over the proposal from two years earlier.  

“The Merkley-Levin Amendment was intended to change the culture and practices at our nation’s largest financial firms, to prevent Wall Street and the big banks from making swing-for-the-fences bets that put depositors and taxpayers at risk.   The regulators have taken a serious step forward in mandating critical changes.”

Hedge-fund style proprietary trading at our nation’s largest financial firms was a high-risk, conflict-ridden activity that played a central role in the 2008 financial crisis. Banks should be in the business of serving customers – including taking deposits from and making loans to ordinary families and businesses. Speculative investing should be left to hedge funds, private equity funds, and other private investors that, if they get in trouble, won’t imperil the lending so critical to our economic growth. 

The Volcker Rule firewall, as embodied in the Merkley-Levin Amendment to Dodd-Frank:

  • Bars our lending banks and their affiliates and subsidiaries from engaging in the speculative, conflict-ridden activities of making bets on the stock, bond, derivatives, and other markets and limits those activities at systemically important nonbank financial institutions;
  • Allows for customer-oriented services, such as underwriting and market-making to facilitate capital formation for clients, risk-mitigating hedging activities to permit safe and sound operations, and fund management services for customers.

Enforcement and public accountability for it will be critical.  The provision is implemented by the relevant federal regulator, including the Federal Reserve Board, the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the FDIC, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).