Merkley, Levin Call on Regulators to Close “JPMorgan Loophole”

WASHINGTON –  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) today sent a letter to regulators, calling on them to close the “JPMorgan Loophole.” 

Although the Dodd-Frank Act prohibits banks from proprietary trading, the regulators’ proposed rule creates a new loophole that could allow proprietary trading to continue even after the law goes into effect.  This JP Morgan Loophole would likely allow Wall Street banks to continue proprietary trading by calling it “portfolio hedging” even after the Volcker Rule is finally implemented. The letter was sent to the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

“We again urge you to remove ill-advised loopholes and implement a strong Volcker Rule without further delay,” wrote the Senators. “In recent days, we’ve seen exactly what ‘portfolio hedging’ might mean. This ‘JPMorgan Loophole’ is big enough to drive a ‘London Whale’ through.” 

“So long as banks have the incentives to make these types of bets and are permitted to do so, they will. As we have learned time and time again, establishing clear, strong rules of the road is critical for the healthy functioning of markets and our economy.”

The Volcker Rule, which was written by Merkley and Levin to create a firewall between banks and hedge-fund style trading, goes into effect this July, but regulators have not yet finalized their rules.   The legislation was explicitly drafted to prevent the loophole, with hedging permitted “solely to reduce risks” that were related to specific positions or holdings. Merkley and Levin urged regulators to close this loophole and others in a comment letter in February, and warned about the JPMorganChase desk as a likely violation of the Volcker Rule in April. 

The full letter can be viewed here.