April 13, 2018 / 8:09 PM / 3 months ago

House passes bill to streamline 'Volcker Rule'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to name the Federal Reserve as the primary regulator for the “Volcker Rule,” which bars banks from speculative trading.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) questions SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White during a hearing in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua RobertsFiles

The bill, which was approved by a vote of 300-104, would streamline the rule which is currently enforced by five separate regulators.

The degree of bipartisan support for the measure suggests House lawmakers may try to include it in a broader bill easing bank rules that has already passed the Senate.

The attempt to alter the laws governing the rule comes as regulators have also embarked on the task of rewriting the rule themselves, under a process that requires all five regulators to agree to changes.

The Volcker rule, finalized three years after the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis, restricts U.S. banks from making certain kinds of speculative transactions on their own account and from investing in hedge funds.

Bank executives have complained that the current rule is confusing and difficult to follow, hurting market liquidity.

Beyond giving the Fed sole authority to rewrite the rule, the legislation also would require the primary regulator for a particular financial firm to serve as the sole supervisor for Volcker rule compliance. Currently, all five regulators share supervision and enforcement authority, an arrangement banks have called unworkable.

The regulators are the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Jeb Hensarling, the head of the House committee that authored the bill, said on Friday it could provide much-needed clarity for banks.

“Regardless of how you stand on a particular rule or regulation, it at least ought to be clear, and there ought to be one interpretation and one enforcer of the rule,” he added.

The bill must be agreed to by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump before it becomes law.

Streamlining Volcker rule compliance has been a top priority for large banks which have pushed for it to be included in the Senate bill easing bank rules, which is pending in the House.

Hensarling has insisted the Senate bill needs further changes and some banks hope this measure could yet be added to the final package.

Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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