Lobbyists Battle Volcker Rule As Republicans Say Reform Bill Will Pass

Mar 24 2010 | 2:15pm ET

Financial industry lobbyists are pushing hard to water-down a bill that would bar banks from the hedge fund industry, even as the bill’s Republican opponents acknowledge that it will pass in some form.

The financial regulation overhaul proposed by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) includes a provision mandating that regulators implement that so-called “Volcker rule,” which would forbid bank holding companies from owning, sponsoring or investing in hedge funds. The bill passed the Senate Banking Committee on Monday without any Republican support.

Despite that setback, lobbyists are urging lawmakers to leave the final decision about whether to adopt former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker’s suggestions, which include barring banks from proprietary trading or from mergers that would give them more than a 10% share of the U.S. banking system.

“We believe the regulators should have the discretion to deal with the situation on a company-by-company basis,” Scott Talbot of the Financial Services Roundtable told Bloomberg News. “You can’t have a blanket prohibition on proven risk-management techniques.”

“Our hope is that they change ‘must’ to ‘may,’” Talbott added, giving regulators a chance to study the issue.

That argument may not carry much weight with the Republicans, however. The Dodd bill gives “too much power to the regulators,” Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) told Bloomberg. But both he and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who had been working with Dodd on a compromise bill, have expressed support for the Volcker rule provisions.

Both also say that a financial services reform bill will pass this year, potentially without Republican support.

There is “a 100% chance it will pass,” Gregg told reporters today.

“Financial regulation is not like healthcare,” Corker added. “Financial regulation isn’t like so many issues where there’s this philosophical divide.”


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