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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FDIC Chairman: Proposed Volcker reform may need an overhaul

Federal Issues FDIC Volcker Rule Of Interest to Non-US Persons

Federal Issues

On March 11, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams spoke at the Institute of International Bankers Annual Washington Conference about Volcker Rule reform, emphasizing that federal agencies need to provide greater clarity about the types of prohibited trading and the types of funds that fall within the scope of the rule. McWilliams noted that compliance with the Volcker Rule (Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act), which restricts a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds, has been challenging for institutions and that many of the rule’s requirements are “extremely complex and overly subjective.” Emphasizing that there appears to be a broad consensus for reform, McWilliams stated that—after considering a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing significant changes to the Volcker Rule’s trading and compliance elements issued last May (covered by InfoBytes here), along with comment letters, and stakeholder input—it remains clear that certain elements of the rule and proposal still require work. Concerning the Volcker Rule’s effect on banks engaged in international activity, McWilliams noted that “[w]e need to right size the rule’s extraterritorial scope while also minimizing competitive inequities between the U.S. banking entities and their foreign counterparts,” adding that the Volcker Rule should not prohibit activities clearly not governed by U.S. rules, and that the FDIC will consider options for simplifying the current rule’s scope and requirements for foreign funds.

McWilliams’ prepared remarks also highlighted proposed changes to the regulatory capital and liquidity requirement threshold; the soon-to-be-opened FDIC Tech Lab, which will “work to eliminate regulatory uncertainty and unnecessary restrictions that might otherwise prevent banks from fielding new technologies by working with innovators both in the banking sector and outside of it”; and cross-border information sharing arrangements.

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