Continuing the reckless onslaught against Wall Street regulations that Congress kicked off last week with the final bipartisan passage of the Bank Lobbyist Act, President Donald Trump’s Federal Reserve on Wednesday unveiled a plan to gut the post-crisis Volcker Rule—a move that consumer advocates warn will unleash a torrent of gambling by big banks and dramatically heighten the risk of another financial meltdown.
“Even as banks make record profits, their former banker buddies turned regulators are doing them favors by rolling back a rule that protects taxpayers from another bailout.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
“Step by step, Wall Street continues its slow march on the path to rolling back all of the important consumer and market protections put in place after the 2008 financial collapse,” Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, said in a statement on Wednesday. “These big banks are making record profits but that just isn’t enough for them. They are hellbent on regaining the ability to gamble, knowing it’s other people’s money on the line.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who led the Senate’s opposition to the bank deregulation bill that Trump signed into law last week, also denounced the proposed rule changes as indicative of the “corruption” that rules Trump’s Washington.
“Wall Street profits are up while workers’ wages remain flat,” added Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “It is outrageous that the Fed is letting the biggest banks gamble with your money yet again and turn our economy into a casino once more.”
If the plan released by the Fed on Wednesday is adopted, Wall Street banks—which have lobbied relentlessly against the Volcker Rule for years—would have more freedom to engage in the kinds of speculation that sparked the 2008 financial crisis while effectively being permitted to police themselves.
“At a time when these big banks are already flush with money, including from massive tax cuts, it is hard to fathom why it would be in the public interest to unleash more ‘heads they win, tails we lose’ speculation.”
—Lisa Donner, Americans for Financial ReformAs the New York Times explains, current rules require banks to “prove that each trade serves a clear purpose that goes beyond a speculative bet.”
“Under the changes outlined Wednesday, banks will no longer have to offer proof for each specific trade and would instead have to enact strict internal controls and compliance programs to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the Volcker Rule,” the Times notes. “Regulators would also give banks more leeway to determine what levels of trading activity are appropriate for meeting customer demands on each of their trading desks.”
While the Fed’s rule changes are being framed by supporters—including the major banks that will profit immensely from them—as minor tweaks that will relieve financial institutions of onerous and complicated burdens, Marcus Stanley of Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) argued that the proposals are nothing less than “an attempt to unravel fundamental elements of the response to the 2008 financial crisis, when banks financed their gambling with taxpayer-insured deposits.”
“Just ten years after the financial crisis, Congress and the federal regulators have once again become Wall Street’s enthusiastic partners in deregulation, putting the rest of us at risk for the sake of still greater industry profits,” added AFR executive director Lisa Donner in a statement on Wednesday. “At a time when these big banks are already flush with money, including from massive tax cuts, it is hard to fathom why it would be in the public interest to unleash more ‘heads they win, tails we lose’ speculation.”