Senate Democrats Want Volcker Rule’s “JP Morgan Loophole” Allowing Portfolio Hedging Blocked

In a letter to the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Administrator of National Banks, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) spoke out against what they are calling the current draft of the Volcker rule’s “JPMorgan loophole,” which they say allows for the kinds of trading activities that resulted in the investment bank’s recent massive trading loss. Merkley and Levin want the regulators to make sure that the language in October’s draft version is more stringent so that “clear bright lines” exist between legitimate activities and proprietary trading activities that should be banned (including risk-mitigating hedging and market-making).

According to Levin and Merkley, who are both principal co-sponsors of the Volcker rule and its restrictions on proprietary trading, the regulation’s latest draft disregarded “clear legislative language and clear statement of Congressional intent” and left room for “portfolio hedging.” Under the law, risk-mitigating hedge activities are allowed as long as they aim to lower the “specific risks” to a financial firm’s holdings, including contracts or positions. This is supposed to let banks lower their risks by letting them to take part in actual, specific hedges. However, the senators are contending that because the language that was necessary to enforce wasn’t included in the last draft, hence the “JPMorgan loophole” (among others) that will allow proprietary trading to occur even after the law goes into effect. They blame pressure from Wall Street lobbyists for these gaps.

The senators are pressing the regulators to get rid of such loopholes and put into effect a solid Volcker Rule, with stricter language, and without further delays. They noted that despite getting trillions of dollars in public bailout money, a lot of large financial firms continue to fight against the “most basic… reforms,” which is what they believe that Wall Street has been doing with its resistance to the Volcker rule. (Also in their letter, Levin and Merkley reminded the regulators that it was proprietary trading positions that resulted in billions of dollars lost during the recent economic crisis.)

SSEK Talking to Investors About JPMorgan Trading Losses
JPMorgan Chase‘s (JPM) over $2 billion loss was on a series of complex derivative trades that it claims were made to hedge economic risks. Now, according to a number of people who work at trading desks that specialize in the kind of derivatives that the financial firm used when making its trades, the financial firm’s loss has likely grown to closer than $6 billion to $7 billion.

Read the Letter by Merkley and Levin

Volcker Rule Resource Center, SIFMA

More Blog Posts:
JPMorgan Chase Had No Treasurer When Chief Investment Office Made Trades Resulting In More than $2B Loss, Reports WSJ, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 19, 2012

JPMorgan Chase Shareholders File Securities Lawsuits Over $2B Trading Loss, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 17, 2012

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro Stands By Agency’s 2011 Enforcement Record, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 15, 2012

Our securities lawyers are offering free case evaluations to investors affected by JPMorgan’s trading loss. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP today.