The Volcker Rule May Already Be Affecting Financial Markets & The Economy

According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s just been a week since regulators approved the Volcker Rule and already investors and financial institutions are looking for new ways to finance municipal bond investments. The Volcker rule limits how much risk federally insured depository institutions can take, prohibiting proprietary trading, setting up obstacles for banks that take part in market timing, and tightening up on compensation agreements that used to serve as incentive for high-risk trading.

Now, says Forbes, Wall Street and its firms are undoubtedly trying to figure out how to get around the rule via loopholes, exemptions, new ways of interpreting the rule, etc. (One reason for this may be that how much executives are paid is dependent upon the amount they make from speculative trading.) The publication says that banks are worried that the Volcker Rule could cost them billions of dollars.

For example, with tender-option bond transactions, hedge funds, banks, and others employ short-terming borrowings to pay for long-term muni bonds. The intention is to make money off of the difference in interest they pay lenders and what they make on the bonds. While tender-option bonds make up just a small section of the $3.7 trillion muni debt market, it includes debt that has been popular with Eaton Vance (EV), Oppenheimer Funds, and others.

Under the Volcker Rule, big banks will no longer be able to deal in tender-option bonds the way they are structured, which is expected to curb new bond issuance and lower tradings (and why banks are likely scrambling to figure out how else they can finance municipal bonds). Already, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association is setting up a group to determine how its members can employ leverage to get into municipal debt.

Meantime, midsize and smaller banks are getting ready to sell collateralized debt obligations because of a provision under the rule that restricts certain risky investments. The Volcker Rule limits banks in their investing in collateralized debt obligations backed by securities that are trust-preferred. (A lot of smaller institutions issued these securities before the financial crisis.)

Now, banks such as Zions Bancorp (ZION) will have to sell some CDOs. Zion is expected to take a $387M charge to write down the securities’ value. The bank is concerned that under the Volcker Rule, the securities would be “disallowed investments.”

Per the rule, the deadline for banks to get rid of its risky assets is July 21, 2015—although an extension can be obtained via the Federal Reserve. That said, banks do need to make an adjustment right away to the accounting treatment they’ve been using for the securities.

If you suspect that you suffered financial losses because of municipal bond fraud, contact The SSEK Partners Group to find out whether you should file a securities fraud claim. Your case assessment with us is a no obligation, free consultation.

Volcker Rule Quickly Hits Utah Bank, New York Times, December 16, 2013

Wall Street Will Prepare Ways To Gut The Volcker Rule, Forbes, December 17, 2013

Volcker Rule Shows Its Wide Reach, Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2013

The Volcker Rule

More Blog Posts:
Volcker Rule is Approved by SEC, FDIC, Federal Reserve, CFTC, and OCC, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 10, 2013

Moody’s Reassessment of Puerto Rico Bonds Does Nothing to Relieve Investor Worries, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 14, 2013

Merrill Lynch Settles with SEC Over CDO Disclosures for Almost $132M, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 16, 2013