Saturday, February 06, 2010

obama levy and volcker rule

FT | Paul Volcker and Barack Obama have either thrown the world into chaos or given the cause of global bank regulation new impetus – it depends on your point of view. But one thing is for certain: the twin US initiatives to derisk banks and tax them according to their size – the Volcker rule and the Obama levy as they have been dubbed – have seized the attention of bankers and regulators around the world.

The US last month first made clear that it wanted to exact a levy of 0.15 per cent on any bank balance sheet over $50bn. Then it said that banks should no longer engage in what it felt were riskier practices – investing in hedge funds, private equity or proprietary trading, the archetypal casino-style betting of bank funds for a quick profit.

As part of that second crackdown, US officials said banks would not be able to grow beyond their current share of the market.

Underpinning both initiatives is a crackdown on institutions deemed “too big to fail” – an area regulators admit had not been settled via the international supervisory authorities, such as the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, until the US political intervention.

There are at least four competing ideas under discussion among regulators, politicians and bankers. These include the extension of existing regulatory initiatives; the introduction of contingency capital planning; the rewriting of rules around different capital instruments, such as bank bonds; and a full-scale adoption at the level of the Group of 20 countries of a form of the Obama levy.