Report: Wall Street firms find Volcker loophole

By Reuters
Posted Nov. 11, 2010 at 11:55 a.m.

U.S. banks have found a way to continue betting their own money on some investments, despite a new law’s restrictions on proprietary trading, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing Wall Street executives.

The “Volcker rule” provision of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial reform limits the extent to which banks can bet with their own capital, banning them from short-term trading of securities for their own accounts. Firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley are closing or slimming down some of their units in order to comply with the law.

But the Volcker rule does not apply to banks’ “principal investments,” or longer-term direct purchases of securities, companies and property assets, the Financial Times said. Such deals drove big profits for banks before the financial crisis, but turned into a main source of losses for Wall Street firms like the now-defunct Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, the paper said.

A senior Wall Street banker told the Financial Times that principal investments remain attractive despite increasing regulations.

“On balance it has been a good business,” he told the paper.

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