According to Bloomberg Businessweek, some U.S. banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Citigroup Inc. (C), may have until 2022 to fully comply with a new provision in the pending financial reform legislation.
The provision known as the Volcker Rule, named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, seeks to curb banks from assuming excessive risk by banning them from investing in hedge funds and private equity.
According to Lawrence Kaplan, an attorney at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, the bill that was approved by the House of Representatives last week changed the timeline for banks to curb investments in their own funds.
As the bill is currently written, modification would not need to take effect until 15 months to two years after the law is passed.
After the initial 15-month to two-year waiting period, banks would have:
• Two years to comply
•The potential for up to three one-year extensions
•An additional five years for “illiquid” funds such as private equity or real estate
All of this accommodation is calming concern on Wall Street in what is being hailed as the toughest financial reforms since the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
The Glass-Steagall Act forced commercial banks to shed their investment-banking unit in less than two years.
“One of the big concerns for the banks was how to unwind these funds,” Kaplan said. “This takes a lot of that argument away by giving them as much as 12 years to do so.”
However, due to the last-minute changes to the wording of the bill, there was some confusion among industry analysts as to the exact length of time for full compliance.
Barclays Capital analyst Jason Goldberg issued a report that there would be a seven-year transition period.
Citigroup analyst Keith Horowitz wrote that banks would have until 2018.
Mike Westling, a spokesman for Senator Jeff Merkley, the Oregon Democrat who proposed changes to the rules said, “In our understanding, it is nine years.”
Whatever the timeframe, the new legislation did include an important caveat, allowing lenders to invest as much as 3 percent of their capital in the funds. A separate part of last week’s bill allows banks to provide “initial equity” in new funds to help “attract unaffiliated investors.”
“There has to be something like that in there, to literally make it work,” said Jim Reichbach, U.S. head of the banking and securities practice at Deloitte LLP. “Someone has to put the first dollar in.”