By Lauren Tara LaCapra
There’s an interesting article out today from Bloomberg, which accuses Goldman Sachs of skirting the yet-to-be-defined-or-implemented Volcker rule, and accuses its top executives, including CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, of being a hypocrite.
Bloomberg reporter Max Abelson has done some good work on the subject. His article is well written and well sourced—he spoke to at least 20 people and got many of them to go on the record about their former employer and describe how Goldman continues to place bets with the firm’s own money.
Abelson concludes “Goldman Sachs has worked around regulations curbing proprietary bets at banks. “ But what the article really points out is that Wall Street will keep finding new ways to move the goal posts in its favor when it comes to defining and clamping down on prop trading.
For those who aren’t well-versed in Volckerdom, all you really need to know is that it’s named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and it’s intended to prevent Wall Street firms from making the kind of big bets that could ultimately put taxpayers on the hook. But critics complain the rule, as currently envisioned, has been so watered down that it allows a lot of interpretation for what constitutes prop trading, and gives banks a lot of latitude to keep doing what they have always been doing.
Banks, for instance, will still be able to act as market makers, buying and selling securities on behalf of clients, and they may still be able to make long-term investments. All of this gives rise to questions of whether it’s still OK for banks to make a strategic investment in another company and for how long? And how do you know if a hedge trade is really a hedge?