But it wasn’t JP Morgan’s losses that Corker seemed concerned with. Instead, with advocates for stronger financial rules (including President Obama himself) pushing for a re-examination of pending regulations instituted by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, Corker was worried that the JP Morgan losses would bolster the case for a stronger Volcker Rule — the yet-to-be-finalized regulation that would ban federally-insured banks from engaging in certain types of risky trading:
CORKER: I fear that you’re under pressure, that a lot of calls are being made, that the administration is concerned that the American people are going to wake up and look at the last three years as a bad dream. … This big Dodd-Frank bill really doesn’t address real-time issues. And what you’re going to do is cause this Volcker Rule to become something that it was never intended to be.
Regulators are indeed facing pressure to strengthen the Volcker Rule, and as I wrote yesterday, that pressure is legitimate. Though it is unclear whether JP Morgan’s trade would have been subject to the rule, it is clear that the Volcker Rule as proposed was stronger than it is in its latest draft form. But JP Morgan and its cohorts on Wall Street played a major role in watering it down. That lobbying created a loophole that may have kept JP Morgan’s trade legal even under the rule.
Risky trades designed to make bank’s massive profits — known as proprietary trades — were at the center of the financial crisis that ultimately ended with taxpayers bailing out America’s biggest banks. Regulations like the Volcker Rule (and others included in Dodd-Frank) are aimed preventing taxpayers from having to foot the bill again in the future. The JP Morgan loss has given regulators and policymakers a golden opportunity to re-examine those rules and make sure they are sufficiently strong.
That may seem an inconvenience to lawmakers, like Corker, who opposed the regulations in the first place. To Americans who have to backstop this risky trading even when it goes drastically wrong, though, the chance to strengthen the rules should be a welcome one.