In addition to trading on behalf of customers, banks and their affiliates have conducted proprietary trading, using their own funds to profit from short-term price changes in asset markets. To restrain risk-taking and reduce the potential for federal support for banking entities, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the act) prohibits banking entities from engaging in certain proprietary trading. It also restricts investments in hedge funds, which actively trade in securities and other financial contracts, and private equity funds, which use debt financing to invest in companies or other lessliquid assets. Regulators must implement these restrictions by October 2011. As required by Section 989 of the act, GAO reviewed (1) what is known about the risks associated with such activities and the potential effects of the restrictions and (2) how regulators oversee such activities. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed the trading and fund investment activities of the largest U.S. bank holding companies and collected selected data on their profits, losses, and risk measures. GAO also reviewed regulators' examinations and other materials related to the oversight of the largest bank holding companies.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Financial Stability Oversight Council||In order to improve their ability to track and effectively implement the new restrictions on proprietary trading and hedge fund and private equity fund investments, the Chairperson of FSOC should direct the Office of Financial Research, or work with the staffs of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or both, to collect and review more comprehensive information on the nature and volume of activities that could potentially be covered by the act.|