Friday, April 25, 2014 03:43am
North Adams, MA now: 28 °   
Send news, tips, press releases and questions to
The Berkshires online guide to events, news and Berkshire County community information.

Home About Archives RSS Feed
The Independent Investor: Are Banks About to Get Benched?
By Bill Schmick On: 07:10PM / Thursday December 05, 2013

Lobbyists for the big banks have been fighting to water down the so-called "Volcker Rule" for the last three years but it looks like they are going to lose this battle. Next week the U.S. government is expected to announce tighter bank regulations. It could make the financial markets a lot safer for all of us and cost the banks a bundle.

At stake for the banks are about 18 percent of industry sales, or $44 billion, generated by proprietary trading. That's a term used to describe the banking industry's practice of placing big speculative bets with their own money. During the financial crisis those speculative bets went sour and nearly drove the global financial system into a complete meltdown. We, the taxpayers, bailed them out.

In its aftermath, congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It was a series of sweeping financial regulatory reforms that was intended to insure that certain Wall Street practices would "never again" be able to threaten the world. The centerpiece of that legislation was a rule suggested by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker which would prohibit many aspects of proprietary trading.

Market-making is the business of using a firm's capital to buy and sell securities with customers. Sometimes they make a profit on the trade and sometimes they don't, depending on the price spread between the bid and the ask price of a security. Wall Street has been providing that service for its customers for a long, long time. It is the grease that insures liquidity in the market and without it the machine would probably freeze up.

However, over the past decade or so, the banks took that principle and ran with it, but they went a step too far. They started making bigger and bigger bets on their own and disguised them as customer hedges. They explained that these hedges were necessary to facilitate customer business when in fact the banks were simply speculating on everything from commodities to subprime mortgages.

The Volcker rule seeks to prevent banks with federally-insured deposits from making such trades that could threaten their stability (and ours).  Of course, the devil is always in the details.

Lobbyists, hired by the banking industry, argued that coming down hard on proprietary trading would severely curtail banks' and brokers' ability to provide market making for their customers. It would also put our banks at a severe disadvantage when competing globally with foreign banks that are not regulated by U.S. laws. Finally, it would deprive the sector of an important source of profit.

I suspect the last point carries the most weight within the halls of the nation's biggest banks. One would think that after their near-collapse, our banks would have learned a lesson and given up their most dangerous practices. In the past, when the financial community fouled up, they established some self-policing guidelines to avoid a repeat performance and head off government intervention.

Not this time. With nary an apology in sight for past practices, banks have stonewalled the public and government. Instead of addressing the conflicts of interest, the rewarding of dangerous trading practices by their employees and changing the culture of greed so apparent among these Big Banks, they have done the opposite since the crisis.

Readers need only recall the so-called London Whale trades that cost one of our top banks $6.2 billion in 2012. Disguised as a portfolio hedge against customer positions, the loss was the direct result of the kind of speculative betting that was so wide spread prior to the financial crisis and it continues today.

It seems clear that on their own, the banking sector is not about to change their ways. Although I hate the idea of even more government interference upon the private sector, I believe that without it, the financial sectors' speculative practices pose a threat to everyone's well-being now and in the future.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at

News Headlines
Clarksburg Mulls Options on House Taken for Taxes
'Transcendence': Can't Get Over Itself
North Adams Cemetery Commission Resurrected
Pittsfield Considering Lighting Up North Side of Tyler Street
Hoosac Valley Graduate Rumbolt Remembered
North Adams Hospital Emergency Room to Reopen in May
State Provides $200K To Fix Pittsfield Roads
Williamstown Housing Committee Names Interim Chair
Williamstown Medical Entities Easing Residents' Anxiety
Pine Cobble Forest Project, Dinner Celebrates Utility of Goats
Bill Schmick is registered as an investment advisor representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management (BMM), managing over $200 million for investors in the Berkshires. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of BMM. None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Visit for more of Bill’s insights.




@theMarket (133)
Independent Investor (179)
April 2014 (6)
April 2013 (2)
March 2014 (6)
February 2014 (6)
January 2014 (7)
December 2013 (8)
November 2013 (7)
October 2013 (6)
September 2013 (6)
August 2013 (8)
July 2013 (3)
June 2013 (5)
May 2013 (7)
Energy Euro Congress Crisis Federal Reserve Stimulus Deficit Commodities Banking Jobs Election Bailout Europe Debt Ceiling Qeii Retirement Fiscal Cliff Selloff Recession Markets Taxes Economy Stocks Japan Debt Oil Interest Rates Pullback Employment Stock Market Rally Metals Currency Banks Greece
Popular Entries:
The Independent Investor: Understanding the Foreclosure Scandal
The Independent Investor: Don't Fight the Fed
The Independent Investor: Does Cash Mean Currencies?
@theMarket: QE II Supports the Markets
@theMarket: Markets Are Going Higher
The Independent Investor: General Motors — Back to the Future
The Independent Investor: How Will Wall Street II Play on Main Street?
@theMarket: Economy Sputters, Stocks Stutter
The Independent Investor: Will the Municipal Bond Massacre Continue?
The Independent Investor: Why Are Interest Rates Rising?
Recent Entries:
@theMarket: Easter Bunny Bounce
The Independent Investor: Good Friday and the Stock Market
@theMarket: No Spring in the Stock Market
The Independent Investor: Banks Face Tougher Regulations
@theMarket: A Crowded Trade
The Independent Investor: Obamacare Confounds Critics
@theMarket: The Faint of Heart
The Independent Investor: Do Women Have a Choice?
The Independent Investor: What's Wrong With This Flight Plan?
@theMarket: Hanging In There

View All
Baseball: Monument @Drury
Monument Mountain beat Drury on their home turf on...
Baseball: Lee @MG
Mount Greylock baseball defeated Lee at home. [photos by J....
Softball: MG vs Drury
4-22-14 Cat Record allowed just two hits and an unearned...
Touch A Truck
Child Care of the Berkshires held its annual Touch A Truck...
Lacrosse: Hoosac vs. Taconic
Baseball: Pittsfield vs Lee
Chad Shade went 2-for-4 with a run scored, and Sam Fick...
Clarksburg Egg Scramble 2014
The annual Easter egg hunt, sponsored by the VFW, was held...
Pittsfield Egg Scramble 2014
The annual Egg Scramble at Morningside Community School saw...
Track: Monument @Hoosac...
Monument Mountain bested Hoosac Valley on its home turf...
Girls and Boys Tennis: PHS vs...
4-17-14 Girls and Boys tennis match between PHS vs Mt....
Softball: Lee vs Hoosac
4-14-14 Kassandra Kazimierczak went 2-for-4 with a double...
Baseball: MG vs Hoosac
4-11-14 Dan Flynn's suicide squeeze with the bases loaded...
Softball: MG vs McCann
4-11-14 Mount Greylock and McCann Tech played an atypical...
Sullivan School CPR Class
Seventh-graders at Sullivan School in North Adams learned...
Lacrosse: Mounties vs. Hoosac
Mounties overwhelmed Hoosac Valley on Wednesday 14-1....
North Adams Furnace St. Fire
Firefighters contained a top floor apartment blaze on...
Baseball: Monument @Drury
Monument Mountain beat Drury on their home turf on...
Baseball: Lee @MG
Mount Greylock baseball defeated Lee at home. [photos by J....
Softball: MG vs Drury
4-22-14 Cat Record allowed just two hits and an unearned...
Touch A Truck
Child Care of the Berkshires held its annual Touch A Truck...
Lacrosse: Hoosac vs. Taconic
| Home | A & E | Business | Community News | Dining | Real Estate | Schools | Sports & Outdoors | Berkshires Weather | Weddings
Advertise | Recommend This Page | Help Contact Us | Privacy Policy| User Agreement is owned and operated by: Boxcar Media 102 Main Street, North Adams, MA 01247 -- T. 413-663-3384 F.413-664-4251
© 2000 Boxcar Media LLC - All rights reserved