Volcker Rule in Practice

Schiff, Jordan

Established as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Volcker Rule’s restriction of banks and financial companies from participating in proprietary trading was conceived of as a response to the systemic institutional failures that are commonly noted to be partially responsible for the financial crisis of 2008. Over its short and contentious lifetime, the Rule has been widely praised by some as a necessary step toward limiting unsustainably risky corporate investment practices, and widely vilified by others as being poorly drafted, impracticably restrictive, and only tenuously connected to the crisis precipitating its enactment. The conspicuous disunity among participants in this discussion reflects, in part, the difficulty of measuring the direct impact that the Volcker Rule has had since its enactment, particularly given the complexity of the investment activities the Rule attempts to regulate and the dearth of conclusive statistics indicating which phenomena are accurately attributable to the Rule’s interference.

Through a survey and analysis of the public’s input and assessment of the Volcker Rule and its more recent development, this Note explores how administrative processes have fared in giving an adequate voice to the various viewpoints of affected private citizens, businesses, and public entities. Ultimately, this Note argues that the Volcker Rule’s surprisingly modest evolution to date is overshadowed by charged rhetoric, vast information gaps, and unbalanced regulatory feedback rather than substantive bilateral exchange—a phenomenon frustratingly typical of the democratic processes in the context of complex financial reform. This Note concludes by offering reflections on the Volcker Rule’s evolution to date and what the data examined has to say about the successes and shortcomings of the lawmaking processes driving that evolution forward.


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Columbia Business Law Review

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August 29, 2022