Wall Street Stealth Lobby Defends $35 Billion Derivatives Haul
Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Wall Street is suiting up for a battle to protect one of its richest fiefdoms, the $592 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market that is facing the biggest overhaul since its creation 30 years ago.
Five U.S. commercial banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp., are on track to earn more than $35 billion this year trading unregulated derivatives contracts. At stake is how much of that business they and other dealers will be able to keep.
“Business models of the larger dealers have such a paucity of opportunities for profit that they have to defend the last great frontier for double-digit, even triple-digit returns,” said Christopher Whalen, managing director of Torrance, California-based Institutional Risk Analytics, which analyzes banks for investors.
The Washington fight, conducted mostly behind closed doors, has been overshadowed by the noisy debate over health care. That’s fine with investment bankers, who for years quietly wielded their financial and lobbying clout on Capitol Hill to kill efforts to regulate derivatives. This time could be different. The reason: widespread public and Congressional anger over the role derivatives such as credit-default swaps played in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
“Public sentiment isn’t very much in their favor,” said Richard Lindsey, a former director of market regulation at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who worked at Bear Stearns Cos. from 1999 to 2006, referring to Wall Street firms. “In some places, they’re not going to have anybody who wants to listen to them.”