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US regulator mulls banking rule reform

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Image caption The Volcker Rule was designed to stop banks engaging in risky trading activity

US regulators have taken a first step towards overhauling a key piece of regulation brought in to protect the economy after the financial crisis.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it was seeking views on revising the Volcker Rule, which stops banks trading with their own money.

The Trump administration has called for "significant changes" to the rule, which they say hampers banks' growth.

But critics say diluting it would make the financial system less safe.

The acting Comptroller of the Currency, Keith Noreika, said voices from across the political spectrum had called for the law to be made clearer.

"A bipartisan consensus has emerged that the Volcker Rule needs clarification and recalibration to eliminate burden on banks that do not engage in covered activities and do not present systemic risks," he said.

'Open to improvements'

Since its introduction, big banks have criticised the Volcker Rule, arguing that it is impossible for regulators to work out what type of trading should be barred.

And in June, the US Treasury recommended changes to the current rule, including exempting banks with less than $10bn in assets and easing compliance requirements.

Supporters say that curbing risky trading by banks is critical to preventing a rerun of the financial crisis.

But some, such as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, have said they are open to improving the legislation.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has not been joined by the other four US regulators charged with writing and enforcing the Volcker Rule.

Any changes would need to be approved by all five under current law.

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