RONALD REAGAN once quipped that he didn’t know what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them by Congress. If only Congress could run financial reform past Moses. Legislators from the House of Representatives and the Senate this week continued the erratic process of reconciling versions of bills passed by each chamber. By the middle of the week, a number of differences had been ironed out, including the creation of a consumer-protection bureau housed within the Federal Reserve, the regulation of debit-card “interchange” fees and measures requiring firms that securitise loans to retain a portion of the risk. But the trickiest issues were still to come.
美国总统罗纳德•里根曾经开玩笑说:“要是摩西写的《十诫》要经过国会讨论的话,那我现在就不会知道它长什么样了。”如果国会的金融改革法案由摩西审议通过就好了。这周参议院和众议院的立法委员继续着他们没有结果的会议,对两院各自版本的金融改革法案进行协商。直到周中,一些分歧已经得到了解决,包括在美联储的框架下建立一个消费者保护机构,签帐卡交易费用的管理和证券化贷款的公司须保留承担部分风险的实施办法。但最棘手的问题还会接踵而来。

Among them was discussion of the “Volcker rule”, which was designed to restrict banks’ “proprietary” trading activities (bets made for their own account) and “sponsorship” of hedge funds and private-equity firms. The provision, named after Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was first unveiled by Barack Obama in January. Since then some bankers have worried that they might be forced to sell their hedge funds and private-equity units because politicians consider those activities too risky.
其中之一就是对“沃尔克规则”的讨论,该规则禁止了银行的自营业务(用自己的账户进行投资)和银行对对冲基金和私募股权公司的“赞助”。这项提案,以美联储前主席保罗•沃尔克命名,由总统巴拉克•奥巴马在1月份首次提出。随后一些银行家开始担心,他们的对冲基金和私募股权业务将被强行剥离,因为政客们觉得这些业务风险太大了。

Their worst fears seem unfounded. As The Economist went to press, it looked likely that a diluted version of the Volcker rule would pass, allowing banks to keep running hedge-fund and private-equity units for clients who want to invest in them, and perhaps to keep putting a small share of their own capital in them as well. To placate those who wanted to see a stricter version, some senators were pushing a provision that would give regulators less say in how to enforce the rule.
他们对最糟糕结果的担忧看起来毫无根据。截至《经济学人》发稿,国会可能最终通过的是一个淡化版的沃尔克规则,它允许银行根据客户的投资需求继续经营对冲基金和私募股权业务,可能还允许银行将自有资本的一小部分投进去。为了安抚那些更严厉版本的支持者,一些议员提出了一个建议:在如何实行法令方面给监管者更少的话语权。

Many banks had already been betting that the Volcker rule would not cause them to surrender their role in the “alternative investment” sector. Citigroup has plans to raise more than $3 billion for its private-equity and hedge funds, an audacious move considering regulators’ watchful eyes. JPMorgan Chase, whose Highbridge hedge fund has an estimated $22 billion under management, reportedly wants to buy Gávea Investimentos, a Brazilian asset manager. They may not be able to invest as much of their own capital in these vehicles, but it looks as if they can keep making money on them.
一些银行已经在押宝沃尔克规则不会让他们在“另类投资”领域缴械投降。花旗集团计划为它旗下的私募股权基金和对冲基金募集超过30亿美元的资金,考虑到监管者的重重戒心,这是一项大胆的冒险行为。摩根大通的海布里奇对冲基金有估计220亿美元的可运作资金,有报道称它计划收购一家巴西的资产管理公司Gávea Investimentos。这些银行也许不能用他们的自有资金对对冲基金和私募股权作如此规模的投资,但看起来他们在这领域仍旧能赚到票子。

The Volcker rule will have some effects on the relationship between Wall Street and alternative investment companies. Already, proprietary traders have started to leave banks and go to hedge funds, where they feel more certain about their long-term employment prospects, say headhunters. Tim Sangston of Greenwich Associates, a research firm, expects a further migration of traders out of banks once the bill is finally passed.
沃尔克规则对华尔街和另类投资公司之间的关系会有一些影响。一些自营业务交易员已经开始从银行跳槽到对冲基金,因为他们觉得长期来看在对冲基金职位更有保障,猎头公司如是说。来自格林尼治公司——一家研究公司——的吉姆•山士顿预计,在法案最终公布后,会有更多的银行交易员跳槽。

Some traders may also try to start their own hedge funds, although the fundrais-ing environment is bleak. The Volcker rule could make things even worse. Funds of funds owned by American banks provide around $180 billion, or about 16% of all its assets under management, to the hedge-fund industry. Some of that is seed money, which goes to managers who are starting funds. If the final version of Volcker prevents banks from investing as much capital in hedge funds, start-ups may have fewer potential backers.
一些交易员试图建立了自己的对冲基金,尽管融资环境依旧恶劣。而沃尔克规则会使事情变得更糟。美国银行旗下的基金投资型基金为对冲基金行业提供了将近1800亿美元的资金,约为其可运作资产的16%。其中一些钱是种子基金,即流向基金发起者的钱。如果最终版本的沃尔克规则禁止银行向对冲基金投入如此规模的资金,那新成立公司的潜在投资者将会更少。

Alternatives thinking
另一种观点

Not everyone thinks the Volcker rule will be bad news, however. Non-banks with seeding funds, such as Blackstone, a private-equity firm, and Citadel, a hedge fund, may fill some of the fund-raising gap. And if banks are required to reduce their own investments in alternative assets, that should be a boost for the secondary market for stakes in private-equity funds. Harvey Lambert of PineBridge Investments, an alternative-asset manager, estimates that banks could choose to sell as much as $100 billion in private-equity positions, which is around two or three times the size of the whole secondary market now.
但不是所有人都觉得沃尔克规则是一个坏消息。手握种子基金的非银行投资机构,比如私募股权公司黑石和对冲基金Citadel,可能会填补一些融资缺口。并且法案要求银行减少对另类资产的投资,那会促进私募股权基金证券二级市场的发展。PineBridge Investments的哈维•兰伯特,也是一个另类资产管理人,估计银行将出售多达1000以美元的私募股权资产,这相当于现在二级市场流通总额的两到三倍。

Even so, these potential effects look relatively modest compared with the splash the rule made when it was first unveiled. Peter Clarke, the boss of Man, a large hedge fund, pooh-poohs the importance of the Volcker rule. He says the “continued deleveraging of banks” will influence returns at hedge funds more than the new rules. Irrespective of the Volcker rule, banks’ need to get rid of assets and unwind trades will be good news for many in the alternative-investment industry, he says, because there will be less competition for returns.
尽管如此,这些潜在效果相比于沃尔克规则刚刚被提出时造成的恐慌,还是显得微不足道。彼得•克拉克,一家大型对冲基金Man的老板,对沃尔克规则的重要性不屑一顾。他说,银行的去杠杆化对对冲基金收益的影响要大于新规则。即使没有沃尔克规则,银行也要进行资产剥离和交易整理,这对于一些另类投资领域的公司来说不失为一个好消息,他说,因为有更少人跟你争利润了。