Volcker: Banks Should Not Be Able To Own Hedge, Equity Funds

MILAN (Reuters) – Banks should not be allowed to own hedge funds or equity funds and their trading activity should be limited, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore on Thursday.

“A bank that generates the major part of its income from trading should not be allowed to have a banking license,” Volcker, an economic adviser to the Obama administration, said.

Asked about introducing caps for bankers’ pay, Volcker said bankers would find a way around that.

“We’re seeing it already; it’s obscene what they’re earning,” he said.

One year after the Lehman Brothers collapse, Volcker said he feared Wall Street would return to its old ways and “we will miss the train for reform”.

He said he did not think inflation was an immediate threat given the high unemployment and weak global economic growth.

Asked about the high U.S. deficit, Volcker said it was not a problem for the time being.

To tackle the crisis the Federal Reserve had injected an enormous amount of liquidity into the system, he said.

“For now we can absorb this but it could be a problem when the economy starts to grow again”.

Volcker said the rating agencies had contributed to the breakdown of the financial system.

“A possible solution might be to de-monopolise the sector. Maybe there should be many more of them… And they could be paid by investors,” he said. (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Hans Peters)