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Howls of protest greet proposals to limit bank-ownership of clearing houses

10 December 2009  |  5638 views  |  0 Washington, capitol hill

A proposed amendment to the US financial reform bill that would limit bank ownership of derivatives clearing houses has been met by a wave of criticism from financial market participants.

The US House of representatives is expected to vote today on the passing of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, which is intended to regulate risk across the financial system. The bill is subject to as many as fifty proposed amendments, of which the most contentious is that advocated by Republican senator Stephen Lynch to limit bank ownership of clearing houses.

While Lynch has been drumming up support for the measure in the House, big banks and clearing houses have lined up to decry the proposal.

In a statement published Thursday, TradeWeb CEO Lee Olesky says: "Any significant form of restriction on the ownership of execution platforms and clearing houses is concerning. Aside from being anti-competitive, it is unclear how such a proposal could benefit market participants. Attempting to limit the types of entities that could invest capital in companies that provide these innovative solutions is bad public policy and counter-productive for the evolution of the market."

Similar sentiments have been expressed by a host of other market particpants and industry lobby groups, including LCH.Clearnet, FXAll, Nyse Euronext, Sifma, Isda and the FIA.

With the largest US derivatives clearing houses owned by exchanges rather than banks, the amendment has been criticised for encouraging protectionism and closing down competition.

"Its acknowledged purpose is to knock out one set of competitors while promoting the private business interests of another," FIA president John Damgardwrote wrote in a letter to congressional lawmakers earlier this week. "The amendment conflicts with the public interest in fair and open competition."

In an interview with Bloomberg, Lynch tried to play down the outcry, stating that the amendment won't be applied to existing businesses like LCH.Clearnet, but rather to new entities created to clear over-the-counter derivatives.

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