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February 22, 2012

Under Volcker, Old Dividing Line in Banks May Return

The Volcker Rule, and its limitations on bank trading, may have the unintended effect of dividing the world back into investment banks and commercial banks. The unusual twist here is that Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley may end up stuck on the wrong side of the fence, treated under the law as commercial banks instead of the investment banks they once were.

The backdrop to this issue is that it is increasingly clear that banks are simply unable to make as much money from proprietary and other trading businesses as they did before the financial crisis. Take Goldman Sachs. In 2007, Goldman had revenue of $7.6 billion from traditional investment banking, but $31.2 billion in revenue from trading-related operations. Last year, Goldman had just $17.3 billion in revenue related to trading operations.

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