What GAO Found
Since the 1980s, banks have been engaging in swaps: financial contracts (derivatives) in which two parties “swap,” or exchange, payments based on changes in asset prices or other values. A variety of firms (end-users) use swaps to hedge risk, to speculate, or for other purposes. For example, an airline may use swaps to lock in its fuel price to hedge against a future price rise. End-users engage in swaps through swap dealers, and some large banks act as swap dealers, exposing them to risks. Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act)—also known as the “swaps push-out rule”—requires banks registered as swap dealers, in effect, to stop engaging in certain swap activities to remain eligible for federal financial assistance but allows them to “push out” such activities to nonbank affiliates within the same bank holding company (BHC). As originally enacted, section 716 would have covered certain equity, commodity, and credit default swaps activities, but amendments made in 2014 now cover only certain swap activity based on asset-backed securities.