The Federal Reserve Board has voted to give banking companies more freedom to allow their banking businesses to sell certain securities through brokerage subsidiaries.
The ruling applies only to some investments, such as Treasury bills, and not to others, such as corporate debt and stocks.The Fed traditionally has been wary of allowing banks to sell securities, fearing confusion among consumers. Money deposited in a bank is insured to a certain amount by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Investments in securities are speculative and are not insured.
The Fed's ruling allows banks to offer securities provided there are clear distinctions between insured and uninsured investments. As further protection, the ruling also requires bank holding companies to keep their banking and brokerage units separate. For example, funds or losses could not be transferred from one to another.
The ruling extends to all banks and thrifts a privilege the Fed previously granted to BankAmerica Corp.
The Fed last October cleared BankAmerica to cross-market certain securities between its banking and brokerage units after receiving assurances from BankAmerica that it would operate the units separately and fully disclose to customers the relationship between the units.