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Posts Tagged ‘Glass-Steagall Act

Too big to fail means too big to exist

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by Greg Hunter USAWatchdog.com
Originally posted May 24 2010

Dear CIGAs,
BOTH THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE SENATE have passed their versions of financial reform legislation. Now, the process of reconciliation takes place between both bodies of Congress to iron out a final bill the President can sign into law. There is plenty in the bill such as new consumer protection, increased power given to regulators to prevent systemic risk, and new powers to oversee the $600 trillion derivatives market. These are just a few of the highlights, and there is no telling what will actually end up in the final bill. (The derivatives problem alone can kill the U.S. economy. I wrote about this in a post called “Can The Financial System Really Be Fixed? Some Say No.”)

“Too big to fail”
The most important issues that could cause another financial crisis are not covered in the pending legislation. The biggest problem is the enormous size of the institutions being regulated. “Too big to fail” means they are simply too big, and shrinking them is not on the table. Last month, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) explained the size problem this way: “Fifteen years ago, the assets of the six largest banks in this country totaled 17 percent of GDP. The assets of the six largest banks in the United States today total 63 percent of GDP, and that’s too (big)–we’ve got to deal with risk to be sure, but we’ve got to deal with the size of these banks, because if one of these banks is in serious trouble, it will have such a ripple effect on the whole economy.”

After the Senate passed its version of financial reform, Representative Alan Grayson said, “Too big to fail means too big to exist. We have to systematically dismantle the institution that caused the systemic risk to the economy and that, for sure, the Senate bill does not do.” I don’t see any way we are going to see a breakup of the banks. There are some amendments that will force banks to spin off risky trading operations. The banks are against any trading restrictions or spin-offs. So, getting that into a final bill is going to be tough. I don’t think the big banks will get appreciably smaller until after the next meltdown, and one is coming sooner than later.

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