Last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform bill didn't directly fix the too-big-to-fail problem that necessitated the 2008 bailouts. Instead, it allowed the big banks to grow even bigger, but gave regulators new authority to require the big banks to report more information to the government and force them to follow stricter rules. It also gave regulators new guidelines to consider when deciding whether or not to allow bank mergers that could create new too-big-to-fail entities. Basically, the bill took a noncommittal approach to addressing issues of bank size and interconnectedness. Congress punted the big decisions off to regulators and made it possible for regulators to take drastic action, but gave them a lot of leeway to maintain the status quo if they so choose.
These provisions of the bill are about to get their first test. Capital One, currently the ninth largest bank-holding company in the U.S., has reached an agreement with the Ducth ING Groep to purchase their U.S. arm, ING Direct. They are planning to then turn around and leverage assets gained in that deal to purchase HSBC's subprime credit card division. The acquisitions would make Capital One the fifth largest bank in the U.S., right behind such infamous too-big-to-fail giants as Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. It would mean that financial assets and power in the U.S. would become even more concentrated in a small group of top corporations.Read Full Article
Given how extreme the failure of Wall Street was that caused the 2008 crisis, the financial reform bill passed by Congress last year, Dodd-Frank, is pretty weak tea. It's riddled with giant loopholes, defers many of the biggest decisions to the same regulatory agencies who failed us in the first place, and, most significantly, allows the banks that needed a $4.6 trillion bailout because they were "too big to fail" to become even bigger. Dodd-Frank was largely an exercise in passing a bill for the sake of appearing to have done something. Unfortunately, Congress seem to have fooled a lot of people out there, especially those who work for popular newspapers, into believing that they have fixed the problems.Read Full Article
On Friday I wrote about a vote in the Senate on an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act that sets up the bill for a successful vote on final passage next week. Senate Republicans have been opposing a provision in the bill to create a $30 billion small business lending fund because, they say, it's too similar to the TARP big-bank bailout program that was pushed through Congress by the Bush Administration in 2008. But on Thursday evening, Senate Democrats, with the help of a couple wayward Republicans, were able to secure passage of an amendment to keep the small-business fund in the bill.
So, naturally, I wanted to compare Thursday's vote on the small business lending fund with the 2008 vote on TARP itself. As it turns out, a total of 22 senators voted both in favor of the TARP program, which leant $700 billion to the big banks to do pretty much whatever they want, and agains the small business lending fund, which would lend $30 billion to small banks to loan to small businesses for the purposes of creating jobs. Here's the list:Read Full Article
If you think the Senate has a pro-Wall Street tilt right now, just wait until the current Majority Leader is defeated and the next in line takes over. The Washington Post is running a piece today on the many reasons why the Senate's current number-three Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY], is the most likely candidate for the position after/if current Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] is defeated in the November mid-terms, not the progressive number-two, Sen. Dick Durbin [D, IL].Read Full Article
More than one year after the crisis on Wall Street, the House of Representatives today passed a landmark bill (H.R. 4173) to fix some of the regulatory lapses that are alleged to have caused the crisis and puts in place new mechanisms for preventing "too big to fail" banking and the resulting bailouts.Read Full Article