WASHINGTON — The odd couple of effort to move away from the “hyper-complicated” current system of regulations and “give significant regulatory relief” to smaller community banks.
“I think in general the overreliance on a lot more regulations and a lot more smart people in a room is the Sens. David Vitter, an avowed Republican conservative, and Sherrod Brown, a liberal Democrat, unveiled their “Too Big to Fail” banking regulations bill on Wednesday after months of speculation.
The legislation, formally called the Terminating Bailouts for Taxpayer Fairness Act would require the nation’s largest “megabanks” to set aside more capital reserves as financial buffers if the banks struggle in an effort to prevent another federal bailout like what happened in 2008.
But the banking lobby contends the legislation would slow economic growth and negatively affect the entire industry.
“It’s very clear, unfortunately, that ‘too big to fail’ is alive and well,” Vitter, R-La., said. “That is unfair. It’s a threat to our economy, and it’s a threat to the taxpayers in terms of future bailouts.”
The potential of future bailouts, Vitter said, “distorts the market and actually gives the megabanks a funding advantage or a subsidy because of the implicit guarantee.”
“It’s no wonder that there’s this continued accelerated consolidation — more consolidation and dominance of the biggest banks than ever before — and that is clearly related to what we’re talking about,” he said.
The nation’s four largest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — are nearly $2 trillion larger today than they were before the 2008 crisis.
The legislation is opposed by them and what Vitter called “megabank wannabes.”
“There are obviously interests working overtime against this,” Vitter said.
The bill attempts to simplify regulations and focus on capital reserves. The so-called “megabanks” — institutions with more than $500 billion in assets — would have to hold 15 percent of their capital assets in reserve.
Midsized and regional banks — those with more than $50 billion in assets — would be required to hold 8 percent in capital to cover their assets. Smaller “community banks” would not have any capital reserve requirements placed on them.
Brown, D-Ohio, argued that the existence of the megabanks puts the nation’s entire economy at risk.
“They’ve grown so large and interconnected that their collapse would’ve brought the entire economy down with them and wiped out the savings and pensions of millions of Americans,” Brown said. “Unlike Wall Street, hardworking Americans didn’t get rich by participating in risky practices that put our entire economy on the brink. Yet American taxpayers had to bail out Wall Street megabanks.”
Vitter called the bill an wrong direction to go in,” Vitter said. “I think what would be more effective and simpler is systemic change — things like a greater capital buffer.”