It's been more than five years since America's biggest banks caused the worst financial crisis in decades. Questions still remain over how to minimize the risk of another financial shock.
Indicative of this "business as usual" environment is JPMorgan's so-called London whale trade that has cost the bank and its investors nearly $6.2 billion. A new report by a Senate investigation subcommittee shows that JPMorgan, the country's largest bank, ignored risks, misguided investors and did its best to circumvent regulators.
One of the most vocal proponents for breaking up the big banks is Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher. He told The Daily Ticker last year: "If you are too big to fail, you're too big."
"There is an inherent injustice in being too big to fail because you are implicitly getting a subsidy from the government," Fisher told us. "[Banks] don't have to be these giant depository institutions that are underwritten by the taxpayer."
Earlier this year Fisher announced a plan to address growing bank balance sheets — which are now larger than they were before the financial crisis and account for nearly 70% of total U.S. assets — and increase competition between the big banks and the country's smaller institutions. Fisher's proposal includes the separation of investment banking units from other commercial and consumer lending units. He is also advocating for a cap on commercial and consumer lending unit assets at $250 billion to prevent the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) from needing taxpayer dollars to shut down a failing bank.
Fisher is slated to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday about the need to shrink our banking behemoths.
Josh Rosner, managing director of Graham Fisher & Co., says it is a shocking turn of events to have a too big to fail crusader speak at the conservative consortium, which typically supports a free-market agenda. This shows "politics is changing rapidly and the willingness to really contemplate" and end the notion of implied government guarantees "has become more acceptable to conservative and liberals alike," says Rosner. "I think that is a sea change and under-appreciated."
That said, Rosner does not think Fisher's proposal has any chance of becoming law. Nor does he think that we are ready to take any substantial step toward breaking up the big banks.
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