May 24, 2010
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
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.”
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