For the U.S. banking industry, the big news on Wednesday was former Citigroup (C) chairman Sanford "Sandy" Weill's early morning interview on CNBC. Weill -- who led the 1998 merger of Travelers Group and Citicorp to form Citigroup, creating the "financial supermarket" business model for the largest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Bank of America (BAC) -- dropped a bombshell by saying that the United States should "go and split up investment banking from banking."
Weill said that "the financial crisis "was created by too much concentration in investments in the banking system, way too much leverage, [and] very little transparency with lots of off-balance sheet things that didn't really count, and I think a lot of those things have to change."
Separating investment banking from deposit gathering and lending would meant that "the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won't be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable, and the investment banks can do trading... not subject to a Volcker rule," Weill said, adding that investment banks could then escape the current regulatory burden and "be creative, they can make some mistakes, they'll have everything [clearing] with each other every single night so that they can be marked to market."Unfettering the investment banks would leave "a creative investment banking system like we've always had, where the financial industry can again attract the best and the brightest young people like they do in silicon valley, like they're doing in engineering, so that we can lead the innovation that's necessary and the entrepreneurship that's necessary." North Jersey Community Bank CEO Frank Sorrentino III says that "while the regulatory environment has been attempting to break up too 'big to fail', institutions, what CEOs and boards of directors will ultimately conclude is that the some of the parts may be more valuable than the whole." The stocks of many of the nation's largest banks trade at historically low valuations "because some parts of the bank are dragging down the value, while the better performing units are undervalued," he says.
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