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Big Bank Break-Ups Need to Wait: Dudley

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Breaking up big banks might not necessarily be the answer to ending "Too Big To Fail", New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley said in a speech Thursday.

In prepared remarks before the Clearing House's Second Annual Business Meeting and Conference, the Fed official said those calling for the break up of big banks were still short on ideas on how to do so.

"So far, advocacy for the break-up path has been strong, but without the detail to assess whether this is indeed superior to the course we are currently following," said Dudley in outlining the central bank's approach to tackling the issue of too-big-to-fail.

Too- Big- to- Fail (TBTF) is a moniker given to some of the largest firms whose size, complexity and global connections makes the entire financial system vulnerable to their failure. Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) fit the billing.

One of the biggest fallouts of the unprecedented bailout of Wall Street in 2008 is the perception that the government will not allow these firms to fail. That perception distorts market discipline because it allows big banks to get funding at lower rates than they would have if there was no prospect of a bailout. Critics say it also incentivizes these firms to take more risks without the fear of consequences.

In the aftermath of the crisis, regulators have taken steps to reduce the likelihood of failure. Raising capital and liquidity requirements has been an important step in this direction. The Volcker rule's attempt to rein in risk-taking is another.

Dodd Frank also aims to reduce the cost of such failures by asking banks to outline how they will be wound down in the event of distress through "living wills."

"We have made some progress on the TBTF problem, particularly in reducing the likelihood that a large complex firm will reach the point of distress at which society faces serious costs. But we have a considerable ways to go to finish the job and reduce to tolerable levels the social costs associated with such failures," Dudley said.

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