Curbing the Influence of Big Banks: 3 Reforms proposed by Sanders

Regulation of the U.S. financial system has been one of the primary topics of the 2016 Democratic presidential debates.

As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has long been supportive of major changes, including breaking up some of the biggest banks, reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act and reforming the Federal Reserve.

Let's look at the reforms that he has proposed.

1. Addressing "too big to fail"

During the Feb. 4 Democratic debate, Sanders said, "If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, a good Republican by the way, what he would say is, 'Break them up; they are too powerful economically; they are too powerful politically.'"

Large banks were bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis because they posed high systemic risk to the U.S. financial system and were considered "too big to fail." Had they been allowed to fail, it could have triggered a domino effect, which could have spread to the entire financial industry.

Post-2008 financial crisis, big banks have become 80% larger since their last bailout, which reflects the systemic risk that they pose in an event of a crisis.

In order to reduce the impact of these "too-big-to-fail" banks, Sanders has proposed breaking them up so that they are no longer "too big to exist." The Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act that he proposed would break up Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street and Wells Fargo as global systemically important banks.

2. Reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act

Many people criticized the bailouts made to the big banks after the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in what was known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act under President Bill Clinton in 1999. The repeal allowed integration of commercial and investment banking activities.

Sanders supports the 21st Glass-Steagall Act, which is backed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The underlying notion behind this act is that by separating traditional banking activities from investment trading, taxpayers' money wouldn't be used for future bailouts.

3. Reducing conflicts of interest at the Fed

In an Op-Ed in The New York Times last year, Sanders wrote that many chief executives of the biggest banks have served as Fed board members.

"The sad reality is that the Federal Reserve doesn't regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates the Fed," he wrote.

In a January speech, Sanders said that Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, "served on the board of the New York Fed at the same time that his bank received a $391 billion bailout from the Federal Reserve."

If elected president, Sanders said he would structurally reform the Fed in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

In his Op-Ed he wrote, "Board positions should instead include representatives from all walks of life, including labor, consumers, homeowners, urban residents, farmers and small businesses."

Sanders also highlighted what he called a lack of transparency in the Fed's business, writing that the Fed's December decision to increase interest rates has been a "disaster" for small-business owners and "as a rule, the Fed should not raise interest rates until unemployment is lower than 4%."

 

 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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