Massachusetts Democratic senate candidate Elizabeth Warren reacted to the news of JP Morgan’s $2 billion trading debacle by calling for the bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, to step down from his position as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s board. Today, Warren also said that the episode makes the case for a return to “boring banking” — separating investment banking from traditional commercial banking — which was the status quo before the deregulatory zeal of the late 1990s:
Q: You think had it [the Volcker rule] been in place, we wouldn’t be talking about this?
WARREN: Well, I’m going to put it this way. The Volcker Rule would help. We don’t know exactly the nature of these trades. But if the question is is the Volcker rule enough, or do we need more, look, I’m somebody who believes we really should have boring banking. That banking should be — the part that’s about savings accounts and checking accounts and our money system — should be separated from the kind of risk-taking that Wall Street traders want to take. That was originally what the Glass-Steagall Act was about, it was repealed in 1999. There was an effort to get it into Dodd-Frank in the 2010 bill. That effort failed. I think we really do need that kind of separation. We need to go back to boring banking. The people who want to take risks need to take risks with their own money and do it somewhere else.
This echoes the call made by economist Paul Krugman, who noted that the era of boring banking “was also an era of spectacular economic progress for most Americans.”
In an email today, Warren called on Congress to reinstate Glass-Steagall:
I’m calling on Congress to put Wall Street reform back on the agenda and to begin by passing a new Glass-Steagall Act. This was the law that stopped investment banks from gambling away people’s life savings for decades — until Wall Street successfully lobbied to have it repealed in 1999.
A new Glass-Steagall would separate high-risk investment banks from more traditional banking. It would allow Wall Street to take risks, but not by dipping into the life savings and retirement accounts of regular people.