Federal Reserve Official Calls For Placing Limits On The Size Of Big Banks

Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel Tarullo called for placing limits on bank size in a speech yesterday, making him one of the highest ranking economic officials to propose a remedy to reduce big bank dominance of the economy. Tarullo said that, in order to keep big banks from growing so large that they threaten the entire financial system, they should be limited in size to a certain percentage of the overall economy:

The idea along these lines that seems to have the most promise would limit the non-deposit liabilities of financial firms to a specified percentage of U.S. gross domestic product, as calculated on a lagged, averaged basis. In addition to the virtue of simplicity, this approach has the advantage of tying the limitation on growth of financial firms to the growth of the national economy and its capacity to absorb losses, as well as to the extent of a firm’s dependence on funding from sources other than the stable base of deposits. While Section 622 of [the Dodd-Frank financial reform law] contains a financial sector concentration limit, it is based on a somewhat awkward and potentially shifting metric of the aggregated consolidated liabilities of all “financial companies.”

Tarullo also said that “the Fed should block any merger or acquisition this group of big banks attempts to make,” which it is allowed to do under Dodd-Frank.

Last month, former Bank of America executive Sallie Krawcheck said that the complexity of today’s Wall Street banks “makes you weep blood out of your eyes.“ She joined a parade of former Wall Street bankers calling for limiting the size and systemic importance of the nation’s biggest financial firms. Even former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, who is credited with creating the superbank, said, “What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.”