Amid rising concerns about large banks from senators, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that “too big to fail” banks still pose a major risk to the American economy. Massachusetts Sen. Elizatbeth Warren (D) grilled Bernanke over the persistence of Too Big To Fail institutions during a Senate hearing last week, and at a press conference yesterday, Bernanke made it clear that he agrees with Warren that such banks are still a “major issue” that need to be addressed:
BERNANKE: I certainly never meant to say to Senator Warren, and I share her concern about Too Big To Fail, it’s a major issue. I never meant to imply that the problem was solved and gone. It is not solved and gone. … I hope that we’ll make progress against Too Big To Fail, because I agree with her 100 percent that it’s a real problem and needs to be addressed if at all possible.
Warren’s reputation as a critic of Wall Street followed her to the Senate, where she has questioned regulators over bank prosecutions and whether large financial institutions were “too big for trial.” But Warren isn’t alone: Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) are prepping legislation to reduce the size of large banks, and Brown and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) have also pressed regulators and the Justice Dept. over the lack of prosecutions that creates the perception that banks have a “get out of jail free” card.
The largest banks, as this chart Brown displayed on the Senate floor last month shows, have only grown larger since the financial crisis:
The key focus for Bernanke right now, he said, was ensuring that rules included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and other international guidelines meant to reduce the risk of Too Big To Fail banks were instituted properly.