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Pew: End "Too-Big-To-Fail"

May 13, 2011

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Many Florida investors and property owners are frustrated with the Wall Street reforms signed into law last year because they do little to stop "too big to fail" - the problem of large banks being so dominant in the nation's economy that taxpayers must bail them out when they get into trouble.

There could be a solution, however.

A report from the Pew Financial Reform Project reveals a plan that could force big banks to keep clear, workable crisis plans. Charles Taylor, Pew project director, says the key is to be ready if the financial institution faces bankruptcy.

"We're not saying that you can't have large institutions. What we are saying is that however large they are, we've got to be able to close them."

Observers across the political spectrum have been frustrated by the sense that too-big-to-fail banks could end up exempt from the discipline of the market. In 2008, bad investments by bankers threatened lines of credit and trashed Florida's real-estate market. The problem, Taylor says, was that many banks were joined at the financial-investment hip. New rules, he says, should make those links transparent.

"When AIG failed, we didn't know if Goldman Sachs would fail too. In the future we will know, so that when one of them gets into trouble we can let it fail."

Since the Great Depression, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has prevented bank runs by protecting depositors and dismantling failing institutions. With properly written, practiced and funded crisis plans, Taylor says, that system could be expanded to handle big bank failures as well.

The Pew report is online at pewfr.org.

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL