President Obama has proposed a major reform of the US banking system. This follows on from the proposed levy to be imposed on banks’ assets announced a few days ago (see “We want our money back and we’re going to get it”).
There are two elements to the new proposals. The first is to limit the size of banks’ market share. Currently, banks’ deposits are not permitted to exceed 10% of total retail deposits in the USA. This 10% limit would be extended to cover wholesale deposits and other liabilities. The idea is to reduce concentration and increase competition. At present the largest four banks hold over half the total assets of banks in the USA.
The second element involves separating casino banking from retail banking. This would be achieved by barring retail banks from owning or investing in private equity or hedge funds or from engaging in ‘proprietary trading operations’. As the second BBC article below states:
Proprietary trading involves a firm making bets on financial markets with its own money, rather just than carrying out a trade for a client in which only the client’s money is at risk.
This comes close to restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999. The Act, which was passed in 1933 in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street cash and the subsequent Great Depression, separated commercial banking and investment banking. It was designed to prevent customers’ deposits being exposed to the riskier activities of investment banking.
What have been the reactions to President Obama’s announcement? Are these reactions justified? Will the proposals prevent another banking crisis and credit crunch? The following articles explore these questions.
Obama hammers the banks Financial Times, Tom Braithwaite and Francesco Guerrera (22/1/10)
Obama pushes new bank regulation (including video) BBC News (21/1/10)
Q&A: Obama’s bank curbs BBC News, Martin Webber (21/1/10)
Obama announces dramatic crackdown on Wall Street banks (including video) Guardian, Jill Treanor (21/1/10)
Barack Obama bank reforms: Trying to fix a broker society Telegraph, Louise Armitstead and Helia Ebrahimi (23/1/10)
Glass-Steagall lite The Economist (22/1/10)
Obama’s Plan Finally Attacks “Too Big to Fail” The Huffington Post, Neil K. Shenai (21/1/10)
Obama Sizes Handcuffs For Banks Forbes, Liz Moyer (21/1/10)
Obama’s Showdown With Wall Street Forbes, Richard Murphy (22/1/10)
President Obama shows the way Independent (23/1/10)
Wall Street’s $26m lobbyists gear up to fight Obama banks reform The Observer, Andrew Clark (24/1/10)
Obama’s drawn first blood – now it’s the UK’s turn The Observer, Ruth Sunderland (24/1/10)
Gordon Brown to push for ‘Tobin tax’ after Wall Street crackdown Guardian, Larry Elliott and Jill Treanor (22/1/10)
Myners: UK does not need to copy Obama banking reforms Guardian, Andrew Clark, Jill Treanor, Paul Owen (22/1/10)
Debate on London’s banking system The Observer, Will Hutton and Boris Johnson (24/1/10)
What Obama’s bank reforms really mean BBC News blogs, Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (22/1/10)
Davos 2010: Central bankers seethe behind closed doors BBC News, Tim Weber (29/1/10)
- What are the arguments for and against separating retail banking from the more risky elements of investment banking?
- Should banks be allowed to fail? Explain your answer and whether it is necessary to distinguish different types of banks.
- Would putting a limit on the market share of banks prevent them from achieving full economies of scale?
- Why did banking shares fall after President Obama’s announcement? Was this a ‘good sign’ or a ‘bad sign’?
- What is meant by the ‘broker-dealer’ function of banks? Explain each of the specific types of broker-dealer function.
- Compare recent UK measures to control banks with those in the USA.