News Release

Left-Right Alliance to Break Up the Banks

bankersprinsForbes reports: “The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Financial CHOICE Act, a Republican-led financial reform effort aimed at rolling back the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, enacted under President Barack Obama.” The Washington Post reports: “Trump, who has complained about tight lending practices, has ordered three reviews of banking rules, the first of which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to deliver as soon as [this] week.”

NOMI PRINS, via Jaime Leifer, jaime.leifer at hbgusa.com, @nomiprins
Prins is a former Wall Street executive. Her books include All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She just wrote the piece: “Dear President Trump: Breaking Up (Banks) Isn’t So Hard to Do — Glass-Steagall or Another Economic Meltdown?” for Tom Dispatch.

She writes: “In 1933, when the Glass-Steagall Act was passed, it helped break up the biggest banks of the day and for good reason: they had had a major hand in triggering the most disastrous economic depression our country ever experienced. … It ensured that the investment bank and the commercial bank would no longer cohabit. …

“Then legislators, lobbyists, bankers, and regulators started to chisel away at the wall separating those two kinds of banks. By November 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act totally. The abusive marriages of gamblers and savers could once again be consummated. And who doesn’t remember the result: the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that led to taxpayer-funded bailouts, subsidies, loans, and sweetheart fraud-settlement deals. …

“Under President Obama, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law. The Act sought to limit the ability of big banks to trade the riskiest types of securities. Through inclusion of something called the ‘Volcker Rule,’ Dodd-Frank prohibited the trading of securities (even if with many loopholes). What it didn’t do was actually break up the big banks again. That meant another 1933 still awaited its moment.

“Then along came the bizarre 2016 presidential election campaign during which, strangely enough, Democrats and Republicans found one issue on which they had some common ground: the banking system. Key figures in both parties agreed that it was time to stop the investment bank and the commercial bank from commingling. Bernie Sanders ran on a campaign to break up the banks — and so did Donald Trump. At an October campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump even stated, ‘It’s time for a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall.’ …

“The Democratic National Committee platform offered a similar message. ‘Banks,’ it said, ‘should not be able to gamble with taxpayers’ deposits or pose an undue risk to Main Street.’ … The Republican National Committee wasted even fewer words making the point in their platform: ‘We support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which prohibits commercial banks from engaging in high-risk investment.’

Prins notes that when recently questioned on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin replied, ‘We never said we were in favor of Glass-Steagall. We said we were in favor of a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall. It couldn’t be clearer.’ Which, of course, couldn’t have been murkier. …

“Fortunately, current legislation is circulating in Congress that would promote the long-term stability of the financial system by restoring Glass-Steagall for real. H.R. 790 (‘Return to the Prudent Banking Act of 2017’) is one of two reinstatement bills in the House of Representatives. It has 50 co-sponsors from both parties and its passage is being spearheaded by Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.). The second bill, H.R. 2585, sponsored by Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), bears a close relationship to Senate bill S.881 (the ‘Twenty-First-Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2017’), sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and nine cosponsors including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell, and Angus King (I-Maine). Either of the bills, if enacted, would do the same thing: break up the banks.”