The Return of Glass-Steagall???

The Atlantic writes:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have included plans to reintroduce the [Glass-Steagall] bill in their economic platforms. The argument for the act is that it could have prevented (or at least dampened) the 2008 financial crisis, and that reinstating it could ward off future ones. Is that the case?

The Atlantic’s editors reached out to economists and experts in financial regulation to ask them why Glass-Steagall is seeing renewed popularity right now, and what they think would make America’s financial system safer in the future.

Here’s part of what I had to say:

When Black Lives Matter calls for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act we know that the Act has exited the realm of policy and entered that of mythology. No, restoring the Glass-Steagall Act would not end racism. Nor would restoring Glass-Steagall have done much, if anything, to have avoided the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner was correct when he said the problems at the heart of the financial crisis had “nothing to do with Glass-Steagall.”

The financial crisis is best understood as a run on the shadow banking system, that collection of financial intermediaries who based their credit creation not on deposits but on repo, money market funds, structured investment vehicles, asset-backed securitizations and other financial structures. Separate commercial and investment banking? Please. The problem was that by 2007 the shadow banking system had become so separated from commercial banking that the Federal Reserve didn’t know that a majority of credit was being generated by the shadow banks.

…“Nothing has been done!” may play well in some quarters but the Obama administration has in fact imposed systematic reform on the financial system. Most importantly, capital requirements have been increased (leverage has been reduced), forcing financial intermediaries to have greater skin in the game and to provide a cushion in the event of a fall in asset prices. Moreover, capital requirements have been extended far into the shadow banking system. Most recently, the Fed has imposed a capital surcharge on the biggest institutions i.e. the too big to fail institutions.

…Ironically, despite the political power of the financial sector it seems that more has been done to raise bank capital ratios than to require homeowners to raise their capital ratios by requiring larger down payments. There is a lesson there.

Robert Reich, Sheila Bair, Lawrence White, Stephen G. Cecchetti and others also comment. Only Reich, with some support from Blair, is enthusiastic.


Has Clinton changed her position on Glass-Steagall. She was on the other side of this issue, and against Sanders, during the primaries. Trump, Stein and Johnson have all stated that they would at least look into reinstating the Act.

Here is Clinton from October: "I fully respect my colleagues who have said 'let's reinstate Glass-Steagall.' And if I thought that alone would prevent the potential next crisis, I'd raise my hand and join, but that's not my assessment... Some of the major actors who caused the '08 crash were not big banks, they would have never been covered by Glass-Steagall...What I want to do is to crack down on the banks by assessing a risk fee and forcing them to have to comply with Dodd-Frank and tougher regulations. And I am absolutely in favor of breaking them up if they become a risk to the economy. But the potential next threat to our economy that has to really be reined in is what's called the shadow banking world, the hedge funds, the money market funds. Glass-Steagall wouldn't do anything about it, if it were reinstated tomorrow." Sounds fairly Tabarrokian

Ahh, yes, 'the best of all possible worlds' in the newly chaste world of global banking & financial services

no doubt about it, TC, that Obama administration sure is tough:

Meanwhile, in the hyper surreal world of global banking:

Space forbids exploring the fetid worlds of, say, BNP Paribas or Unicredit

Least of all the nationalised wards of the state in the UK: Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS & Lloyds TSB

"Laissez les bons temps rouler", et, TC?

Great times!

This is in partnership with BLM and other organization, and not necessarily representative of ALL BLM supporters, but here's where the people in charge and policy is going. It's nuts.

Which part is nuts?

Eliminating jails, freeing of anyone in a drug or prostitution charge, getting rid of bail, segregation of Black industries, UBI for blacks only (Omg it's blatantly racist), and reparations. In addition these positions are all over the board. No focus whatsoever.

I can only imagine this platform was created for the express purpose of being rejected-success is one of the worst things that can happen to a movement, when they want political power.

"Eliminating jails, freeing of anyone in a drug or prostitution charge," Why is this crazy? You guys have more blacks incarcerated than freaking Apartheid...Now thats crazy!

Seriously? Eliminating jails??

Drug and prostitution charges make up a relatively small percentage of prisoners (about 15%, all of that drug crimes- frequently dealing and used when other charges re harder to prove). Do you have some evidence that most prisoners are unjustly imprisoned? Or is it that you think sentences are too long? In many cases that may be true, yet recidivism is high.

I'm ok with reducing the penalties for drugs-you wanna do PCP, knock yourself out. But the first time you eat someone's face off, yes, there is a place called jail that you deserve to be in.

It's common to plea deal down to drug charges. Go through the drug charge prisoners on a case by case basis, sure. But it's naive to assume that was their only offense. You'd release a lot of dangerous people.

“Eliminating jails, freeing of anyone in a drug or prostitution charge,” Why is this crazy? You guys have more blacks incarcerated than freaking Apartheid…Now thats crazy!

About 60% of the dispositions in penal courts consist of probation, fines, community service, or time-served. The mean time served in state prisons is 30 months. The blather about 'mass incarceration' is utter humbug.

We have a lot of people in prison because we have a large and active lumpenproletariat and most places are committed to putting them where they belong - in prison. If that offends you aesthetically, you're welcome to move to South Africa, where the homicide rate is 32 per 100,000.

What's amusing is that you fancy people are put in state prisons for prostitution offenses. The mean time served for an ordinary prostitution offense is almost assuredly measured in days and the median served is nil. People imprisoned for prostitution are pimps, and nasty pimps for 'a that.

Apartheid didn't need to incarcerate that many people because they had segregation, criminally inclined blacks were kept out of white areas. The apartheid-era police often didn't venture into black areas, the blacks didn't want them there, and so why should they care if blacks are raping and murdering one another? But if you have integration, there's going to be a lot of demand from whites for protections against criminals, whatever their color.

@Trump Fan:

"But if you have integration, there’s going to be a lot of demand from whites for protections against criminals, whatever their color."

Awesome. Only whites want protection from criminals, in Trumpland.

But if you have integration, there’s going to be a lot of demand from whites for protections against criminals, whatever their color.

Greater Chicago is not segregated in the manner of pre-1990 South Africa. There are four islands within it with a total population of 1 million wherein the homicide rate averages 47 per 100,000. The decision-making element in greater Chicago seems to tolerate that.

Eliminating jails - I can't find anything about that at the site.

Drugs and prostitution - why not?

Getting rid of bail - why not?

Segregation of black industries - if true, a dumb idea. But I can't find that part either. The idea of promoting business networks in those communities seems like a good idea though.

Reparations - Reparations arguments don't bother me at all and there's nothing at all crazy about it, but not a chance would I support it. The worst wrongs done against blacks were long before most of us were even born. I'm not paying for that. Not a chance.

I agree it will be rejected by most. But there's nothing crazy about saying what you want. Not a single item of that platform is "crazy", no matter that you disagree with them, and that some of them have about 0% chance of ever happening.

It requires a bit of clicking around, I'll link for you (guessing this thread has been buried by now, I have a feeling BLM will make more headlines given its track record)

Eliminating jails - Policy 10

Also Policy 7 has eliminating Body Cams, which is a pants-on-head retarded idea given what BLM started over. I'm guessing they want us to Listen And Believe The Victim.

Freeing anyone on Drugs and Prostitution charges - already addressed.

Getting rid of bail - because what's the alternative? Losing your job while awaiting a trial? Or letting people slide away into the aether after having been caught robbing/mugging/etc?

Almost all of these things I oppose, but I was only mentioning the ones that should be laughed out of hand. Whenever BLM kills again, I'm sure it'll become another topic for conversation.

Which part isn't?

Promoting business networking in their communities seems like an obviously good idea. The other stuff isn't "crazy", but obviously a lot of people will disagree.

This is in partnership with BLM and other organization, and not necessarily representative of ALL BLM supporters, but here’s where the people in charge and policy is going. It’s nuts.

I think the sorosphere enjoys the pleasures of vandalism. Pointless destruction is the whole point.

And some people wonder what they're pissed off about ...

In fact, Glass-Steagall was not repealed. Only one section was altered to allow commercial banking companies, mostly bank holding companies, to hold/own non-financial corporations.

The fact that commercial banking companies owned such corporations was not the essential cause of the housing bubble and subsequent crash.

FYI, Dodd-Frank didn't address some important causes/conditions which led to recent economic problems.

Excessive liquidity from unacceptably high dependence on non-core (other than insured deposits) funding (various forms of borrowings) was a common symptom among failed (smaller than too big to fail) banks. The extra money (generally from outside the bank's territory) provided extra money to run up local housing prices and build extra houses that proved to be over-supply (when the music stopped) in the banks' territories. And, the "hot" money tends to run (panic) faster than local, neighborhood deposits.

The causes of the crisis were "legion." Concentrating on one political, hot-button tag-line will not forestall the impemding, massive economic crisis.

The main cause was the Fed.

Secondary cause, crappy risk management & resulting lending standards

The main cause was anti-deficiency legislation in states with big housing markets that contributed a great deal to a housing bubble which burst and then has national consequences. The Fed had little or nothing to do with it and actually did a pretty decent job given the limits of its authority when the financial crisis struck.

Don't forget the stupid mark-to-market rules reinstituted in 2007 after 70 years of things doing just fine without them. The 'crisis' would have been about as bad as the early 1980s S&L crisis, which was far less destructive, if those rules had never been implemented. When Barney Frank said on March 9, 2009 they would fix those, the market stopped dropping and started streaking higher that very day.

There wasn't much of a housing bubble. Prices are back in most places. A crash was hardly inevitable. The Fed failed to lower interest rates when the natural rate was falling quickly, which led to massive monetary contraction. There is no way to avoid a severe recession when you have severe monetary contraction.

The main remedy the government had was taking bankrupt-but-viable investment banks and selling them to consumer banks. The proponents seem to be of the crowd that say the biggest problem was that there was a rescue, and we'd be better off if everything burnt to the ground.

I like to annoy people by (unseriously) arguing that if you wanted to prevent crises like 2008, what you'd really want is an anti-Glass-Steagall: all investment banking firms of a certain size must merge with commercial banks. No independent Bears or Lehmans running around without deposit bases and access to the discount window.

That's alraedy happened. GS and MS are now both FDIC insured.

They re-organized as bank holding companies. Are you sure they're FDIC members? I think bank holding company is a much broader category. IIRC, Metlife is organized as a bank holding company.

It was largely politics and optics. If a trillion dollar corporation were suffering massive operating losses and its capital accounts were depleted, $25 billion in "capita" would be of little effect.

In order to receive TARP money, financial service companies were forced to establish Federal Reserve-regulated/supervised bank holding companies (not FDIC-insured) and, concomitantly, to establish de novo FDIC-insured banks. Some already had such.

Also, all of the largest financial services companies were forced to take TARP money, whether or not they needed it. Arguably, JPMorgan Chase did not need it.

The Federal banking agencies specially permitted the TARP money to be included in the regulatory calculations as Tier 1 regulatory capital; otherwise it did not meet requirements in the Capital Maintenance regulations.

Finally (Thank God!), I think that some of the worst companies may not have recognized the full amounts of credit losses incurred and that likely saved them, not some money from the US Treasury.

Most people fail to realize that the changes to Glass-Steagall were a response to what was happening in global financial markets. For example, the Dutch changed their law governing combinations of financial companies in the '80s, leading to the creation of ING in its current form. This is another way people are pining for an Eden that existed before globalization grew.

Eden? No. Just a world where the London Whale isn't much of a threat to small businesses with deposits at JP Morgan.

Deposit insurance takes care of that problem, with or without Glass-Steagall. Even after Glass-Steagall was repealed, retail banks such as Citibank and Chase Bank continued to be operated as subsidiaries with a separate corporate identity from that of their parent holding companies.

Deposit insurance takes care of that problem, with or without Glass-Steagall.

Deposit insurance is an actuarial pool. There's a limit to the degree to which it can protect depositors against a concatenation of losses from derivatives trading.

It's backed by the federal government, so not really

'Bair', not 'Blair'.

“If we restored Glass-Steagall—would that end racism?” asked Hillary Clinton

“No!” the audience of White, Black and Hispanic union members yelled back.

Clinton continued to list scenarios, asking: “Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

The problems that caused the 2008 crash were political. Congress caused it and based on what they are still doing learned nothing by it. The calls for restoring Glass-Steagall are political. It serves a political purpose for a political constituency.

Thanks for the education.

What populists want is to punish the bankers for whatever real or imagined sins they have committed, and Glass-Steagall is just symbolic punishment. As for risk, Tabarrok is correct about reigning it in: higher capital requirements (100% some economists argue). As for shadow banks, the genie was let out of the bottle when they converted from private partnerships to public companies, shifting to shareholders the risk of loss while reserving much of the profits for management, a nice gig if you can get it. Of course, the underlying problem (of excessive risk taking) is attributable to low returns from productive capital and the lure of high returns from speculation in asset prices, both a function of the concentration of income and wealth and the concomitant savings glut. Glass-Steagall and the like merely treat the symptoms not the disease.

As for shadow banks, the genie was let out of the bottle when they converted from private partnerships to public companies, shifting to shareholders the risk of loss while reserving much of the profits for management,

I'm familiar with this thesis, and I agree with it to some extent. But then why did the shareholders go along?

Everyone wanted higher returns and access to "alternative investments" (i.e., speculative investments) since the returns from conventional investments (dividend paying stock and bonds) were falling, and that even included many large charitable and educational institutions (most famously, Yale, led by David Swensen, who established the model for many others to follow). Given the profitable history of the private investment banks, it's understandable why owners of capital would invest in them when they went public. Sure, it was understood that the managers (bankers) would retain most of the profits, but investors believed there would be plenty of profits to go around, which only served to induce the bankers to take on even greater risk to satisfy the shareholders as well as their own desire for large bonuses. The financial sector today is built to fail. And it will fail again just like in 2007-08.

Not my trade, but Dodd-Frank from a distance did look like a compendium of special interest carve outs whose central feature was empowering officials drawn from the Democratic Party office seeker pool to make discretionary decisions. That's who they are, that's what they do.

Some time ago, Megan McArdle offered that universal banks with a 'complicated trading book' were beyond the capacity of the FDIC to superintend with it's usual methods (that, and 2/3 of Citigroup's deposits were domiciled abroad). Luigi Zingales offered that the trouble with the organization of financial services nowadays was that you no longer had cross-cutting competing interests - you had undifferentiated 'financial services' lobbying for the industry's interests. Both observations suggest that there should be a resegregation of services. Remember the London Whale?

So, why not? Have one pile of companies engaged in deposits-and-loans banking and some fee-for-service enterprise, one set trading on the capital markets, and one set providing insurance and such? A law requiring most sorts of firms domiciled here to limit their foreign subsidiaries to service points? While we're at it, if a company requires a 'Chinese wall' inside its enterprise, is that perhaps an indication that these two lines of business should not be permitted within a single enterprise?

Interesting that the Atlantic sought advice from a profession that failed to see the crisis coming, that, in fact, said it would not happen.

Also, I can only think of one shadow bank that needed to be bailed out, maybe two, AIG and depending upon whether you see them as a shadow bank, Countrywide. Yet, virtually all the large banks required a bailout.

You're indicting the entire profession for proclamations and claims that are really limited to a certain group within that profession.

Nah, don't agree. Not ever large bank required a bailout. It was about 50%. The fact is, when they want down, more firms like AIG would have needed a bailout. Your trying to hard and making a very poor attempt at posting.

Yet, virtually all the large banks required a bailout.

No, Citigroup and Wachovia. Bank of America required one because they'd chowed down on Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. There might have been one other among the top 7 or 8.

As for the rest of the financial sector: AIG, Lehman, Merrill-Lynch, Bear-Stearns, Countrywide.

Keep in mind that Citigroup was a universal bank heavily implicated in the capital markets. As for Bank of America, about 15% of its assets were accounted for by its investment banking subsidiary ca. 2007. Wells-Fargo IIRC had a retail brokerage or some such but did not do securities underwriting or proprietary trading.

Clayton is right, especially if you look at the other side of the atlantic...

No, he is not. Citigroup, Wachovia, and WaMu required rescues, and with Wachovia and WaMu, this could be accomplished through conventional procedures via the FDIC. JP Morgan did not, Bank of America's problems were a consequence of Countrywide and Merrill-Lynch, Wells-Fargo did not, the American subsidiary of HSBC did not, U.S. Bank did not &c. And, again, Citigroup was a universal bank with most of its business abroad, not a commercial bank.

While I'm sympathetic to AlexT's argument, repeal of Glass-Steagall did aid the financial crisis of 2008 says this article, sample below:
("Yet another big bank spokesman says that nonbanks such as Lehman and Bear Stearns were more to blame for the crisis. This ignores the fact that nonbanks get their funding from banks in the form of mortgages, repurchase agreements, and lines of credit. Without the big banks providing easy credit on bad collateral like structured products, the nonbanks would not have been able to leverage themselves." "It was Glass-Steagall that prevented the banks from using insured depositories to underwrite private securities and dump them on their own customers. This ability along with financing provided to all the other players was what kept the bubble-machine going for so long.")

For a minute their I though you were quoting Robert Reich who is quoted in the same Atlantic article as Alex:

"Some argue Glass-Steagall wouldn’t have prevented the 2008 crisis because the real culprits were non-banks like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. But that's baloney. These non-banks got their funding from the big banks in the form of lines of credit, mortgages, and repurchase agreements. If the big banks hadn’t provided them the money, the non-banks wouldn’t have got into trouble. And why were the banks able to give them easy credit on bad collateral? Because Glass-Steagall was gone."

The similarity of the surrounding paragraphs is interesting.

Anyway, this claim is odd. The conventional story is that shadow banks were competing funds away from commercial banks, not that commercial banks were providing the funding. Lehman Brothers could issue a lot of commercial paper which gets bundled up into money funds as an alternative to bank deposits. Lehman could also have a repo aggreement with any large firm looking to deposit money, the counterparty doesn't have to be a bank.

Do they mean by mortgages, MBS? I would find it odd to claim those as a source of funds.

Good point Jim, akin to guns don't kill people, people do. The absence of Big Banks providing money would mean more hoops for Lehman to jump through, but eventually Lehman would find a way? Probably true, as securitization of mortgages was legal, so Big Banks did not have to hold onto any loans they originated. As for Lehman and mortgages, I think this was meant (Wikipedia) "Lehman borrowed significant amounts to fund its investing in the years leading to its bankruptcy in 2008, a process known as leveraging or gearing. A significant portion of this investment was in housing-related assets, making it vulnerable to a downturn in that market"

BTW I personally think the finance sector nor Lehman failing is not responsible for the Great Recession, it was more due to greedy middle class speculators who were betting on the Greater Fool theory and that "real estate never goes down". If Lehman failing or AIG needing a bailout were the only problems, then by now we'd be well past any negative effects of the 2008 crisis. But it's a more structural balance sheet recession, from debt buildup since the days of the Reagan administration.

"The financial crisis is best understood as a run on the shadow banking system, that collection of financial intermediaries who based their credit creation not on deposits but on repo, money market funds, structured investment vehicles, asset-backed securitizations and other financial structures. Separate commercial and investment banking? Please. The problem was that by 2007 the shadow banking system had become so separated from commercial banking that the Federal Reserve didn’t know that a majority of credit was being generated by the shadow banks."

Must be a lie! Glass-Steagall repeal had to be the cause!

I know because I read Milton Friedman circa 1970 promise with 1000% certainty that uninsured deposits in retail money market accounts would never be lent to anyone without lots more income and assets than FDIC deposits, so the shadow banking system could not possibly have done what you say. Milton Friedman promised.

Thanks to Friedman's Newsweek columns I followed the debate over deregulating money market funds and then the ensuing "disintermediation" which drained deposits from community banks and home loan associations, and based on the arguments of those doing business in the 20s onward, I didn't believe Friedman. And 1987 proved me right that Friedman et al were wrong.

How anyone older than 20 in 1980 could not have seen 2007-8 coming in 2003 is beyond me.

I had only three questions:
First, which month, or year.
Second, how do I not get screwed.
Third, can I profit, and would that be moral.

That I could not answer the third was OK because I didn't think it was moral.

That two debt crises could unfold almost exactly the same way 20 years apart and no one admits it is what bothers me. It all has to do, I think, in Reagan hero worship.

@mulp: "I know because I read Milton Friedman circa 1970 promise with 1000% certainty that uninsured deposits in retail money market accounts would never be lent to anyone without lots more income and assets than FDIC deposits, so the shadow banking system could not possibly have done what you say. Milton Friedman promised." - excellent point but you forget one thing: ex post moral hazard, meaning, after the disaster, the US govt stepped in and said "nobody will lose any money, the taxpayer will bail you out". IMO this is why markets froze in September 2008 (John Taylor has said the same thing, but it's a minority opinion; the majority view is that it was simple panic that froze markets, not rational calculation of players looking for a bailout). More importantly, the TARP and other bailouts had an ex post "moral hazard" negative effect on markets. Even in Greece, during the bank panics of 2010-2013 to present, the "FDIC" (Greek equivalent) deposit insurance was raised in Fall 2008 from 20k euro to 100k (see here for other countries that also increase the limit, ex post, which encourages moral hazard: And let's not forget the 'de facto' US guarantee that uninsured mutual funds 'cannot break the 1.00 buck' without Uncle Sam stepping in to bailout parties. Again, "ex post" moral hazard, of the kind Uncle Milt would not approve. So Milt was right, if governments did not do bailouts (but they do, so he's wrong as you say).

Any approach that views the underlying cause of the financial crisis as primarily based upon federal law is probably wrong.

A much more compelling fit to the data sees industry practices in particular states that do not make homeowners bear the risk of a deficiency judgment, or make it especially hard to get a deficiency judgment, when a foreclosure sale nets less than the vale of the real estate (which spilled over into states like Nevada where California industry practice dominates industry practice locally even though it doesn't make sense there) creating record losses in a bubble real estate market in some key states (since would be homeowners faced with moral hazard buy houses that may have inflated prices). This problem has largely gone undiagnosed and hence remains a systemic risk to the U.S. economy.

The national economy was hit only via the havoc that these bad state policies imposes on the national mortgage backed securities market on Wall Street. This was possible on Wall Street, because it didn't appreciate the state specific risk and because corruption in the bond rating industry (which doesn't put its money where its mouth is) caused lots of people to invest in risky mortgage backed securities that we touted as safer than they were based upon assumptions about mortgage default risk which were unsound in high risk states. So underregulation of the bond rating industry was a second cause which should be addressed and partially was in later legislation.

The third big cause was the tax incentive to take out second, high risk mortgages at high rates on top of a conventional loan, rather than mortgage insurance to cover a single low down payment loan. High risk mortgages were evaluated by Wall Street which as noted above was deceived by unreasonable bond ratings. Mortgage insurance more appropriately evaluated the risk due to the better downside risk analysis inherent in insurance regulation. This problem has gone undiagnosed and remains a systemic risk to the U.S. economy.

Also, G-S involved separating commercial banking from investment banking. But, FDIC regulation worked extremely well in the commercial banking industry leading to very modest losses to customers from bank failures and few failed institutions. In contrast, the investment banking industry was annihilated.

The one other change non-GS that was crucial was the recent shift in investment banking from partner ownership to public ownership of investment banks which created a heads I win, tails you lose situation for investment bank managers that left them insensitive to risk. This problem was widely recognized but hasn't been addressed by any serious reforms.

Meh, I think the financial crisis was alot like the 1907 crisis. A mistake and once situation was calmed, it ended. The run on the shadow banking system wasn't needed and suspicious that it happened in the first place. It was like somebody was trying to force it.

When a financial house goes through a death spiral, you get the British Empire/House of Rothschild collapse in 29...........yet it was the Morgan ran Fed that helped spur the crisis worse in 31-32 which really put the cinch in it. By 1933, the US government and the Morgans were basically offering themselves as the new global standard bearer and eventually led toward the dominance of the dollar.

Oh yeah, the Rothschilds knew the game was afoot and was running out of time. Who do they bring to power to counter the United States power play? Ah, let me guess..............

Ah, the internet...let a thousand cranks bloom

Lawrence J. White seems to have forgotten our talk in which we each promised to use our middle initials from then on.

One of the authors states:

"...the financial system must be made more resilient to disturbances that undermine the balance sheets of intermediaries."

Good grief, that's exactly wrong. We need a system that's easier to fix, not harder to break.

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