GOVERNMENT BY THE BIG WALL ST. CORPORATIONS

ABSTRACT: The big Wall St. financial corporations just got another big gift. The Federal Reserve announced that it will give Wall St. a year’s delay (to mid-2017) on the implementation of the Volcker Rule, which would ban Wall St. from engaging in risky investments with federally-insured deposits. Many observers believe that this delay will simply give the financial corporations time to kill the Volcker Rule before it ever goes into effect through their lobbying and campaign contributions. The financial corporations’ incessant lobbying and cumulative campaign contributions weakened the Dodd-Frank bill to begin with, and now are delaying, weakening, and repealing its pieces during implementation. Citigroup spent $5.6 million on lobbying in 2013 and its political action committee and employees gave $2.1 million to candidates for federal office in the 2014 election cycle. JPMorgan Chase spent and gave similar amounts.

In addition to huge, risky investments with taxpayer-insured deposits, other risks in the banking and financial system are growing. The bottom line is that the huge financial corporations, which were too-big-to-fail in 2008 and therefore got trillions of dollars in a public bailout, are now bigger than ever and getting riskier by the day. Another bailout and crash of our economy are one financial mistake or economic surprise away.

We need to push back and tell our elected officials that:

  • The Dodd-Frank law’s financial reforms need to be strengthened,
  • Financial corporations should not be allowed to gamble with taxpayer-insured deposits, and
  • Too-big-to-fail financial corporations should be broken up.

FULL POST: The big Wall St. financial corporations just got another big gift. First, the ban on derivatives trading with federally-insured deposits was repealed in the year-end budget bill. (See blog post on 12/14/14.) Then, the Federal Reserve announced that it will give Wall St. a year’s delay (to mid-2017) on the implementation of the Volcker Rule. This Rule, which is a key part of the Dodd-Frank post-2008 crash financial reform legislation, would ban Wall St. from engaging in other types of risky investments with federally-insured deposits. The Volcker Rule is a partial re-implementation of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted after the Great Depression and prohibited banks with federally insured deposits from engaging in investment banking activities. (It kept our banking system safe for 70 years until its repeal in 1999.) The prohibited investment activities include participation in private equity funds and hedge funds, which are basically unregulated investment activities and can be very risky. Goldman Sachs has $11 billion in such investments, while Morgan Stanley has $5 billion. [1]

Many observers believe that this delay will simply give the financial corporations time to kill the Volcker Rule before it ever goes into effect through their lobbying and campaign contributions. This is exactly what happened to the ban on derivatives: it was delayed from 2013 to mid-2015 and has now been repealed so it never went into effect. Citigroup, whose lobbyists wrote the repeal of the derivative ban, held over $60 trillion of derivatives (that’s right, trillion not billion) at the end of 2013 and this huge, risky investment will now continue to be protected by federal deposit insurance. [2]

The financial corporations’ incessant lobbying and cumulative campaign contributions weakened the Dodd-Frank bill to begin with, and now are delaying, weakening, and repealing its pieces during implementation. Citigroup spent $5.6 million on lobbying in 2013 and its political action committee (PAC) and employees gave $2.1 million to candidates for federal office in the 2014 election cycle. JPMorgan Chase spent $5.5 million on lobbying in 2013 and its PAC and employees gave $2.6 million to federal candidates for the 2014 election. Most of the members of Congress who voted for the budget bill that contained the repeal of the derivatives ban had received campaign contributions from one or both of these huge financial corporations. [3]

In addition to huge, risky investments with taxpayer-insured deposits, other risks in the banking and financial system are growing. The requirement for down payments on mortgages was recently decreased to 3%. The number of subprime auto loans has grown to $21 billion; some of them give borrowers 6 or 7 years to pay off the loan. This weakening of credit standards is the same pattern that triggered the 2008 collapse. The large financial corporations are also engaging in a growing amount of lending and trading in investments, some quite risky, that are beyond the scrutiny of regulators. This is all very reminiscent of the situation that led to the 2008 crash. [4]

The bottom line is that the huge financial corporations, which were too-big-to-fail in 2008 and therefore got trillions of dollars in a public bailout, are now bigger than ever and getting riskier by the day. Another bailout and crash of our economy are one financial mistake or economic surprise away. Nothing substantial has changed from the 2008 scenario.

To avoid another collapse and bailout, we need to push back and tell our elected officials that:

  • The Dodd-Frank law’s financial reforms and their implementation need to be strengthened, not weakened or delayed,
  • Financial corporations should not be allowed to gamble on risky investments with taxpayer-insured deposits, and

 

  • Too-big-to-fail financial corporations should be broken up to reduce the risks they present to our financial system and economy.

[1]       Queally, J. 12/19/14, “Just in time for the holidays, another Wall Street giveaway,” Common Dreams (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/12/19/just-time-holidays-another-wall-street-giveaway)

[2]       Eskow, R., 12/26/14, “Wall Street had a merry Christmas. The New Year’s still up for grabs.” Campaign for America’s Future (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/12/26/wall-street-had-merry-christmas-new-years-still-grabs)

[3]       Choma, R., 12/12/14, “Wall Street’s omnibus triumph, and others,” Open Secrets (http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/12/wall-streets-omnibus-triumph-and-others/)

[4]       Wiseman, P., 12/16/14, “Memories of financial crisis fading as risks rise,” Associated Press (http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/f70471f764144b2fab526d39972d37b3/Article_2014-12-15-US–Financial%20Crisis-Forgotten%20Lessons/id-1422b6cbcd4d4b06a93fca295eaf1b7e)

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