Wednesday, September 16, 2015

COTW: Who is TBTF?

It is not just American banks that are too big to fail. Several European banks hold assets that dwarf their national economies and are too big to bail out if they fail. Denmark is the country with the biggest disparity. Danske Bank holds assets of $597 billion, twice the size of Denmark's economy. America's big five are much smaller in comparison to the national economy, each holding assets that amount to less than 20% of US GDP. There is no need even for banks of this size and some economists say that a bank that is more than 5% of GDP is really to TBTE, too big to exist, and should be broken up to prevent them from being politically insulated from the consequences of irresponsible behavior. The banking industry in the US has demonstrated considerable consolidation over the past twenty years [second chart]. This condition is made possible by relaxation of banking regulations that has continued since the first Reagan administration. The number of banks has dropped from 12,500 to about 8,000.