A stunning about-face by one of Wall Street's trailblazers is emboldening lawmakers who have long called for breaking up the nation's largest banks.

Sanford Weill, the former chairman and CEO of Citigroup, shocked the financial sector and its critics Wednesday, when he publicly called for the breakup of big banks to ensure the end of "too big to fail."

"What I think we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking and have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial and real estate loans. And have banks do something that will not risk tax payer dollars," he said on CNBC. "And that is not going to be something that will not be too big to fail. If banks want to hedge what they are doing in their investments, let them do it in a way that is market to market so that they are never going to be hit."

Weill's comments quickly flew south to Washington, where lawmakers long critical of big banks used it to renew their charge.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has introduced legislation that would require the breakup of the nation's largest banks, used the remarks to further tout his bill, which so far has gained little traction in the Senate.

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