During the final days of intense debate in 2010 over a bill aimed at preventing another financial meltdown such as the one in 2008, Sen. Sherrod Brown pressed for an amendment that would break up the biggest banks in country.
Brown won the backing of 32 other senators for the measure, but three years later the idea hasn’t gone away. If anything, there appears to be growing support for Brown’s idea of working to make banks smaller in order prevent the federal government from having to pay hundreds of billions of dollars to salvage them again if they fail.
His idea is bolstered as well by worries that the nation’s biggest banks are “too big to jail,” after Attorney General Eric Holder said the banks were too large to prosecute. Conservative columnist George Will was written a glowing column on Brown’s push. And Republican Sen. David Vitter, R-La. is cosponsoring legislation that would impose additional capital requirements for the nation’s largest banks: Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Brown said his office is talking with 10 Republicans – just three supported him in 2010 – about provisions that would end the concept of “too big to fail.”
Back in 2010 Brown was an “outlier,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the Washington office of the Ohio Public Interest Research Group. And now, Mierzwinski said, his views are “more mainstream than anybody thought.”
“Sen. Brown was for protecting depositors and taxpayers from big banks before it was cool,” he said.
Still, his views are being met skeptically by those who say it’s too soon to break up the banks. Some Dodd-Frank regulations have yet to be implemented, said former U.S. Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Findlay, a former chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
“We’re not even to the 20-yard line yet,” he said. “You have to let the regulations get on the books and see how it works in the real world before you start tinkering with the size of the banks.”
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