WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the nation’s  six largest Wall Street banks controlling assets equal to 64 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced a bill protect American taxpayers by placing sensible size and leverage limits on our nation’s largest financial institutions. The Safe, Accountable, Fair & Efficient (SAFE) Banking Act of 2012, would hold Wall Street accountable, prevent future bailouts, and protect American homes, jobs, pensions, and businesses.

“As our nation’s economy begins to recover, we must ensure that megabanks cannot take the same kind of risks that hurt so many of our nation’s families and small businesses,” Brown said. “That’s why we need to place sensible size limits on our nation’s large financial institutions and ensure that if banks gamble, they have the resources to cover their losses. The SAFE Banking Act would not only prevent bailouts and protect against economic collapse, it will help Main Street community banks compete with Wall Street megabanks. This will enhance lending to small businesses so that our economy can grow and unemployed Americans can find jobs.”

Brown, Chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, will conduct a hearing today entitled, “Is Simpler Better? Limiting Support for Financial Institutions” to examine our nation’s “Too Big to Fail” policies.

Based on legislation Brown introduced in April 2010 with U.S. Sens. Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tom Harkin (D-IA), today’s bill would ensure that banks have the resources to cover their losses.

Specifically, the SAFE Banking Act of 2012:

  • Imposes a strict 10 percent cap on any bank’s share of the total amount of deposits of all insured banks in the U.S. This would eliminate loopholes in the existing statutory cap.
  • Imposes a strict 10 percent cap on the liabilities that any one financial company can take on, relative to the U.S. financial sector. Like the deposit concentration limit, this closes loopholes in existing law.
  • Imposes a limit on the non-deposit liabilities (including off-balance-sheet (OBS) exposure) of a bank holding company of 2 percent of GDP. No bank holding company could exceed $1.3 trillion.
  • Imposes a limit on the non-deposit liabilities (including OBS exposure) of any non-bank financial institution of 3 percent of GDP. No non-bank financial company could grow larger than $436 billion. 
  • Codifies a 10 percent leverage limit (including OBS exposure) for large bank holding companies and selected nonbank financial institutions into law.