Brown, Vitter: New Year, New Reason to End Taxpayer-Funded Advantages for Wall Street "Too Big to Fail" Megabanks

Sens. Brown and Vitter Introduced Legislation that Would Eliminate Government Subsidies for Wall Street Megabanks

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Following another year of Wall Street megabanks enjoying taxpayer-funded advantages, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and David Vitter (R-LA) today reaffirmed their call for passing their Terminating Bailout for Taxpayer Fairness (TBTF) Act. The senators also recapped efforts in 2013 related to getting this common-sense legislation passed.  Brown and Vitter are authors of legislation that would require the largest and most interconnected financial institutions to maintain a 15 percent capital ratio to ensure taxpayers will not serve as the backstop for risky investments.

“Five years ago the risky practices of Wall Street megabanks brought our economy to the brink of collapse. Today, the nation’s four largest banks are nearly $2 trillion larger than they were in 2007,” Brown said. “Countless reports and studies this year have found that large financial institutions’ risky practices are backstopped by government guarantees at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. It’s time we end the subsidy for Wall Street megabanks by requiring them to have adequate capital to pay for their own losses.”

“One of the biggest stories of the year is that too big to fail is unfortunately alive and well. Megabanks are still receiving special handouts that create an uneven playing field – making it harder for our community banks and credit unions to compete. Beyond the Wall Street bailouts, the government has created a belief in the marketplace that it will provide support to the mega-banks. Regulators have the tools to increase capital requirements and erase the too big to fail subsidy, but refuse to do so. The GAO has released the first of two reports showing that the megabanks were able to borrow below-market interest rates, demonstrating a huge benefit of being too big to fail. I’m looking forward to second part which is expected to come in the spring.”

Highlights of 2013 related to ending "Too Big to Fail” follow:


GAO Report Underscores Importance of Ending “Too Big To Fail” policies: On January 1, Brown and Vitter asked the U.S. Government Accountable Office (GAO) to investigate whether their “Too Big To Fail” status provides megabanks with financial benefits, including allowing them to borrow at a lower rate than regional banks, community banks, and credit unions. In November, GAO released the first of two reports request by Brown and Vitter  on the economic benefits that the “too-big-to-fail” megabanks receive as a result of actual or perceived taxpayer funded support during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. The GAO report found that Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo & Co were able to borrow below-market interests rates, demonstrating the economic benefit of being “Too Big to Fail.” Following the release, Brown and Vitter reaffirmed their call for imposing common-sense capital requirements for Wall Street megabanks and called for passage of their TBTF Act.

The second part of the study will be released in 2014 and will focus on the funding advantages enjoyed by the largest banks, by virtue of their “Too Big to Fail” status. A link to the 2013 GAO report can be found: HERE. A summary of the report can be found: HERE

Brown, Vitter Offer Budget Amendment Eliminating Handouts for Megabanks: In March, Brown and Vitter successfully offered an amendment to the Senate budget resolution  eliminating federal subsidies and funding advantages for megabanks larger than $500 billion and prohibiting a bank tax or assessment. The amendment, which passed the Senate by a vote of 99-0, was stripped from the Murray-Ryan Budget deal. 

Brown, Vitter Unveil Legislation Ending “Too Big To Fail” Policies: In April, Brown and Vitter revealed the details of their legislation, the Terminating Bailouts for Taxpayer Fairness Act (TBTF Act). The legislation would ensure that financial institutions have adequate capital to protect against losses, protection hardworking Americans from being the backstop for risky, Wall Street, investments. It sets reasonable standards that vary depending on the size and complexity of the institution, limits the government safety net to traditional banking operations, and provides regulatory relief for community banks. Statements in support of the legislation can be found: HERE.


Strengthening Capital Requirements: In July, the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) proposed an enhanced supplemental ratio of leverage to total assets for the largest financial institutions of 6 percent for insured depositories and 5 percent for bank holding companies. In their preamble to the proposal, the agencies acknowledged the existence of a TBTF funding advantage. In November, Brown, Vitter and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) sent a letter  urging the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to strengthen proposed supplementary leverage ratio requirements in an effort to lessen government support for the financial sector and reassure financial markets that the U.S. financial system is healthy. The proposed increased in the leverage ratio was due in part to Brown and Vitter’s efforts to increase capital standards required by financial institutions.


Reaction to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew – “Dodd-Frank ended ‘too big to fail’ as a matter of law”: In July, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said, “If we get to the end of this year and we cannot, with an honest, straight face, say that we have ended too-big-to-fail, we are going to have to look at other options.” Following Lew’s comments in December that “Earlier this year, I said if we could not with a straight face say we ended ‘too big to fail,’ we would have to look at other options.  Based on the totality of reforms we are putting in place, I believe we will meet that test,” Brown and Vitter released statements cautioning the Treasury Secretary’s premature declaration that “Too Big to Fail” policies have ended. Brown and Vitter pointed to the November release of the GAO report stating that “Too Big To Fail” policies still exist in the financial system and additional action is need to end taxpayer support for megabanks.