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The Glass–Steagall separation of commercial and investment banking was divided into four sections of the 1933 Banking Act (sections 16, 20, 21, and 32). The Banking Act of 1935 clarified the 1933 legislation and resolved inconsistencies in it. Together, they prevented commercial Federal Reserve member banks from the following:
Over the years, the laws that came out of the bill began to weigh heavily on American banks while the rest of the world took advantage. It’s really difficult to be the world’s top economy when your banks aren’t the world’s largest or the most powerful ones. However, some will say that argument is folly considering that the top banks, according to the number of assets, led the world into the Great Recession in 2008.
Citi Turns the Table
The bill was signed into law by FDR and overseen by the banking industry until 1999, when Gramm – Leach-Bliley undid key provisions.
Ironically, it was a move by Citicorp (the old National City Bank) that put the wheels into motion.
In 1998, the company bid to acquire Travelers Group, even though the combined companies would violate existing laws.
The Federal Reserve gave the deal a temporary waiver from the law. One year later, a bill authored by three Republican lawmakers made it official:
There is no way the Republican Party of Phil Gramm could have guessed it would want more regulations and greater government control of markets.
So, why the change - is Wall Street really going to be corralled by Republicans?
For a long time, I was against the notion of bringing back Glass Steagall but I’ve changed my mind because everything from bailouts to Fed asset purchases to massive political clout have allowed big banks to ignore the needs of Main Street.
Bank earnings underscore the problem:
Citi (C) posted earnings of $1.35 on revenue of $18.1 billion both beat consensus.
JP Morgan (JPM) posted record $25.6 billion in revenue for the quarter resulting in earnings per share of $1.65, both easily beating consensus. But mortgage business declined 18%, while corporate banking was up 25% overall driven by a 34% surge in investment banking.
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