Break Up the Biggest Banks? Sanford Weill, one of the most famous names in banking history and the architect of one of the biggest financial mergers, the 1998 combination of Citicorp and Travelers Group, spoke to America’s ongoing financial crisis in 2012: What we should probably do is go split up investment baking from banking, have banks be deposit-takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.” By 2006 Weill had relinquished his Citicorp duties, and his colossal bank was reduced to taking huge government bailout funds during the recent financial crisis. His strategy had failed his bank and arguably threatened the welfare of the nation. Weill was reduced, basically, to calling for a return to the 1933 Glass–Steagall Act (separating commercial and investment banking), which Congress repealed in 1999, much to the delight of Wall Street bosses. Questions 1. Do you believe the Wall Street banking industry operates by different ethical rules from those practiced by your hometown bankers? Explain. 2. Does the extraordinary size of the big banks (the five biggest: Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo), of itself, lead to wrongful practices in those banks? Put another way, is bigness bad? Source: Roben Farzad, “Sandy Weill’s Untimely Second Thoughts,” Bloomberg Businessweek, July 25, 2012 [www .businessweek.com/].
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