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POLITICS

Will Dodd Frank make the big banks bigger?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

"The Overhead Smash," is how I describe Big Business's use of regulation to crush smaller competition. Regulation increases overhead costs. Overhead generally falls heavier on smaller business. For this reason, regulations often benefit the bigger guys by keeping out new entrants and forcing smaller guys to fold.

We could be seeing that in banking, thanks to Dodd-Frank. Check out this report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop. The chief pressures leading to consolidation of the banking sector are market factors, but regulation plays a role:

a new competitive landscape, increasing regulations and a sluggish economy are putting heavy pressure on banks, particularly smaller community banks.....

The result of more consolidation might well mean that some banks will remain “too big to fail,” despite pressure in Congress and elsewhere to make sure the government isn’t forced to bail out large institutions in the event of another financial crisis.

Michael Hirsch at Newsweek made a related point last year, quoting an anonymous former Treasury official:

by imposing new capital charges that will create barriers to entry for new firms, especially in swaps and other derivatives, while at the same time permitting giant bank holding companies to continue controlling most of what they were before, “we’ve consolidated the position of the five banks that were most central to the crisis,” the former Treasury official says—in other words: J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, along with, currently, Wells Fargo. “In my mind,” he says, “they’ve created six new GSEs,” or government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

No wonder Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein said "We will be among the biggest beneficiaries of reform." And no wonder Bank of America's CEO cut Barney Frank a check days before the election.

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