Oppenheim Law

'Break up the banks' is latest chart-topper -- Yahoo! Homes

News   •   Feb 07, 2013 16:44 EST

This post by Roy Oppeneim was originally published in Yahoo! Homes and is being redistributed on South Florida Law Blog with their permission.

My friends, the drumbeat is growing louder and louder. Each and every day another voice is joining the chorus.

Soon, I hope, it will be impossible for even the most devout pro-Wall Street politician to ignore.

It’s time to end Too Big To Fail, and there’s only one way to do that. Get out the hammer and break up the banks. Make them manageable and accountable, and remove the stranglehold they have on our economy, our politicians, and our government.

I’ve been banging away at my little cymbal, telling anyone who would listen that breaking up the banks is the path regulators ought to be taking. But I’m not exactly one to carry a tune, so not much has changed.

Bruce Springsteen (aka The Boss), who has always had the pulse of the working man, has championed a return to community banking. Even that didn’t have much impact on the national conversation.

Thankfully more and more rational voices are joining Springsteen’s “band.” The latest is author Michael Lewis. While reviewing former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith’s new book, Lewis comes to this conclusion: “The financial sector is already so gummed up by government subsidies that market forces no longer operate within it… Along with the other too-big-to-fail firms, Goldman needs to be busted up into smaller pieces.”

Michael and I must have been drinking from the same fountain in Econ 101 in college. (I sat behind him throwing the occasional spitball.)

He is by far not the only one. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Reserve, one of the few quasi government entities that sees breaking up the banks as a necessary component to financial reform, called the TBTF banks overly complex.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich -- “It’s dawning on many that there’s no alternative to limiting their size and breaking up the biggest.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind told Motley Fool that banks are for the most part still doing the same things even with the implementation of Dodd-Frank.

So counting Springsteen, we have ourselves a pretty nice little quintet. (Not including me and my little cymbal.)

All these little piecemeal efforts — the settlements, the lawsuits — haven’t changed the culture of Wall Street and haven’t had any measurable impact on how they do business. They are still taking risky bets and not paying their fair share of taxes. They are still writing bad mortgages. They will never be good citizens unless they are forced into it.

And that will only happen if the banks once again start resembling actual citizens instead of 20-foot giants who prey on the weak.

Even Dodd-Frank hasn’t done enough. Bottom line, every piece of legislation, every government initiative to date has only addressed the effect of Too Big To Fail. Cutting the banks down will take care of the cause. Once that happens, all the other dominoes will fall.

More and more people now realize this, which is why the dull roar from the trenches to break up the banks has turned from faint footsteps in the distance into a steady drumbeat.

Real estate attorney Roy Oppenheim left Wall Street for Main Street, founding Oppenheim Law along with his wife in 1989 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is vice president of Weston Title and creator of the South Florida Law Blog, named the best business and technology blog by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Follow Roy on Twitter at @OpLaw or like Oppenheim Law on Facebook.

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