News Column

Senate Vote on Banks: Just a Symbolic Slap?

March 27, 2013

Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald

After the Senate's symbolic crackdown on too-big-to-fail banks in the final hours before Congress adjourned over the weekend, experts were divided about how effective such legislation would be, with the industry threatening to pass any costs along to customers.

The Senate voted 99-0 for a non-binding measure to end implicit subsidies the largest banks receive from the credit markets due to the perception that the government would bail them out -- an issue raised by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a recent hearing on Capitol Hill. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Warren that the Dodd-Frank financial reform law provided a way to "unwind" big banks that failed.

Banking analyst Louis Harvey told the Herald that any additional costs imposed by Congress on big banks would ultimately be transferred to customers in the form of fees and interest rates.

"These actions (by lawmakers) may correct an unlevel playing field (between large and small banks) but make it more expensive for everyone to do business," said Harvey, president of Boston-based Dalbar, Inc.

But Deirdre Cummings of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group called that a familiar -- and exaggerated -- refrain.

"It's the standard reply we hear every time there's a proposed change," Cummings said. "The reality is ... the impact on consumers is not as dire as predicted."

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Source: (c)2013 the Boston Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services

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