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Featured Article filed under Banking | Written by Olivia LaVecchia | No Comments | Updated on Aug 20, 2014

Federal Study Confirms “Too Big To Fail” Gives Megabanks a Hidden Funding Advantage

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/federal-study-confirms-too-big-fail-megabanks-hidden-funding-advantage/

When the country’s giant banks were teetering on the verge of collapse during 2008’s financial crisis, the U.S. government stepped in to bail them out. The banks were, in a phrase that has since become infamous, “Too Big To Fail.”

Would the government do it again? And does the expectation that it would step in give megabanks an unfair competitive advantage over local community banks?

Those are the questions at the heart of an eagerly awaited report released at the end of July by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal department. In a conclusion that highlights the need for more regulatory action to reduce concentration in the banking system, the G.A.O. found that the answers to both questions are “yes.”

Six years after the bailout, the country’s biggest banks have only grown bigger. Just four megabanks, each with more than $1.5 trillion in assets, control 45 percent of the country’s banking industry, up from 37 percent in 2007, according to FDIC data. The consequences for the economy — higher consumer fees, fewer small business loans, and more risky speculative trading — are substantial.

To Senators David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, these are among the signs that “Too Big To Fail” works as a kind of implicit insurance — and as such, a subsidy — for the megabanks. Because creditors and investors believe taxpayers will rescue the banks if anything goes awry, they are willing to finance big banks at much lower interest rates than they offer smaller institutions.

The Senators have introduced a bill, the “Terminating Bailouts for Taxpayer Fairness Act,” that aims to end this implicit government subsidy, and create a fairer playing field for community banks.

The Senators are also the ones who called for the G.A.O. report, in order to get a better sense of just how big the megabanks’ advantage is.

In the report, the G.A.O. looked at one particular benefit that the taxpayers’ guarantee nets the megabanks: whether they’re able to borrow money – issue debt – more cheaply than smaller financial institutions. Using 42 models, the G.A.O. found that though the benefit has tapered off in recent years, during the heart of the financial crisis, in 2008 and 2009, megabanks were able to borrow at significantly lower rates. Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Banking, Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 16, 2014

Understanding the Small Business Credit Crunch

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/understanding-small-business-credit-crunch/

Even as their big competitors are awash in capital, many locally owned businesses are struggling to secure the financing they need to grow. A new ILSR analysis has found that, since 2000, bank lending to large businesses is up 36 percent, while small business loan volume has fallen 14 percent and “micro” business loans — those under $100,000 — have plummeted 33 percent. Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Banking, Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | 6 Comments | Updated on Oct 17, 2012

Too Big to Lend

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/big-lend/

A critical function of our banking system is financing small businesses. But big banks are doing a rotten job of it. At the nation’s largest banks, small business lending has plunged 33% since 2009. Trying to cajole or compel them to do more won’t make much difference because the problem is largely inherent to their scale. Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Banking | Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Nov 27, 2012

Free Checking is Rare at Big Banks, Common at Small

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/free-checking-rare-big-banks-common-small/

While just 24 percent of big banks offer totally free checking, more than 60 percent of credit unions and small banks do, according to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report also found that credit unions and small banks have lower fees on average and do a better job of disclosing fees to prospective customers. Continue reading

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Featured Article, ILSR Press Room filed under Banking | Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Apr 1, 2012

Banking For the Rest of Us

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/banking-for-the-rest-of-us/

In this cover story for Sojourners Magazine, Stacy Mitchell writes that there is remarkably little evidence to support the idea that bigger banks are superior. They have come to dominate, not because they are more efficient or offer better services, but because they have rigged government policy in their own favor. It’s time for a new set of rules—banking policies for the 99 percent. Continue reading