As shown by Bank of America, some financial institutions are still “too big to fail” — the same issue that led to the massive banking bailout. Simon Johnson writes in his column, “Bank Of America Is Too Much Of A Behemoth To Fail”:
The Obama administration says the Dodd-Frank financial reform law ends “too big to fail,” meaning that no financial institution will ever again need to be bailed out. The promise is alluring, but it’s already proving to be false.
The argument rests on the premise that bank capital is now high enough to withstand serious shocks, so a calamity is less likely. It also assumes that Dodd-Frank’s new resolution authority allows global financial institutions to be wound down in an orderly fashion, and that the law’s call for “living wills” ensures that banks provide all the necessary technical details regulators might need to take prompt pre-emptive action.
Consider the law’s promise in the context of Bank of America Corp. Through the back door, U.S. regulators are facilitating another round of implicit bailouts, putting more taxpayer money on the line in the form of guarantees. Bloomberg News reported on Oct. 18 that regulators have allowed Bank of America to move highly risky derivatives contracts — and the associated downside risk — from Merrill Lynch into the insured retail deposit-taking part of the bank.
The move puts the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on the hook for any losses. The FDIC’s deposit-insurance funds come from its member banks, but because the agency can tap a U.S. Treasury line of credit if the fund runs dry, taxpayers could be at risk, too.