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'Too big to fail' legacy lives on: Rosner

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[Update 1: Corrects that Rosner filed written testimony before the committee.]] Taxpayers are still at the beck and call of "too big to fail" financial institutions, despite the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, Joshua Rosner said in written testimony submitted to a U.S. House committee on Dodd-Frank. Joshua Rosner is a managing director at investment research firm Graham Fisher & Co. "In fact, (the) Dodd-Frank Act reinforces the market perception that a small and elite group of large firms are different from the rest," he told the committee. Rosner highlighted this point, saying government intervention in 2008 forced bank mergers and acquisitions, leaving the financial market in the control of the nation's largest financial firms. After that transformation, large banks -- including JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) -- controlled 64% of the nation's GDP, up from 17% in 1995, he warned the panel. Rosner sees the big banks' larger position in the market as one that leaves taxpayers on the hook if a systemic shakedown occurs again in the future. "Key elements of the act (Dodd-Frank) that seek to reduce risks to the system -- branding institutions as systemically important, increasing their exposure to risk assets and implementation of a subjective and untested resolution regime -- actually increase risk to the system and even accelerate the moment of our next crisis," he said. Rosner also criticized Dodd-Frank for conferring too much power to regulators. This is a mistake, he says, because "regulators so miserably failed us in the most recent crisis." Rosner said what's actually needed is a more robust, diverse banking system."While bankers and politicians are fast to warn that breaking up the big banks would reduce the competitiveness of the U.S. banking system, this argument is fallacious on several counts," he said. "Historically, large commercial enterprise was funded not by large banks but rather by syndicates of smaller banks and capital market participants," he said. "Resurrecting such a reliance on smaller firms would diminish the risk that if they failed, like Ireland’s or Iceland’s banks, our largest banks would imperil the solvency of the U.S. Treasury." Economic policy makers share some of Rosner's concerns. Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond testified in front of the subcommitee on oversight and investigations, saying,  "In the near term, I believe regulators have a firm grasp on the industry, and are taking strong steps to tighten risk management at regulated firms." However, he added, "there are risks in the long-term because firms seen as enjoying broad safety net protection will have strong incentives to take on excessive risks." Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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