Nick Sorrentino

The big banks, which in 2008 nearly went belly-up because they were overleveraged and needed a taxpayer funded bailout in order to survive a reversal in the economic tide, are even bigger today. They pose more risk than they did 5 years ago. Because they have been designated as “too big to fail” the megabanks now enjoy an implicit subsidy courtesy of you and me. Their borrowing costs are lower because we backstop them. Because of the backstop and lower costs bankers are incentivized to take on more risk. Sooner or later this will create major instability as the market mechanism has been distorted and will seek to correct for this distortion.

(From Bloomberg.com)

Do markets still view the nation’s largest banks as too big to fail? Have regulators failed to eradicate the perception that, when the next crisis comes, the government will again come to the rescue?

Given that the largest banks are now even bigger than they were before the last financial crisis, it’s a pressing question. Unfortunately, a careful look at the data suggests the answer is less encouraging than many policy makers think.

Expectations of government bailouts create dangerous distortions. When, for example, creditors assume they’ll get rescued in an emergency, they don’t demand higher interest rates from banks that take on bigger risks. This lack of market discipline gives bankers a strong incentive — consciously or not — to engage in behavior that makes disasters more likely. Taxpayers effectively end up subsidizing activity that threatens their own well-being.

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Nick Sorrentino

Nick Sorrentino is the editor and co-founder. He handles day to day operations. A writer and political consultant, he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan.