Ken Griffin, who runs the $14 billion hedge fund Citadel, said Tuesday that he wants to break up banks:
“We don’t have a good legal justification for breaking up the banking system. But if I could wave a magic wand, I’d break up the banking system.”
Asked whether the big banks had gotten too big to fail, or too big to manage, Mr. Griffin said, “They’re both.” When asked about how he’d break up some of Wall Street’s largest institutions, Griffin suggested pulling the securities businesses out of the banking system.
“I would, in a sense, de-bank Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley”.
What Griffin leaves out here is that if he’d had his way, he would’ve already made Citadel into an investment bank with a hedge fund business. (Sidenote: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would probably like to go back to being a bit more like hedge funds with investment banks, too). The dream scenario for Griffin (and he’s not alone, Blackstone is trying something similar) was that investment banks would emerge from the 2008 crisis hampered by shrinking balance sheets and restraining regulations, allowing Citadel to win business from Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.
When Ken Griffin rips into big banks, he’s not an in-it-for-the-common good reformer, or a disinterested observer, he’s a would-be competitor. And the scorecard so far isn’t too kind: Griffin is one for three in his attempts to build banking businesses that actually compete with big banks.