The massive $16-billion mortgage fraud settlement agreement just reached by Bank of America and federal authorities — only the latest in a string of such settlements — makes it easy to lose sight of what good shape banks are in.
The Great Debate
Markets are still absorbing the Federal Reserve’s surprising smack-down of Citigroup. Under its chief executive officer, Michael Corbat, Citi had greatly strengthened its capital base — indeed, it had one of the best capital ratios of all the big banks — and had proposed modest dividend increases and stock buybacks. Instead, City was the only big American bank that failed its review.
Just a few weeks before federal prosecutors announced a nearly $2 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase over Bernie Madoff’s fraudulent accounts, chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Dimon sat alongside former Congressman and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at an Aspen Institute forum in the biology lab of Malcolm X College to tout the embattled bank’s five-year, $250 million, multi-city investment in job training. The bank would commit $15 million for “workplace readiness and demand-driven training” in Chicago.
The Dodd-Frank Act to re-regulate the big banks was intentionally tough. It was passed in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crash to end cowboy banking; require far more capital and much less leverage, and rein in the trading-desk geniuses who pumped up serial bubbles. Since Congress is a poor forum for crafting such a complex statute, the details were left to the expert regulatory agencies.