Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Big banks are government-backed: Fed's Hoenig

Big banks like Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc should be reclassified as government-sponsored entities and have their activities restricted, a senior Fed official said on Tuesday.

The 2008 bank bailouts at the height of the financial crisis and other implicit guarantees effectively make the largest U.S. banks government-guaranteed enterprises, like mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig.

"That's what they are," Hoenig said at the National Association of Attorneys General 2011 conference.

He said these lenders should be restricted to commercial banking activities, advocating a policy that existed for decades barring banks from engaging in investment banking activities.

"You're a public utility, for crying out loud," he said.

The Kansas City Fed president has been a vocal critic of rescuing the biggest banks rather than allowing them to fail. He has criticized the Fed's easy money policies in the wake of the crisis.

There are slim chances his proposal to classify banks as government-guaranteed enterprises would be adopted. Eighteen out of the 19 biggest U.S. banks have repaid 2008 bailout aid, removing most government investment over the last 18 months. (read more)