Following on from last week’s post on Barclay’s and their comments on TBTF European banks, it’s interesting to see that President Obama today announced that he will be proposing legislation that will limit proprietary trading activities of large banks as well as impose limits on their growth in liabilities. Pretty clearly, whatever gets proposed isn’t going to please former IMF chief economist, Simon Johnson, but it’s still good to see these issues being addressed.
I’d guess it’s highly unlikely that any such bill would get passed through the US Congress—and I would have said this even before yesterday’s Senate election in Massachusetts. Indeed, I suspect Obama probably also figures it’s a long shot and that this annoucement and the proposed bank tax are primarily smart political moves from the President: “So if these folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have” is just the kind of language to get the currently disappointed Democratic base charged up and it’s probably not a bad fight to have lost and thus have as a live issue going into the midterm elections.
From a European perspective, I suspect this may be an area where there would be more political agreement in Europe than in the US. An optimist might hope that the calls for limits on bank size from Lord Turner and other senior figures in the UK could lead to agreement at European level. Even more optimistically, one might hope that this could be an issue on which the new European Systemic Risk Board could also make some running to show it’s not just going to be a talk shop. A pessimist might reckon that both the EU and ESRB are far too unwieldy to make progress on such a complex issue.