Republicans in the house have voted to repeal Dodd Frank and replace it with the choice act. As usual they have declined to explain why this is done and have let the Democrats control the airwaves with their message of the Republicans who have been bought by the banks and are going to crash the economy with their greed. One of the most frustrating things about supporting Trump and the Republicans is that they generally do the right thing but cannot seem to explain why they are doing it. This is especially important in a complex issue like this one. By all means the article I am writing should come from the Wall Street Journal, National Review, or even the Trump administration itself. Yet they decline to do so placing the burden of explaining why this must happen on the shoulders of independent bloggers like myself with our vastly more limited reach.
It is very easy to have a knee jerk reaction to this issue but for something this critical it is very important to understand why it is being done.
State of the Banking Industry
In order to understand why this must be done we have to take a look at how the banking industry is doing. After all maybe there is no problem and this is just being done for the sake of corporate greed.
If I were to ask you why you support Dodd-Frank your answer would most likely be to rein in big banks, to break up big banks, or something along the vein of placing less power in the hands of big banks. After all it is because of the irresponsibility of the banks that are deemed too big to fail which caused the financial crash to happen.
How has Dodd-Frank affected these banks? The best data I could get is that in 1995 giant banks controlled 22% of the assets of the banking industry. 13% of which are controlled by 4 companies Citigroup, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. As of 2015 giant banks controlled 63% of the assets of the banking industry and the top 4 banks mentioned control 42%. The giant banks nearly tripled their market share. What about the smaller banks? Since Dodd-Frank started a quarter of local banks have closed. Can you guess how many new banks of any size have opened since Dodd-Frank started? How many new banks we have had in the 7 years since Dodd Frank was signed into law? Take a moment to take a guess before going on. There have been a total of 3 new banks. 3. Before Dodd-Frank you had hundreds opening every year. Now we have 3. In seven years.
If Dodd-Frank was supposed to curb big banks it has failed spectacularly. In fact it has even helped concentrate even more assets into these banks. If you thought they were too big to fail before then they are even more so now. This is a dangerous trend that we have to break and instead of having it slow down it is accelerating. As of right now we have 4 companies who own almost half the banking industry. Repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank into something that helps smaller banks must be done.
Republicans have put forth the Financial Choice Act as a solution to the problem. The bill is very long and a copy of it is available in the government website so I will give the barebones summary. In a nutshell the bill says that if a bank of any size were to meet a reserve requirement of 10% then they would be exempt from most of the regulations of Dodd-Frank. Under Dodd-Frank the reserve requirement is 3%. The crucial section here is that it is voluntary. A bank would have to choose to meet the requirements to get out from the regulations of Dodd-Frank but is not forced to. At this point it is important to understand what the reserve requirement is otherwise it will seem like the banking industry is getting something for nothing.
Most countries have something called a reserve requirement. This is the percentage of the total assets the bank has lent out that it must have on hand. This is usually in the form of physical cash in a bank vault or deposits to the central bank. For instance if a bank has lent out 100$ then it must have 3$ in its reserves under Dodd-Frank or 10$ if it wants to get the benefits of the Choice act.
This is important because banks earn money by lending out money. Whether it be thru fees, interest or any other method money has to be lent out before it can earn money. This is also the reason why Giant banks cannot benefit from the Choice Act. All the giant banks have shareholders who expect the same level or more of profits every year. You just cannot make the same level of profit by loaning out that much less money.
Giant banks also make most of their money on fees. Whether the accounts are paid back or not what is most important is there is a lot of them generating various fees. If they go into collections then the big banks just sell it to an agency and make some of the money back anyway. Smaller banks make most of their money on interest. It is important to them to have the loan active and current. They have to pick and choose who to lend to carefully so the 10% reserve requirement fits their portfolios perfectly.
This creates a two tiered system. When you ask for a loan or a credit limit increase with a giant bank they do not generally want to have a live person make a decision for you. They don’t really have the manpower or inclination to decide whether Bob gets a 200$ increase or whether you get your 10000$ loan to start a pizza shop with a basement. They want to run everything thru an algorithm based on current regulations and base the decision on that.
Smaller banks are different. Since they normally service local communities they rely more on face to face interactions as well as judgement calls based on the persons history with the community. Instituting a system with far less regulations makes sense for them. This also creates a unique market for them of customers who literally cannot do business with giant banks due to regulations but can do business with them increasing their market share.
Why Small Banks?
Smaller banks need to be encouraged and protected instead of systematically eliminated under Dodd-Frank. Smaller banks have a significantly lower default rate on loans and they make significantly more loans to start-up businesses. 33% of business loans come from small banks while only 23% come from giant banks. Having the assets of the banking industry spread out over more sources reduces the risk of any single one of them causing a crash and needing to be bailed out.
We finally have legislation that will help fix the banking industry and Republicans are to shy to explain it to the public.