The Fattest or the Fittest?

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The Fattest or the Fittest?

New York Times – Eliminating the benefits reaped by institutions that are too politically powerful and interconnected to fail has been an elusive goal in the aftermath of the credit crisis. Institutions most likely to receive assistance from the federal government if they become troubled — behemoths like Citigroup, Bank of America or Wells Fargo — have grown only larger in recent years. Efforts to pare down these banks have met well-financed resistance among policy makers.

Happily, though, reducing the perils of gargantuan institutions — and the threat to taxpayers — is an idea that seems to be taking hold in Washington. To be sure, the army arguing for change is far outgunned by the battalions of bankers and lobbyists working to maintain the status quo. But some combatants seeking reform believe they are making headway.

Richard W. Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, is one. In a speech last month he described, quite colorfully, the problems of these unwieldy institutions and the regulatory ethic “that coddles survival of the fattest rather than promoting survival of the fittest.” Bank regulators should follow the lead of the health authorities battling obesity rates among our population, he said, adding that he favored “an international accord that would break up these institutions into more manageable size.”

This is a banker talking, not a member of the Occupy Wall Street drum circle.

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