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December 12, 2013

Tierney bill designed to curb big banks

Congressman John Tierney teamed with Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina yesterday to introduce a bipartisan bill designed to protect the public from “too big to fail” banks that roll the dice with their money.

The Salem Democrat yesterday introduced the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act in the U.S. House, a bill Tierney says is designed to protect consumers from large financial institutions that take on too much risk.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona filed the Senate version of the bill in July.

It’s a move that is being applauded by some North Shore financial experts.

The bill would not prevent investment banks from taking risks with investors’ money; instead, it would prevent banks with federally insured deposits from acting like investment banks. That would shrink large financial institutions because they would have to separate their traditional, commercial deposit banking units from their more risky investment-banking ones.

It is also designed to protect taxpayers who must foot the bill when large financial institutions fail, and the government steps in to bail them out.

Congress repealed key provisions of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. The original Glass-Steagall Act, passed in 1933 in response to the Wall Street crash in 1929, had created a firewall between investment and depository banking.

The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act would prohibit banks that offer savings and checking accounts insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from offering investment banking, insurance, swaps dealing, hedge fund and private equity activities.

“One of the largest drivers of the most recent financial crisis was the reckless behavior of financial institutions that led to consumers losing their hard-earned money through no fault of their own,” Tierney said in a statement.

Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management in Salem, said this new bill is “what needs to be done.”

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