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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has upended the Democratic Party nomination process in many ways, not the least of which is his populist rhetoric regarding Wall Street and the nation's banking system. A cornerstone of his agenda is calling for a break-up of the nation's largest banks as well as a reimposition of the 1930's Glass Steagall Law, which prevented commercial banks and investment banks from combining. (The Glass Steagell Law was overturned in 1999 by the Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, thereby permitting these kinds of combinations.) Unfortunately, the senator is wrong on both issues, and adoption of his ideas and recommendations would have disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy and the global financial system.

Senator Sanders, in calling for a break-up of our largest banks, is implicitly targeting our four largest banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo. All four of these rank among the top 10 in the world, with JPMorgan being No. 1, Bank of America No. 4, Citigroup No. 7 and Wells Fargo No. 8. First of all, it is important to understand that these banks are as large as they are primarily because, in the great financial crisis of 2008-2009, they were required by U.S. banking regulators to absorb a number of other banks and financial institutions that were on the brink of collapse.

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JPMorgan was required to absorb the failing investment bank Bear Stearns and the Seattle based bank Washington Mutual; the latter was the largest bank failure in U.S. history. Wells Fargo was required to absorb Wachovia Bank, which failed in large part due to their acquisition of the large California thrift institution, Golden West Financial. Similarly, Bank of America was strongly encouraged to take over the country's largest investment bank, Merrill Lynch, as well as the largest mortgage originator, Countrywide.

All of these mergers and acquisitions were accomplished without one dime of government assistance or support, thereby saving the taxpayers hundreds of billions of expense which would have occurred if these failing institutions had to be liquidated. In the event of another financial crisis in the future, why would any bank be willing to absorb a failing institution if it's management felt that their reward would be to be broken apart down the road? The simple fact is that most of the country's major commercial banks were the "deep pocket" heroes of the 2008-2009 crisis, not the creators of it.

A second point that seems to be totally overlooked in Senator Sanders' thinking is the fundamental importance of having at least some of the world's largest financial institutions based in the U.S. How is the U.S. going to play a leadership role in a turbulent international environment if the leading banks are headquartered in London, Frankfort or Beijing? Do we not need strong, diversified U.S. banks that operate throughout the world if we expect to be fully competitive in the global economy?

With regard to the reimposition of Glass Steagall, Senator Sanders seems to be very proud of the fact that, in Congress, he voted against the Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, which, as stated above, replaced Glass Steagall and permitted the combination of commercial banks with Wall Street investment banks. If Glass Steagall had still been in effect during the crisis of 2008-2009, as the senator would have liked, the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve would not have been able to force JPMorgan to absorb Bear Stearns and Bank of America to absorb Merrill Lynch. We all witnessed the devastating consequences to the financial markets and the global economy caused by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. How much greater would the financial panic have been if Merrill Lynch and Bear Sterns had followed Lehman into bankruptcy?

These are complex financial issues that require careful thought and deliberation among recognized experts in the field. Reckless populist rhetoric does not advance the public interest. In the words of Arnold Danielson, a recognized banking expert and author of the seminal banking history entitled "Consolidation in Banking," the leading U.S. banks are not "too big to fail." Rather they are "too important to lose."

Alexander R.M. Boyle is the retired vice-chairman of the board of the Chevy Chase Bank, a position in which he served for over 30 years. His email is armboyle@aol.com.

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