Better Markets: Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail banks

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Why do almost all companies finance themselves mostly with equity, but Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail banks finance themselves almost 100 percent with borrowed money (debt), making them very unstable and at high risk of failure even if they only have tiny losses?  Because those handful of gigantic banks (only 9 banks in the US have more than $250 billion in assets) are backed by U.S. taxpayers and get bailouts, mostly due to perverse incentives.  This is what the so-called capital debate is all about and Dr. Anat Admati, a professor of finance at Stanford University, has been a leading warrior fighting the wall street crowd on this key issue.  She wrote a terrific and accessible book (The Bankers Have No Clothes) on this subject and the New York Times ran a profile of her last weekend, which included comments from Better Markets president Dennis Kelleher, who said Ms. Admati has been “dogged from the West Coast to the East Coast to Europe and back again and over again” in her push to get the big wall street banks to hold much more capital so the humongous banks themselves, and not taxpayers, will be on the hook for bailing themselves out in the event of another financial crisis.

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