In a response to a question about regulation, Romney said Dodd-Frank, the set of banking reforms that Obama pushed for and Congress passed in the wake of financial crisis, was an example of a law that's hurting the economy. Romney said that by specifying certain banks as Too Big to Fail, the government has given "the biggest kiss to New York banks I've ever seen." As a result, Romney said that's making it tough for smaller banks to compete.
"We need to get rid of that provision because it's killing regional and small banks," said Romney.
Romney said 122 small and community banks have failed since the passage of Dodd-Frank. In fact, the mine field for small banks might be even worse than Romney describes. In the two years, since the passage of Dodd-Frank in mid-July 2010, 196 banks have failed, most of which would qualify as small or community banks.
But it's not clear that has anything to do with Dodd-Frank. In the two years leading up to Dodd-Frank, 256 banks failed, albeit at least part of that time includes a banking crisis, but many of the failures of the past two years have been related to the credit crunch as well. Most banks fail because they make bad loans, not because they are being run over by larger rivals.
What's more, Dodd-Frank doesn't appear to be giving the nation's mega banks any more of an advantage than they had before. The four biggest banks have increased lending slightly faster since Dodd-Frank than their smaller rivals, 4% vs. 1%. But loan growth for both groups has been slow.
And the recent falling mortgage rates have disproportionally helped the big banks. But mortgage lending is an area in which the national banks have long dominated, well before Dodd-Frank. Take home loans away and the difference in lending growth is even smaller.
The argument that some people make is that designating the biggest banks as "systemically important financial institutions," as Dodd-Frank requires, makes it much cheaper for them to borrow, since no one thinks the government will allow them to fail. The result is higher profits and a big advantage that will allow the mega banks to run everyone else out of town.
But it doesn't appear to be turning out that way. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's quarterly reports, the net interest margin, which is a measure of the difference between what it costs a bank to borrow and what it can lend its money out at, at the nation's 28 banks that have over $10 billion in assets has fallen since the passage of Dodd-Frank. The same figure at community banks has remained essentially unchanged, and is now higher for the small banks, meaning they're loans are more profitable, not less.
Another measure of profitability, return on equity, is up for the big banks by 24% since the passage of Dodd-Frank. But in the same time, the ROE of small banks has soared 223%.
Yes, being seen as too big to fail might lower borrowing costs, but Dodd-Frank imposes other limits on large banks, like higher capital requirements and more oversight, that will raise their costs as well. What's more, the government hasn't actually officially named what banks are systemically important. So any lovin' they have gotten so far is from the market, not Dodd-Frank, or Obama.
Small bank executives have bitterly complained about Dodd-Frank. (So have executives of larger banks, by the way. Jamie Dimon, we're looking at you.) One executive of a small bank in Texas is the lead plaintiff in a case that claims Dodd-Frank is unconstitutional. But small banks are not complaining about the part of Dodd-Frank that has to do with their larger rivals. In fact, that's a part of the law they like. What competitor wouldn't?
Cam Fine, who heads up the Independent Community Bankers of America, which is the largest trade group for small banks, says he would have liked to see Dodd-Frank break up the big banks. He says he agrees with Romney that anything that codifies the policy that some banks are Too Big to Fail is a bad thing. But he's not sure Dodd-Frank does that. In all, he says he thinks Dodd-Frank is an improvement when it comes to the big banks. Imposing higher restrictions on the big banks, as Dodd-Frank does, Fine says is well intentioned and "good regulation."
"I think Dodd-Frank is a mixed bag," says Fine. "But the part that deals with big banks I was happy with."
President Obama has two choices to avoid a major fiscal debt crisis for the U.S.: Fix it or ignore it. Unfortunately, he has so far chosen the latter.
Now it's official. The budget President Obama released today does virtually nothing to address the growth of entitlement spending that's by far the biggest factor driving our gargantuan deficits and debt. As for the administration's claims that it's making big cuts in areas MOREShawn Tully, senior editor-at-large - Feb 14, 2011 10:39 AM ET
Just in time for tonight's big speech comes a reminder of the limits of austerity.
The U.K. economy posted a 0.4% fourth-quarter output decline, stunning economists who had expected to see gross domestic product rise 0.5%. Perhaps half the shortfall came from bad weather, but the news in any case was "shockingly bad," economists at Capital Economics in London said.
The shortfall is noteworthy because Great Britain, unlike the United States, has MOREColin Barr - Jan 25, 2011 1:00 PM ET
Paul Volcker is riding into the sunset, but it's just as well. Any hope the Obama administration might clean up the financial Wild West faded long ago.
It was around this time last year that Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chief who was a major figure in Obama's 2008 presidential run, reemerged after a year in the policy wilderness. He stood with Obama at a White House lectern and announced a MOREColin Barr - Jan 6, 2011 3:47 PM ET
The money crowd just can't stop gushing about William Daley – but not, they stress, because he's a banker.
Daley is best known as son of the late Chicago mayor Richard Daley, brother of the current Chicago mayor of the same name and as a high-ranking Clinton administration trade official in the late 1990s. He is now a top associate of the nation's most powerful finance executive, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) chief MOREColin Barr - Jan 6, 2011 10:01 AM ET
Lots of media chatter about how President Obama is meeting today with a large group of CEOs, in order to put a more business-friendly face on his administration (apparently big business bailouts, major R&D funding increases and top-earner tax cuts weren't enough capitulation).
What's particularly interesting, however, is the two private-sector attendees who aren't actual CEOs: Mark Gallogly, the onetime Blackstone Group pro who now helps manage Centerbridge Partners, and venture capitalist John Doerr.
I'm not saying MOREDan Primack - Dec 15, 2010 10:07 AM ET
This week's tax-cut compromise will trim everyone's taxes. But surprise, surprise, it's an especially rich deal for the rich.
The Obama administration says the deal will help working families by cutting workers' payroll tax contributions by almost a third.
That's a victory for the White House because it postpones an effective tax hike that would have kicked in next year with the expiration of Obama's Making Work Pay credit, and delivers fiscal MOREColin Barr - Dec 7, 2010 11:57 AM ET
The Obama administration has been criticized for failing to create many new jobs with its $862 billion stimulus package. So why are economists calling for another round of stimulus dollars?
To spend or not to spend? That's the question.
And similar to William Shakespeare's opening line of an act in Hamlet, there is no easy answer.
In the same week the British government unveiled its biggest spending cuts in 60 years, some of MORENin-Hai Tseng, Writer - Oct 21, 2010 3:29 PM ET
Farrell, one of Larry Summers' deputies at the NEC and a potential contender for his replacement, spoke to Fortune about what qualifications his successor should have.
by Tory Newmyer, writer
The news that Larry Summers, the strong-willed and frequently controversial captain of President Obama's economic team, will quit the administration after the mid-term elections did not come as a major shock on Tuesday. Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, MORESep 22, 2010 5:05 PM ET
Congress is pushing for a showdown with China.
The House Ways and Means Committee will meet Friday to debate a bill that would prompt the government to take more aggressive action in dealing with China's efforts to hold down the value of its currency, the renminbi.
Some 150 legislators on both sides of the aisle support the legislation, known as the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act and sponsored by U.S. Reps. MOREColin Barr - Sep 22, 2010 5:00 PM ET
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