WASHINGTON - If there is any truth to the axiom "The bigger they are, the harder they fall," then the latest figures on industry consolidation should be keeping regulators up at night.

Over the past 20 years, a relatively level industry playing field has become a land of giants and Lilliputians. The number of banks with more than $20 billion of assets has quadrupled, to 46, and in the process those institutions have laid claim to almost half of domestic deposits. Community banks, which held the lion's share of deposits in 1980, have seen their portion dwindle to 21%. That concentration of deposits has many analysts and former federal officials concerned that regulators are unprepared to cope with these new super institutions - a charge the regulators deny.

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