Brown, Vitter To Push For GAO Study On TBTF

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WASHINGTON — Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and David Vitter, R-La., are planning to push for legislation authorizing a Government Accountability Office study that would estimate the value of the economic benefits large banks receive for being "too big to fail."

Under the bill, the GAO would be directed to look at bank holding companies with $500 billion or more of consolidated assets to assess whether the institutions receive favorable debt pricing and funding treatment because of "perceived government support." The office would also be directed to measure any favorable economic benefit from the 2008 bailouts and from existing safety nets provided by the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Supporters of the Dodd-Frank reform law say its provisions for winding down a failing firm eliminate concerns that some institutions have implicit government backing. But others, including many Republicans and some Democrats, argue that the law doesn't adequately end concerns about "too big to fail" and that the country's largest institutions continue to benefit from assumptions that those institutions would be bailed out during a crisis.

"Dodd-Frank has actually institutionalized the too-big-to-fail culture as it still prevails today from Wall Street to Washington. We need to reform the core structure of the financial system, and we should start by increasing the required amount of capital the megabanks must keep on their books. Meanwhile, this legislation would show us how the federal government subsidizes the megabanks," said Vitter in a statement.

Vitter and Brown, who have both been vocal critics of Dodd-Frank provisions designed to put a stop to "too big to fail," will push for a unanimous consent agreement on the legislation as soon as Wednesday evening, according to a Vitter aide. If they can't get unanimous consent, the legislation will have to be introduced as a standalone bill.

Meanwhile, the Independent Community Bankers of America said that it is supporting the legislation.

"ICBA is encouraging the Senate to quickly advance legislation requiring the GAO to study the potential market distortions surrounding the nation's largest megabanks. We should all want free-market principles to apply across the financial system and do everything possible to ferret out any market distortions fostered by government involvement and subsidies of the largest megabanks," the group said in a statement on Wednesday.

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