Obama plan could trim back financial powerhouses
By Jim Kuhnhenn
They are the biggest of the big — the Citigroups, the Goldman Sachses, the AIGs and other financial behemoths. The Obama administration doesn’t want so many around anymore. Financial regulations proposed by the president would result in leaner and simpler institutions that don’t carry the weight of the system on their marble columns. Around Washington and Wall Street they have come to be known as TBTF — too big to fail. It’s not just size, though. These companies are so far-flung, so intertwined and so precariously leveraged that a single one’s collapse can create systemwide tremors that imperil the finances of millions of Americans. With that fear in mind, the government stepped in to bail out Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and American International Group Inc. with tens of billions of public money last year. Looking to avoid such a costly intervention, President Barack Obama’s regulatory plan calls for large, interconnected companies to pay a heavy price for the systemwide risk they pose. “It’s a very sophisticated and very effective way to force institutions to deconsolidate,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics, a consulting firm that advises financial institutions.