Stunning comments made on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” yesterday by former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill are worth noting. Mr. Weill proudly led the effort to repeal Glass-Steagall, which enabled banks to migrate out of the traditional banking and financing business model and move into the investment, insurance and risk management business. In other news today, a recent poll showed that confidence in the biggest banks is at an all-time low, while confidence in community banks and credit unions continues to rise. Showing a sensitivity to public sentiment and a keen understanding of public policy, current Citi CEO Vikram Pandit, who took over in the midst of the financial crisis, has called for the restoration of Glass Steagall. — Jeff Kimball
Ex-Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill: ‘Split up’ the big banks
In a remarkable policy shift, former Citigroup chairman and chief executive Sandy Weill now thinks that Wall Street should break up its big banks in an effort to regain the public’s trust.
“What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking,” Weill said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “Have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.”
“I’m suggesting that they be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won’t be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable, and the investment banks can do trading,” he said.
Weill essentially called for the return of the Glass-Steagall Act, CNBC said. The 1933 Depression-era legislation separated investment and commercial banking activities in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and commercial bank failure,according to Investopedia. It was repealed in 1999 during the Clinton administration.
Weill was one of the architects of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which helped repeal Glass-Steagall. (In his former office, Weill proudly displayed a large wooden sign with the words “The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall” etched into it.)
The 79-year-old Wall Street legend also called for complete transparency in the banking industry. “There should be no such thing as off balance sheet,” he said. “I want to see us be a leader, and what we’re doing now is not going to make us a leader.”