Dec 9, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Warren plan targets bank mergers

Elizabeth Warren in front of a bunch of broken columns and a red background.

Illustration: Drew Angerer/Getty Staff; Aïda Amer/Axios

Elizabeth Warren last week introduced a bill to strengthen oversight of bank mergers, arguing that the current construct is a rubber stamp.

The big picture: The Federal Reserve acknowledges that it declined none of the 3,819 bank merger applications it received between 2006 and 2017. And there's no indication that it's objected since then, including the $66 billion tie-up of BB&T and SunTrust that closed earlier this morning (albeit with some required divestitures).

  • It's unclear how the Fed might have ultimately ruled on 503 applications, included in the above number, that were withdrawn before deal completion.

The basics of Warren's proposal, per The NY Times:

It would demand more extensive testing for vulnerabilities when two banks want to merge, a bid to slow financial sector consolidation and lean against the formation of huge banks. And it would require the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Ms. Warren helped create, to approve any merger in which one of the banks offers consumer financial products.

Yes, but: Like most of Warren's plans, this one isn't becoming law with a GOP-led Senate and Trump-led White House.

But she's looking toward 2021. Were Warren to become president, or get sign-on from a more successful rival, then legacy banks might find it harder to merge, just as digital, branch-less banks become more popular.

  • Online bank Chime on Friday raised $500 million in Series E funding at a $5.8 billion valuation, up from a $1.5 billion valuation in March.

The bottom line: Warren and other progressive Democrats are intent on protecting brick-and-mortar retailers, but show no such affinity for brick-and-mortar banks.

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