Everyone remembers the financial collapse of Wall Street and most of the large banks and security firms in 2008. But very few of the average citizenry know how, why or even who actually caused it. For years 'as far back as 1956, through lobbyist and a senators and congressmen, largely Republican congressmen and senators, who were actively courted by banks, with the goal of repealing the checks and balances, which some call useless regulations, which were intended to protect the citizens of our country. The regulations protected us from dangerous and predatory bank practices which led directly to the financial collapse of 2008! Because these rules and regulations were not in place directly contributed to the destruction and loss of the finances of thousands of American Citizens and brought our country to its knees!
It has been said that knowledge is power. Well, what is so amazing is the same folks who brought you the Wall Street and Big Bank melt-down in 2008 are now in the Whitehouse and control Congress and are talking about repealing all these safe-guards put in place after 2008 designed to contol the preditory and unethical practices of big banking!
The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 placed a "wall of separation" between banks and brokerages, which was largely repealed by the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The bill was enacted during the Great Depression, which began with the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999 repealed the "wall of separation," allowing companies to simultaneously act as commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies. Though some commentators regard the restoration of the 1933 bill as crucial, even calling it "the most vital element of Wall Street reform", House Democratic leaders refused to allow an amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to restore Glass-Steagall as part of the 2009 Frank bill. Hinchey introduced his proposal as a separate bill, the Glass-Steagall Restoration Act of 2009. Nonetheless, the "Volcker rule" proposed by the Obama administration has been described as a "new Glass-Steagall Act for the 21st century", as it establishes stringent rules against banks using their own money to make risky investments.
Additional Information on the Glass-Act of 1933
The original law (subsequently amended), specified that the Federal Reserve Board of Governors must approve the establishment of a bank holding company and that bank holding companies headquartered in one state are banned from acquiring a bank in another state. The law was implemented,in part, to regulate and control banks that had formed bank holding companies to own both banking and non-banking businesses. The law generally prohibited a bank holding company from engaging in most non-banking activities or acquiring voting securities of certain companies that are not banks.
The interstate restrictions of the Bank Holding Company act were repealed by the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (IBBEA). The IBBEA allowed interstate mergers between "adequately capitalized and managed banks, subject to concentration limits, state laws and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) evaluations."
Other restrictions, which prohibited bank holding companies from owning other financial institutions, were repealed in 1999 by Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. In the United States, financial holding companies continue to be prohibited from owning non-financial corporations in contrast to Japan and continental Europe, where this arrangement is common.
Private equity firms, which solicit funds but are not classified as banks and, more importantly, are not backstopped by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, may acquire large ownership positions in a number of non-bank corporations. That is not a problem since private equity firms are not banks.
The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, (Pub.L. 106–102, 113 Stat. 1338, enacted November 12, 1999) is an act of the 106th United States Congress (1999–2001). It repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, removing barriers in the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. With the bipartisan passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies were allowed to consolidate. Furthermore, it failed to give to the SEC or any other financial regulatory agency the authority to regulate large investment bank holding companies. The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
A year before the law was passed, Citicorp, a commercial bank holding company, merged with the insurance company Travelers Group in 1998 to form the conglomerate Citigroup, a corporation combining banking, securities and insurance services under a house of brands that included Citibank, Smith Barney, Primerica, and Travelers. Because this merger was a violation of the Glass–Steagall Act and the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, the Federal Reserve gave Citigroup a temporary waiver in September 1998. Less than a year later, GLBA was passed to legalize these types of mergers on a permanent basis. The law also repealed Glass–Steagall's conflict of interest prohibitions "against simultaneous service by any officer, director, or employee of a securities firm as an officer, director, or employee of any member bank".
The One Hundred Sixth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from January 3, 1999, to January 3, 2001, during the last two years of Bill Clinton's presidency. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the Twenty-first Census of the United States in 1990. Both chambers had a Republican majority.
The banking industry had been seeking the repeal of the 1933 Glass–Steagall Act since the 1980s, if not earlier. In 1987 the Congressional Research Service prepared a report that explored the cases for and against preserving the Glass–Steagall act.
Respective versions of the Financial Services Act were introduced in the U.S. Senate by Phil Gramm (Republican of Texas) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Jim Leach (R-Iowa). The third lawmaker associated with the bill was Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, Jr. (R-Virginia), Chairman of the House Commerce Committee from 1995 to 2001.
During debate in the House of Representatives, Rep. John Dingell (Democrat of Michigan) argued that the bill would result in banks becoming "too big to fail." Dingell further argued that this would necessarily result in a bailout by the Federal Government.
The House passed its version of the Financial Services Act of 1999 on July 1, 1999, by a bipartisan vote of 343–86 (Republicans 205–16; Democrats 138–69; Independent 0–1),[note 1] two months after the Senate had already passed its version of the bill on May 6 by a much narrower 54–44 vote along basically-partisan lines (53 Republicans and 1 Democrat in favor; 44 Democrats opposed).[note 2]
Final Congressional vote by chamber and party, November 4, 1999
When the two chambers could not agree on a joint version of the bill, the House voted on July 30 by a vote of 241–132 (R 58–131; D 182–1; Ind. 1–0) to instruct its negotiators to work for a law which ensured that consumers enjoyed medical and financial privacy as well as "robust competition and equal and non-discriminatory access to financial services and economic opportunities in their communities" (i.e., protection against exclusionary redlining).[note 3]
The bill then moved to a joint conference committee to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions. Democrats agreed to support the bill after Republicans agreed to strengthen provisions of the anti-redlining Community Reinvestment Act and address certain privacy concerns; the conference committee then finished its work by the beginning of November. On November 4, the final bill resolving the differences was passed by the Senate 90–8,[note 4] and by the House 362–57.[note 5] The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 12, 1999.
Many of the largest banks, brokerages, and insurance companies desired the Act at the time. The justification was that individuals usually put more money into investments when the economy is doing well, but they put most of their money into savings accounts when the economy turns bad. With the new Act, they would be able to do both 'savings' and 'investment' at the same financial institution, which would be able to do well in both good and bad economic times.
Prior to the Act, most financial services companies were already offering both saving and investment opportunities to their customers. On the retail/consumer side, a bank called Norwest Corporation which would later merge with Wells Fargo Bank led the charge in offering all types of financial services products in 1986. American Express attempted to own almost every field of financial business (although there was little synergy among them). Things culminated in 1998 when Citibank merged with Travelers Insurance creating CitiGroup. The merger violated the Bank Holding Company Act (BHCA), but Citibank was given a two-year forbearance that was based on an assumption that they would be able to force a change in the law. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act passed in November 1999, repealing portions of the BHCA and the Glass–Steagall Act, allowing banks, brokerages, and insurance companies to merge, thus making the CitiCorp/Travelers Group merger legal.
Also prior to the passage of the Act, there were many relaxations to the Glass–Steagall Act. For example, a few years earlier, commercial Banks were allowed to pursue investment banking, and before that banks were also allowed to begin stock and insurance brokerage. Insurance underwriting was the only main operation they weren't allowed to do, something rarely done by banks even after the passage of the Act. The Act further enacted three provisions that allow for bank holding companies to engage in physical commodity activities. Prior to the enactment of the Act those activities were limited to those that were so closely related to banking to be considered incidental to it. Under GLBA depending on the provision the institution falls into, bank holding companies can engage in physical commodity trading, energy tolling, energy management services, and merchant banking activities.
Much consolidation occurred in the financial services industry since, but not at the scale some had expected. Retail banks, for example, do not tend to buy insurance underwriters, as they seek to engage in a more profitable business of insurance brokerage by selling products of other insurance companies. Other retail banks were slow to market investments and insurance products and package those products in a convincing way. Brokerage companies had a hard time getting into banking, because they do not have a large branch and backshop footprint. Banks have recently tended to buy other banks, such as the 2004 Bank of America and Fleet Boston merger, yet they have had less success integrating with investment and insurance companies. Many banks have expanded into investment banking, but have found it hard to package it with their banking services, without resorting to questionable tie-ins which caused scandals at Smith Barney.
Crucial to the passing of this Act was an amendment made to the GLB, stating that no merger may go ahead if any of the financial holding institutions, or affiliates thereof, received a "less than satisfactory [sic] rating at its most recent CRA exam", essentially meaning that any merger may only go ahead with the strict approval of the regulatory bodies responsible for the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). This was an issue of hot contention, and the Clinton Administration stressed that it "would veto any legislation that would scale back minority-lending requirements." 
GLBA also did not remove the restrictions on banks placed by the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 which prevented financial institutions from owning non-financial corporations. It conversely prohibits corporations outside of the banking or finance industry from entering retail and/or commercial banking. Many assume Wal-Mart's desire to convert its industrial bank to a commercial/retail bank ultimately drove the banking industry to back the GLBA restrictions.
Some restrictions remain to provide some amount of separation between the investment and commercial banking operations of a company. For example, licensed bankers must have separate business cards, e.g., "Personal Banker, Wells Fargo Bank" and "Investment Consultant, Wells Fargo Private Client Services". Much of the debate about financial privacy is specifically centered around allowing or preventing the banking, brokerage, and insurances divisions of a company from working together.
In terms of compliance, the key rules under the Act include The Financial Privacy Rule which governs the collection and disclosure of customers’ personal financial information by financial institutions. It also applies to companies, regardless of whether they are financial institutions, who receive such information. The Safeguards Rule requires all financial institutions to design, implement and maintain safeguards to protect customer information. The Safeguards Rule applies not only to financial institutions that collect information from their own customers, but also to financial institutions – such as credit reporting agencies, appraisers, and mortgage brokers – that receive customer information from other financial institutions.
Additional Information - For those wishing to actually read the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 Click Here
DISCLAIMER: The Waxahachie Journal does not warrant that the information, presentation or materials provided by or from other sources are free of errors or will continue to be accurate. Opinions expressed in the Waxahachie Journal are those of the authors or of the persons quoted, and do not reflect the opinions of the Waxahachie Journal, its owners or its staff. Statements contained in any part of the Waxahachie Journal should be verified before relying on them. Video recordings presented on this website may have been edited.