Rising Bank Profits Tempt a Push for Tougher Rules

NY Times Dealbook by Peter Eavis

Banks have been reporting steady growth in earnings since soon after the financial crisis. With the latest reports rolling in, analysts think the banks’ first-quarter profits will be their best ever.

But as welcome as such profits are to the banks, they may also become a source of discomfort. The ballooning bottom lines could embolden the lawmakers and regulators who want to introduce additional measures to overhaul the banking system.

After the financial crisis, many officials involved in the regulatory revamp feared that tougher rules, like caps on bank assets, could destabilize the financial system and harm economic growth. It is a view that prominent bankers and lobbyists have also voiced.

Despite industry opposition to new rules, the buoyant bank profits could add to the ammunition that influential figures in Washington are using to advocate for more radical ideas to overhaul the banks.

“I hope the regulators move forward with tougher regulations,” said Sheila C. Bair, a former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a primary bank regulator, and now a senior adviser at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “This wouldn’t endanger the economic recovery.”

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