US senators introduce 'new' legislation to separate banks

Elizabeth Warren and John McCain
Image caption Senators Elizabeth Warren and John McCain hope to reinstate banking reforms from the 1930s.

A bipartisan group of US senators has introduced legislation in Congress aimed at separating commercial and investment banking.

It is modelled after the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which put a firewall between traditional banking and more risky financial activities.

Many people have argued that the Act's repeal in 1999 contributed to the financial crisis that engulfed the US.

Previous attempts to revive Glass-Steagall failed to gain enough support.

The latest attempt to push legislation through Congress is backed by Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Elizabeth Warren

"Since core provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act were repealed in 1999, shattering the wall dividing commercial banks and investment banks, a culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world," said Senator McCain in a statement announcing the introduction of the legislation.

The new act would re-establish a wall between traditional consumer banks that are insured by American regulators and riskier financial instruments like investment banking and credit derivatives.

It would also aim to shrink the size of so-called "too big to fail" institutions in the hopes of reducing the need for a government bailout.

"Despite the progress we've made since 2008, the biggest banks continue to threaten the economy," said Senator Warren, who won election to the US Senate on her reputation as a thorn in the banking sector's side.

"The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act will re-establish a wall between commercial and investment banking, make our financial system more stable and secure, and protect American families."

In 2010, Congress passed sweeping financial reform known as Dodd-Frank, although many of the law's provisions have yet to be implemented.

It remains unclear how likely it will be that the act will pass, especially in the face of a divided Congress.

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