It seemed almost certain that Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari would have some kind of response after the head of the nation's largest bank said firms like his no longer pose a risk to American taxpayers.
On Thursday, Kashkari did.
In an essay published on the Minneapolis Fed's website with a picture of crossed fingers, Kashkari said he strongly disagreed with the rosy picture Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., painted Tuesday in his annual letter to shareholders.
Their back-and-forth encapsulated the fundamental debate taking shape in Congress and the Trump administration over how to remake Obama-era banking regulations. Bank stocks are about 20 percent higher today than just before Election Day as investors speculated the new president would significantly reduce rules and costs on the industry.
Dimon's missive often generates news for its breadth — 46 pages this year — and his views on the political and economic situations around the world. This year, many news accounts of the letter zeroed in on Dimon's argument that megabanks like JPMorgan Chase have boosted capital, liquidity and risk controls and, in the event of a crisis, could be wound down without getting a bailout from taxpayers.
That risk is often called "too big to fail," referring to the notion that megabanks are so important to the U.S. and global economies, that governments and taxpayers can't let them die. "Essentially, Too Big to Fail has been solved — taxpayers will not pay if a bank fails," Dimon wrote.
He added now is a good time for the U.S. to rework regulations put on banks, principally from the Dodd-Frank law, in the wake of the 2008 bank-led economic collapse.
Kashkari, who as a Treasury Department official in 2008 oversaw the U.S. government's bailout of giant banks, has argued for years that the "too- big-to-fail" risk still exists. Last year, his first year at the Minneapolis Fed, he led a yearlong review involving economists and bankers from around the country that ended with a legislative proposal calling for giant banks to raise more equity and take other steps to diminish the risk to taxpayers in a crisis.
In his essay, Kashkari said Dimon's argument relies on an unrealistic assumption — one that didn't work in 2008 — that holders of bonds issued by giant banking companies will bear their risk in a crisis.
"It sounds like an ideal solution," Kashkari wrote. "The problem is that it almost never actually works in real life."
Again and again, governments dealing with banking crises have not imposed losses on bank bondholders because of the likelihood that bondholders at other, similar banks will fear similar losses and cash them in. "Only true equity should be considered loss-absorbing in a crisis," Kashkari said.
The Minneapolis Fed chief wrote that he agreed with Dimon that regulatory complexity in the banking industry needed to be reduced. After large banks have been required to raise more equity, Kashkari said, "I believe we can streamline other regulations, especially on small banks that have been severely burdened with regulation but do not pose a systemic risk to society."