Public Banking Under a Blue Wave

By Karen Petrou

In a blog post this summer, we assessed the history of U.S. public banks over three centuries.  We concluded that, “The best way to ensure that financial intermediation advances social welfare is to define a carefully-constrained charter, mandate transparent limits on self-dealing up front, and ensure that the bank is fit for purpose under reasonable rules that ensure long-term profit in concert with effective public service.  Public subsidies to support public service make sense, but only when sufficient regulation and private-sector discipline constrain the natural self-serving instincts of all-too-many politicians.”  Maybe so, but sizeable minorities of voters this November said that they so distrust private banks that they want a public alternative no matter the controls that might apply.  In a blue-wave mood, federal legislators are listening.  Continue reading “Public Banking Under a Blue Wave”

How to Craft a 21st-Century Equality Bank

By Federal Financial Analytics

Reflecting a lot of questions and commentary, the American Banker last week published an op-ed by Karen Petrou showing how to build the bankers’ banks to solve at least some of our economic-inequality problems.  Many proposals seek to do so via the U.S. Postal Service, but an Equality Bank is at least as powerful and comes only from the private-sector. Continue reading “How to Craft a 21st-Century Equality Bank”

Vollgeld as Voldemort: Is the Swiss Villain Coming for American Banking?

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On Sunday, June 10, Swiss voters resoundingly rejected “Vollgeld” – a sovereign-money referendum that would have made the Swiss National Bank an all-powerful arbiter of money and credit.  Defeat notwithstanding, Vollgeld is just a test run.  In this blog post, we consider Vollgeld’s impact with particular attention to the U.S.  Any doubts that its impact could be significant is dispelled by a brand-new paper laying out a U.S. Vollgeld from a think tank with ties to Sen. Warren – a national leader of progressive Democrats with considerable power to influence thinking, if not, for now, actual legislation.  Continue reading “Vollgeld as Voldemort: Is the Swiss Villain Coming for American Banking?”

Profits, Purpose, and Payday Lending

By Karen Shaw Petrou

On May 23, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a bulletin allowing national banks into the short-term, small dollar lending often stigmatized as payday lending.  The policy shift is intended to spur regulated banks into a business prone to predatory practice, thus giving vulnerable borrowers a better way to tide them over short-term financial hardships.  Will banks start making short-term, small-dollar loans now that they have the OCC’s blessing?  Not if they can’t find a way to make money. 

Continue reading “Profits, Purpose, and Payday Lending”

What a Post-Office Bank Can and Can’t Do for Economic Equality

By Karen Shaw Petrou

Yes, I know – getting the post office into finance when you despair of getting your own mail, not the neighbor’s, is a stretch.  But the economics of small-dollar banking under the post-crisis monetary and regulatory framework force a hard choice:  create an equality-focused utility for otherwise-unbankable customers or consign them to the only financial sector that profits from them:  predatory companies.  Maybe someday fintech will figure out a way to handle huge volumes of small transactions, but some day is far away and un- and under-banked customers are losing income and wealth every day they cannot obtain affordable, sustainable financial services. Continue reading “What a Post-Office Bank Can and Can’t Do for Economic Equality”