Glass-Steagall Act

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
INDEX
FREE EXCERPT

Page 101

The Glass-Steagall Act, also known as the Banking Act of 1933 (48 Stat. 162), was passed by

A group of congressmen look on as President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Glass-Steagall Act on June 16, 1933. Senators Carter Glass (light suit) and Henry S. Steagall stand on either side of the president.

BETTMANN/CORBIS

Congress in 1933 and prohibits commercial banks from engaging in the investment business.

It was enacted as an emergency response to the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression. The act was originally part of President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT's NEW DEAL program and became a permanent measure in 1945. It gave tighter regulation of national banks to the Federal Reserve System; prohibited bank sales of SECURITIES; and created the FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION (FDIC), which insures bank deposits with a pool of money appropriated from banks.

Beginning in the 1900s, commercial banks established security affiliates that floated bond issues and underwrote corporate stock issues. (In underwriting, a bank guarantees to furnish a definite sum of money by a definite date to a business or government entity in return for an issue of bonds or stock.) The expansion of commercial banks into securities underwriting was substantial until the 1929 STOCK MARKET crash and the subsequent Depression. In 1930, the BANK OF THE UNITED STATES failed, reportedly because of activities of its security affiliates that created artificial conditions in the market. In 1933, all of the banks throughout the country were closed for a four-day period, and 4,000 banks closed permanently.

As a result of the bank closings and the already devastated economy, public confidence in the U.S. financial structure was low. In order to restore the banking public's confidence that banks would follow reasonable banking practices,

Page 102

Congress created the Glass-Steagall Act. The act forced a separation of commercial and investment banks by preventing commercial banks from underwriting securities, with the exception of U.S. Treasury and federal agency securities, and municipal and state general-obligation securities. More specifically, the act authorizes Federal Reserve banks to use government obligations and COMMERCIAL PAPER as collateral for their note issues, in order to encourage expansion of the currency. Banks also may offer advisory services regarding investments for their...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP