Le fantôme de la loi Glass-Steagall est de retour

CAMBRIDGE – On reparle de la loi Glass-Steagall de 1933 longtemps controversée sur la séparation entre banques d'investissement et banques commerciales aux USA. Cette séparation marque l'Histoire inhabituelle de la réglementation bancaire américaine, probablement la plus étrange des pays développés.

Durant une longue période, la réglementation bancaire américaine ne permettait que l'existence de petites banques locales présentes dans un seul Etat, contrairement à ce qui se passait en Europe et au Japon, et elle limitait leur capacité opérationnelle par la séparation des banques commerciales et des banques d'investissement. Ces limites ont perduré jusqu'aux années 1990, lorsque le Congrès a aboli l'essentiel de cette structure réglementaire. Or on envisage à nouveau une loi du type Glass-Steagall, et pas seulement aux USA.

Sandy Weill, ancien PDG du Citigroup, a déclaré le mois dernier qu'autoriser la fusion des banques commerciales et des banques d'investissement était une erreur. Or c'est le même Weill qui avait fait du lobbying au Congrès pour abolir de fait la loi Glass-Steagall afin de construire le Citigroup tel qu'il est aujourd'hui, avec compagnies d'assurance, courtiers en Bourse et banques de dépôt sous un même toit. C'est lui qui avait manigancé un accord pour fusionner Citi avec une grosse compagnie d'assurance - ce qui était illégal sous le régime de la loi Glass-Steagall - et a ensuite fait pression pour son abolition afin de réaliser la fusion.

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