Downsizing the big banks: A long-term solution

The hundreds of billions in rescue funds needed to support banks -- and the trillions in implicit subsidies -- has brought the question of appropriate institutional size to the forefront of regulatory reform. Not surprisingly, FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke favor measures collectively intended to limit the size of banks in the future, Bloomberg Newsreports.

Options include raising capital ratios as a bank increases in size, accelerating the increases in fees paid to the FDIC, and lowering the cap on the percentage of nationwide deposits any one bank can take. Overall, the goal is to have "financial disincentives for size and complexity," according to Bair. Complexity encompasses untraditional banking activities, such as the proprietary trading that drove Goldman Sachs' (GS) hugely profitable quarter, as well as investing in structured financial products.