This Chart Should Disturb Every American

I don't mean to be an alarmist, but I believe the title of this article is accurate.

The chart below compares the size of the FDIC's Deposit Insurance Fund -- the reserves set aside to cover the loss of insured deposits at failed financial institutions -- to the amount of insured deposits at the nation's three largest depository institutions: Wells Fargo , Bank of America , and JPMorgan Chase . In other words, the FDIC couldn't save one of these banks even if it wanted to.

Now, I know what you're saying: The likelihood that one of these institutions will fail is slim to none. And even if one did fail, it's even less likely that all of the insured deposits would be wiped out.

Fair enough, but here's the problem.

The whole purpose of the DIF is to ensure against tail risk -- that is, risk that's highly unlikely. And as we saw five years ago, the likelihood that one of these massive lenders might be at risk of failure at some point is far from out of the question.

To the second point, moreover, all of the insured deposits wouldn't have to be wiped out. In Wells Fargo's case, only 17% would have to go. I urge you to read that again. The primary fund that ensures the entirety of the nation's deposits would be wiped out if Wells Fargo went under and only 17% of its deposits were necessary to cover liabilities.

That's shocking.

If it isn't already obvious, the point is that too-big-to-fail is a problem.

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The article This Chart Should Disturb Every American originally appeared on

John Maxfield owns shares of Bank of America. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Wells Fargo. It also owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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