Last night, the Federal Reserve announced that investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will become bank holding companies. The move will put the two firms under greater regulation, which the NY Times says "fundamentally reshapes an era of high finance that defined the modern Gilded Age."
It was a blunt acknowledgment that their model of finance and investing had become too risky and that they needed the cushion of bank deposits that had kept big commercial banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase relatively safe amid the recent turmoil.
It also is a turning point for the high-rolling culture of Wall Street, with its seven-figure bonuses and lavish perks for even midlevel executives. It effectively returns Wall Street to the way it was structured before Congress passed a law during the Great Depression separating investment banking from commercial banking, known as the Glass-Steagall Act.
And in other financial news:
- Sure, there is bipartisan support for the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout of financial firms plan... but the two parties are, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "scrambling to put their marks" on it: "Democrats are looking to add provisions that include beefed-up congressional oversight, aid for individual homeowners and changes to bankruptcy laws...Perhaps the biggest looming fight is over Democratic efforts to require the program's participants to curb what they pay their executives."
- The Treasury Department clarified its "intention to guarantee money market mutual funds against crisis-related losses," limiting the guarantee to investments before close of business September 19.
- Mitsubishi UFJ may buy up to a 20% stake in Morgan Stanley.
- Nomura, Japan's biggest bank, may buy Lehman Brothers' European i-banking and equities units.
- And US stock futures were lower before the open, due to worries over the bailout plan. Asia rallied and Europe's markets were slightly up in their openings.