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Big stick for US banks

America once led the world in breaking up big businesses. Will it do it again with the banks?

By Simon Johnson   August 2010

Just over 100 years ago, the US led the world in terms of rethinking how big business worked, and when its power should be constrained. In retrospect, the breakthrough legislation—not just for the US, but also internationally—was the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill, which is about to pass the US senate, does something similar (and long overdue) for banking.

Prior to 1890, big business was widely regarded as more efficient and generally more modern than small business. Most people saw the consolidation of smaller companies into fewer, large companies as a stabilising development that rewarded success…

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