Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why Are These 8 Banks Too Big To Fail?

By John Maxfield - Jan 31, 2016 at 2:06PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

It's absurd to claim that banks like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo aren't too big to fail

There should always be a safety net in place for the nation's biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup. Image credit: iStock/Thinkstock.

Some banks are too big to fail, whether we like it or not. We learned this in the Great Depression, when bank failures transformed an otherwise ordinary recession into a decade-long economic cataclysm that didn't end until World War II.

This lesson still holds true today, as evidenced by the government's 2008 bailouts of Citigroup (C 7.56%) and Bank of America (BAC 3.39%), and to a much lessor extent JPMorgan Chase (JPM 3.31%) and Wells Fargo (WFC 3.55%), among others. Citigroup and Bank of America alone received more than $3.8 trillion worth of assistance, split between capital injections from the U.S. Treasury Department and loans from the Federal Reserve.


Total Assistance from the Federal Reserve*


$2.5 trillion

Morgan Stanley (MS 3.79%)

$2.0 trillion

Bank of America

$1.3 trillion

Goldman Sachs (GS 3.14%)

$814 billion

JPMorgan Chase

$391 billion

Wells Fargo

$159 billion

These figures exclude capital injections under TARP, which were received by Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, among others. Source: Government Accountability Office's analysis of Federal Reserve System data, page 131.

Post-crisis regulations have ostensibly eliminated the concept of too big to fail by requiring the nation's biggest banks to submit to annual stress tests and prepare contingency plans in the event that they once again find themselves on the brink of insolvency. Eight banks bear the brunt of the new rules in particular, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. To see the four other firms that make the list, and to learn what makes a bank too big to fail in the first place, simply scroll through the brief slideshow below.

Data from the fourth quarter earnings releases of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, The Bank of New York Mellon, and State Street. Images in slideshow from Thinkstock.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Citigroup Inc. Stock Quote
Citigroup Inc.
$51.05 (7.56%) $3.59
Bank of America Corporation Stock Quote
Bank of America Corporation
$35.99 (3.39%) $1.18
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Stock Quote
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
$312.97 (3.14%) $9.53
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Stock Quote
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
$122.18 (3.31%) $3.92
Morgan Stanley Stock Quote
Morgan Stanley
$82.93 (3.79%) $3.03
Wells Fargo & Company Stock Quote
Wells Fargo & Company
$43.71 (3.55%) $1.50

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/18/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.