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By Ethan Wolff-Mann
January 6, 2016
A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013.
A sign outside the headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co in New York, September 19, 2013.
Mike Segar—Reuters

Yesterday afternoon, in Manhattan, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders railed against “too big to fail” banks, calling for them to be broken up. Their greed, he argued, creates an enormous economic liability for the whole country.

If you need a refresher on “too big to fail,” here’s how then-Fed chair Ben Bernanke explained them in 2010:

In other words, if such a bank goes under, it just might pull the rest of us down with it. So we, the taxpayers, would have little choice but to bail it out when problems arise.

The question of whether such banks should be allowed to exist has been a burning one ever since the financial crisis. Sanders, echoing a lot of prominent economists, says no: If they know they’ll get bailed out in a crisis, these banks have little incentive to be careful in their pursuit of profits. Why not gamble big if you keep the winnings but don’t have to cover the losses yourself?

Others, including New York Times editorialist (and Nobel economist) Paul Krugman, say big financial institutions offer economies of scale that keep banking prices low and are worth preserving—as long as their risk is controlled by regulation.

While the debate rages on, too big to fail banks still exist. The Financial Stability Board, the entity that decides these things, updated its formal list of them in November. (Technically they are known as global systematically important banks, or G-SIBs.) Eight of them are U.S. institutions. Is yours among them?

  • Bank of America
  • Bank of New York Mellon
  • Citigroup
  • Goldman Sachs
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Morgan Stanley
  • State Street
  • Wells Fargo

But wait, there’s more! In addition to those giants, there are 20 other banks whose demise would seriously rock our boat. Not surprisingly, they’re called domestic systematically important banks. If you didn’t find your bank on the list above, it might be here:

  • Ally
  • American Express
  • BB&T
  • BBVA Compass
  • BMO
  • Capital One
  • Comerica
  • Discover
  • Fifth Third
  • Huntington
  • KeyCorp
  • M&T
  • Northern Trust
  • PNC
  • RBS Citizens
  • Regions
  • SunTrust
  • U.S. Bancorp
  • UnionBanCal
  • Zions
Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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