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Wall Street, Without the Big Investment Banks

Credit crisis leads last two to become commercial banks; Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley get new access to capital, but closer supervision. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Many financial companies have moved to other New York streets. But Wall Street still holds its place in the language as the capital of American finance.

Now Wall Street is being reshaped by the crisis over mortgage-related securities. The markets are unable to place a value on them. So banks and other investors are unable to find a buyer except possibly the government.

The aim is to unblock the flow of credit markets now, then sell the securities later, when the housing market improves.

But the new shape of Wall Street will be missing a piece. The credit crisis has ended the age of big investment banks. This week the last two, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, became bank holding companies.

As commercial banks, they can take deposits from the public and borrow from the Federal Reserve at any time. This will help them raise capital. But they will also face closer government supervision.

Henry Paulson headed Goldman Sachs before he became treasury secretary in two thousand six.

Morgan Stanley also agreed this week to sell up to twenty percent of itself to Japan's largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ. And investor Warren Buffett agreed to buy at least five billion dollars in Goldman stock.

Six months ago, there were five big, independent investment banks. Then, in March, J.P. Morgan Chase bought Bear Stearns in a rescue sale. And this month Merrill Lynch agreed to be sold to Bank of America.

The government provided loans to aid the sale of Bear Stearns. But officials decided to let Lehman Brothers, a one hundred fifty-eight year old investment bank, fail. Last week the British bank Barclay's purchased much of Lehman in bankruptcy court.

Investment banks raise money for companies through offerings of stocks and bonds. They also sell and trade securities and provide other services.

The banks could borrow huge amounts against relatively little capital. And they created ever more complex securities.

The Glass-Steagall Act of nineteen thirty-three barred commercial banks from owning investment banks. Morgan Stanley split from J.P. Morgan as a result of Glass-Steagall.

Congress passed the law to reduce risk to deposits following the stock market crash of nineteen twenty-nine. But Congress ended Glass-Steagall in nineteen ninety-nine. Now, commercial and investment banks are together again, much as they were before nineteen thirty-three.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.