Neil Irwin and Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
The Federal Reserve approved the conversion last night of the two remaining investment titans on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, into bank holding companies, offering them broader government protection in exchange for tighter regulation and constraints on their once fabulously profitable business.
With the federal government continuing its rapid and radical reshaping of the U.S. financial system, the two investment banks agreed to transform themselves in an effort to escape the financial turmoil that last week put their existence in jeopardy.
The move, approved by the Fed with unusual haste, gives Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley greater latitude to borrow from the Fed and access to stable sources of funding — namely, deposits from ordinary people and businesses. But the firms are also accepting regulation by the Fed that will make it far more expensive for them to borrow huge sums of money — long an essential ingredient in their investment strategy — and restrict what sorts of business activities they can engage in.
This development completes a sweeping transformation of Wall Street. Now extinct are the specialized trading houses that broke off from larger financial companies during the Great Depression, enterprises that once prized their independence of regulation and exploited their agility to make fortunes. Over the past 30 years, these firms even surpassed commercial banks as the prime funding source for corporate America.
The conversion of investment banks into the kind of banking companies that once were their rivals will have profound and long-lasting implications for the economy. [Read the Full Story]