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Too-Big-to-Fail before the Fed

“Too-big-to-fail” is consistent with policies followed by private bank clearing houses during financial crises in the U.S. National Banking Era prior to the existence of the Federal Reserve System. Private bank clearing houses provided emergency lending to member banks during financial crises. This behavior strongly suggests that “too-big-to-fail” is not the problem causing modern crises. Rather, it is a reasonable response to the threat posed to large banks by the vulnerability of short-term debt to runs.

JEL Codes: E02, E32, E42, E52, E58.
Keywords: Financial crisis, bank runs, banking panic, clearing house, bank-specific information, currency premium.

Suggested citation: Gorton, Gary, and Ellis W. Tallman, 2016. “Too-Big-to-Fail before the Fed,” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Working Paper, no. 16-12.

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