The financial crisis that has been sweeping the globe has reshaped nearly every corner of the economy, but no industry has been altered more radically than banking.
Several of the nation's biggest banks have failed or been absorbed by healthier institutions, leaving three giant "superbanks" with an unprecedented concentration of market power: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
While that may be good news for emerging giants and the failing companies they helped rescue, the new oligopoly raises troubling questions about regulation and competition, analysts and consumer advocates say.
Bank fees are going up, up, up, and that’s the danger to consumers as more of these banks consolidate,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumer League. “It’s difficult for the average person to get a bank account that doesn’t involve fees, and if you get into financial distress you’re cooked, and you’ll be ‘fee-ed’ to death.”
According to a recently released banking fee study from Bankrate.com, ATM surcharges rose 11 percent this year to an average of $1.97, and the fee for a bounced checks rose 2.5 percent to an average $28.95.
"Consumers are going to be victims of higher and more punitive fees,” Greenberg predicts.
Moreover, many analysts worry about how federal and state authorities, who were unable to prevent the current financial industry meltdown, will be able to monitor the new giant banks that combine a wide range of operations from investment banking to consumer lending.
Just 3 ?superbanks? now dominate industry