By Ryan Tracy
One month before he assumed the No. 2 post at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Thomas Hoenig sat before a group of global bankers in Tokyo and told them he believed their firms ought to be broken apart.
“Holy mackerel,” a U.S. bank lobbyist who was in the audience that day in October 2012 recalls thinking. “Thank goodness he’s not the chairman.”
Mr. Hoenig isn’t the FDIC’s leader, but as vice chairman he wields enough influence to keep big banks on edge. The 68-year-old former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has emerged as one of the most influential detractors of big banks—the only top regulator in Washington who has directly called for their dismantling.
His stance has helped shape policies that are restricting and restructuring the way megabanks do business. Mr. Hoenig helped push through stricter capital rules adopted earlier this year, won tougher regulatory language outlining how the government would unwind a large, failing financial firm and urged fellow regulators to send big banks back to the drawing board on their “living will” plans to avoid a taxpayer bailout in the event of a crisis.
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