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“The megabanks are allowed to continue operating as if the crisis they caused never happened,” said Camden R. Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America. “They should be downsized and split up to help restore sanity to our financial system.”

Some of the world’s biggest banks are based overseas and may be beyond the reach of U.S. regulators, including such financial giants as Barclays Bank PLC, HSBC and Deutsche Bank. While regulators in Great Britain and other nations are also attempting to rein in their banks, not all are taking the same approach or being as strict as U.S. legislators may want.

Ms. Warren raised the “too big to fail” question at a hearing with Mr. Bernanke last month and suggested that perhaps another way to tackle the problem was to essentially charge the big banks for an estimated $83 billion subsidy they enjoy from lower interest rates they are able to pay on debt obligations because of their perceived backing from the government.

Mr. Bernanke appeared to pooh-pooh that idea at the time, questioning whether that was an accurate figure for the subsidy. But his remarks last week appeared to soften his earlier skepticism as he conceded that the banks do in fact continue to receive some subsidy through preferential interest rates that has not gone away as a result of the reform regulations.

How big a subsidy?

The true size of the subsidy the big banks enjoy has become a subject of hot debate, with estimates ranging from zero to Ms. Warren’s $83 billion a year. The nation’s top banks, in a statement responding to Ms. Warren, contended that most if not all of the subsidy was wiped out or offset by the heavy new capital requirements and regulatory regime in the 2010 law. But other analysts say she understated the funding advantage the banks enjoy by not taking into account the nearly interest-free loans the financial giants get from the Fed, among other perks.”Despite the claims made by the paid cheerleaders of the megabanks, ‘too big to fail’ is alive and well, and the banks receive taxpayer subsidies,” said Mr. Vitter. “Chairman Bernanke knows it, the market knows it, and the taxpayers know it.”

The big banks continue to “operate above the law,” as Mr. Holder’s candid comments revealed, said Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future. “They are not disciplined by the market. They know their losses are covered, while they pocket their winnings. They have multimillion dollar personal incentives to leverage up, use other people’s money to make big bets on high risk operations that offer big rewards. Their excesses blew up the economy, but they got bailed out and emerged bigger and more concentrated than ever.”