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Odd Lots

Is It Time For Public Checking Accounts at the Fed?

Does the SVB disaster suggest it's time for a public option?

Saule Omarova

Saule Omarova

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg

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When Silicon Valley Bank failed, the government stepped in and guaranteed that all accounts — even those well above the FDIC threshold for deposit insurance — would be made whole. So now people are wondering whether all accounts at every bank are implicitly guaranteed, regardless of their size. But if they are, then what is the point of private, for-profit retail banking? On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Saule Omarova, a professor at Cornell Law School. She had been nominated by President Biden to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, but was forced to withdraw due to fierce opposition from the banking lobby. That opposition was based, in part, on her endorsement of public checking accounts at the Federal Reserve. But what was a seemingly "out there" view a year ago, is now firmly within the Overton Window of political possibilities. On this episode, we discuss the SVB disaster, what it means for banking, and the case for a public option.