At first glance, U.S. banks look like they’re getting healthier. Many of the biggest have repaid government bailout money, some are reporting solid profits and the government is winding down programs that held financial services firms together during the worst of the crisis.
But it’s not yet clear that the banking industry is emerging from the financial meltdown with the kind of fundamental changes its harshest critics — and even some of its staunchest defenders — had hoped for.
Some experts think the banking industry is sufficiently chastened by the horrors of the past year to foreswear the high-risk practices like leveraged investing that nearly destroyed it — at least for now. But others worry there has been little meaningful change, that the banks’ apparent health is largely owed to government help rather than smarter practices and that another crisis is a virtual certainty, even if many years away.
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