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Elizabeth Warren: BB&T-SunTrust merger creating next too-big-to-fail bank

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is keeping the megadeal between BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. in her sights.

Warren, a vocal big-bank critic, took time during a March 14 hearing on nonbank systemically important financial institutions to slam the deal as creating the next too-big-to-fail bank. She also criticized the Federal Reserve for allowing widespread consolidation in the U.S. banking industry.

Warren said the Financial Stability Oversight Council was set up after the financial crisis to help regulators spot the kind of systemic risks that "brought the economy to its knees."

"Some of those risks are hard to imagine ahead of time, but others ... are pretty obvious," Warren said. "A few weeks ago BB&T announced its merger with SunTrust, the first new too-big-to-fail bank since the financial crisis."

BB&T did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's request for comment on Warren's remark.

It is not the first time the senator has lambasted the deal. Warren sent a letter to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Feb. 7, the day the merger was announced, expressing her fear that it "creates a new too big to fail bank and has the potential to hurt consumers."

The BB&T-SunTrust tie-up is the 8th-largest US bank deal of all time and would form the nation's sixth-largest bank with well over $400 billion in combined assets. Other lawmakers shared Warren's criticism of the deal, but analysts have projected few antitrust or regulatory concerns.

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The senator and 2020 presidential candidate leveled her criticism of bank deals at hearing witness Jeremy Kress, a University of Michigan business law professor who worked at the Fed as a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer tasked with advising officials on approvals.

Kress defended the M&A process as a robust back-and-forth between the regulator and the banks looking to merge.

Warren also cited concerns from individuals in communities who have said access to lending has worsened following some bank deals, but Kress said he has "not seen strong evidence of that."

Read more news coverage of the BB&T-SunTrust deal:

Mega-deal in US southeastern states could start new chase for banking scale

Deal chatter rising as US banks of all sizes face pressure to merge

A new era for blockbuster bank M&A