Why the Big Banks Aren't Doing More to Boost the Economy

Tickers in this article: BAC C JPM WFC

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The banking system, while healing, is not strong enough to support economic growth on Main Street USA.

That's based on data from the FDIC Quarterly Banking Profile for Q1 2014. In my opinion, these bank numbers serve as the balance sheet for the U.S. economy. The four "too-big-to-fail" banks control 44.4% of the $14.7 trillion in total assets in the banking system.

When Bank of America BAC, Citigroup C, JPMorgan Case JPM and Wells Fargo WFC are under the scrutiny of the Department of Justice, the banks are focusing on legal investigations and costly fines are still pending. Settlements will likely lead to cost cutting, putting a drag on banking initiatives that would help stimulate economic growth.

JPMorgan ($57.04) is the biggest of the four "too-big-to-fail" banks with $2.104 trillion in assets. That is 14.3% of the total assets in the banking system, up from 14.1% the prior quarter and up from 13.6% at the height of the "Great Credit Crunch" in the second quarter of 2008. Total assets in the banking system are up 10.7% since the second quarter of 2008, while JP Morgan's assets are up 16.5% since that time.

Last year, JPMorgan paid a settlement of $13 billion for allegedly selling toxic mortgage-backed securities during the financial crisis.

Bank of America ($15.44) increased its assets to $1.643 trillion in the first quarter, 11.2% of the total in the banking system, up from 11% in the prior quarter. Total assets are down 8% since the second quarter of 2008.

Last week ended with a stalemate between the Justice Department and Bank of America. The feds want $17 billion to settle Bank of America's mortgage-related probes, while the company is reportedly ready to offer $12 billion.