During the past five quarters, 18 major banks temporarily reduced their debt before it was reported to the public, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. On average, these banks, which include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, lowered their debt by 42%. After disclosure, they raised their debt again. The tactic is legal but could give shareholders a false impression of the bank's balance sheet, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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