Bankers keep fielding questions about when they are going to get back into the M&A game, and many keep giving the same answer: no time soon.

The ceaseless pressure from investors is understandable. If done effectively, deals can transform buyers, juice earnings and create oft-touted synergies. But big banks have been reticent to engage in any kind of substantial dealmaking, citing fears about delays, new regulatory burdens and contingent liabilities.

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