There's been a distinct lack of outspoken bankers talking about this crisis. Most seem to be hiding under the lights of their own bushel.
But no. There is one brave banker out there, willing to stand up and be counted.
And no. It's not Jamie Dimon!
It's US Bancorp's CEO Richard Davis.
Speaking at a meeting of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans** in Minneapolis, Mr. Davis is reported as saying that there is no "A (Asset), R (Relief) or P (Program)" in TARP, but that "it's just troubled".
Describing himself as a "banker dude" (!), Mr. Davis said: "Bankers are dream makers. We don't make
anything. We don't build anything. We don't fix anything. We don't
break anything. We get behind everyone who does."
He went on to call the US Government TARP lousy: "I will say this very bluntly: We were told to take it. Not asked. Told. 'You will take
it.' It doesn't matter if you were there on the first
night and you were told to sign on the dotted line before you walked
out of the office, or whether in the days that followed, you were told
to take it.
"We were told to take it so that we could help
Darwin synthesize the weaker banks and acquire those and put them under
different leadership. We are not even allowed to mention
that … We were supposed to say the TARP money was used for lending."
I like that sort of outspoken thinking, although Mr. Davis's PR team didn't, coming out the following day with a statement that Mr. Davis had spoken out of turn and had meant to say that, because the largest banks in the
country took TARP money, U.S. Bancorp and others were forced to do so
Isn't that the same thing?
“While we did not seek the TARP funds…to strengthen our already-strong
capital base…we are using that money to expand the spirit of TARP.” Jamie Dimon, CEO, JPMorgan
“We have not used any of the government investment for dividends, bonuses or compensation of any kind — nor will we … we do business and lend money the old-fashioned way — responsibly and prudently.” John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo
“We are still lending, and we are lending far more because of the TARP program.” — Kenneth Lewis, CEO of Bank of America
All in all, there are a wide ranging and contarian collection of views about the TARP funding, although I think that Here is the City got it right when they summarised the views of most bank CEO's as being that you can "stick those TARP funds where the sun don't shine".
Although I do wonder if paying back TARP funds early is more to avoid government meddling, such as Obama's pronouncements on things like caps on bonuses (which have been watered down anyway), than a lack of need for support?
** Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a faith-based, not-for-profit membership organisation
with nearly 3 million members, $65 billion in assets under
management and is one of the Fortune 500 financial services firms.