BB&T CEO: What About the Good Banks?
A widely-unheard perspective on the bailout came to light late last week, courtesy of a letter to lawmakers from Branch Banking and Trust Co. (BBT) chairman and CEO John Allison, who argued that the bailout debate has been all too focused on "problem companies", and not the institutions that have maintained "healthy profitability and strong capital" -- such as his own firm -- throughout the housing crisis. "We think it is important that Congress hear from the well run financial institutions ... [and] it is inappropriate that the debate is largely being shaped by the financial institutions who made very poor decisions," wrote Allison. His letter was circulated among market participants by various sources earlier this week. Clearly opposed to the idea of his fellow, allegedly poorly-run institutions getting a hand-out from the federal government, Allison outlined "key points on a 'rescue' plan from a healthy bank's perspective" in his letter. He said there is "no panic on Main Street or in sound financial institutions," pinning the blame for current financial problems squarely on the shoulders of Wall Street. And in the goverment's attempt to rescue these panicking institutions, Allison suggested, post-rescue restrictions should not punish well run companies. Amongst other key points, Allison suggested that tax-credit for purchasing homes would be far less expensive and more effective than the proposed rescue in correcting current market ills. And fair value accounting should be changed immediately, as well, he said; "accounting should not drive economic activity, it should reflect it," he said. See HW's coverage on mark-to-market accounting issues. As for the guaranty of money market funds by the U.S. Treasury, Allison wrote that it "creates enormous risk for the banking industry." He attributed the decision to protect money funds to a "lack of insight into the risk to the total financial system," noting that Treasury secretary Henry Paulson and most senior members of the Treasury have their roots in investment banking on Wall Street, rather than commercial banking on Main Street. He also suggested that the Treasury focus its effort on housing and home prices. "This is a housing value crisis," he wrote. "It does not make economic sense to purchase card loans, automobile loans, etc." BB&T is a $136 billion banking company with 1,500 branches; the company posted second-quarter net income of $428 million, or $.78/share. The Senate is scheduled to take up a vote on a revised bailout proposal Wednesday evening, with members of the House expected to reconvene on the bailout Thursday after rejecting an earlier proposal on Monday. Editor's note: To contact the reporter on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.