“Wall Street (and the Government) Get the Gold; Main Street Gets the Shaft”

It seems that Wall Street can take billions of taxpayer dollars on a phone call to Treasury and that Wall Street wrongdoers and their boards can get away unpunished and unsanctioned for their misdeeds (unlike scores of local community bank directors who are being sued by the FDIC simply because they sat on a bank board). However, community banks can’t even catch a break on a bank-funded deposit program, not a dime of which is paid for by taxpayer funds. The Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) program gives community banks a sliver of equal footing with their government-supported, 100 percent guaranteed, too-big-to-fail megabank competitors. This inequity is a sorry state of affairs.

The Fitch rating agency analysis of the end of TAG put it this way:

End of Demand Deposit Protection May Affect Smaller Banks
The upcoming expiration of unlimited FDIC insurance for non-interest bearing demand deposit accounts (DDAs) could have a negative impact on deposit bases at both smaller and less creditworthy banks, according to Fitch Ratings. Large institutions that depositors still regard as too big to fail and financially strong regional banks are likely to be beneficiaries if the insurance program ends as scheduled. …

Any large movements of high-value account balances out of smaller and more financially vulnerable banks could drive a weakening of liquidity and a further erosion of depositor confidence at these institutions. This could drive more consolidation in the industry…

As you can read, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of community banks will be damaged by the end of TAG. With near-zero interest rates through 2015, new tax burdens, Basel III capital guidelines and new mortgage rules going online about the same time as TAG ends, community banks are going to be hammered from multiple directions, which means small-business lending and local financial support for smaller towns, cities and rural America grinds to a halt. And that helps whom? The business case for allowing that to happen is what? It reminds me of the old country song; “Wall Street [and the government] get the gold; Main Street gets the shaft.”

And the saddest thing of all is that I get calls from heads of regulatory agencies, the Treasury and the administration asking, “Why aren’t community banks lending more?” and “What can we do to help?” Really? How sad is that? There are times when I just want to say, “Are you kidding me? This is a joke, right?” But the sad reality is that it is not a joke, it is real. And that reality is crushing Main Street community banks, small businesses and the customers they serve across America.

3 thoughts on ““Wall Street (and the Government) Get the Gold; Main Street Gets the Shaft”

  1. Hypothetically, lets assume you won’t be able to change the direction Washington is headed as it relates to your concerns above.

    What can community banks do today to attract more depositors and find/create more lending opprotunities?

    If Washington gets there way what can community banks do to counter the affects of the end of TAG?

  2. That’s too bad. Deposits are the lifeblood of community banks. Without that cheap money community banks may be forced to borrow from the Fed or even Wall Street. I suppose this could put pressure on the Treasury to do something to help restore the GSE preferred shares, to help community banks restore lost tier 1 capital from the crisis. Aren’t community banks holding a lot of GSE preferred shares?

  3. It is very sad indeed that the regulatory agencies, the Treasury and the administration haven’t a clue as the to impact of their policies on the community banks. Their policies and actions are focused on the top 20 “too big to fail” banks. But they don’t appear to comprehend the fact that about 6,500 (+/-) other banks are also impacted by their policies and regulatory actions. As a result, the sad truth is this: While those top 20 banks were 99% of the cause for the banking and economic fiasco, there are 6,500 other banks (community banks) paying the price and ultimately being driven out of business by the never ending stream of policies and regulations intended to fix the “sins” of the top 20 banks.

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