Cuomo sues Lewis of Bank of America… Did Lewis act unethically or is Cuomo grandstanding?

February 9, 2010

Reported on in Bloomberg…(see the full article here).

The former Chief Executive Officer of Bank of America, Kenneth Lewis was sued by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for supposedly defrauding investors and the government when buying Merrill Lynch & Co.  Recently, the bank agreed to pay $150 million to settle a related lawsuit by U.S. regulators which is being considered by U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff.  Last year, Rakoff called the SEC’s initial settlement neither fair nor reasonable and questioned why the bank’s executives and lawyers weren’t sued. The agency said it lacked evidence to bring claims against specific individuals.

Cuomo also sued the bank’s former chief financial officer Joe Price and the bank itself for not disclosing about $16 billion in losses Merrill had incurred before it was bought by Bank of America in an effort to get the merger approved.  Afterward, Lewis demanded government bailout funds, Cuomo said.

“We believe the bank management understated the Merrill Lynch losses to shareholders, then they overstated their ability to terminate their agreement to secure $20 billion of TARP money, and that is just a fraud,” Cuomo said yesterday during a telephone press conference. “Bank of America and its officials defrauded the government and the taxpayers at a very difficult time.”

Interestingly enough, Cuomo is pursuing individuals at the bank while the SEC has declined to do so. The suit is being filed under the Martin Act, a New York securities law that permits both civil and criminal penalties.

Cuomo said he coordinated efforts with the SEC. “Our case will bring individuals to justice and will make a point to people that this is a very serious matter,” he said yesterday. “When you settle a case the way the SEC is settling today, the upside is you implement immediate regulatory reforms.”

Last month, the SEC expanded its claims against the bank, accusing it of failing to disclose Merrill Lynch’s mounting losses before holding a shareholder vote on the acquisition.

The proposed fine would be distributed back to harmed shareholders, the SEC said yesterday.

The SEC settlement “addresses the judge’s concerns of penalizing shareholders so it’s likely to pass muster,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “At the same time, it’s hard to show any monetary damage to shareholders at this point because the Merrill deal has turned out to be a good acquisition for the bank.”

The conduct of Brian Moynihan, the bank’s current chief executive, is not under investigation, said David Markowitz, Cuomo’s special deputy attorney general for investor protection. Moynihan, who became general counsel in the middle of events, was candid with Cuomo’s office in the probe, Markowitz said.

According to the complaint, Lewis and his lieutenants Moynihan and Price calculated that if they threatened “to get out of the deal, the federal government would counter with more taxpayer funds out of a concern for the greater economy.”

The U.S. injected $45 billion into Bank of America through the purchase of preferred shares, including $20 billion approved after the acquisition in January 2009 to keep the deal from collapsing. The bank redeemed the shares in December.

“We find it regrettable and are disappointed that the NYAG has chosen to file these charges, which we believe are totally without merit,” the bank said in a statement. “In fact, the SEC had access to the same evidence as the NYAG and concluded that there was no basis to enter either a charge of fraud or to charge individuals. The company and these executives will vigorously defend ourselves.”

Lawyers for Lewis and Price denied wrongdoing. “The allegation that Mr. Price deliberately caused Bank of America to withhold from shareholders information they were entitled to know is utterly false,” said William H. Jeffress Jr. and Julia E. Guttman of Baker Botts LLP in Washington, in a statement.

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Is the decision to sue Mr. Lewis and other Bank of America Executives by Mr. Cuomo a political move that has more to do with advancing political aspirations than bringing justice?  Or, is Mr. Cuomo the only person to have the fortitude to bring justice to an unethical action by BofA executives?

“The decision by Mr. Cuomo to sue Bank of America, Mr. Lewis and other executives in connection with BofA’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch is a badly misguided decision without support in the facts or the law,” said Mary Jo White of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York, who represents Lewis. “There is not a shred of objective evidence to support the allegations by the Attorney General.”

Bank of America agreed to buy Merrill on Sept. 15, 2008, after just 25 hours of due diligence, according to the suit. When the board of directors met that day to approve the transaction, they thought they were going to buy Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the suit says.

WOW…is that true?  If so, and it is proven, then one would have to wonder about not only Mr. Lewis actions, but the actions of the Board of Directors. Who makes a decision like this with only 25 hours of due diligence?

Cuomo said Bank of America scheduled a shareholder vote to approve its plan to buy Merrill on Dec. 5, 2008. By that date, Merrill incurred losses of more than $16 billion, Cuomo said. Bank of America’s management, including Lewis and Price, knew of the losses and knew that more were coming, Cuomo said.

After the merger was approved, Lewis told federal regulators the bank couldn’t complete the deal without a taxpayer bailout because of accelerated losses from Merrill, Cuomo said. However, between the time the shareholders approved the deal and the time Lewis sought the bailout, Merrill’s losses only increased by $1.4 billion, Cuomo said.

Greed, Hubris

“The conduct of Bank of America, through its top management, was motivated by self-interest, greed, hubris, and a palpable sense that the normal rules of fair play did not apply to them,” Cuomo said in the lawsuit. “Bank of America’s management thought of itself as too big to play by the rules and, just as disturbingly, too big to tell the truth.”

But wait…is Bank of America the only culprit in this grand scheme?  We (the taxpayers) lost substantially more with AIG, so where is Mr. Cuomo when it comes to that grand deception?  I respect the grandstanding claiming “greed and hubris” but I’m not sure why the BofA – Merrill merger is being focused on when there seems to be much bigger fish to fry.  Any help here?

The suit claims Bank of America received more than $20 billion in taxpayer aid as a result of their misleading efforts. Cuomo’s statement said the bank can’t explain why they didn’t disclose the losses to shareholders though the merger “would have threatened the bank’s very existence if there had been no taxpayer bailout.”

Cuomo also claims management failed to disclose to shareholders it was allowing Merrill to pay $3.57 billion in bonuses. Nor did the bank’s management tell the bank’s lawyers about the extent of Merrill’s losses before the shareholder vote.

Here’s what appears to be the sad truth…  Lewis will be defended by attorney’s for Bank of America.  BofA received bailout money.  Merrill is now part of BofA.  And, even if found guilty, more than likely any fines assessed will be paid from BofA’s insurance.  Perhaps…this is all posturing for something else.  Bank of America likely was wrong, but I’m not sure that Attorney General Cuomo is truly motivated by bringing justice…

But then again…I could be wrong.  YOUR THOUGHTS?


President Obama and Those Fat Cats from Wall Street – 2009 Ethics a Year in Review (1 of 3)

January 1, 2010

Frankly I couldn’t believe what I heard on the news when President Obama, in an interview, called bankers into the White House to seek their help with the economy – having referred to them the day before as “Fat Cat” bankers.  Hum…the President of the United States resorting to labeling people in less than a professional manner.  Perhaps it is just his folksy style, but that type of approach seems much less than presidential.  But then I got to thinking…

Seems like in this administration there was some effort to curb the abuses that the banks have hurled at consumers when it came to credit cards.  That, for everyone but the banks, was hailed as “about time” legislation.  Ethically, the banks have played less than fair with consumers.  Personal example…my wife, who has spotless credit had a Bank of American card with a zero balance and substantial credit limit, received a letter from BofA increasing her interest rate to 22.9% from 8.9%.  She called asking why and was told it was a mistake, but one that could not be undone.  After expressing her deep dissatisfaction and then vowing (after she got off the phone not to ever use the card), she got a letter from Bank of America (just a week later) cutting her credit line by 75%.  Ethical actions by Bank of America – yea right.

According to Money Magazine senior writer – Donna Rosato – “Lawmakers gave issuers till February 2010 to fully comply with the new law. Meanwhile, issuers have rushed to raise interest rates, impose new fees and cut credit limits. The median rate on credit cards surged 13% to 23% from December 2008 to July 2009, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Meanwhile, a bill to expedite the credit card reforms, the Credit Card Rate Freeze Act, has gone nowhere. When the new law kicks in in 2010, consumers will have more protection.”

Maybe the term “Fat Cat” Bankers was justified.

Ah…but there’s more.

Fortune Magazine states:

What Ken Lewis wanted, Ken Lewis got. During his eight-year tenure as Bank of America’s CEO, he embarked on a dizzying series of acquisitions to create the nation’s biggest financial services company.

But when his last two big buys — toxic-mortgage giant Countrywide and dead-on-its-feet bank Merrill Lynch — drew too much scrutiny from regulators and shareholders, Lewis packed up his golden parachute last October and bailed.

Maybe I should be a bit kinder in my blog.  Perhaps after squandering Bank of American funds on losing propositions, they needed the rate increase on credit cards.  Of course, that assumes that folks use those credit cards.  In our case, I think not.

BUT TO TOP IT OFF…

When the government, back in the Clinton administration, asked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend credit to many American who, otherwise, were not credit worthy – I have to ask the question – with rising deficits and massive government spending – why should anyone in the government call anyone names when the government is doing just what those Wall Street “Fat Cats” did – namely living above their means.  We have massive debt and seem to believe that living in debt is O.K.

Perhaps the ethical thing to do is say – NO to additional government debt and do what is being preached to the population – live within your means and act ethically and in a responsible manner.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


AIG Bonuses – Now Is Not The Time For Irresponsible Rhetoric Senator Grassley

March 16, 2009

aigthumb How many adjectives can we use to describe the feelings associated with the news that AIG paid $165 million in bonuses when the Federal Government spend over $170 Billion – yes, that is Billion, in bail out money to save the ailing giant?

There is outrage and many in government leadership are expressing their opinions about how they feel about the audicity of AIG to effect those payments.  That said, it is also important to make sure that leadership on both sides of the isle don’t get carried away with their comments.

CNN reported the following comments:

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa didn’t appear to be joking, however, when he spoke with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT.charles-grassley

“I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little better toward them [AIG executives] is if they follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, ‘I am sorry,’ and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide,” he said.

“And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide.”

Now I know that emotions are high, but come on Senator Grassley – that is political rhetoric and frankly is uncalled for.  I can’t believe for a minute that Grassley would, in fact, want anyone to commit suicide.  After all – we are talking about money and money can be replaced – human life can’t.

Perhaps as the night wears on cooler heads will prevail.  The right and ethical thing to do is reconsider how and when bonuses should be paid to a company that – but for the help of the taxpayers – would be bankrupt and out of business.  Further, more – this whole scenario should serve as a less for other businesses that line up to receive their bailout money.

Bonuses should be paid for outstanding performance.  When performance is lacking and, in fact, when a company faces the very real possibility of not continuing, then different choices should be made.  As a business ethics speaker, I understand Grassley’s frustration, but would hope that he would be more careful with his words.   Now is the time for level headed leadership, not sound bites spoken to garner media attention.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


AIG Bonuses – Ethical or Insane? Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments…

March 16, 2009

I want to make this clear – I am pro business!  I think that free enterprise is the life blood of our economic system and I fully support people making lots of aigmoney.  But, I have to question whether the payment of upwards of $165 million in bonuses to AIG employees is ethical or just insane?

QUESTION ONE:

The arguement in favor of AIG paying the bonuses is that the contracts that generated the bonuses were established before the economic meltdown and before AIG accepted government bailout money.  Employees who work(ed) for AIG therefore should be entitled to payment under the terms of their contract for services performed.

  • Do you agree?
  • Does the company have an ethical or moral obligation to pay regardless of circumstances?

QUESTION TWO:

AIG has accepted, according to published reports, upwards of $170 BILLION of government bailout money.  Sorry for the editoral content, but that is quite amazing by any standard that I could consider.  Nothing like that has happened in my lifetime and I’m over a half century in years.  So – here are some questions to consider:

  • Should AIG be forced to void pre-existing employment and bonus contracts if they accept government bailout money?
  • Should bonuses be paid?
  • What basis or grounds for payment or nonpayment make sense for AIG?

QUESTION THREE:

If a homebuilder constructs a home and finds that he/she cannot sell it for the asking price and, in fact, finds that the market for his product is below the construction loan – what happens?  Most of the time, the bank will foreclose and the sub-contractors, who have mechanic leins against the property, lose their time and receivable.  In other words, they lose because circumstances have changed.

  • Is AIG in the same circumstance?
  • Should the employment compensation contracts be treated similar to a mechanics lien – void through forclosure?
  • Is the government’s bailout of AIG in effect a forclosure to avoid bankrupcy?
  • Is there any reason that AIG should be treated differently than other small businesses that are unable to honor their commitments today?

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The definition of business ethics is, in business situations, the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with a moral duty and obligation.  The question for AIG is – what is the ethical thing to do?  As a business ethics speaker, there is no right or wrong answer to most situations, it rather is a function of doing the right thing considering all the facts and circumstances.  My opinion – the moral duty and obligation in this situation is to void the employment bonus contracts and accept that were it not for the taxpayers, AIG would not be in business!

Now is the time for AIG and any organization that accpets bailout money to make the tough decisions that honor the trust that the federal government and taxpayers have given them.  Look to Lee Iacocca’s example – when the government bailed out Chrysler, he took $1 as his compensation.  Perhaps the folks at AIG should take note.  One thing is for sure they are not winning friends and influencing people – at least not positively.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!



Credit Crisis – Subprime Mortgage Collapse – New York Times Article Shows That Choices Made Ten Years Ago Haunt Us Today! Comments by Mortgage Fraud Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 24, 2009

Every day there is more news about the sagging economy.  Banks being considered for nationalization.  Companies contracting and downsizing.  Workers being laid off.  It’s hard to find the bright spots as there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

But – every choice has a consequence – and the consequences we are living in today had a beginning with choices that were once made in good faith.  The more I research the more I find that is isn’t the banks who are totally at fault or greedy wall street tycoons.  Rather, the problem started with government pressure or direction.  Encouragement by our own federal government, coupled with shareholder profit pressure, created the momentum that has now turned into disaster.  new-york-times-building-sign

The following is an article written by Steven A. Holmes for the New York Times on September 30, 1999. (copyright New York Times 1999)  A portion of the article is reprinted here:

In a move that could help home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets — including the New York metropolitan region — will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is not generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans.  Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Fannie Mae, the nations biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stockholders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called supprime borrowers.  These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates — anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

“Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990’s by reducing down payment requirements,” said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.  “Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been regulated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.”

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy.  But at least one study indicates that at least 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 percent of loans in the conventional market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose difficulties during flush economic times.  But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980’s.

“From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,” said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.  “If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.”

The whole article can be seen here.

Almost ten years ago, writer, Steven A. Holmes reported on what was the infancy of what would bring the US to its economic knees some ten years later.  The clarity of his comments are a haunting reminder simple reality checks and what many would now say is common sense business.

QUICK OVERVIEW:

  • Politicians wanted the purse strings loosened so that more people could get what they wanted  – even though they couldn’t afford it.  Hum that seems to me to be bad economics but good politics.  Get more people what they want so they will vote for you.  After all, with term limits, most folks won’t be in power when the crisis hits.
  • Shareholders – of Fannie Mae – push for higher and higher returns.  Gordon Gecko – “Greed is good” – yea right!  I have been a Sr. VP in a public company and know what that shareholder pressure is like.  But here’s a reality check:  the tide comes in and the tide goes out.  It is unrealistic to assume that there will always be growth.  If companies were run for the long haul, then some of the dumb decisions that are made would be avoided.  It is terribly frustrating to see what kind of decisions are made just to make the earnings work for the current quarter.
  • Banks and investment firms wanted Fannie Mae’s expansion – why?  Obvious – another line of profitable business (at least for the short term).  I wonder today if those who were so quick to jump on the bandwagon would have done so – if they knew then what they know now.

Were the choices made then ethical?  As a business ethics speaker, I’m interested in your opinions.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


And the Fraud Begins – Gordon Grigg and his firm, ProTrust Management Inc. Charged with Securities Fraud – I Shall Call Him “Mini Madoff”

February 3, 2009

In tough economic times fraud will rise!  And with government funds flooding the markets to stimulate the economy, there is no doubt that some will see this as an opportunity to – well take advantage of an unregulated environment.  That seems to the be case with Gordon Grigg of Nashville and his firm, ProTrust Management Inc.

According to the Associated Press – “Federal regulators on Wednesday charged an investment adviser with securities fraud, saying he bilked clients of at least $6.5 million in the first scheme using the government’s $700 billion financial bailout program as a front to lure investments.”

Need, opportunity and rationalization – these are the three components of fraud – white collar crime.  And while a person is considered innocent until proven innocent, it would seem that there is enough evidence to cause the Securities and Exchange Commission to obtain a court order freezing the assets of Gordon Grigg of Nashville and his firm, ProTrust Management Inc.

It would seem that based on the information thus far that Grigg could be called “Mini Madoff.”  No he might not have yet created a Ponzi scheme, but it does seem it was headed in that direction.

The Associated Press reports:

Grigg represents himself as a financial planner and investment adviser, but neither he nor his firm is registered with the SEC or a state regulator, the agency said in its civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Nashville. The SEC said that Grigg, who obtained control over funds of at least 27 clients, falsely claimed to have invested their money in securities described as “private placements,” creating phony account statements.

BE AWARE:

One of the first indications of fraud is when the investment advisor says – he/she has something that is “private” something that no one else has – something that is special.  Madoff had something special – and now it seems so did Grigg.  Only in both cases it appears that neither was true.

According to the SEC, Grigg began falsely claiming that his firm could invest client funds in government-guaranteed commercial paper and bank debt as part of the federal TARP program. His claims also included that he had partnerships and other business relationships with several leading U.S. investment firms.

Grigg and his firm “preyed upon investors’ desire for safety by claiming associations with reputable investment firms and the government’s TARP program,” Katherine Addleman, regional director of the SEC’s Atlanta office, said in a statement. “Investors should carefully check any purported affiliations. In this case, not only were such claims false, but there is in fact no program in which investors can buy debt guaranteed by the TARP program.”

THE VICTIMS:

As reported in the Charolotte Observer – “Davidson resident Steve Wieland has prayed with Gordon Grigg, invited the former Charlotte resident into his home and trusted him enough to let Grigg’s company invest his life savings.  Wieland, 59, a disabled former pilot who flew for US Airways for 25 years, said he lost $252,000, the bulk of his life savings.

“You read about this happening in the newspaper. But when it happens to you, you go, ‘Oh my God, how do I recover,’” Wieland said. “I can’t. I’m done.”

Grigg’s alleged fraud started in 2003 and according to reports – ProTrust also was subject to a cease and desist order in North Dakota in 2006 for allegedly selling nonexistent securities, records show.

THE PIT – THAT HOLE THAT INVESTORS FALL INTO (AND DON’T RECOVER FROM):

As a fraud prevention expert and business ethics speaker, I am often asked how is it that people get suckered into investments like this?  I wish I could say it was difficult.  But from experience that cost me time in prison – I have to admit it is easy.   More times that not the scammed investors fall into what I have referred to as the PIT.

But here is what Mr. Wieland had to say, “I gave my money to a ‘friend’ instead of doing my research,” Wieland said. “Never do that. I don’t want anybody else to lose any more money.”

P – first there is the “promise” that the investor can get something that is special – something that the average person can’t get.  That “something special” is the allure of a better return – or something that gives one a chance at the gold at the end of the rainbow.  The fraudster plays on that emotional need.

I – second there is the “illusion.” In Grigg’s case – he claimed to have “private placements.”  That was supported by false and fraudulent account statements reflecting client ownership of the non-existent securities.  The false information is part of the illusion.  When you see it on paper or on the web in a fake account, you are lulled into believing it’s truth.

T – the final part is the all important aspect of “trust.” As stated in the Charlotte Observer article – “Steve Wieland has prayed with Gordon Grigg, invited the former Charlotte resident into his home and trusted him enough to let Grigg’s company invest his life savings.”  Ah…there’s that word – TRUST. Bernie Madoff had it, Gordon Grigg had it and so did I.  And in each case the abuse of trust was a key factor in a fraud taking place.

THIS STORY ISN’T OVER:

There is more to this story and likely many more victims.  I feel for them and hope that this writing might alert others to the importance of due diligence when investing.  Grigg, if convicted, will spend time in Federal Prison where he’ll have ample opportunity to think about this choices and the consequences that follow.  As I speak nationwide on ethics and fraud prevention – the first words out of my mouth are – “Every choice has a consequence.”

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Business Ethics Alive in Small Banks – Strong Ethics Equal Healthy Banks

October 18, 2008

It’s easy to become cynical when all you hear in the media is bad news.  But not all news is bad.  In a recent CNN article there was some refreshing comments from small, but healthy, banks.  They were making loans and, for the most part, it was business as usual.

Here are some comments from the article:

Conservative lending practices seem to be a common denominator among banks that have remained strong and stable during the current banking crisis, and those banks are still making loans.

Peoples Bank President Todd McKee, left, chats with customer Tommy McVay on Friday in Lubbock, Texas.

Peoples Bank President Todd McKee, left, chats with customer Tommy McVay on Friday in Lubbock, Texas.

The failures of behemoths such as Washington Mutual and IndyMac have drawn media attention, but not all big banks are in trouble — and smaller banks are not immune.

For sometime, as a business ethics speaker, I have said that the underlying problem related to the economic crisis we’re facing today has been founded in a lack of business ethics.  For those comments I have been the brunt of criticism.  But, if ETHICS is choosing good from bad with a moral obligation and duty…then I submit that what is reported in the CNN report supports my position.

“Our underwriting standards have tightened a little bit,” said Ronald Heaton, president of the Cedar City, Utah, bank. “… Our standards haven’t changed drastically, and we’re still loaning … but we’re watching our underwriting standards closely so that people are able to repay their loans.”

Mortgages that didn’t require borrowers to prove their income or make a down payment got many lenders into trouble, but his bank never offered those: “Didn’t make sense,” he said.

Some would-be borrowers “wanted us to do everything, and we said, ‘We don’t do everything. We have standards,’ ” Heaton added.

Nonbank mortgage lenders were able to generate substandard mortgages because they were not adequately regulated by the federal government, Heaton said.

Now those bad loans have come home to roost, the nonbank lenders are out of the game, and State Bank of Southern Utah’s mortgage business is picking up, Heaton said.

Folks…that’s just plain ole good ethics.  Heaton (whom I’ve never spoken to or met) is 100% accurate.  If you have standards (founded by sound business ethics) you won’t find yourself in major financial trouble.  I contend that lending practices, that were not founded with sound ethical principles, are in large part the root cause of why we are where we are today.

Another part of the CNN report states:

In Texas, the state Department of Banking says state-chartered institutions wisely stayed out of the subprime game.

“That’s not what we do. We’re not in the subprime market whatsoever,” said Todd McKee, president of Peoples Bank in Lubbock. “Lending here is the same as it’s always been.”

The way it’s always been is up close and personal. McKee said his bank’s customers prefer to do business with tellers face-to-face rather than through the drive-up window.

“I’m president of the bank, and I sit right by the front door, so I wave at every single soul that walks in the bank. Everybody has access to me,” he said. “My partner [Larry Allen] is the CEO. … He sits at the other door. So we know everybody that comes in the door.

May sound “hokey” but that is banking the way it was meant to be.  I recall my first loan when I was 18 years old (I’m now 51) was made – not by a credit score – (funny I don’t think they existed then), but rather the loan was made on character and the fact that the bank president trusted me to repay (and knew where my mama was if I didn’t).  I paid the loan back and was proud to do business with them.

This last comment from the article states it best – “You can look at credit all day, you can look at collateral, but if they can’t make that payment, there’s no sense in making that loan. And we’ve always done that. We’re all supposed to do that.”  That is business ethics!


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