U.S. bankers gather in Chicago, face protests

October 26, 2009

CHICAGO, Oct 26 (Reuters) – A top banking industry group on Monday defended the practices of traditional banks while facing protesters who railed against Wall Street abuses.

The American Bankers Association, which has gathered for its annual convention, said the protests were misplaced because it is largely community bankers that are attending.

“You did not make any abusive subprime loans; you did not take big bonuses for products that later blew up,” ABA President Edward Yingling said during his opening remarks.

The Service Employees International Union, a major labor group, estimates that up to 5,000 people will join the protests over the next couple of days.

Protesters gathered outside the hotel hosting the convention on Sunday night, holding signs that said, “Hold Banks Accountable,” and chanting for changes to the banking industry.

“The big banks heard loud and clear tonight that taxpayers are fed up with them taking our money and using it to pay themselves outrageous profits and lobby against financial reform,” the SEIU posted on its website.

Yingling said it was frustrating to have traditional banks lumped together with Wall Street firms that engage in risky trading practices and have taken billions of dollars in taxpayers funds.

“I know it makes you angry, as it should,” he told the convention attendees.

Smaller banks have also received bailout funds from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, although the amount of assistance has been much less.

And the White House has said recently that banks can do more to help extend credit. President Barack Obama urged banks on Saturday to make more loans to small businesses.

“It’s time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system, and more broadly shared prosperity,” he said.

(Reporting by Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn) ((karey.wutkowski@thomsonreuters.com; + 1 202 898 8374))

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