Bankers’ chief says “vilification” of bankers tough to take

April 28, 2009

As the president of the American Bankers Association, Edward Yingling has soaked up a lot of criticism of the nation’s bankers in the past year. He has also had to work many hours to fight to ensure that crisis measures by the government don’t cause long-term damage to his members. But the one thing he has had difficulty in coping with is the assault on banking as a profession and links made by politicians and the media between any financial institution that has problems and bankers. He told the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit on Tuesday he is angry about the “vilification of the banking industry” given that many bankers had nothing to do with creating the financial crisis. He said the word “bank” appeared in stories in which it didn’t belong. “AIG was not actually a bank,” he said.

Mind you, Yingling remains uncompromising when pushed on how much banks are to blame for the events of the past two years. While acknowledging that some of his members made mistakes, he blames accounting rules that forced banks to value their investments at market levels, even if that didn’t reflect their longer-term value, for much of the damage to the financial system. And, he says, it was liquidity problems and a loss of confidence that caused a bank like Wachovia to be rescued more than the weak quality of the mortgage assets held by Golden West, which it bought in 2006. If anyone is looking for apologies — they won’t get them from this direction.

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