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BirdsEye View

stop the feeding frenzy: readers' reactions

Quote of the week from my son, Gil Bird: "If you find beauty in darkness, you'll find beauty in all". He's a very wise 18 year old, that kid!


The response to my last article has been overwhelming. So much so that I have put a dozen or so responses together as the next BirdsEye View. Thanks to the hundreds of you who wrote expressing support and sharing additional insights. The common denominator to all responses was: IT'S TIME TO FIGHT BACK!

Gil, Dick and I spent a few days fishing in Montana. What a beautiful place! Pictures are on the website, www.anatbird.com. Also posted is Liat's hilarious recount of how a mangy dog bit her on the butt in Bhutan (under Bird Droppings).



Have a great Labor Day weekend,


Anat



STOP THE FEEDING FRENZY: READERS' REACTIONS



Quote of the week: Finding good solid journalism in the newspapers today is like looking for gold or diamonds in a septic tank. If you find any, it got there by mistake."



Other reactions include:



From Ed Garding, Chief Risk Officer and EVP of First Interstate of Montana: "Good comments Anat. My two thoughts are: 1. It is not news unless it is outrageous. 2. People hate "banks", but like their banker, and we need to capitalize on that somehow."



"Well said Anat!! I believe that you have captured the anger and frustration of those of us in the banking industry and,unlike the uninformed (and even worse, idealistic)critics within the media and government,you have offered sound, sane advice for all constituencies; bankers, media, government, and our citizen customers. Thank you for summarizing this sad situation so well. My only advice for a slightly less stressful life - Don't read the New York Pravda, (I mean Times). "



And: "It is time for the silent majority to speak out. And I do believe we are seeing evidence of that everywhere. Let's not throw out the baby with the bath water !"



And: "Nice article. You were way too kind in the describing the level of stupidity the media is displaying and the lack of journalistic excellence that would otherwise have recognized and reported the recession and some of the more alarmist news in a far more credible fact based way.

I will credit the media with merely being stupid and trying to create news that sells by making it as alarmist as possible. however many of our politicians are far more deceptive & avaricious in their own particular motivations. they are using certain incidents to paint a picture that serves their agendas well (Barney Frank, Pelosi & the rest).

Some of the financial institutions stupidly have given these two groups (media & politicians) matches while busily pouring the gas on themselves and the industry (AIG, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch to name 3 of recent note) by not using any common sense or restraint whatsoever in their behavior. Perhaps this is borne of arrogance, clearly it was indicative of an absolute miss in understanding the mood of the public. And under the circumstances I am totally baffled and cannot understand "how" they could have missed it. Go figure."



And: "I have spent time in Russia, and other former Eastern Bloc countries, and it is clear what 70 years of Socialism did to those countries."



And: "In reading your comment, our system is far from optimal, I am reminded of Sir Winston Churchill's comments about capitalism and the free enterprise system. He said something like "Capitalism is a very, very flawed economic system, except when compared to every other economic system on the planet!"



And: "Re the comments on your news letter>>hooray for the author. I think it is too easy to "blame" the banks as a generic criticism. Due to our banking system, the world still consistently prefers to invest in the USA, which says something. The banking industry is only indicative of the economy it serves and operates within, i.e. it is the economy, since we generally do not produce a tangible product. The industry's issues were the result of many things, too much liquidity in the overheated economy, greedy mortgage bankers, lack of adequate oversight and control by the regulators, and yes even some over zealous consumer groups that pushed the politics of making consumer credit easier to obtain. The brief point is, there were many factors that caused the issues, it's just easy to say "the banks".




And:Bill Aichele, CEO of Univest, said: "I support your pushing back! Not all banks are created equal! We have always conducted our business by focusing on What is right for our four publics- Shareholders, Customers, employees, and Communities. We are 133 years old and we believe we have been an important part of our communitys vibrant growth."



And: "It's high time we took an offense position rather than defense. We (community banks and bankers) have been miscast so much I nearly get nauseous...and spend far too much of my time helping our various constituencies understand there is a world of difference between investment banks and commercial banks and further, between money center commercial banks and community banks. Your message is to the point and timely. Thank you."



And: "Nice rant!! I echo your sentiment. We are all being vilified as "evil bankers." I wouldn't mind it if I was received Goldman-sized bonuses each year, but when many of the housing related crises were promulgated by and further nurtured by elected officials and regulators, it makes you want to scream."



And: "I just read Stop the Feeding Frenzy. Its GREAT! Coincidentally, this morning, I was speaking to a group of young women and men who are thinking of running for public office here in Delaware. Subject---the state of banking, generally, and, the financial meltdown. As I read your article below, it sounded like the speech I gave this morning! Almost point-for-point! One of the points I made to them: How did we as Main Street bankers allow the media to co-opt the word banker and apply it to what we formerly called Wall Street investment firms? Suddenly, they became bankers. And, as you point out, we are all painted with the same brush. We need to be playing offense, so, thanks for writing this! (It also points out why I never read the New York Times!)"



And: "Amen, sister. A source within FDIC who asked to never be named told me, eye to eye, that the proposed single regulator was universally considered by FDIC examiners and staff to be the worst legislative idea in decades. The individuals who work in regulatory compliance within every regulatory body are moved to and fro between internal disciplines to cover emerging critical issues. For example, when BSA became a hot item a few years ago, the increased exam coverage and remedial work was staffed by people from other arms of FDIC. There wasnt a bloated staff of BSA people sitting on their hands waiting for a BSA inferno. If a new regulatory body is created it will be staffed with NEW positions  not transfers out of existing regulatory bodies  because all those folks wear more than one hat. Regulators chortle at claims from proponents that the increased cost is minimal.

The consumer compliance issues we face are a result of lousy risk management, inactive boards, idiotic governmental practices and most of all, bank executives in a FEW institutions who ignored lessons from the past. It happens in every industry, every government. The single regulator is a monumental over-reaction. The people who caused the problem are already fired&.the proverbial horse has already left the barn. Americas economy always corrects itself, if the government can get out from behind a microphone long enough to let normalcy run its course."



And: "Your passionate reaction to the news made me want to involve others in this dialog. I'm sharing comments that I got from one of my brothers with you. He's always good for an opinion! I'm not usually one to broadcast my feelings about politics but it is frustrating to be vilified by the regulators, government, press, and others when most of us are working a system that has protected the wealth and well being of this country. I am generally very liberally inclined (much to my brother's chagrin!), and I object strongly to over-reactions to most things. The most offensive over-reactions today strike me as defensive posturing (control), deflection or, worse, sensationalism to sell papers.

And here's what the brother said:"Careful. You're venturing into redneck territory by invoking the idea of commercial freedom.


I agree. There were some really ugly goings-on in the behemoth financials -- which, one would think, would have been controlled by reasonably alert regulators doing nothing more socialistic than pursuing and prosecuting fraud. Thank you Bush -- but also thank you Barney Frank and his ilk, who quietly wrote protective legislation behind the scenes, in exchange for... what? Let's find out.


But the small guys are now in the cross-hairs, largely undeservedly. Sure, they make mistakes and occasionally pay for them by going belly-up. Everybody makes mistakes. A mistake isn't necessarily fraud. We need more community businesses, run efficiently on a free market model by entrepreneurs with a personal stake, not fewer.


I think there's more at work here than a prima facie effort to "clean up the financial sector." Control comes to mind.


While we're at it, let's be wary of the same broad-brush approach to health care. The insurance companies certainly focus on their bottom lines. Why shouldn't they? But the admitted problems with the cost of health care have just as much to do with federal and state meddling in business decisions as they do with runaway torts, demand for high-end life-extenders,and greedy doctors. When Obamacare is the law of the land, and the "public option" has eliminated private insurance, do we really believe that a mandate to cover Viagra, hair replacement, birth control pills, any ol' organ replacement and pregnancy, as well as the restriction of competition to a single area of a single state and the evaluation of risk (personal habits and history), will be part of a federal health insurance mandate? Of course not. Try eliminating those actuarial-nightmare restrictions from private health insurance and see what happens to the cost. Ask folks to share the cost of their insurance, rather then the employer picking it all up, and see how fast some of the bad habits improve without laws restricting how many hamburgers you can eat. People didn't used to be tub-o-lards, because it cost them in the end.


Sorry to go off -- but to me, they're all part of the same philosophical problem. We need to stop looking for the freebie solutions. They ain't freebies. And we need to stop blaming the other guy when he's only trying to provide what we demand."



Here is what I gleaned from all these comments: It's a call to action. It's time for all of us community bankers to remind our legislators about the difference between Wall Street and Main Street. They need to understand the crucial role community banks play in our country's economic success, part and future. Grass roots lobbying is the most powerful tool we have. Use it to put the message across, and let me know if I can help in any way. Like I said, IT'S TIME TO FIGHT BACK!!!