Gosh Darn It

Gosh Darn It, TARP Sucks

If you listened to the more politic utterances of big bank CEOs lately about TARP you might think that banking giants were in lockstep about their love for Big Government handouts. Luckily for those of us at Bank Lawyer’s Blog, we usually listen only to the voices in our heads. Yet, for those who pay attention to such things, it appears that one big bank CEO has gone off the reservation.

While government leaders were well intentioned in setting up the Troubled Asset Relief Program, it’s a “lousy program,” U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis said at a business leaders forum Tuesday.

The U.S. Treasury told, not asked, U.S. Bank to participate in the program, which is a Darwinian attempt to “synthesize” weaker banks into stronger banks through consolidation, Davis said at the forum, held at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Minneapolis. U.S. Bank (NYSE: USB) sold $6.6 billion in preferred stock with warrants to the U.S. Treasury in November through its capital purchase program.

“There’s no A, R or P in TARP,” Davis said, adding that “troubled” is the only word in the phrase that’s accurate. “The ‘asset relief program’ has yet to occur.”

The problems with the U.S. Treasury Department’s program are that its goals and rules have changed since its inception last fall, it’s poorly defined and it’s caused collateral damage to healthy banks.

Davis said he would be “darned” if Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank would suffer collateral damage from the government’s “sloppy attempt at nationalizing the [banking] industry.”

Well, you have to take into account that Mr. Davis was (A) in Minnesota and (B) speaking to Lutherans, so it’s understandable that when he wants to curse, he, instead, comes off sounding like a character from Fargo with just a hint of Sarah Palin thrown into the mix. But gosh darn it, he was an outspoken cuss, wasn’t he? You betcha!

“There’s no ARP in TARP.” My new favorite catch-phrase. And Mr. Davis is my new favorite bank CEO.

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