In an article in WSJ Kenneth Lewis, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Bank of America corrects some conventional wisdom about banks and the financial crisis.  A few points:

– The banks aren’t lending. This claim is simply not true. Yes, banks have tightened lending standards after a period in which standards were too lax. But, according to Federal Reserve data, bank credit has actually increased over the course of this recession, and business lending is trending up modestly so far in 2009. Also, mortgage finance volume is booming as a result of low interest rates. What’s gone from the system is the easy credit that got us into this mess, as unregulated nonbank lenders have disappeared, and the market for many asset-backed securities has all but dried up. Most banks are making as many loans as we responsibly can, given the recessionary environment.

– The banks are insolvent. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen fewer than 50 bank failures. That compares to about 2,000 failures or closings of commercial banks or savings institutions between 1986 and 1991. There may be more to come, but the vast majority of banks will weather this economic storm.

– The only way to fix the banks is to nationalize them. This is a misguided premise. The announcement of nationalization would undermine confidence in the financial system and send shudders through the investment community. Politicizing lending decisions and the credit allocation process would be destructive for the economy. Nationalization also would give the false impression that all banks are insolvent. We agree with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s statement that nationalization of banks is not necessary to stabilize the banking system.

Much more at the link.

Thanks to Daily Beast

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