Obama Calls on Banks to Make “Extraordinary Commitment” to Rebuild the Economy

By Lindsey Ellerson

Dec 14, 2009 2:23pm

From Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:

President Obama emerged from an hour-long meeting with bank executives at the White House and said his main message to the heads of the nation’s top financial firms was, “that America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry and now that they're back on their feet we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy.”

Mr. Obama outlined, as communicated to the bankers, how he believes it is their responsibility to help: by increasing lending and stopping their opposition to financial regulatory reforms.

“That starts with finding ways to help credit-worthy small and medium-size businesses get the loans that they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs,” Obama said.

The president said that he hears that bankers are willing to lend but face a shortage of credit-worthy individuals and businesses. He said that while “no one wants banks making the kinds of risky loans that got us into this situation in the first place,” he expects banks to explore every responsible way to help get our economy moving again.

“Given the difficulty business people are having as lending has declined and given the exceptional assistance banks received to get them through a difficult time, we expect them to explore every responsible way to help get our economy moving again.”

The president said he is getting too many letters from small businesses who say they are credit worthy, but they are still having problems getting the loans.

“I urged these institutions here today to go back and take a third and fourth look about how they are operating when it comes to small business and medium-sized business lending.”

The president said that there was broad support around the table about the need for financial regulatory reform to update the rules of the road for the financial industry.

“The problem is, there's a big gap between what I'm hearing here in the White House and the activities of lobbyists on behalf of these institutions or associations of which they're a member up on Capitol Hill.  I urged them to close that gap, and they assured me that they would make every effort to do so.”

The president said it is not his intent to vilify one person or industry  — to not dictate to them or micromanage their compensation practices.

“My job is to ensure that consumers and the larger economy are protected from risky speculation and predatory practices, that credit is flowing, that businesses can grow, and jobs are once again being created at the pace we need.”

In working together towards a lasting recovery, Mr. Obama said, “we rise and fall together: banks and small businesses, consumers and large corporations.  And we have a shared interest in working together to ensure a lasting recovery that will benefit all of us and not just some of us.”

Those in today’s meeting were: Ken Chenault, President and CEO, American Express, Richard Davis, Chairman, President, and CEO, US Bancorp, Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JP Morgan Chase, Richard Fairbank, Chairman and CEO, Capital One, Bob Kelly, Chairman and CEO, Bank of New York Mellon, Ken Lewis, President and CEO, Bank of America, Ron Logue, Chairman and CEO, State Street Bank, Gregory Palm, Executive Vice President and Chief Counsel, Goldman Sachs, Jim Rohr, Chairman and CEO, PNC, and John Stumpf, President and CEO, Wells Fargo.

Due to inclement weather in Washington, D.C. Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs, John Mack, Chairman and CEO, Morgan Stanley and Dick Parsons, Chairman, Citigroup were connected to the meeting via conference call.

-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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