October 6, 2009

Bankers’ Code of Ethics

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:51 pm

Several years back, there was a news story about an old guy who would buy a new car quite frequently.  When it was discovered that he was senile and that a salesperson at the car dealership was taking advantage of the poor old fellow, some consumer protection laws were passed and it was established that sharpies had to be forbidden by law from exploiting vulnerable older citizens.

It used to be that at the bank this columnist uses, they had a service called “overdraft protection” and money in the savings account would automatically be transferred to the checking account to cover any shortage of funds if the balance in the checking account couldn’t cover a check and the money in the savings account could make up for the shortfall. 

Now, following a round of banking industry bonuses for their ineptness during the recent financial industry collapse, the banks are charging $10 for each instance of overdraft protection. 

What type of customer would be the most likely to make a math mistake and need overdraft protection?  Do you think that there would be an inordinately high number of AARP members getting dinged by these charges?  If so, why don’t the laws inspired by the serial new car buyer with Alzheimer’s disease apply?  Did the law have a specific exemption for greedy bankers?

If there seems to be an inconsistency in the fact that automobile dealers can’t (by law) take advantage of older customers with diminished metal acuity, then should the same standards of business ethics be applied to the poor distraught bankers who came perilously close to failure recently and now need every small amount of profit they can squeeze out of the citizens in a strapped for cash period of history?

If what the bankers are doing qualified as an example of immoral business ethics wouldn’t some of the nation’s highest ranking clergymen be pointing out those transgressions to their congregations and denouncing such a move as a variation on the stealing principle?  Don’t bankers go to church every Sunday (and sit in the front row)? 

If the bankers were doing something reprehensible, wouldn’t the clergy revive the spirit of chasing the money changers from the temple and speak up?

If what the bankers are doing is not within the guidelines of moral responsibility wouldn’t some crusading journalist with a national audience (if only Tim Russert were still alive, eh?) be pointing out any such financial malfeasance? 

Isn’t not owning a company with your own personal accounting department God’s way of implying that old folks didn’t work enough during their period of employment?  Don’t clergy and bankers concur that the old <I>caveat emptor</I> still applies?

If the only one to point out that the transition from free “overdraft protection” to the automatic deduction of $10 per incident seemed, especially after the tax payers subsidized all those bonuses, a bit like a variation of price gouging aimed at the weak and infirmed, was just a minor web pundit, wouldn’t that indicate that it was more likely a case of illusions of grandeur run amok rather than a journalistic variation of the boy who pointed out that the emperor’s new clothes were nonexistent?

Obviously, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, et al would be standing by with some major Republican talking points, ready to come to the defense of the (maligned?) bankers if there were any possibility that consumers would take any such allegations seriously.  Would bankers whose methodology and morality is being questioned by “the World’s Laziest Journalist” really be able to sneak by the rest of America’s journalism community unnoticed?  Shouldn’t the professionals’ paychecks be a tip-off as to who is (extreme) right and who is wrong?

Rather than editorialize and urge folks to remedy this (misperceived?) injustice, this columnist will ask the audience to render a verdict.  Should copies of this column be forwarded to the reader’s representative in Congress accompanied by a request for a legislative remedy or should the columnist just take a chill pill and do an update on the work being done to bring the nation closer to the day when the George W. Bush Predidential Library is dedicated?

(Can a drawing of Snidely Whiplash be used as an illustration for this column?)

In the film “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) coined an American business maxim by saying:  “Greed is good.”

Now, the disk jockey will again play “Take the Money and Run” and we will try to scram.  Have a “get out of jail free card” type week.

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