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An Open Letter to Bank CEOs

I hope you are sitting down when you read this—Obama isn’t Superman or God. He can point us in the right direction, but we’re going to have to pitch in to help get there, each and every one of us.

I’ll give you two simple things to do in this blog entry. But we can’t stop here. Write to us with your suggestions and strategies. We’d love to see ‘em no matter how big or how small. Anything that will help the cause—ours!

Both of the strategies that I’ll suggest here revolve around a simple concept: TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program, a.k.a. the bailout bill) was a loan, not a gift. But in the clumsy hands of Treasury Secretary Paulson, TARP became a gift to anyone who lined up at the trough because there was no accountability (“Heckuva job, Paulie!”).

Let’s not leave accountability to the SEC or government committees anymore. Let’s let everyone who gets a government handout know that we’re watching too.

Action #1: Write to the CEO of your bank or any bank that you are an investor in. My letter appears below:

“Dear Mr. Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America:
I was happy to see the government ride to your rescue. As an account holder with your bank, and as a citizen, I need to remind you that this money was not intended to clean up your balance sheet, provide bonuses or for executive perks. NO! It is money that must be recycled into the community in the form of loans to serve as a catalyst to increase overall economic activity. It is a loan, not a gift to you and you need to return the favor by loaning it to others in your community. I’ll be watching. Please don’t act in a way that will force me to move my assets to another financial institution.
Respectfully,
Bob Rosner

Action #2: When you are at work, explore what you can do to help the overall economy. An example, a friend of mine has an apartment building that went from 100% occupancy to 25% occupancy. She is now struggling to make her mortgage payments. She suggested to her bank that she could make interest only payments until her occupancy rate improved. The bank turned her down. What we need is more flexibility and more businesses looking to support the overall economy rather than just focusing on the company’s narrow interests. BTW, how will another foreclosed building help any bank? Or any community? Let’s all encourage our businesses to act in the best interest of everyone.

It was once said that what was good for GM was good for the country. I believe the opposite is now true. What is good for the country is now good for millions of businesses. We need to think about a bigger marketplace and how we can positively contribute to it.

So whatever your business, ask the question, what can we do to get all of us out of this mess? Can you avoid a massive layoff by exploring job sharing, unpaid sabbaticals and other options to keep more people working? Can you provide your products or services to people who are hurting at a discount? Does your company have a program to encourage employees to volunteer in the community?

To bastardize a famous statement, “Ask not what your government can bail out for you, ask what you can do for your community and country.” And keep asking.

I look forward to hearing your ideas and input. Let’s all get busy!

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Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and contributor to On The Money. He has been called “Dilbert with a solution.” Check out the free resources available at workplace911.com. You can contact Bob via bob@workplace911.com.


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