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Talk to the Wal

Apparently, Executive Editor Ivan Schneider isn't the only one who thinks The Bank of Wal-Mart isn't such a hot idea. Two U.S. Congressmen -- including Thomas Bliley, one of the forces behind the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act -- also responded to The WSJ's Wal-Mart editorial. Here are excerpts from their letters, which are available in their entirety at www.icba.org.

The historic separation between banking and commerce ... has benefited our economy and our financial safety nets over time.

In late 2001, Wal-Mart attempted to enter into a joint venture with Toronto Dominion Bank, but their proposal was rejected by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) due to a Wal-Mart business model in which the same cashier who sold the customer their cookies and milk would also be in charge of opening up that person's checking account and selling CDs.

--Congressman Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio)

In the U.S. system, banks are meant to be neutral arbiters of capital. They lend based on economic fundamentals and that leads to more-efficient economic development. Allowing a commercial company like Wal-Mart to own and operate a bank risks skewing that role. Because Wal-Mart is an active competitor in the commercial marketplace, the temptation for it to withhold loans from its competitors and steer funds toward firms with which it does business is likely to be overwhelming.

If a local community loses its hardware store to a distant retailer, that can be a problem. ... But a community that loses its local bank is doomed.

Imagine if Enron, Tyco or other companies had owned banks -- where would that have left us?

--Congressman Thomas Bliley (R-Va.)

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