As noted by the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), a steady stream of small banks are still lining up for government money.
Since May 31, 20 small banks have received a total of $164.1 million in taxpayer-funded capital, according to the Treasury’s latest available figures. Half of those banks got the money in the same week that 10 big financial institutions gave theirs back.
Analysts see no end in sight to the trend. The recession and borrowers are squeezing most of the 8,200 federally insured commercial banks and savings institutions in the U.S., so even a dollop of TARP funds could make a difference. Some banks are turning to the government to fill a void left by investors who are leery about pouring money into the sector, despite the rebound by bank stocks since early March.
Meanwhile, the rules and stigma of TARP that turned some executives such as J.P. Morgan Chairman and CEO James Dimon against the program are irrelevant to small institutions.
Their employees usually don’t fly on corporate jets or collect hefty bonuses that trigger outrage from taxpayers, customers and Congress. And curbs on dividend payments are a modest price to pay for greater assurance that the banks can plow ahead with their core mission to gather local deposits, lend them nearby and support local charities, some recent TARP recipients said.
It’s certainly a stretch to say the executive compensation restrictions are “irrelevant” to small institutions, but community banks generally don’t have the excesses that have drawn public and congressional scorn. With the deadline for smaller community banks to apply to participate under the TARP Capital Purchase Program extended until November 9, 2009, many institutions are taking a fresh look as to whether to apply, even as larger institutions are making a decision as to whether to seek to redeem the TARP investment they’ve already received.