Wisconsin’s largest bank is the subject of significant boycotts and protests recently, and some critics of these boycotts say unfairly – since it is individuals who work there that have donated to Scott Walker, not the bank itself. M&I used to be a pillar of the Wisconsin community and economy – a large-scale lender and supporter of local development and investment, make no mistake. Times have changed for M&I, and the decision of these high level executives to throw significant amounts of money at Scott Walker demonstrates not only the failure of this bank, but the need for campaign finance reform and accountability – justifying the boycotts and protests.
M&I is a failed institution – let’s be clear on that point. Were it not for a $1.7 billion bailout in the form of TARP money from the Federal Government (which M&I made no announced plan to pay back), the bank would have gone under. $1.7 BILLION – how many teacher’s salaries is that? The cause of this failure is clear. After legislation was passed in 1991 easing federal banking regulations allowing for “smaller”, state based banks such as M&I to engage in interstate banking – and this is important – real estate speculation, these same executives who “invested” in Scott Walker decided to take M&I into the Arizona Real Estate market. As we all know, that was a bad idea. The real estate bubble burst, and M&I was left with huge amounts of unsecured, bad debt and worthless real estate. So bad, in fact, that without the $1.7 billion in TARP money, they would have folded.
It is no coincidence that a vast majority of Scott Walker’s campaign contributions came from Real Estate and related financial quarters (www.followthemoney.org). He has promised, and is attempting to deliver, an environment in the state that favors these practices and investments that the middle class taxpayer is being forced to support. M&I is being purchased by Bank of Montreal in a multi-billion dollar deal – which leaves the outgoing CEO of M&I, who presided over the failure of what our Grandparents knew as a strong local bank, with a $12 million dollar golden parachute. Thanks for a job well done.
M&I failed Wisconsin by being indicative and part of what has caused our fiscal crisis. They are one of the reasons the current powers in the Capitol are turning middle class against middle class. The financial failure of the last decade wasn’t caused by greedy public employees. It was caused by greedy financial executives who tried to make a fast million (or billion) in legalized gambling sanctioned by the Federal Government. Instead of building the state’s economy, they were willing to shatter it for their own personal gain. They continue to attempt to gain by putting people like Scott Walker into office – by breaking the unions and splitting the middle class, nothing stands in the way of potential single party dominance in the state. First the state, then the nation. Banks and institutions whose executives choose practices that M&I have engaged in to the ill of the people they serve (or should serve – it’s our money they play with) deserve our boycotts and protests.
The following is a great link to a website that is an independent financial institution monitoring group, based in Wisconsin. They not only update news, but can help in finding locally based, responsible lenders. www.banksterusa.org
The M&I story is being replayed all over this country, as the powers that be work towards keeping us all at bay and under their financial umbrella – dependent on them. They should be dependent on us.