Activists weigh in on the bank crisis


7 On Your Side has been talking with consumer activists about this and other statements coming from the financial services sector.

For the past couple of weeks, the financial services industry has had its say, now it's time to hear from its critics. And in a recent report, they are not holding back.

The /*FDIC*/ won't publish its list of trouble banks, but other organizations comb through federal data and publishing their own.

The banking industry doesn't like it, saying average Americans may be unduly frightened.

"These are incredibly simplistic and misleading ratios. The great, great majority of banks who have had such ratios come though them with no problem what so ever. And frankly we think it is irresponsible to be circulating these lists with names on them as if they mean something," said Edward Yingling from the American Bankers Association.

"These are the people whose irresponsibility got us into this mess," said consumer activist Harvey Rosenfield.

Rosenfield is passionate about this. He says turnabout is fair play.

"A decade of speculation by these Wall Street financiers and all of a sudden they don't want us to speculate about which bank may go under," said Rosenfield.

San Francisco-based Consumer Action says this is an indication that the relationship between many financial institutions and their customers has become strained.

"They often think consumers aren't really capable of dealing with the information they need. It is a very contemptuous, arrogant attitude that unfortunately many financial institutions have taken towards their customers," said Joe Rideout from Consumer Action.

"This is a mental recession," said said Former Senator Phil Gramm.

Former Senator Gramm, who is now a vice chair of giant foreign bank, /*UBS*/, told the Washington Times he has little sympathy for those concerned with our economy.

"You just hear this constant whining, complaining. We sort of have become a nation of whiners," said Gramm.

Cable and late night television hosts tagged Gramm as clueless, consumer activists see something more sinister.

"When a guy like Phil Gramm says we are a nation of whiners it says a lot about him, but it is also a real window on what people like him think of those of us who are footing his bill," said Rosenfield.

"The way financial institutions treat their own customers is often like it is a holiday dinner and you are forced to sit at the kiddy table because you are not really worthy of participating in the adult discussions that are going on with the banks and their partners," said Rideout.

While we're on the subject of finance, just hours ago consumer action released its annual credit card survey.

We are going to have an expanded report on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.

Related link:

  • Consumer Action 2008 Credit Card Survey.

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