The American Bankers Association asked the Treasury Department Thursday to clarify the purpose of its Capital Purchase Program and to extend the deadline to participate.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Ed Yingling, the trade group's president, said he was concerned about the program's lack of clarity and possible misperceptions among banks that participate.

"It is completely unfair to ask thousands of banks across the country — and they are being explicitly asked by their regulators to participate in a program — when the impact of the program on those banks is unknown," Mr. Yingling wrote.

He emphasized that the program is one banks do not need. Those that take the capital would be labeled as requiring government support, asking for a government handout, or subject to additional government requirements that could have perverse effects, he said. "Bankers across the country are extremely upset about the manner in which the CPP program is rolling out. These bankers believe they are being asked — in some cases pressured — to participate in a program they did not seek and do not need," he wrote.

He also suggested that the Treasury extend its deadline for applications from the current Nov. 14. This is a short period for making such an important decision, he said. He also took issue with the program's restriction on dividends while the government holds a stake in a bank. Halting dividends would probably devastate a bank's stock price, which could make the government warrants worth less or nothing at all, he said.

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