John Allison laments the government's repeated efforts to bolster Citigroup Inc., saying each attempt to stabilize the New York company only stokes nationalization fears and panics bank investors.
"It would have been better for regulators to say they would let Citi fail" and detail how they would address that scenario, the retired BB&T Corp. chief executive said.
Allison, long a skeptic of the government's efforts to address the financial crisis, said regulators would fare better taking a 90-day hiatus from trying to fix everything.
"I think the economy would come back if they would go away for a while," he said in an interview Thursday. "The markets need stability. The regulators have huge authority, but they have scared everybody with the ambiguities of their 'program of the week.' We don't need any more programs."
Yet Allison, who is weeks away from starting a new job as a Wake Forest University finance professor, acknowledged that bank executives have much to learn from the crisis, particularly when it comes to addressing the public. Allison said one mistake is making Draconian job cuts. "Don't overreact" with layoffs, he said. "The issue is that they end up ripping up the company without fixing the problem. Executives have to take a longer-term perspective that will make the business sounder in the long term." BB&T has been cutting jobs, but it has largely done so by not filling vacant posts.