John A. Allison, BB&T Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, voiced strong reservations about the government's plan to help the mortgage market.
In a letter to Congress dated Tuesday, Mr. Allison did not oppose government action outright. But he suggested changes to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposal to spend $700 billion to take mortgage assets off banks' balance sheets.
"The government should directly purchase housing assets, not real estate bonds," Mr. Allison wrote. "This would include lots and houses under construction."
The letter included 14 "key points" about the Treasury plan "from a healthy bank's perspective."
BB&T, one of the largest banking companies in the Southeast, has long been praised as a solid, conservatively run one. Its stock has climbed almost 30% this year.
However, Chris Mutascio, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc., wrote in an e-mail to clients responding to Mr. Allison's letter: "I can't help but wonder if Allison is 'talking up his book' when you consider BB&T has a very large exposure, relative to other large-cap banks, to land, develop, and construction loans."
Mr. Allison further demanded that fair-value accounting be changed immediately. "It does not work when there are no market prices," he wrote, and new accounting rules for mergers and acquisition should be deferred.
Other bankers, including Joseph R. Ficalora, New York Community Bancorp Inc.'s chairman and CEO, have said accounting rules are a major impediment for the mortgage market.
Mr. Allison wrote that he opposes "arbitrary limits on executive compensation" and the ad hoc insurance coverage for money market funds.
On Wednesday the CFA Institute urged Congress to reject requests for changes to fair-value accounting.
"Ceasing fair-value reporting will only serve to undermine the confidence of investors in our financial institutions and lead to a further crisis of confidence in our government and the regulatory bodies overseeing those institutions," the trade group of investment professionals said in a letter dated Thursday.
Mr. Allison wrote in his letter that the crisis Mr. Paulson intends to fight is isolated among "high-risk financial institutions and on Wall Street" rather than banks broadly. He advocated that "irrational competitors" be punished and perhaps eliminated by market forces.
He blamed the mortgage mess primarily on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The government should implement "a significant and immediate tax credit for purchasing homes," Mr. Allison wrote.
"There is no panic on Main Street and in sound financial institutions," he wrote. "While all financial intermediaries are being impaired by liquidity issues, this is primarily a bailout of poorly run financial companies."
He also wrote: "It is completely unclear why the government needs or should bail out insurance companies, investment banks, hedge funds, and foreign companies. The primary beneficiaries of the proposed rescue are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley."
Mr. Allison has taken public stands on political issues before. In January 2006, BB&T announced that it had discontinued lending to "commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls, and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain."
At that time Mr. Allison said in a press release, "The idea that a citizen's property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided. In fact, it's just plain wrong."