Wearing the three hats of college professor, American Banker contributing editor, and public speaker can be tricky.

I always have to make sure that the sources of views and ideas presented to me informally during convention cocktail parties or in my finance class remain confidential. If I ever violated a confidence and quoted someone's off-the-record observation or complaint, my sources and friends would stop talking to me.

But I often hear things off the record that I really want to discuss in this space. Hopefully by withholding my sources' names I can share some of their insights without violating their trust.

From an investment banker: "When I go to meetings to discuss mergers and acquisitions, I often leave heartsick at the lack of consideration some bankers and board members have for their staffs. Some CEOs - but thankfully not all of them - worry only about their own perks and financial worth after a merger and couldn't care less about what happens to the staff members.

"One CEO was asked what would happen to his staff after a sale we were arranging for his bank. He responded: 'Why should I care? I paid them well while they worked for me. Their future is none of my concern.'

"Witnessing this is the worst part of my job."

From a bank chairman: "My bank has been making acquisitions to expand its territory and create a more compact and efficient organization.

"We went to an independent bank and made an offer we felt was fair. Obviously their management felt it was fair, because they accepted it. But now, instead of acting like they are part of our team and working for our common good, these people look at us as the enemy - as a big chicken to be plucked for perks, benefits, and boondoggle jobs.

"We went into the deal with our combined interests at heart. Why don't they have the same attitude?"

From a bank president: "We have frequent visits from consumer advocate organizations trying to get our bank to do more for this group or that.

"Many of them are legitimate. We have always tried to do more for our community than the Community Reinvestment Act requirements demand, and these people often point out valuable opportunities for us to do more. Their ideas help us serve the community and its disadvantaged people without hurting ourselves.

"But the representatives of too many consumer groups have a different agenda - blackmail. In effect, they tell us that if we become members of their group and pay hefty dues, they will leave us alone. But if we do not, we will be the target of their publicity and activities. We find this unconscionable."

From a bank regulator: "I am a public servant whose job is to protect the people from financial fraud and unfair practices. When I receive complaints from the public, I try to be impartial.

"But these days there is so much pressure on government units to do everything they can to protect the public from all sorts of abuses, both real and fictitious, that I am spending more and more of my time investigating and responding to ridiculous and even specious complaints.

"My job has become to protect my department from negative press reports, rather than to solve problems where the public truly needs my agency."


Mr. Nadler, an American Banker contributing editor, is a professor of finance at Rutgers University Graduate School of Management.

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