To the Editor:

Mark Twain once said that a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

It is not our practice to comment on the kind of speculation that characterizes your May 3 story ("B of A, NationsBank, 1st Union Bidding for Ford Unit," page 1) regarding the status of USL Capital, Ford Motor Co.'s highly successful commercial financing and leasing business.

However, your description of this unit's performance questions both your research and your objectivity, and I want to set the record straight.

Quoting unnamed analysts suggesting lackluster performance from this unit simply does not square with the facts. USL Capital has had an outstanding and unbroken string of record performances over the last five years.

What do you call pretax profits that have gone from $136 million in 1992 steadily upward to $300 million in 1995 - with 1996's first-quarter performance continuing to break all records in every key measure? Or returns on total equity that have gone from 9.3% in 1991 to 17.8% in 1995, or profit margins from 2.3% to 3.5% over that time?

Your reporting is not only inaccurate, it is unfair to USL Capital's dedicated, hardworking employees. Pretax profit per employee has gone from $140,000 to $469,000 since 1991. Does that sound like USL Capital has lost good performers?

On the contrary, the unit is characterized by a highly productive, loyal work force whose turnover rate remains in line with the industry average.

I can tell you unequivocally Ford has been exceedingly pleased by the performance of USL Capital and its outstanding employees, and it is very unfair to report otherwise.

If you are reluctant to take my word for it, how about that page 1 story American Banker published July 7, 1994, that profiled USL Capital during a period when it supposedly was faltering: "Ford's USL Capital Unit Has Its Engine Humming," said your headline, and you went on to call the purchase of USL Capital by Ford "a winner."

You also quoted a Moody's analyst saying that prior to Ford's acquisition the business was an "unfocused player." The analyst continued by saying that "what Jim Duff (USL Capital's chairman and chief executive officer) has brought is a sense of extreme discipline and focus."

I'm surprised and disappointed that American Banker chose to quote as an authority on our business a former employee of our First Nationwide thrift, sold more than a year ago. Your story does a disservice to your readers and is not worthy of the reputation American Banker has earned in the financial services industry.

Kenneth Whipple

President, Ford Financial Services Group Dearborn, Mich.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.