Boy oh boy, are banks taking a beating on the big screen.
In his latest movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story," Michael Moore skewers banks for paying excessive bonuses, collecting life insurance on deceased executives and pulling pack on lending after they received TARP money.
A new documentary on the subprime crisis, "American Casino," takes lenders (Wells Fargo in particular) to task for engaging in "reverse redlining" - making high-interest loans to minorities that might have qualified for prime loans.
Both films have their share of distortions or omissions. Moore, for example, fails to mention that many TARP recipients have already paid the money back, and neither film draws much distinction between banks and the unregulated mortgage lenders that had a huge hand in precipitating the financial crisis.
Still, the audience applause at the end of Moore's movie would seem to indicate that bankers have a ways to go before they fully regain consumers' trust.
No doubt, some banks are making strides in becoming more customer friendly, particularly when it comes to plain-language disclosures on mortgages and other products.
But clearly their public image is still suffering, which is why it's so puzzling that bankers and their trade groups have continued to oppose nearly every aspect of regulatory reform.
Given the trauma our economy has been through these last two years it seems perfectly reasonable that there should be more regulatory oversight of consumer products, from mortgages to credit cards to overdrafts on debit purchases. And how can anyone make the argument that credit default swaps and other derivatives now largely hidden from public view should not be traded on an exchange?
I understand these comments might not go over well with some readers. Several bankers have said to me in recent months that, as the editor of a banking publication, I have an obligation to stand up for the industry in its fight against excessive government intrusion.
At times I have. But I'm a citizen first and, believe me, I would much rather have my debit card rejected at the point of sale than be surprised with a $35 overdraft fee on that $3.99 fish taco I had for lunch. If that means the end of free checking and a monthly maintenance fee for falling below a minimum balance, so be it.
There's nothing more important to bankers than customers' trust, but fiercely opposing new consumer protections seems to be a funny way of showing it. Bankers don't need to listen to me, though. They need to listen to their audience.