Flashback: When Merrill Lynch went after community banks’ lunch

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Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from an article in the Dec. 28, 1981, issue of American Banker. The underlying themes are salient today in light of all the different players trying to operate more like banks. (Hat tip @johnbuhr.)

A copy of the following letter from William W. Watson, president of the Bank of St. Joseph & Trust Co. of St. Joseph, La., came into this columnist's hands. The letter was addressed to the president of Merrill Lynch Ready Assets Fund in New York. It read:

“As your firm is now soliciting deposits from our trade area, we felt certain you would want to take your share of civic responsibility here in St. Joseph and actively participate in all the things that make our economy prosper, resulting in the production of the funds you solicit.

“Since a large corporation such as yours undoubtedly operates on a strict budget, I am taking the liberty of assisting you in preparing your 1982 budget by chronologically listing the activities you will want to include in your 1982 program.


1. Year's subscription to 10 newspapers for the nursing home.

2. Cocktail party for farmers in conjunction with equipment dealer.

3. Annual dues for Rotary Club, Development Association, Farm Bureau, and other civic associations for your officers.

4. Annual contribution to local Boy Scouts.

5. Contribution to Cotton Producers Association to aid them at their annual convention.

6. Donation to high school bank uniform fund raiser.

7. Donation to local DAR Chapter.

8. Purchase of 10,000 suckers for children of customers.

9. Send several officers to seminars to learn about Community Reinvestment Act.''

The letter then lists February and March expenditures of a similar nature and concludes:

“I suppose you understand what I am talking about by now, so I won't spend any more time on this. Have to get busy with my program for the Rotary Club and be prepared to answer a lot of questions about money market mutual funds.”

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