Richard Kovacevich, Wells Fargo CEO, has had plenty to say recently regarding the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and not much of it has been good.
He also called the government's plan to stress test 20 of the nation's largest banks (using models that show a much weaker economy than presently estimated) asinine.
According to Mr. Kovacevich, Wells was forced to cut its dividend after the government retroactively added curbs to the TARP.
“Is this America, when you do what your government asks you to do and then retroactively you also have additional conditions?” Kovacevich said. “If we were not forced to take the TARP money, we would have been able to raise private capital at that time” and not needed to cut the dividend to preserve cash, he said.
Lenders including Bank of America, U.S. Bancorp and Goldman Sachs Group have said they want to give back the money. More than 500 banks, insurers and credit-card companies received almost $300 billion under the program.
While Bank of America aims to return the funds, Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis praised TARP last week for preventing a financial “meltdown.” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said last week that it helped stabilize the banking system.
Kovacevich said the government is still making mistakes as it tries to save the industry. The “stress test,” designed to determine which of the 19 largest U.S. banks need more capital, provides opportunities for short-sellers to drive down bank stocks and can hurt confidence in the system even more, he said.
“We do stress tests all the time on all of our portfolios,” Kovacevich said. “We share those stress tests with our regulators. It is absolutely asinine that somebody would announce we’re going to do stress tests for banks and we’ll give you the answer in 12 weeks.”