• Moynihan said government should help people stabilize financially and not restart the economy until adequate testing is available
  • Trump held a series of conference calls to glean ideas on how to restart the economy
  • Trump has floated May 1 as a target date for restarting the economy

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan urged President Trump on Wednesday not to push to open the U.S. economy until he is sure it can stay open in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Moynihan, part of
Trump’s new advisory committee on reopening the economy, said the federal government should concentrate on ensuring financial stability rather than returning to business as usual.

“You have to work hardest to protect the people who are fighting the war for you,” Moynihan told reporters, referring to healthcare workers who have been overstretched in caring for COVID-19 victims. Secondly, Politico quoted him as saying, protections are needed for people who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

"We're trying to give them the advice. The more you can keep people stabilized in their ability to meet their obligations and keep their family fed and housed and things like that, that is what you should be focused on until you can reopen the economy," he said during an earnings conference call, adding he’s in no hurry to call his employees back to work.

BofA (BAC) reported a 45% decline in first quarter profits and said it was bracing for big loan losses.

The president held a series of conference calls, seeking advice from leaders in virtually every sector of the economy. The Wall Street Journal reported business leaders echoed Moynihan’s advice, urging Trump to wait until the nation’s testing capacity was sufficient to keep spread of the virus under control.

Executives on the first of the calls, which included representatives from General Motors, Apple, McDonald’s, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil and Lockheed Martin, also raised the question of liability if a worker takes ill after coming back to work.

No dates were raised during the call, the Journal said, but Trump has floated May 1 as a target date.

Trump later characterized the series of four calls as preoductive.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has called that May 1 target overly optimistic.

“The notion that there’s a control room in the West Wing and this group will gather around the president and say ‘Go ahead press the button, sir, we’re going to restart’—that’s not how the U.S. economy works,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, told the Journal.

Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan
Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan REUTERS