Commentary

Shocker: Companies want to be shielded from competition

Banking industry representatives on Monday pressed federal lawmakers to block a bid by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to open a bank, a move they say would damage the industry and blur the divide between banking and commerce. A coalition of 32 groups, including the American Bankers Association representing the nation’s largest banks, sent a letter to every member of Congress urging them to step in before federal banking regulators act on the matter. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is weighing an application Wal-Mart filed last summer to open a state-chartered, limited-service bank in Utah, also known as an industrial loan company. “We urge you to act so that Congress is making these policy decisions,” the groups’ letter states. “Until Congress is able to pass legislation on ILC policy, we hope you will insist that the FDIC reject Wal-Mart’s application or, at least, hold it until Congress has the opportunity to consider the policies at stake and legislate.”

Article here. Here’s an industry letter we’ll never see: Dear Members of Congress, We realize it would be in our financial interest if you would prohibit Wal-Mart from competing with us, but instead of continuing the ugly process of rigging the laws to favor incumbent businesses, we will stand up for the larger, more important principle that laws should treat all companies equally and that consumers, not congressmen, should decide which firms succeed which and fail. [Pause for Happy Hour. Resume writing] Don’t get me wrong, we could’ve totally come up with some bullshit reason why scratching our backs would be in the “consumers’ best interest.” You should have heard this line about “blurring the divide between banking and commerce” we were going to use, but every time we said it we just busted up laughing. Plus we figured no one would buy it since the FDIC already OKed Target to run a bank and the world didn’t end or anything. So this time we’re going to try the honest approach and see how it goes. Hell, the extra competition might even whip us into shapeââ?¬â??been sorta just going through the motions lately. You know how it goes. Hey, next time you’re in town, I’m buying. Catch you later, The Banking Industry

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.