House puts heat on bank CEOs

Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is a member of the House Financial Services Committee

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: This morning, Congress will likely be lathering it on thick.
Bank CEOs go before a committee to testify about the massive cash infusion that took place last fall. Several of the executives say they loaned out more money because of it. But, of course, there've been lots and lots of criticism about where the money's gone, or the fact that there hasn't been much accountability.

We're joined by Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from the 5th District of Texas. He's a member of the House Financial Services Committee. Congressman, what's the first question you'd like to ask one of those CEOs?

Jeb Hensarling: Well, I would like to ask 'em, in some respects, what were they thinking in taking the taxpayer money and assuming that life could go on as usual? Having said that, I don't necessarily want this to turn into a public beheading of eight CEOs. A lot of the blame, frankly, belongs with Congress. Congress gave Treasury a blank check, Treasury turned around and essentially gave these banks a blank check. Congress should have written a law that required more transparency and more accountability, and that's where the real fault lays.

Chiotakis: If this cash infusion was supposed to increase lending, why do you suppose banks have been reluctant to do that?

Hensarling: Well, I think it was more than that. The theory was that to stop a bank panic, you had to have an infusion of capital, not necessarily that that would lead to more lending. Frankly, I want banks to make decisions about who they lend to. Part of the reason that we're in the economic challenge that we're in is that congressional policies attempted to force, incent or browbeat financial institutions into loaning money to people to buy homes who couldn't afford the homes. I don't want to repeat that mistake as we try to pull out of this mistake. There has to be accountability on what are they doing with the taxpayer money, and the taxpayer may make the decision he wants his money back.

Chiotakis: Representative Jeb Hensarling, 5th District of Texas. Thanks for taking time to speak with us this morning.

Hensarling: Thanks for having me.

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