Banks Say They're Using Bailout Money for Loans

By JOHN DUNBAR | Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Some of the nation's largest banks sharing in the $700 billion government bailout of the financial industry tried to assure lawmakers Thursday they are using the money to make more loans and help financially strapped homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Barry L. Zubrow, chief risk officer with JP Morgan Chase, told the Senate Banking Committee that a portion of the $25 billion capital infusion it received from the Treasury Department was being deployed to "expand the flow of credit" and to assist with rewriting residential mortgages for up to 400,000 families.

Zubrow and executives with Goldman Sachs Inc., Bank of America and Wells Fargo & Co. told the committee that that none of the $85 billion they have received collectively from the government is being used to pay salaries or bonuses.

"The committee has asked whether (bailout) funds would be spent on executive compensation," said Jon Campbell, regional banking president for Wells Fargo & Co. in his testimony. "The answer is no. Wells Fargo doesn't need the government investment to pay for bonuses or compensation."

Despite the reassuring words, lawmakers pressed hard for commitments to more lending.

"Let me say as clearly as I can," said committee chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. "Hoarding capital and acquiring healthy banks are not – I repeat are not – reasons why Congress authorized $700 billion in emergency funding."

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he and other lawmakers are looking at requiring banks to make more loans as a condition for taking part in the $350 billion second half of the bailout. "Any new capital injections must come with tougher requirements," he said.

Treasury has already loaned out or committed $290 billion of the first half. Democrats are working on a bill they hope to pass next week that would devote another $25 billion to the beleaguered auto industry, with the specific intent of helping General Motors Corp. avoid bankruptcy.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said he was alarmed by reports of continued generous compensation packages and benefits for executives of companies getting bailout funds, as well as dividend bailouts to stockholders equal to more than half the bailout money they are getting.

"The intent of the bailout was to stabilize troubled financial institutions and help those businesses and individuals and Main Street affected by the credit freeze," said Johnson. "Those making the decisions on how to spend the $700 billion, and those receiving the funds, must remember this intended use.

Congress can block release of the second $350 billion. It can also rewrite the law to put new conditions on its use.

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