One community bank in New York that I interviewed in September is taking $42 million, even though Sterling Bancorp (STL) didn’t make exotic loans and said it had plenty of liquidity even as big lenders were melting down. Here’s what Sterling chairman and CEO Louis Cappelli said about taking the bailout money in a :
Our decision to add to Sterling’s already solid capital base reflects our commitment to maintaining a strong balance sheet. At the same time, the additional resources will enhance our ability to serve our customers and community, continue to grow our lending and other banking businesses, and expand our capacity to pursue attractive opportunities in the future.
So it sounds like Sterling is using TARP money expand a healthy operation. Many people — myself included — are still unclear about whether TARP is meant to rescue insolvent banks, further strengthen healthy banks, or both. It’s also not clear whether the bailout is actually getting credit to worthy borrowers. The Associated Press recently asked 21 banks that got at least $1 billion each in TARP funds what they were using the money for, and all 21 refused to say.
So, here are my questions for you, small business owners: Is your bank on this list? Has your banker pulled back credit? If so, what have they told you why? Are the small and mid-sized banks on this list more transparent than the big ones the AP surveyed? If your bank took TARP money, is any of it flowing down to you as loans and lines of credit?