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Lend More, Obama Tells Bankers

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By BVN Staff –

President Barack Obama challenged top bankers Monday to explore “every responsible way” to increase lending, saying they were obliged to help after being rescued by taxpayers.

In a statement after more than an hour-long meeting with the executives, Obama said he reminded them that much of the financial crisis that took the U.S. banking system to the brink of collapse had been “of their own making.” He also exhorted the executives— both in private and in public—to drop their opposition to an overhaul of the nation’s financial industry.

“If they wish to fight commonsense consumer protections, that’s a fight I’m more than willing to have, “ Obama told reporters at the White House.

He also urged lenders to find creative ways to free up lending.

Obama said banks have benefited from bailouts and should use that strength to lend more money to consumer and businesses.

“But given the difficulty business people are having as lending has declined and given the exceptional assistance banks received to get them through a difficult time, “ he said, “we expect them to explore every responsible way to help get our economy moving again. “

Delay, he said, was not an option he was willing to consider as his administration has focused on digging out an economy that has left more than 15 million Americans out of work. Many Americans resent the help the government gave to wealthy bankers while seeming to ignore their difficulties. Bank of America chief executive Kenneth Lewis pledged to Obama that his bank would lend $5 billion more to small- and mid-sized businesses in 2010 than it did in 2009, the bank said. It said the move is part of the bank’s broader effort to support an economic recovery.

JPMorgan said last month that it would boost such lending by $4 billion.

Obama’s stern lecture came hours after Citigroup said that it was repaying $20 billion in bailout money it received from the Treasury Department in an effort to reduce government influence over the banking giant. The government will also sell its stake in the company.

The slow economy has businesses reluctant to expand—and makes banks more grim about their prospects. Loan applications are down.

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