Friday, November 14, 2008

Banking on It

Calculated Risk reports that Hartford Financial Group, which until now was chiefly an insurance company, "has applied to convert to savings-and-loan status." It also plans to buy Federal Trust Corp., a Florida bank, for $10 million.

The business plan here is to remake Hartford into a bank so it can nuzzle up to the Treasury Department's trough for "$1.4 to $3.4 billion" in bank bailout money. Better hurry. The "mayors of Philadelphia, Phoenix and Atlanta" are elbowing in line, too.

Normally, of course, no sane business, city, or individual would want to enter an industry as troubled as American banking seems to be. But thanks to Treasury Secretary Paulson's constantly-changing bailout scheme, pretty soon every business is gonna dress like a bank so it can get its snout in the taxpayers' trough.

Which raises an intriguing question. If, as Atrios teases, "we're all bank holding companies now" then who is left to be the customer?

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