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White House says CEO meeting was productive

March 28, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Top executives of the nation's biggest banks said Friday after meeting with President Obama that they would work with the administration on its economic recovery plans but want more specifics from the White House.

Bankers said an administration proposal to jump-start lending, a problem at the heart of the industry's crisis, was encouraging.

"People are looking at that. It's positive," Morgan Stanley's John Mack told the Associated Press in an interview. "We think it's the right thing to do, and now we just need to get the details."

The administration announced a program this week to help banks free themselves of so-called toxic assets. These investments have tied up capital and kept them from resuming more normal lending to consumers and businesses.

The plan calls for the administration to partner with private investors, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to buy as much as $1 trillion in toxic assets from banks. One concern is whether private investors will participate and whether banks would be willing to sell the assets at the reduced prices they will be offered for them.

Bankers described a positive meeting and pledged to work with Obama on restoring the economy's health.

"We want to see the American recovery," said Robert Kelly, of Bank of New York Mellon Corp.

Obama invited chief executives from the 15 largest banks to the White House to discuss the economy and other issues.

Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Vikram Pandit of Citigroup Inc., Ken Lewis of Bank of America Corp., John Stumpf of Wells Fargo & Co., John Koskinen of Freddie Mac and Kenneth Chenault of American Express Co. were among those who attended. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner met privately with the CEOs on Thursday night, and sat in on Friday's meeting.

Obama urged the CEOs to deal with their toxic assets. They also discussed the administration's plan to stem the rise in home foreclosures, its proposal for tighter regulation of the financial industry, executive compensation and the financial bailout program, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

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