Bank of America burnishing its public image

Dec 16, 2009

"Fat cats" is what President Barack Obama called America's big banks, just before inviting them to the White House for some straight talk. After that meeting, Charlotte-based Bank of America made an announcement that seemed tailor-made to buff its image. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: What better way to shake the "fat cat" moniker than to offer something to the little guy? Bank of America says it will boost its loans to small businesses by $5 billion next year. Molly Brogan says that's welcome news. She's with the National Small Business Association. "While I do think it's a smart, you know, PR campaign, I think they're looking over their balance sheets in the last several years realizing their small business loans are down significantly," says Brogan. Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis said in a statement his company is determined to do its part to help the economy grow next year. UNC Charlotte banking expert Tony Plath says Lewis is sincere, but also has another goal: "Repairing some of the public damage that perhaps the last few years have caused." Plath notes Bank of America is now running new ads in heavy rotation on outlets including NPR. They tout a year-old commitment to lending in low income communities. Bank of America also recently repaid its $45 billion in TARP money, to further distance itself from "fat cat" status. Ironically, that means the bank can pay its executives more, which is important since CEO Ken Lewis is set to retire in two weeks and so far no one has agreed to take his place.