Bank of America, the nation’s largest financial institution and currently struggling with uncertainty about its viability and a severe drop in its stock price, announced a radical recovery plan yesterday to get it back on sound footing.
The bank is confiscating all funds currently held by customers in checking and savings accounts.
“We’re sitting on these billions and billions of dollars that people have given us to ‘hold’ for them,” said bank spokesperson Nancy Townsend. “The economic reality is that we simply have to expropriate these funds so that our investors can collect their five-cent quarterly dividends.”
Townsend said the unprecedented step of seizing customers’ accounts was not done without careful consideration of the consequences.
“Frankly, we think many people won’t even notice,” Townsend said. “We’re putting play money in all our ATMs, so it’s not like people won’t be able to withdraw something.”
When asked how a corporate giant could simply take people’s savings in order to prop up its balance sheets, Townsend said “it’s not that hard, really.”
“You walk into the vault, you load up everybody’s cash into a big truck, then drive it to a secret location,” Townsend said. “Probably the hardest part will be making sure none of the cash falls out of the truck and into the road.”
Customer deposits, estimated at over $1 trillion, will go a long way toward shoring up investors’ confidence in the bank’s ability to cover losses related to its acquisitions of Countrywide Finance and Merrill Lynch.
Customers’ confidence may suffer, however, though Townsend noted that the bank’s “long-standing policy of not giving a fuck what average depositors think” will stand it in good stead in the coming weeks.
“We always got bad service ratings from our clients anyway,” Townsend said. “Stealing their money shouldn’t make it all that much worse than it already is.”
The bank dismissed concerns that legal challenges to the unauthorized appropriation of funds could eventually scuttle the plan. The company is subject to a patchwork of state regulations throughout the country, and many of these consider grand theft to be a punishable offense.
“That’s a deregulation issue that we’re trying to address in Congress right now,” Townsend said. “We feel the restrictions that government has put on private businesses — dictating, for example, that we can’t just confiscate money that isn’t ours — are holding us back. Free enterprise has to be truly free if this country is to recover from its downturn.”
Townsend was further pressed to explain how, even if stealing were legalized, that Bank of America could morally justify wiping out millions of bank accounts, leaving tens of millions of Americans penniless.
“Look,” she said. “People walk into our branches and hand over their cash. They may ask questions about interest rates and withdrawal fees and stuff like that, but they never ask that we don’t steal their money. If someone asks that we don’t do that, then we won’t do it. For them, at least.”
Is there going to be any way at all that people can keep their money?
“If they can quote us the serial numbers on the bills they deposited, then we’ll give those bills back,” Townsend said. “If all they can do to identify their money is offer vague descriptions like ‘it was green’ or ‘it had a bunch of stars on it,’ then we’ll have to turn those folks away.”
Reaction to the bank’s recovery plan was generally positive on Wall Street, with the stock surging some 6% in after-hours trading, though less enthusiasm could be heard from those who had their life savings wiped out.
“My checking, my savings, my investments, they’re all gone,” said customer Al Cumming, who tried to withdraw $50 in pocket money from a bank branch in suburban Charlotte, N.C. “It’s absolutely criminal what they’re doing.”
“Too bad for him,” Townsend said of the reaction. “Just as we’re too big to fail, so too are we too big to jail.”