They said goodbye to the Bank of New England this week.
When a bank dies there is no ceremony, no tears are shed and few mourn. It gets buried with only a small obituary in the local paper.This is wrong. A bank is a loss to everyone when it dies, and the least it deserves is a eulogy.
Something like this:
We are gathered here today to bid farewell to the National Bank That Couldn't, which passed away just days ago when it ran out of funds.
This is a sad moment for those of us who knew the Bank That Couldn't over the years and were befriended by it time and time again.
The Bank That Couldn't did not die because it couldn't get a money transfusion. It died of a broken heart, when the people it loaned money to didn't pay it back. People say that the bank had only itself to blame for its demise. But it is cruel to speak this way about the dead. Sure, it made mistakes, but no more than Chase, Citibank or the Bank of New England. It invested its depositors' savings in the future at a time when there was no future there.
I'm not here today to talk about the bad things that happened to the Bank That Couldn't. I'd like to say something good about it. This was a happy bank. Even when its loan officers made grievous errors you could still hear singing in the back rooms.
I remember walking into the bank and saw Jed Tobin, the vice president, sitting behind his desk, splitting his sides.
"What's the joke?" I asked.
"We were holding $30 million in junk bonds and the department store chain defaulted on them."
"What's so funny about that?"
"The investment bankers offered to sell us $30 million more."
"I still don't see the humor."
"The bank's officers bought them."
This valiant institution not only invested in our little town but in Argentina as well. If you deposited more than $50,000 you got an Evita Peron calendar. Everyone had faith in the bank because its marble floors were cleaned twice a week, and the bronze bars on the tellers' cages were polished every day.
When it was in serious trouble it did not cry and whimper - like a savings and loan.
Why, many of you are asking, did the Bank That Couldn't pass away? It died because it lost the will to live. It was driven to its death by heartless examiners and federal insurance accountants who cared more about the bank's books than they did about the people who owned its stock.
When it couldn't take the pain any longer, it pulled down the blinds, closed its eyes and stuck its head in a 24-Hour Deposit Box. We'll all miss the Bank That Couldn't.
Perhaps the money is gone, but as we all know there is more to life than a bank having money. Let us hope the Bank That Couldn't will find eternal peace in the big Chapter 11 in the sky.