Defining responsibility down at Ally

April 26, 2011, 8:01 PM UTC

In the shameless self-promotion department, Ally Financial now wants us to applaud whenever it manages to obey the law.

Here is a quick look at the firm’s brand and marketing strategy, outlined in a presentation at Tuesday’s annual shareholder meeting.

Spinning the wheel
  1. Do Right – Advocate, strive for customer satisfaction
  2. Be Obviously Better – intelligent experience, win-win, be a challenger
  3. Operate in a safe and sound manner at all times

Points one and two don’t actually mean anything, though they will score big in any buzzword bingo games that happen to break out. But point three is sort of interesting.

Ally doesn’t mention it, but banks are obliged by law to operate in a safe and sound fashion — “at all times,” if you can believe it. What a heavy burden these guys shoulder!

This is because the banks enjoy the privilege of the taxpayer-backstopped federal deposit insurance fund. Ally has never failed – another point its marketing materials didn’t mention, though who knows, maybe that’s a surprise for next month – but it did take a $17 billion bite out of taxpayers when Treasury bailed it out in December 2008.

The firm hopes to begin repaying us with an initial public offering this year, but it still has some debts to society. Ally was among the 14 banks scolded this month by the Fed for its half-baked response to the foreclosure crisis.

As part of that wrist slap heard round the Beltway, Ally had to agree – without admitting or denying the allegations, natch – to end what the Fed deemed “unsafe or unsound banking practices.”

So yes, Ally promises to operate safely and soundly “at all times” – and who’s not to believe it, given a proud track record that stretches back all of two weeks?

How far the unmighty have fallen.

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