Banking: A Lesson from Detroit

No city suffered more from the Depression-era bank failures than Detroit. Only two banks survived those grim days. The city learned its lesson, and even now its banking community is proud of its reputation as possibly the most cautious and conservative in the nation. It was therefore all the more shocking to Detroiters when last week the Public Bank of Detroit went insolvent in the biggest U.S. bank failure since the 1930s.

Public Bank was set up in 1957 with an eye toward the fast-growing consumer-loan business. In 1965, the bank's stock...

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