Banking's Crumbling Image

Bad loans are causing big troubles for America 's financial industry

Banks and bankers have long been considered the bedrock of American business. The sober executives dressed in dark blue and talked in hushed tones, as befitted their serious calling. Their judgment was considered Solomonic, and their financial institutions were believed to be as solid as the vaults in which their cash was stored.

No more. A surprising number of American bankers are now winning a reputation for bad loans, poor decisions and weak management. In the past six months, 22 banks have failed, and...

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