Nationalize Banks? One Investor Says So Be It.

On Jan. 20, the same day Britain was fighting to avoid taking one or more of its banks under government control, Joe Balestrino, portfolio manager for Federated Investors, told anchor Dagen McDowell of Fox Business Network that he hoped for big moves from the incoming Obama administration, up to and including nationalizing some U.S. banks.

When McDowell asked him what he wanted from the incoming administration, Balestrino answered, “I think, in one word Dagen, ‘Action.’ That’s what we’ve been led to believe is coming and coming in large size. So it has to be meaningful and to the weakest part of the economy it has to be job-creating, so sustainable.”

Balestrino said that what’s been put forward so far, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and other measures aren’t enough on their own to ease the credit crunch.

“With all the problems we’re seeing in the banks, do we as a nation have enough money to even right the financial system?” McDowell asked.

“We do because at the end of it, we have unlimited taxation power – not that that’s the greatest outcome – but that’s behind us so we are still the safe-haven credit on the globe.” Balestrino answered. “You know, the TARP, the mortgage foreclosure assistance; is that enough? No. It will take the additional stimulus package and the number gets bigger and bigger, so there’s some hope out there.”

McDowell also asked about nationalization: “Do we wind up guaranteeing bank loans the way Britain did, do we start doing what we were supposed to do originally with the TARP money and buying up these distressed assets?”

“I think it’s both of those. In retrospect it would appear the market has said ‘We made a mistake with TARP,’” Balestrino said.

“TARP-1 looked pretty good [but] never got implemented, nor was there any accountability there,” Balestrino went on. “But to nationalization: you know we drew a line in the sand in Washington, D.C. and we stepped over the line. So now you have to save the big bank, and if that means the word ‘nationalization,’ that’s what it means. That’s what it’s already meant overseas in Europe and unfortunately it’s probably headed that way here.”

And what would a nationalized bank mean to investors?

“It makes you more comfortable owning the debt of banks,” Balestrino concluded.