Did you know that the Local Area Watch is the only blog in the country with critical reporting of Fifth Third’s financial difficulties? We are the number one site in that category. We also rank pretty highly among all newsites in reportage on Fifth Third. We certainly top the local rag, the Grand Rapids Press.
To keep up, the Press finally did a big story on Fifth Third in the Sunday edition. Reporter Chris Knape noted critical remarks from Peter Secchia and John Canepa about Fifth Third’s acquisition of Old Kent Bank, but mostly it was a whitewash of the big bank’s problems. Knape had nothing to say about Fifth Third’s environmental liabilities arising from its ownership of 940 Monroe L.L.C., the “Toxic Towers” development company or about the Federal Reserve forcing is to disgorge the trust department it acquired from Old Kent or about the City of Grand Rapids pulling its pension funds from the bank or about the Old Kent shareholder revolt Fifth Third rising star Kevin Kabat suppressed or about the collapse of Fifth Third’s stock in the wake of L.A.W.’s report of large-scale bank fraud to the U.S. Justice Department.
Whether it was because Knape never wrote about these festering wounds Fifth Third suffered from its purchase of Old Kent or because his editor spiked any really bad news about the bank, I don’t know. I do know that the story lauded the bank’s “pro-consumer” Pyrex giveaway (while gliding over its loss of one-quarter of the local market share and making no mention of its expulsion of small business customers). I also noticed that the story featured a logarithmic scale to chart the rise and fall of Fifth Third’s stock over the past five years, which has the effect of visually reducing the magnitude of its recent loss of one-half its value. Well, did any of us really expect critical business reporting from the Press?