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Bank regulation: CEOs a sorry sight as regulators crack down

Bank regulators are getting tougher. There's no surer sign of that than when senior executives apologize in public. Sandy Weill, chairman and CEO of Citigroup, was the high-profile executive seeking forgiveness last month for his firm's dealings with Enron.

But for sheer contrition he was surpassed by James Rohr, chairman, CEO and president of Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank. "I'm disappointed by these events," said Rohr, in a July 18 conference call to discuss second-quarter earnings. "This falls on my watch, and I regret the impact it's had on our employees and investors. This is an issue I sincerely do apologize for, and we're going to make sure this doesn't happen again."

He wasn't talking about results - they were solid. He was referring to the fallout from PNC being forced by the Securities&Exchange Commission to unwind three special purpose vehicles set up in 2001 to take some of the bank's troubled assets off its balance sheet. Of these $500 million was loans and $160 million private equity investments, with another $500 million in cash and zero-coupon treasury bills. The regulator acted in January, just after PNC had released its earnings figures for 2001.

CreditSights' banks analyst David Hendler said at the time that "through its preferred stock interest [in the SPVs], which we estimate comprised 75% of the subsidiary's capitalization, PNC was buying back its own loans from PNC and, it seems, at artificially high prices."

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