I've said it before and I'll say it again: It makes me really queasy that banks are rushing to repay their TARP money because they want to brag about it to potential customers. As the Journal reports today, they're not likely to waste much time before making this pitch:
The repayments mark a dividing line between relatively healthy banks and others in far worse shape. The companies that returned their TARP money, ranging from credit-card issuers American Express Co. and Capital One Financial Corp. to regional banks BB&T Corp. and U.S. Bancorp, are expected to cite the givebacks when wooing customers.
Of course, getting out from pay restrictions is another major reason the banks have been so eager to give the money back. Neither strikes me as likely to be highly correlated with financial health, alas. (Though obviously the Fed insists on a certain level of health before it approves a payback.)