Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan visited Portland on Thursday, telling a friendly crowd of local business leaders that the mega-bank has fully recovered from the financial crisis, and that it has implemented policies to prevent a repeat of the foreclosure epidemic that forced millions of Americans out of their homes.

“The industry’s in the healthiest condition it’s ever been,” he said at a luncheon organized by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Moynihan, speaking in an interview format led by chamber CEO Christopher Hall, covered a broad range of topics including interest rates, China and the global economy, government regulation and the bank’s philanthropy work. He also took questions from audience members about issues such as the minimum wage, the move to chip-embedded payment cards and recent changes to the way banks disclose mortgage terms to homebuyers.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank’s CEO said he believes the U.S. economy is structurally sound, but that lingering problems remain, such as China’s economic instability and congressional gridlock preventing the passage of a long-term budget.

Moynihan said banks now have adopted the bulk of new regulations stemming from the 2008 financial crisis. On Saturday, new bank disclosures of residential mortgage loan terms required by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act went into effect. The new disclosures are designed to make it easier for borrowers to understand their financial obligations, and to help them shop around for the best price.

Moynihan said that he hopes all of the new regulations will be fine-tuned over time to make them less onerous, particularly for smaller banks.

“We ought to get them out of that regulation, frankly, and let them police each other,” he said.

Asked what Portland can do to grow its economy, Moynihan said business leaders should capitalize on the current “renaissance” that has placed the city on numerous lists of the best places for dining, tourism and lifestyle. While Maine lacks the resources to compete with other states on corporate incentives, he said, it does have an advantage when it comes to quality of life.

“You’ve got to win on sustainable value, versus one-time (perks),” Moynihan said.

He also offered his opinion about the ballot initiative to raise Portland’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Moynihan said he favors raising the minimum wage, but not in a drastic manner that is likely to force smaller businesses to cut jobs.

“I think the fair thing is just give them time and keep the pressure on people,” he said.

Some luncheon attendees lauded Bank of America for continuing to make substantial charitable contributions while it rebuilds its business following the Great Recession. Moynihan said he is particularly proud of the bank’s participation in efforts to stop the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

“We did that because Americans do great things,” he said.


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