A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 31, 2009
“If you owe a bank thousands, you have a problem; owe a bank millions, the bank has a problem”

There’s an old banking proverb: “If you owe the bank thousands (a small amount), then you have a problem. If you owe the bank millions (a large amount), then the bank has a problem.” The proverb is also given as: “If you owe the bank thousands (a small amount), then the bank owns you. If you owe the bank millions (a large amount), then you own the bank.” THe proverb became associated with New York real estate developer Donald Trump and his money troubles of the early 1990s.

In 1947, Time magazine attributed the quotation to economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946): “Before his death, Lord Keynes had spoken his mind about those sterling debts: ‘If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy. If you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy.’” Keynes, in 1945, had called this an “old saying”:

“The old saying holds. Owe your banker £1000 and you are at his mercy; owe him £1 million and the position is reversed.”

The quotation means that if someone owes a bank a large amount of money, it is no longer that person’s fate at risk, but also the bank’s fate. The bank realizes that it has a financial interest in waiting for better times and seeing that its large creditor does well, rather than pressing immediately for a few pennies on each borrowed dollar. The phrase became very popular in the 1990s and 2000s and was frequently applied to the United States government and large American firms “too big to fail.”

Oil executive John Paul Getty (1892-1976) is frequently attributed with saying: “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.”


Wikiquote: John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes of Tilton (5 June 1883 - 21 April 1946) was a British economist whose ideas, known as Keynesian economics, had a major impact on modern economic and political theory and on many governments’ fiscal policies.
(...)
Sourced
The old saying holds. Owe your banker £1000 and you are at his mercy; owe him £1 million and the position is reversed.
. “Overseas Financial Policy in Stage III” (1945), Collect Writings 24:258

Time magazine
Whose Mercy?
Monday, Feb. 17, 1947
(...)
Before his death, Lord Keynes had spoken his mind about those sterling debts: “If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy. If you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy.”

Google Books
The Future of the Sterling System
By Paul Bareau
Published by Institute of Economic Affairs
1958
Pg. 26:
“If you owe your bank manager £1000”, he (Keynes—ed.) used to say, “you are at his mercy. If you owe him £1000000 he is at your mercy.”

Google Books
The Politics of Defense Contracting
By Gordon Adams
Transaction Publishers
1981
Pg. 66:
Banks themselves may come to depend to some extent on the fate pf the company: “If you owe the bank ten thousand dollars, the bank owns you; if you owe the bank a million dollars, you own the bank.”

16 April 1982, Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Free Press, pg. 31, col. 5:
As Lord Keynes so eloquently put it, “When you owe the bank $100 you have a problem; when you owe the bank $100 million, the bank has a problem.”

Time magazine
The Wobbly World of Banking
By Jay Branegan; Alexander L. Taylor III; Frederick Ungeheuer
Monday, Sep. 06, 1982
If you owe your bank manager a thousand pounds, you are at his mercy; if you owe him a million pounds, he is at your mercy. —John Maynard Keynes

Many of Keynes’ economic theories are today in eclipse, but his shrewd observation on the relationship between bankers and borrowers still rings true. In fact, some of the world’s leading financial institutions are painfully learning the accuracy of this aphorism. After having extended $845 billion in loans to debtor nations over the past decade, the bankers now find themselves struggling to keep their borrowers solvent.

20 March 1987, Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate, “Question of who owns whom here”:
That’s a variation of that old saying that if you owe your creditor a little money, he owns you, but if your debt is a large one, you own him. 

1 June 1990, Boston (MA) Globe, “Gorbachev’s woes at home may be an advantage here” by Adam Perlman:
“It’s like the saying that if you owe the bank $50000 they own you, but if you owe $50 million you own them.”

Newsweek
Riding For A Fall
Did The Fed’s Rescue Of A Hedge Fund Save The World, Or Just A Few Rich Skins?

By ALLAN SLOAN AND RICH THOMAS | NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Oct 5, 1998
WHEN THE FEDERAL RESERVE Board put together a multi-billion-dollar rescue of a stricken hedge fund last week, you could hear loan officers all over the country trot out one of the world’s oldest banking jokes. To wit: if you owe a bank a million dollars and can’t pay, the bank owns you. But if you owe a billion dollars, you own the bank, because it doesn’t dare foreclose and take a huge loss.

New York (NY) Times
China Expands. Europe Rises. And the United States . . .
By FRED KAPLAN
Published: December 26, 2004
(...)
It’s a variation on the old joke: If you owe the bank $1 billion, the bank owns you; if you owe the bank $1 trillion, you own the bank.

Asymmetricl Information Bleg II
It’s not the countries the IMF is really helping, but the banks who lend them money.
If you owe the bank $1000 and can’t pay it’s your problem.
If you owe the bank $1,000,000,000 and can’t pay it’s the bank’s problem.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste on March 3, 2005 9:01 PM

Forbes.com
The Great Chinese Banking Shakedown
Carlton Delfeld; Chartwell Advisor 09.01.05, 6:00 AM ET
(...)
As the old banking adage goes, if you owe the bank a little money, the bank owns you; if you owe the bank a lot of money, you own the bank.

World Without Oil
Bush in Saudi Arabia: the bank owns us
January 18, 2008
The saying goes: If you owe the bank $10 billion, the bank owns you. If you owe the bank $10 trillion, you own the bank. That is, you owe so much that if you default, the bank goes under too.

Pravda
When the US sneezes the world catches cold
18.03.2008 Source: Pravda.Ru
(...)
You know the saying that if you owe the bank one hundred thousand dollars you are in trouble, but if you owe the bank one hundred million dollars, the bank is in trouble. Currently US owes foreigners over two trillion dollars. In addition many trillions of dollars are also held in foreign central banks. These countries are in trouble and they will try hard to stabilise the US economy, if only for saving their own money.

Cafferty File
September 19, 2008
Are federal bailouts a good idea?
(...)
Billy G in Las Vegas September 19th, 2008 2:44 pm ET
not a good idea, Jack, BUT were painted into a corner.

there is an old Texas oil patch saying. “if you owe the bank a MILLION dollars, YOU have a problem BUT if you owe the bank a BILLION dollars, the BANK has a problem” (because if they call the loan they will go bankrupt too)

you can now add to that “and if you a TRILLION dollars, the GOVERNMENT has a problem”

I just wonder how many multimillion dollar “golden parachutes” for the criminal CEO’s, that got us into this mess, will float down from this bailout?

Time magazine
18 Tough Questions (and Answers) About the Bailout
By Justin Fox Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2008
(...)
It’s a variant on the old saw (often attributed to J. Paul Getty, although I’m sure somebody must have said something like it before him): “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.”

Google Books
Hide and Seek:
The Search for Truth in Iraq

By Charles Duelfer
Published by PublicAffairs
2009
Pg. 33:
Saddam had an instinctive understanding of power and leverage. He would have grasped as obvious the American expression “If you owe the bank a thousand dollars, they own you. But if you owe the bank a million dollars, you own them.”

N2Growth
The Donald
By admin | January 21, 2009
By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth
The Donald is up to his old tricks again…When everybody and their brother is looking for a bailout, the Donald simply engineers his own rescue by playing hardball with his creditors. Remember it was The Donald who said “If you owe the bank a million dollars the bank owns you, but if you owe the bank a billion dollars you own the bank.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (1) Comments • Saturday, January 31, 2009 • Permalink


Looks to me like every post here is saying the same thing, pretty much, just with different currency amounts! Should be obvious to all that if you owe a lot more money than the bank can afford to lose, they are going to have to hope that you can or will eventually pay it (plus interest, DUH!) If you only owe enough to annoy them though, they’ll keep ragging you to pay, nearly forever!

Posted by GMorris  on  02/01  at  11:57 AM

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