The Journal reports on A10 that riders are flocking to public transit to avoid putting gas in their cars, but the systems are getting hit by high fuel prices, too. Reuters says MasterCard showed 5.5 percent less gas pumped on its cards from a year ago.

Banking on failure

The Financial Times fronts a report on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a banking regulator, that raises more concerns about the industry’s health, and the NYT puts it on C8.

The NYT says banks raised their loan-loss reserves to $37 billion, the most in twenty years, but that still wasn’t enough to keep a key coverage ratio from falling to its lowest since 1993.

Federal banking regulators are concerned banks’ credit losses will worsen as problems spread from the housing sector to other areas of the economy. Borrowers are now falling behind on payments on auto, credit card and other types of consumer debt. Home values, meantime, continue to decline. A report released this week showed housing prices fell about 14 percent nationwide in the first quarter.

Federal regulators are bracing for what could be several dozen bank failures as the industry’s troubles mount. Real estate and construction loan losses have been growing. Home equity loans are souring at levels far higher than expected. And many banks, especially smaller institutions, have been slow to recognize the extent of their woes.

UBS ready to roll over

The former UBS banker who’s been in the news recently after his indictment for helping billionaires evade taxes, will plead guilty in June and turn state’s evidence. That tightens the screws on UBS, which the Journal on C1 says is discussing settling with the U.S. by giving prosecutors the names of its American clients, a no-no for a Swiss bank.

Despite an information-sharing agreement with the U.S. in 2000, Swiss banks continued to secretly manage the assets of wealthy Americans, according to banking documents, court filings and several people familiar with the arrangements. To keep that work secret from U.S. authorities, the Swiss banks used shell companies and sometimes directed their American customers to put their accounts in Liechtenstein.

The arrangement—outlined in a legal analysis prepared in 2000 by the Swiss Bankers Association and in a separate set of LGT documents—involved setting up companies and trusts to act as the nominal owners of the assets, thereby shielding the identities of U.S. citizens seeking to shelter the funds from the IRS.

The NYT scoops on C7 that Bradley Birkenfeld, the ex-banker, “will implicate others at UBS and other financial institutions,” according to a source. Fun!

But can the U.S. get its hands on the alleged wrongdoers? The FT reminds readers of its scoop that UBS is advising the bankers not to travel to the U.S. to avoid getting swooped up like Birkenfeld.

‘You screwed us, Jimmy’

Bear Stearns finally came to its end yesterday after eighty-five years, as shareholders voted to accept the $10 a share deal from JPMorgan Chase. Apparently, folks couldn’t wait to wash their hands of the mess: the Journal on C1 says the meeting “lasted about 11 minutes.”

Chairman and ex-CEO Jimmy Cayne showed up and even offered a perfunctory apology to shareholders. It was met with “dead silence,” the NYT reports.

“That which does not kill you makes you stronger,” he added. “And at this point we are all like Hercules.”

Again, his words were met with silence.

“JPMorgan is a great organization,” he concluded. “There are better days ahead.”

And then the meeting, which lasted no more than 10 minutes, was over and Bear’s employees headed quietly off to work.

A Quote of the Day Sampler from the “carnival like atmosphere” of T-shirts and signed paintings outside the company’s headquarters:

“You screwed us Jimmy.”

“I worked for Bear Stearns 20 years and all I got was a Cayne-ing.”

“Hubris—thy name is Jimmy!”

We like this best of all, from the NYT:

Entrepreneurs hawked T-shirts with pictures of Mr. Cayne playing a violin on the 19th hole of a golf course.

Discredit bureau

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.