Lloyds: Is it doing enough for Britain?
In a 25-year career of taking an unhealthily close interest in banks, I have very rarely encountered results as appallingly bad as those published by Lloyds this morning.
The bank says the loss was £6.3bn - which it sees as marginally better than the notional loss of £6.7bn that it would have reported in 2008 had it owned HBOS for the whole of that year (it in fact acquired battered HBOS at the turn of 2009).
Arguably, however, the loss for 2009 was almost double the number highlighted by Lloyds at £12.4bn: there is a case for ignoring a £6.1bn credit taken by Lloyds from a revaluation of some of HBOS's assets and liabilities.
But the big horror, of course, was the charge for loans and investments that have gone bad: an awe-inspiring £24bn, up from a merely horrific £15bn in 2008.
Lloyds' implied excuse is that the bulk of these losses stemmed from the insanely-poor loans to companies - especially property companies - that were made by HBOS.
But - to coin a phrase - you are what you eat. And Lloyds did not have to swallow HBOS: the bank, led by the chief executive Eric Daniels, chose to buy it.
Daniels remains chief executive.
And there will be some who may regard the other board members as having taken leave of their collective senses in deciding - in the words of Lloyds chairman, Win Bischoff - that he merited "the full payout under the company's annual bonus scheme because of his significant contribution".
Those critics would perhaps have been placated when Daniels chose to waive his £2.3m bonus entitlement.
But it is difficult to escape the feeling that there is something of a gap between how the world sees Lloyds and how Lloyds sees itself.
Take the issue of support for the British economy - and remember that this is a bank into which we as taxpayers have injected £23bn for a 41% stake, and taxpayers have also provided £157bn of emergency credit through the special liquidity scheme and the credit guarantee scheme.
Bischoff talked of "playing our part in the UK's economic recovery... by extending a significant amount of new lending to businesses and households".
And - by the way - Lloyds has a contractual arrangement with the Treasury to increase lending to UK businesses by £11bn and to home-owners by £3bn both in 2009 and 2010.
Is that in fact what happened? Has it met those lending commitments?
Well, Lloyds' published numbers do not tell that story.
In every segment of Lloyds operations, loans and advances to customers fell: by £6bn in its retail bank, by £43bn in its wholesale bank (which deals with businesses) and by £1bn in its wealth and international division.
Breaking that down further, mortgages on its balance sheet decreased by more than £10bn, credit for transport, distribution and hotels was almost £4bn down and loans to manufacturers dropped by £4bn.
Now, there are perfectly good arguments why Lloyds needs to shrink its balance sheet to strengthen itself.
But that is not necessarily consistent with what's best for stretched British industry or households.
That said, its plainly in the interests of shareholders (who include taxpayers, lest you need reminding) that Lloyds has today increased its forecast of the annual cost savings it can make from integrating HBOS's operations with its own.
These planned cost savings have been increased from £1.5bn to a staggering £2bn.
However, you won't think that's great news if you are a Lloyds employee seen as a duplicated overhead and being made redundant at a time when employment conditions in the UK are dire.
Even so, it must be in the interest of the UK that Lloyds is rehabilitated. With 30 million customers, a weak Lloyds would not be good for shareholders or the economy.
But rebuilding Lloyds is very much work-in-progress.
In that context, it is significant that Lloyds - which was desperate to avoid an additional injection of support from taxpayers - has the lowest ratio of core tier-one capital to assets (by about two percentage points) of all the big British banks.
Some analysts would argue it needs to raise quite a lot more capital - or shrink its balance a good deal more, which would further constrain its ability to lend.
Also its share price of 53p fell today and remains well below taxpayers' buying-in price of 74p.
Lloyds directors - and Eric Daniels in particular - have some way to go before they can claim to be delivering for their owners or for the country.