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Public Meeting Transcripts

Public Meeting Regarding NationsBank and BankAmerica

Friday, July 10, 1998

Transcript of Panel Twenty


      14              MS. SMITH:  We'll go ahead and start with
      15   Ms. Supinski substituting for Mr. Lee. 
      16              MS. SUPINSKI:  Yes, thank you.  
      17              Good morning, Ms. Smith and members of the
      18   panel.  This is the testimony of Matthew Lee, Executive
      19   Director of Inner City Press Community on the Move and
      20   of the Inner City Public Interest Law Center, together
      21   known as ICP, which the California Reinvestment
      22   Committee has been kind enough to present.         
      23              ICP on May 6th filed a 54-page protest to
      24   this application along with the Black Citizen for
      25   Justice Law and Order of Dallas, Texas and the New
      26   Mexico Alliance, two of its whose members, Gilbert


       1   Sanchez and Robert Wells, you heard from yesterday. 
       2              We are opposed to this proposed merger
       3   primarily due to NationsBank's continued predatory and
       4   discriminatory practices through its finance companies,
       5   NationsCredit and EquiCredit, and due to the
       6   anti-competitive and branch-closing effects the proposed
       7   merger would have in New Mexico and in Dallas, Texas. 
       8              NationsBank's ill-defined community
       9   reinvestment pledge does nothing to address these
      10   issues.  In fact, as explained in a moment,
      11   NationsBank's failure to live up to its commitment with
      12   regard to NationsCredit, calls into question whether the
      13   board could rely on NationsBank's press release pledge. 
      14              In 1996, when NationsBank announced its
      15   proposal to acquire Boatmen's Bank shares, including its
      16   subsidiary Sunwest, the larger bank in New Mexico, ICP
      17   and the New Mexico Alliance filed comments with the
      18   Federal Reserve Board.  We critiqued the lending of
      19   NationsBank and its higher than normal interest rate
      20   finance company, NationsCredit, and documented that
      21   NationsBank was referring applicants who were
      22   disproportionately African Americans and Hispanics from
      23   its banks to NationsCredit which offers higher than
      24   normal interest rate credit, but that NationsCredit had
      25   no policy or program to refer up to NationsBank
      26   applicants who were entitled to normal interest rate


       1   credit. 
       2              We showed that NationsBank has been closing
       3   branches in low-income communities of color and has been
       4   opening NationsCredit offices in these communities.  
       5              The board has refused to conduct an
       6   examination of NationsCredit but did ask NationsBank how
       7   many lawsuits were pending against NationsCredit. 
       8   NationsBank submitted a skeletal list of 119 lawsuits
       9   then pending against NationsCredit.  We showed that the
      10   list was incomplete, but, even if it were not, it would
      11   seem that volume of litigation would trigger some
      12   examination by the Federal Reserve. 
      13              During that protest, NationsBank CRA officer
      14   was quoted in U.S. News and World Report to the effect
      15   that NationsCredit would institute a practice referring
      16   applicants who were entitled to normal interest rate
      17   loans up to NationsBank banks from NationsCredit and
      18   that this would be done by February of 1997. 
      19              NationsBank refused thereafter to provide
      20   information about NationsCredit or this promise to
      21   change.  In January of this year, we were informed by
      22   the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that
      23   NationsCredit still has not instituted any referral-up
      24   program.  NationsBank has since confirmed this,
      25   proffering as its excuse that there has been a lot of
      26   turnover at NationsCredit.  


       1              Most recently, the Federal Reserve itself
       2   asked NationsBank to describe all current and planned
       3   referral programs between its banks, mortgage company
       4   and finance companies.  NationsBank's response has been
       5   that everything is in flux. 
       6              Simply put, NationsBank's 350 billion
       7   community reinvestment commitment is not credible since
       8   NationsBank has not lived up to its previous
       9   commitments.  It is also important to note that
      10   NationsBank has refused to make any more specific
      11   geographic commitments even at the state, much less the
      12   county, level.  But the key point to us is that
      13   NationsBank promises of future improvements do not in
      14   fact take place.  
      15              After NationsBank bought Boatmen's and
      16   Sunwest, NationsBank quickly closed eight branches in
      17   New Mexico, even though there was not overlap between
      18   NationsBank and Sunwest.  
      19              The Federal Reserve has said in its
      20   NationsBank/Boatmen's conditional approval order that it
      21   would monitor NationsBank's branch closing, but this has
      22   had little to no effect. 
      23              More recently, after gaining approval to
      24   acquire Barnett Banks of Florida, NationsBank has moved
      25   to close over 200 branches in Florida. 
      26              In this proposal NationsBank and Bank of


       1   America overlap in Mexico -- in New Mexico and in
       2   Dallas.  NationsBank has refused to disclose how many or
       3   which branches it would close.  It has also put forth a 
       4   laughable low divestiture proposal that would allow them
       5   to predominate and raise prices in Dallas and a number
       6   of New Mexico markets.  
       7              NationsBank has apparently paid numerous
       8   group to come and testify in its support at this public
       9   meeting, but the facts, as they say, are the facts. 
      10              NationsBank said it would institute a
      11   referral-up program from NationsCredit to its banks by
      12   February of 1997, and NationsBank did not do so.  This
      13   proposed merger would be anti-competitive in Dallas and
      14   numerous New Mexico markets and NationsBank's
      15   divestiture proposal is sorely insufficient. 
      16              NationsBank has refused to disclose what the
      17   actual effects of the merger would be, including branch
      18   closings. 
      19              There are other adverse issues including the
      20   foreseeable loss of various Bank of America programs
      21   ably raised by the California Reinvestment Committee and
      22   others.  For all reasons stated, this proposed merger
      23   should be denied. 
      24              Thank you for your attention and we will be
      25   submitting further written comments.  Thank you. 
      26              MS. SMITH:  Thank you very much. 


       1   Ms. Kurudisha. 
       2              MS. KURUDISHA:  Thank you for the opportunity
       3   to testify.  
       4              I am Program Director of the West Contra
       5   Costa Business Development Center.  I'm also owner of a
       6   small business called Associates for Community Change
       7   and Development.  In the two capacities, I have worked
       8   with the West Contra Costa Community for the last nine
       9   years.  
      10              The president, the current president of the
      11   board of the West Contra Costa Business Development
      12   Center is Mr. Robert Leet, who is Executive Vice
      13   President of the Mechanics Bank and the chief lending
      14   officer of that bank. 
      15              The West Contra Costa Business Development
      16   Center is a result of years of effort by the West Contra
      17   Costa community to work with the banking community to
      18   develop an approach to economic development and
      19   community development in the West Contra Costa
      20   community. 
      21              We have worked with all of the regulatory
      22   agencies and as many as 22 banks in our effort to put
      23   together a community reinvestment plan for our
      24   community.  The years of effort have resulted in the
      25   development of the West Contra Costa Business
      26   Development Center as an intermediary for community


       1   development and economic development in the West Contra
       2   Costa community. 
       3              When we look at our efforts to work with Bank
       4   of America, we applaud their participation in the
       5   community meetings that have been held on banking in
       6   West Contra Costa.  We also applaud their contribution
       7   to the West Contra Costa Business Development Center
       8   which has been $25,000.  
       9              We, however, point out that, while this has
      10   supported our effort, it has not matched the request for
      11   a five-year commitment on the part of the bank to the
      12   community development effort of the West Contra Costa
      13   Business Development Center. 
      14              We would like an opportunity to develop, as
      15   an intermediary for our community and give the small
      16   cities that we represent an opportunity to develop an
      17   urban core process and strategy that allows us to
      18   resolve some of the problems that are centered in the
      19   low-income and moderate-income communities that we
      20   represent. 
      21              The community bank, which is Mechanics Bank,
      22   strongly endorses and calls for additional banking
      23   meetings to be held in West Contra Costa where large
      24   banks, like BofA, make real contributions to community
      25   reinvestment. 
      26              When the bank sees in the inner core, urban


       1   inner core of our community, lines that extend out the
       2   door of minorities who come in to do checking and other
       3   banking services, and downsize their branch so that
       4   those lines now extend out into the rain, we do not
       5   believe that they are responding to the interests of the
       6   community.  
       7              When they downsize their branch so that
       8   merchants in the inner core cannot have change to
       9   continue business, we do not view that as contributing
      10   to economic development or listening to the needs of the
      11   community. 
      12              We have had Bank of America at the table with
      13   us over the last eight years and we applaud the things
      14   that they have done in the large urban areas of
      15   California.  However, most of America is not large urban
      16   areas.  It is small cities that often, like West Contra
      17   Costa, have urban problems to resolve that are growing. 
      18              We would like an opportunity to take
      19   advantage of the open land that remains in our area to
      20   develop small businesses that include indigenous
      21   population.  We call on the Federal Reserve Board to
      22   develop a fair and open process for community planning
      23   that includes the interest of small cities and economic
      24   development and small business development. 
      25              MS. SMITH:  Thank you very much. 
      26   Mr. Thompson. 


       1              MR. THOMPSON:  Yes.  Thank you very much.  
       2              My name is David Thompson.  I am the City of
       3   Richmond Redevelopment Director.  
       4              Our Mayor, Rosemary Corbin gave most of the
       5   testimony that I would like to give this morning, so I'm
       6   not going to burden you with repeating that.  A number
       7   of the comments that Ms. Kurudisha has provided are also
       8   my thoughts.  
       9              I would, though, like to comment on some of
      10   the issues that I see as the Redevelopment Director with
      11   regard to relationship with banking institutions
      12   generally and with the Bank of America and the possible
      13   merger with NationsBank and the acquisition by
      14   NationsBank in terms of its impact in our community. 
      15              The most effective relationships that we have
      16   had have been ones where we have been able to develop a
      17   personal relationship working with banking officers and
      18   where there is a corporate commitment to doing that and
      19   to making things happen in communities.  Our concern is
      20   that through this merger the decision-makers are going
      21   to be remote and that the products are going to be more
      22   generic and are going to be more difficult to work with. 
      23              In many cases in our community it is going to
      24   take a combination of financing to make projects work
      25   including our redevelopment agency and other public
      26   funding.  Our needs are for revitalizing our older


       1   commercial neighborhoods. 
       2              We know that in many cases the bank by itself
       3   cannot do that.  We have to have a vehicle for sitting
       4   down with somebody and saying, "This is the program that
       5   we need for this community and we're prepared to do this
       6   much, can you do the other?"  
       7              Let me say that the example that Mayor Corbin
       8   noted with regard to Rubicon programs was in fact a
       9   situation like that that happened with the bank.  Out of
      10   the Community Development Bank, it was a very aggressive
      11   senior loan officer who came to the city and said,
      12   "We're interested in doing business in your city," and
      13   we put together a deal with Rubicon programs that
      14   involved our city and involved the Bank of America.  
      15              Our concern, quite frankly, is that with this
      16   merger we are not going to be able to have that kind of
      17   relationship.  So, whether it goes through or doesn't go
      18   through, we want to preserve a relationship here in
      19   California, particularly in Northern California, so that
      20   we can continue that kind of relationship. 
      21              Earlier the question of the independent banks
      22   and the case, this case, the Mechanics Bank, which
      23   started in 1906 in Richmond, and it's role in the
      24   relationship.  I point out over the last -- well, from
      25   1994 to 1996, they had a significant growth in their
      26   deposit base from the household business sector, while,


       1   in fact, in West Contra Costa County the Bank of
       2   America's deposit base declined.  
       3              I am concerned about that because, while the
       4   community bank has ability to do certain kind of
       5   lending, and, quite frankly, they're reasonably
       6   effective on the small business side of things, when it
       7   comes to the larger transactions, such as the Ford
       8   Building, which will be a $70 million project in the
       9   City of Richmond, a 500,000 square foot Ford assembly
      10   building, that Mechanics Bank is not going to be able to
      11   be a serious player in that kind of a project.  We've
      12   talked with them about it.  
      13              There are other real estate transactions like
      14   that where it is going to be more appropriate for a
      15   larger bank. 
      16              Our concern is, again, as this goes forward,
      17   that we preserve the ability to be able to have a
      18   relationship and to enter into a real process of
      19   discussing West Contra Costa County's community
      20   development reinvestment needs. 
      21              Again, I want to thank you for the
      22   opportunity to present here.  This is unusual and we
      23   appreciate it. 
      24              MS. SMITH:  Thank you very much.  Mr. Henry. 
      25              MR. HENRY:  Good morning.  Excuse me, I've
      26   got a small cold, on my way down here, by the way. 


       1              Thank you once again for allowing me to come
       2   before you to state the problem that we have with Bank
       3   of America in our area.  It's called OMI.  Ocean
       4   View/Merced/Ingelside District.  It's in the southern
       5   part of the city where most of everybody that goes
       6   through there goes right through our area; however, if
       7   you go down the main street over there, which is called
       8   Ocean Avenue, you'll find that it also runs, Ocean
       9   Avenue, runs all the way out to the ocean. 
      10              But, when you look at the businesses that's
      11   in that corridor, you'll find that for years, years,
      12   many, many years, that there was only one bank on that
      13   corridor and that was Bank of America.  Everything that
      14   Bank of America got out of that neighborhood came from
      15   that corridor. 
      16              Now, what I'm alluding to right here right
      17   now is Bank of America up and pulled out.  We contacted
      18   them on many occasions to try to get them to keep that
      19   branch open.  Why?  For the simple reason, this area is
      20   an area where most of low-income families are retired. 
      21   We have many, many seniors that has medical problems,
      22   and they closed the bank.  They don't have access to a
      23   bank in that area within a half a mile.  That would be
      24   the closest.  
      25              Now, in this area also, transportation is
      26   fairly good, I wouldn't say excellent, but the seniors


       1   can't use the bank to get to the AMT [sic] machines. 
       2   That's what they left there, they left the AMT machines,
       3   and they expect those people to go there and use those
       4   machines.  I tell you, that's not a very good idea,
       5   because those machines and that bank that they left
       6   there was ripped off.  The machines was ripped off.  So
       7   it's not safe for seniors to be in that area at that
       8   machine. 
       9              Now, I would also like to say I disagree with
      10   this merger simply because the first of next year all
      11   government checks will automatically be electronically
      12   transmitted.  Now, what does that mean to a senior
      13   citizen that has to use an AMT machine?  Can't speak to
      14   anyone, most of them are afraid to use the machines.  I
      15   don't like to use them myself and I'm much younger than
      16   they are. 
      17              I'll give you a little example of what
      18   happened to me.  I used AMT machine, put in the amount
      19   of money that I wanted to withdraw, it went through the
      20   transaction, I'm looking for my money to come out, lo
      21   and behold, no money.  So, it was the weekend.  So what
      22   happened?  I had no one to talk to, had no place to go. 
      23              So, finally, Monday morning came around, I
      24   went to the bank and I told them what happened.  Well,
      25   these things happen.  There is no one there to talk to. 
      26   We need a bank in our area, we need tellers, so that the


       1   senior citizens can talk to and get service through. 
       2              I would only ask that this merger not be
       3   accepted.  Thank you. 
       4              MS. SMITH:  Thank you very much. 
       5   Ms. Blosser. 
       6              MS. BLOSSER:  Yes.  I'm Regina Blosser, and
       7   I'm from the Ocean View Merced Heights Neighbors in
       8   Action.  Ceasar and I are both members of this public
       9   safety and neighborhood improvement organization in the
      10   Ocean View District of San Francisco.  
      11              The Federal Reserve sent me a copy of the
      12   Bank of America closure policy adopted by the Social
      13   Policy Committee of BofA on September 14th, 1993.  I
      14   wish to read it to you in as much time as I am allowed
      15   item by item and then tell you how we believe that the
      16   BofA did not follow its own closure policy when it
      17   closed our bank on Ocean Avenue. 
      18              Item, bit by bit, every sentence, "Bank of
      19   America is committed to providing access to banking
      20   services to all members."  Well, obviously it's not
      21   committed to providing access to banking to us, because
      22   it closed our branch. 
      23              Number two, "Furthermore, the bank will
      24   reasonably strive to minimize any negative impact on the
      25   community."  BofA didn't strive to minimize any negative
      26   impact on our community, in fact, when we make phone


       1   calls to community development department that wrote
       2   this little document, they are never returned.  We call,
       3   they don't call back.  We leave an answer on the
       4   answering machine. 
       5              Number three, "Review and concurrence by
       6   corporate community development must be an integral part
       7   of the California retail banking branch closure decision
       8   process."  Well, we would like to see this review
       9   because we have not received any justification for
      10   closing our branch through any sort of document.  We
      11   would like to see the review of this policy when it had
      12   to do with closing our bank. 
      13              Number four -- again, we wish to see a review
      14   of these closure recommendations. 
      15              Number four states, "Once a bank has been
      16   identified for potential closure, a representative from
      17   Corporate Community Development will review corporate
      18   recommendations to be sure any negative impacts on the
      19   community and its serving area are identified and
      20   included in subsequent considerations."  Well, we
      21   certainly wrote them a lot of letters stating the
      22   negative impact we knew would be created in our
      23   commercial district.  
      24              Merchants can't make change anymore, they
      25   depend on this.  They have to have a secure place to put
      26   their deposits.  They no longer have this because the


       1   branch closed.  Business has gone down.  They have to
       2   spend their time going to another bank by car.  They
       3   cannot simply walk down the street to use banking
       4   services that merchants need.  
       5              These things you would think would have to do
       6   with potential negative impacts.  The decision was
       7   already made to close our bank before any of these
       8   impacts were considered.  On and on and on.  
       9              I'll submit the rest to you on a point-by-
      10   point basis.  This is their own branch closure policy. 
      11   I don't know how beholden they are to follow this
      12   policy.  I'll tell you item by item they did not follow
      13   it.  You can ask anyone of our residents in the OMI if
      14   they realize or know they followed this closure policy. 
      15   This is their own document. 
      16              This is a map.  I put a half-mile circle
      17   around every branch in San Francisco that I could find
      18   listed in the phone book.  You can see it's all covered
      19   in green.  This obviously is downtown where a lot of
      20   branches are needed to serve people.  This is industrial
      21   district.  This is residential -- this little blank spot
      22   here is residential area where there are no commercial
      23   corridors to locate a bank.  It's hilly country with
      24   sparsely located houses.  All of this is green in the
      25   city.  This red is our neighborhood.  Do you see any
      26   green half-mile radius circles going to our


       1   neighborhood?  
       2              Now, we've been told that it's only a
       3   three-minute drive to the next branch.  But every other
       4   neighborhood in this city is not required to make -- and
       5   it's not a three-minute drive, let me tell you.  It's
       6   more like 15 or 20 minutes after you've found a parking
       7   spot or you've been transferred to another bus to get
       8   there.  It is certainly not a three-minute ride to the
       9   next branch. 
      10              Anyway, you see my point.  I had to show you
      11   this in color.  This area is the only area that does not
      12   have a green half-mile distance to the next nearest
      13   branch.  A lot of these overlap, lot of branches are
      14   less than a half-mile in other neighborhoods, Bank of
      15   America branches. 
      16              The yellow are what we call banker's rows. 
      17   There is a banker's row here, they passed resolution at
      18   the planning department stating they wanted no more
      19   banks on their commercial district because all they had
      20   were banks and no practical places like grocery markets
      21   or shoe stores, nothing but banks.  And we can't even
      22   find one bank.  And we have tried, we have tried to find
      23   Sterling.  
      24              The Mayor's Office of Economic Development
      25   asked Sterling Bank to come to our neighborhood.  When
      26   they met with Bank of America representatives to take


       1   over the old bank building and to use as a Sterling
       2   Bank, Bank of America refused to remove its ATMs.  So
       3   Sterling did not want to locate there. 
       4              We have tried looking for, you know,
       5   consumers unions, credit unions, that might expand their
       6   field of membership.  But you might know that the
       7   American Bankers Association brought a lawsuit against
       8   credit unions and presently credit unions cannot expand
       9   its fields of membership to neighborhoods like ours that
      10   need some kind of service, banking service.  
      11              Presently there is a bill in the house, and
      12   perhaps it will be passed, and we will be able to find a
      13   credit union, but right now we're stymied.  We want a
      14   bank and we can't get one. 
      15              Numerous non-profits have come to you to
      16   state their satisfaction with these bank's financing of
      17   their programs.  This is fine, but the only thing our
      18   neighbors and merchants want is a bank.  We feel no
      19   desire for charitable giving.  
      20              That's what we want, we want to take care of
      21   ourselves and we want to be independent, self-sufficient
      22   and prosperous, and we need a bank.  That has been
      23   denied us, and our attempts to get a bank have been
      24   sabotaged by the Bank of America by not allowing ATMs
      25   for a new bank, by the Bankers Association by not
      26   allowing us to pursue a credit union as an alternative. 


       1              We think that we really must talk about this
       2   merger and how they comply with the Community
       3   Reinvestment Act. 
       4              MS. SMITH:  Thank you very much.  Please do
       5   submit your complete statement and your map that you
       6   have outlined in color as well. 
       7              Do you have questions? 
       8              MR. FRIERSON:  Mr. Thompson, could I ask you,
       9   do you work with both in-state and out-of-state banks as
      10   a redevelopment director. 
      11              MR. THOMPSON:  We work primarily with
      12   in-state banks.  
      13              MR. FRIERSON:  Could you just elaborate a
      14   little bit, contrast your experiences working with
      15   in-state versus out of state banks? 
      16              MS. SMITH:  Would you move the mike closer to
      17   you? 
      18              MR. THOMPSON:  Sure.  We haven't had much
      19   experience to out-of-state banks.  They don't market to
      20   us.  Where we do run into -- where we do work with them
      21   is a result generally of a developer bringing the
      22   out-of-state financing in toW.  Sometimes it is banks,
      23   sometimes it's insurance companies and other financial
      24   institutions.  But, for the most part, we rely on
      25   working with the institutions that are here that are
      26   headquartered here and with whom we can develop


       1   relationships and with whom our non-profits develop
       2   working relationships.  
       3              I have to tell you a brief story.  I was
       4   working with Bridge Housing on a housing development
       5   project, and we were negotiating and I said, "Well,
       6   what's in your commitment letter?"  And they said, "What
       7   commitment letter?  We just call them up and tell them
       8   what we need."  Now, it would be nice for all of us to
       9   have that kind of relationship and Bridge is a very
      10   large and experienced housing development group. 
      11              But what it said was that the corporate
      12   relationship that existed between Bridge Housing and
      13   that financial institution, it's the other big one in
      14   town, was such that they were able to do things to make
      15   projects move and get done that you wouldn't be able to
      16   do if you didn't have those kinds of senior executive
      17   kinds of relationships that are both formal and
      18   informal. 
      19              MS. SMITH:  Thank you very much for coming
      20   this morning and do submit your complete statements for
      21   the record.  You have until next Friday to do so, but
      22   the sooner you can do it the better.  Thank you.  
Last update: December 3, 2010