Community Calls on the OCC to Deny Banc’s Application to Purchase Banco Branches until a Strong CRA Plan is in Place

August 20–San Francisco: Banc of California is proposing to buy 20 Banco Popular branches in southern California, and the deadline for public comment to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was yesterday. The California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) and 46 other community organizations submitted comments to the OCC this week, urging the bank regulator to carefully review the proposed acquisition and not approve Banc’s application until a strong CRA plan is in place.

Organizations from across California outlined their concerns to the OCC, including:
1) A broken promise to meet with community organizations, to provide those organizations the opportunity to see drafts of Banc of California’s CRA Plan as it was being developed, and to seek input from community members on how the CRA Plan could address community credit needs;
2) Banc of California’s CRA officer advising other banks to also hide their CRA plans from the public;
3) Home mortgage and small business lending data provided by Banc of California to the OCC is insufficient to allow for a thorough analysis of the bank’s lending record;
4) Concerns about bank donations, bank staff serving on boards of directors at local nonprofits, and the potential power dynamics when the bank asks these nonprofits for support letters;
5) A large spike in donations by the bank that appeared to coincide with the bank’s merger and acquisition applications, and the need for a more long-term plan to serve the community;
6) The need to ensure ongoing community investment by Banc of California through a strong, transparent, and meaningful CRA Plan that has been developed with input from the community.

The detailed letter from the California Reinvestment Coalition is available here: (OCC letter) and follows an earlier letter the coalition sent in July (July letter to OCC) raising additional concerns.

Paulina Gonzalez, executive director at CRC, explains: “We believe that CRC’s involvement led to the bank increasing some of its CRA activities. At the same time, we are disappointed that the Banc has not put forth a public plan and has not engaged the community in providing input. We’re hopeful the end result provides a path forward that includes a strong, transparent, public, and multi-year commitment by Banc of California to reinvest in the communities where it does business.”

Sharon Kinlaw, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, states: “There are over 45 organizations throughout California calling on the OCC to scrutinize this proposed acquisition. We’re all deeply concerned about the potential for a bad precedent being created if the OCC were to approve this acquisition despite many unanswered questions about the bank’s CRA activities.”

Matt Huerta, executive director at Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley, explains: “Our clients are concerned about improving their economic security after suffering the worst exploits of the Great Recession. It is important that Banc of California and other major banks recognize that our communities are expecting their full partnership and transparency as they expand their services.”

Maria Cabildo, president of the East LA Community Corporation comments: “Banco Popular has a strong track record in these communities, so people have legitimate concerns with Banc of California’s plans to acquire these 20 branches. One way the bank could address these concerns would be through offering free checking,ITIN accessible deposit accounts, and secured credit cards.”

Hyepin Im, president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development, comments: “In nine zip codes where Banco Popular branches are located, anywhere from 10-55% of the population is Asian. As the bank continues to grow, we are urging the OCC to ensure that the bank meets the diverse financial services needs of communities in an affordable, equitable, and sustainable manner.”

Organizations that sent public comment to the OCC span a variety of geographies, services offered, and clients served, and include:

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment
Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council
California Coalition for Rural Housing
California Community Economic Development Association
California Housing Partnership Corporation
California Partnership
California Resources and Training
Central American Resource Center-CARECEN
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles
Consumer Action
East LA Community Corporation
Eastmont Community Center
Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley
Greenlining Institute
Housing and Economic Rights Advocates
HPP Cares
Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board
Korean Churches for Community Development
LA Voice
League of United Latin American Citizens
Los Angeles LDC Inc.
Mission Economic Development Agency
National Community Reinvestment Coalition
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Council of La Raza
Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley
Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment
Project Sentinel
Public Advocates
Renaissance Center
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy
Thai Community Development Center
Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corp.

Background on Community Reinvestment Act Plans: CRA plans are detailed documents that banks can use to articulate their commitment to communities through small business lending and technical assistance,philanthropic commitments, investments in affordable housing via tax credits and loans, community development, supplier diversity programs and more. For more information, view this section of CRC’s website:Community Reinvestment Act.