“Rise Economy was eager to meet with JPMorgan Chase even before it acquired the failed First Republic Bank. Now, we can barely contain ourselves.”
By Kevin Stein,
Chief of Legal and Strategy
Banc of CA proposes to more than triple its size in acquiring Pacific Western Bank
Banc of California would grow to over $36 billion in assets and see its presence in California increase to over 70 branches in LA, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, San Berardino, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, Kings and Fresno Counties. Rise Economy members were pleased to negotiate a $1.4 billion Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) alongside the Greenlining Institute when Banc of CA purchased Pacific Mercantile Bank a couple of years ago.
More recently, Rise Economy members and Banc of CA had a constructive dialogue about the bank’s plans to implement a borrower-based Special Purpose Credit Program as part of its CBA commitment that will benefit BIPOC and women-owned small businesses. At the same time, some Rise Economy members are concerned about the impacts of the proposed merger on California communities, especially with regard to branch closures in LMI, BIPOC and rural communities, the financing of problematic landlords that displace tenants, the role of private equity firm Warburg Pinkus in this merger–given Warburg’s investments in oil and gas well drilling–and whether the bank will commit to community lending and investments that are commensurate with its size. Rise Economy members met with the bank this past week to discuss these concerns, and discussions are ongoing.
How will this story end? First Citizens Bank and Rise Economy members continue dialogue on Silicon Valley Bank CBA
Rise Economy members appreciated First Citizens Bank (FCB) for negotiating an $8 billion CBA for California, as part of a $16 billion national CBA, when it purchased CIT Bank a couple of years ago. The failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) earlier this year and the ensuing acquisition of SVB in late March by First Citizens Bank (FCB) put a new set of items at the top of our agenda with FCB – the fate of the $9 billion CBA that Rise Economy and The Greenlining Institute members negotiated with SVB during a prior merger, as well as that of a number of affordable housing projects and other investments and grants in the SVB pipeline when it failed.
For its part, FCB acted promptly to fund projects and grants in the SVB pipeline and to retain branch and key community development staff as we requested. The bank is now re-engaging with us about the SVB CBA while noting that the SVB it purchased is smaller (after a run on bank deposits) than SVB at its height. For our part, Rise Economy members continue to demonstrate their resolve to see the SVB CBA implemented in full, seeing this as an issue of fairness, promises kept, and coalition efforts respected. And we are not alone. House Financial Service Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters wrote a letter to FCB’s CEO urging the honoring of the SVB CBA, as did Representative Katie Porter and 15 California House members, while more than 20,000 Daily Kos petitioners wrote to urge that SVB promises to the community be kept by the acquiring bank. Watch this space for more. We should soon know whether this saga resolves in a win-win, or whether communities are told they are to lose out again.
Speaking of failed banks and future meetings
We’re planning to round out the year with three bank meetings we are currently scheduling—though we plan to be responsive should other bank meetings become necessary.
- JPMorgan Chase in Los Angeles, Fall 2023
Rise Economy was eager to meet with JPMorgan Chase even before it acquired the failed First Republic Bank (FRB). Now, we can barely contain ourselves. Upon learning that JPMorgan Chase acquired FRB we urged Chase to make a number of commitments to California communities, including a commitment not to close any branches; the bank promptly closed 21 branches. Read our statement on the acquisition of First Republic Bank by JPMorgan Chase.
Our members will want to see JPMorgan Chase make transparent, clear and strong commitments to meet community credit needs in California. In reports from the Rainforest Action Network and allies, Influence Map and Rise Economy, JPMorgan Chase has been found to be problematic with respect to financing the fossil fuel industry, using rhetoric supportive of fossil fuels while being involved in lobbying against climate finance regulation and collecting millions of dollars in fees for making Payment Protection Program loans to oil and gas extraction companies.
To participate in this meeting, fill out this form or contact Doni Tadesse.
- Flagstar Bank in the Inland Empire in October
Flagstar Bank entered California in 2017 with the acquisition of Desert Community Bank in the Inland Empire. At that time, the Bank made a commitment of $600 million in loans and investments in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. In 2022, Flagstar was acquired by New York Community Bank (NYCB), which made a $28 billion national commitment after its CEO and leadership met with Rise Economy and our members in California and with other National Community Reinvestment Coalition members in various states. Fast forward to March 2023 when NYCB and Flagstar acquired the failed Signature Bank, which was active in California. Alongside our members, we plan to discuss with the bank community needs in the IE and California, as well as what the acquisition of Signature Bank means for state community development efforts. To participate in this meeting, please fill out this form or contact Doni Tadesse.
- Mechanics Bank in Fresno in November
No failed bank in this one, but there is a CBA to discuss. Mechanics Bank agreed to a $9.5 billion CBA when it purchased Rabobank in 2019-20. In acquiring Rabo, Mechanics significantly expanded its footprint beyond the Bay Area into a number of counties between Sacramento to San Deigo. We look forward to meeting with the bank and its CEO to discuss the bank’s performance under the CBA and to explore ways to better support communities. To participate in this meeting, contact Aliyah Shaheed.
What’s Up with WaFd? Luther Burbank and Washington Federal Still Waiting for Bank Merger Approval
In early January, Washington Federal Bank (WaFd), applied to acquire Luther Burbank Savings. In early February, we submitted comments to the FDIC, alongside nearly 50 of our allies, raising concerns about disparities in mortgage lending, displacement mortgages that finance problematic landlords, links to industry attacks on the CFPB, and the financing of fossil fuel extraction industries. Good faith efforts to discuss these issues with the banks broke down in April and we submitted supplemental comments to the FDIC raising further concerns about inadequate bank plans to serve California communities in May.
The FDIC has yet to issue a decision on this merger application. Between our first and second comment letters, Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank both failed, highlighting concerns that regional and community banks can create broader threats to our markets if regulators and banks are not focused on key risks (including, we note, climate-related financial risks). After our second comment letter, we finalized and released our report, “Whose Paycheck Are We Protecting? ? The Role Banks Played in Funding Climate Change Through the Paycheck Protection Program,” which draws a line from bank financing to climate change and severe weather events.
Washington Federal made over 90 PPP loans to mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction companies and provides financing to fossil fuels as part of its normal business. The federal response to the financing of climate change can no longer be to pay millions in fees to banks to make pandemic loans to oil and gas extraction companies and to rubber stamp bank mergers without meaningful conditions. The FDIC must deny this merger or impose significant conditions to ensure communities benefit, fair housing laws are respected, and fossil fuel finance is halted so we can pivot a just transition away from fossil fuels in haste.
Just in case you thought community banks were better than the Big Banks
We were dismayed but not surprised to see that the American Bankers Association (ABA) challenged the section 1071 small business data collection rule. We were dismayed by the apparent hypocrisy as several banks have issued statements expressing concern about racial injustice and racial wealth gaps, and because Rise Economy and our members have fought so hard for the rule, which we believe will be transformational for access to credit for BIPOC-, women-, and LGBTQ-owned small businesses. We were not surprised because the ABA, which represents the largest Wall Street and other banks, has taken positions in the past that are hostile to key initiatives and policies that further anti-discrimination and consumer protection principles.
When such debates occur, some like to point to smaller community banks as better stakeholders in communities with values closer to those of community organizations and members. Well, for those folks who see community banks as on the right side, the fact that Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) took the harmful step to join the ABA in suing to stop section 1071 small business data collection should give pause. In the words of the ICBA President and CEO, “ICBA has strongly opposed the 1071 rule for years, and we’re going to continue working every angle to protect community banks and small businesses from this harmful and burdensome policy.” There you go.
Community bankers express concern about the costs of collecting the new data. Yet, Rise Economy and our members – nonprofit CDFI lenders that are generally much smaller than ICBA members – have been strongly supportive of the rule, looking forward to continuing and expanding their current data collection efforts, and are excited to be part of a movement for racial, ethnic, and gender equity and fairness and in support of small businesses.