Across the country, independent business groups that have been urging people to "buy local" are now making "bank local" an increasingly prominent part of their message, bringing new grassroots visibility and organizational infrastructure to the Move Your Money movement. Continue reading
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Hanging in the balance of the financial reform debate is an issue that has received far less attention than the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, but is at least as important and probably more so: whether Congress will restore the authority of states to oversee national banks. Continue reading
Not one to let a good crisis go to waste, Bank of America managed, in the dark days of 2008, to parlay its own insolvency and near collapse into attaining something it had long dreamed of: federal approval to bypass a national law that says that no bank may acquire another bank if it would end up holding more than 10 percent of the country’s deposits.
Now, at long last, a new Senate proposal calls for reinstating strict size caps. It would mean disassembling at least five big banks.
Those who wonder whether public anger at big banks and the Move Your Money sentiment sweeping the country is substantial enough to impact these giants need only look at the banks’ own marketing over the last few weeks to see the proof. Continue reading
The biggest banks impose much higher fees on their customers than small financial institutions do. This is exactly the opposite of what was promised in 1994 and again in 1999, when Congress dismantled laws that had long restricted the size and scope of banks, ushering in a wave of mergers that left the industry dominated by a few financial giants. Continue reading
Although small and mid-sized banks control only 22 percent of all bank assets, they account for 54 percent of small business lending. Big banks, meanwhile, allocate relatively little of their resources to small businesses. The largest 20 banks, which now command 57 percent of all bank assets, devote only 18 percent of their commercial loan portfolios to small business. Continue reading
The latest report from TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky warns, “Even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car.” Continue reading
As we start down the path of breaking up with the big banks and defending our own economic interests and that of our communities, we should think about the whole range of financial services we use. We need to give thought to both the saving and lending sides of a bank. Each is crucial. On the savings side, community-based financial institutions need our deposits much more than the big banks do. But to be profitable community banks need to convert those deposits into loans. Continue reading
Hearings held to investigate the crash of 1929 led to the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act, which fundamentally restructured the banking industry. Can the FCIC hearings, which get underway today, help to bring it back? Continue reading
Independent businesses are largely at the mercy of Visa and MasterCard when it comes to the fees they must pay every time they swipe a credit card. These fees, which are ultimately passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, have soared from $27 billion in 2004 to $48 billion last year (or $427 per household). Recognizing the tremendous market power held by card processors, many countries now regulate credit card transaction fees, setting them at rates as low as one-sixth of what U.S. businesses pay. Continue reading