San Francisco – In response to an announcement earlier today that the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) will hold a joint virtual public hearing on the proposed merger of Bank of Montreal/BMOHarris Bank National Association and BancWest Holding Inc./Bank of the West, CRC Executive Director Paulina Gonzalez-Brito released the following statement:
“We’re pleased to see that the Federal Reserve and the OCC have once again decided to hold a public hearing regarding a large bank merger. This is a major win for communities as well as a clear sign that federal regulators have listened to our calls to put an end to blatantly rubber-stamping bank mergers.
“Mergers must provide a clear public benefit. Currently, we do not see one. This merger carries an outsized risk to California communities due to Bank of the West’s troublesome track record of originating loans to problematic landlords, persistent mortgage lending disparities, BMO Harris’s excessive overdraft fees, and environmental harms perpetrated by both financial institutions.
“CRC and 20 California advocacy groups and community organizations have formally opposed the merger until the banks commit to creating a strong and comprehensive community reinvestment plan that affirmatively states its commitment to increase investments and lending in LMI and Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities, as well as provide service to these communities through its bank branch network and digital equity initiatives.
“The significance of the hearing date is not lost on us. July 14 commemorates the storming of the Bastille, where the people of France stood up and called for liberty and equality. We hope that on this Bastille Day, BMO Harris will not say to California communities, ‘let them eat cake.’”
The virtual public meeting is set for 11 a.m. EDT on July 14. Members of the public seeking to present oral comments must register by noon EDT on June 23.
This is the second joint public hearing to be held by the agencies this year. In March, the agencies held a hearing regarding the proposal of U.S. Bank to acquire Union Bank. U.S. Bank in May presented a community benefits plan that included $60 billion for California Communities.