We are proud supporters of (and participants in) the nationwide movement to hold banks and financial institutions accountable. Alongside tenants whose buildings are in foreclosure, we fight banks for responsible disposition of their distressed assets. We also stay attuned to the work that low-to-moderate income homeowners and advocates are doing to fight for mortgage modification and against foreclosure and eviction.
Other groups get involved in bank fights in different ways. Last November, activists rallied around Bank Transfer Day. Think Progress reports that over 600,000 people switched banks from Chase, Bank of America and large institutions to smaller (and presumably more responsible) banking options, either on November 5th’s day of action, or as a result of it.
Today we learned that another JPMorgan Chase customer has decided to move their money. The City of Buffalo, New York is moving its $45 million in deposits to First Niagara Financial Group! First Niagara’s headquarters are located in Buffalo; they are likewise a major employer in the city. This is exactly the kind of thing that is good for the City, good for taxpayers, and bad for big banks. The Buffalo News Reports:
The move follows concerns about JPMorgan raised with the Common Council by members of the Occupy Buffalo movement, who asked that the city withdraw its deposits from the institution.
“Not only will the funds earn more interest with First Niagara, a major local employer headquartered in Buffalo, but it also sends a crystal-clear message to JPMorgan Chase that the City of Buffalo is not happy with their business practices,” City Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder said.
In the scheme of things, $45 million isn’t that much money to JPMorgan Chase, but we still think it sets an important tone. We are always encouraged when we see elected officials responding to citizens, activists, and advocates rather than aligning themselves with the big bank juggernauts.
Though many cities are responding to the widespread distrust of major lenders by passing Responsible Banking Acts, I couldn’t find any others that have actually moved their deposits. If you know of any, please tell us! We hope Buffalo sets a pattern for other cities. As New York State’s second largest city, Buffalo isn’t exactly a backwater town. (Okay, so maybe part of my goal in this blog post is – as a Western NY transplant in NYC – to encourage downstate New Yorkers to recognize the smaller cities up North.) And who knows, maybe cities as big as New York City- with deposits that can total 7 billion- will follow suit. It would not be the first time Buffalo, NY set the stage for the bigger city downstate: the world’s first skyscraper was built there by Louis Sullivan in 1895.