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Santa Cruz County Supervisors Leaders in Stance Against Wall Street

santacruzsentinel.com | June 2, 2016

By Samantha Clark

Santa Cruz is known for its liberal bent and progressive politics, so it’s no surprise that the county recently took a stand against Wall Street, inspiring others to think about doing the same.

Since the Board of Supervisors voted earlier this summer to stop buying investments from the five big banks that agreed in May to plead guilty to criminal felony charges, word spread nationwide. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, financial blogs and interest groups — from Occupy to the Public Banking Institute — touted the small but significant stance.

“Doing business with institutions that are committing federal crimes is not consistent with the obligation that we have to protect public dollars,” said Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, who brought the proposal to the board. “There’s been so much bad behavior and so few consequences.”
Citicorp, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS AG, some of which the county has done business with, agreed to pay $5.6 billion in penalties for manipulating the foreign-currency market. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money for the world’s biggest banks.

The traders schemed in online chat rooms called “the mafia” and “the cartel.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the heist a “brazen display of collusion” that affected “countless consumers, investors and institutions around the globe — from pension funds to major corporations and including the banks’ own customers.”
Wall Street won’t feel the loss of Santa Cruz County’s portfolio, valued at about $650 million.
“But what if every county, city and state in America followed Santa Cruz County’s example and held the big banks accountable for their felonies?” Reich wrote.

So far, Coonerty has contacted about 50 “progressive” cities nationwide, including about a dozen in the Bay Area. He couldn’t name any yet, he said.

“It’s a bold step by the supervisors to do this. They’re taking a creative and direct response to the criminal practices of the big banks,” said Walt McRee, chair of the Public Banking Institute, a nonprofit working to create publicly owned banks. “Whether or not other counties or cities will have the ability or the courage to do it remains to be seen.”

However, Santa Cruz County already has grabbed the attention of Wall Street. In addition to queries from all over the world, Coonerty’s gotten emails from finance workers fed up with the systemic scofflaw culture.
“They see this bad behavior up close,” Coonerty said. “I expected traditional liberals to appreciate this, but people form the financial services industry want better behavior out of Wall Street.”

The county will continue investing with a number of financial institutions, such as Bank of the West.

This also isn’t the county’s first stab at holding big banks accountable. In 2011 and again in 2012, then-Treasurer Fred Keeley severed the county’s financial ties with Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America for rigging interests rates and similar scandals.

We must work together...use our individual and collective DOLLARS to 'Dis-incentivize Criminal Banking Activities'...in other words...DO NOT BANK WITH CRIMINALS!




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