Riggs National Bank, Washington's largest bank, withdrew from the D.C. Bankers Association yesterday, saying the bank's "commonality of interest" with other local banks no longer exists.
The withdrawal comes two days after Mayor Marion Barry vetoed the D.C. City Council's interstate banking legislation, which the bankers association strongly supported. Riggs, with assets of $4.8 billion, did not participate in the lobbying effort of local banks, according to a well-placed source.
The bank has come under criticism from Barry for failing to make major investments in the city's distressed areas.
A Riggs spokesman said the withdrawal announcement was delayed to avoid influencing Barry's decision on the banking measure and that the action was not related to the legislation's content.
"It has nothing whatever to do with the interstate banking bill," said George Beveridge, a Riggs spokesman.
". . . The resignation was approved by the Riggs board of directors at its Sept. 11 meeting and at that time Chairman Joe Allbritton was authorized by the board to use his discretion as to the timing of the resignation."
Michael Ryan, president of the bankers association, with 18 members since the resignation, said he believes that this is the first time a bank has resigned in the group's 84-year history.
"Riggs' contribution over the years has been a significant one, but our organization is committed to go forward," said Ryan. "We have items of common interest."
Maurice J. Cullinane, the executive vice president of the bankers association, said the withdrawal of Riggs does not come as a surprise to the banking community.
Ryan said the bankers association's primary focus is on legislation, economic development and regulatory issues but that Riggs did not always agree with the group's approach.
Beveridge said the "uncertainties of interstate banking" herald a major change in the banking environment in the District.
While some banks here are seeking to merge with other banks, he said "Riggs is not for sale and will be in a different position -- the position of acquiring."
Both Barry and the City Council have agreed that District banks should be allowed to participate in some form of interstate banking but have disagreed on the limitations.
The council's legislation would allow banks in the District and 11 southeastern states to acquire or merge with each other, but the mayor wants to add provisions that would allow any bank outside the region to provide full banking services here after two years or earlier based on a major investment commitment to economic development in the District.
Before vetoing the banking legislation, Barry asked for investment commitments from local banks and described the responses as superficial and unsatisfactory.
In an interview, Barry said Riggs had not responded to his request and he called Riggs the "most derelict" of local banks concerning investments in distressed areas.
Beveridge defended Riggs' record. "Riggs is extremely proud of the contributions it has made for many years towards the community and is still making," Beveridge said.