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  NAACP: Ranks Black-Friendly Banks

By Ron Zapata
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Oct. 23, 2000; 11:20 p.m. EDT

BALTIMORE –– The NAACP urged consumers on Monday to avoid some of the nation's leading banks, saying they are not doing enough for black workers and businesses owned by blacks.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said the organization's 1,700 branches and other groups should stop doing business with banks that earned poor or failing grades in the civil rights organization's first annual Banking Industry Report Card.

The report grades banks in five categories: employment, community reinvestment, advertising and marketing, business development and charitable giving.

The surveyed banks received an overall grade of C-minus.

"This was a damning report on the banking and financial services industry," Mfume said. "We never like to use economic power that goes with boycotts and consumer decisions but, in this instance, we think it's imperative we have the attention of this industry, which is so powerful in this country.

"Over the last 15 to 20 years, it's as if the banks were like the Lone Ranger – they've left behind a cloud of dust and a mighty 'Hi-yo, Silver' and an ATM machine."

National City Corp. received a D-plus; U.S. Bancorp, Mellon Bank, Fleet Boston Financial, Key Corp., Citigroup/Citibank and Wells Fargo each received a D.

"We are puzzled and disappointed by the NAACP's surprisingly low ranking, which we do not feel is warranted by the facts," Mellon Bank said in a written statement.

Suntrust received an F for not participating in the survey. Spokesman Barry Koling said the bank's reorganization kept it from taking part.

Other banks in the survey, including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp, said their poor grades resulted from not having immediately available data requested by the NAACP.

The report did acknowledge some signs of success.

The industry as a whole received a B for reinvesting in communities.

Bank of America received an overall grade of B, the highest overall grade given.

"It's like winning the gold medal," said Henry Hicks, a Bank of America vice president.

Mfume said the NAACP and Bank of America's $6 million agreement in July to increase home ownership in poor areas and aid small businesses in urban areas did not influence the bank's ranking.

The report is the organization's third in its ongoing Economic Reciprocity Initiative to inform consumers about fairness for blacks. The hotel and cable television industries both were found wanting.

The NAACP expects to release a report on the telecommunications industry soon.


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