Boston-based OneUnited Bank has introduced two new programs designed to help people achieve healthy credit. The bank's Waive Home Loan Program aims to make home financing more affordable by waiving many home loan fees. The program, set to run through the rest of this year, is open to everyone, including first-time homebuyers. OneUnited has also launched the Unity Vista Card, a program that focuses on lending in low- to moderate-income communities. The card features a low annual rate and will not have fees for purchases and deposits. Cardholders are automatically enrolled in OneUnited's "How to Rebuild Credit Program" which offers educational tips and strategies on how a borrower can rebuild and maintain a healthy credit score.
The Senate has confirmed Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin as deputy secretary at the Treasury Department, making her the highest-ranking woman in the agency’s history. Raskin joined the Fed in 2010 and was known for her focus on consumer protection. In her speeches, she has called attention to problems in the mortgage and foreclosure industries, the consequences of growing wealth and income inequality and the plight of low- and middle-income consumers. Before joining the Fed, Raskin was the chief financial regulator for the state of Maryland. Her confirmation creates another vacant seat on the seven-member board of governors.
Virginia Community Capital has stepped in to secure financing for Virginia-based excavation business J.R. Caskey Grading & Excavation. The family-owned business had faced significant challenges throughout the recession. The firm suffered a setback when their long-term business lender decided to discontinue all construction financing. Virginia Community Capital has filled that void, providing credit on favorable terms and refinancing J.R. Caskey's existing loans. “VCC was sincere and promised to help us, which they have... VCC did everything possible to keep the ball rolling. VCC and their lending team have been responsive, reliable and determined,” said Ginger Caskey, President of J.R.Caskey.
Consumer advocates say the payday lending reforms instituted in various states have failed to adequately address the problems of borrowers. For example, under Florida’s payday reform law, borrowers are limited to one outstanding loan at a time, may not roll over a loan and must wait 24 hours after paying off a loan before taking out another. But lenders have found ways around each of these provisions. They have circumvented the rollover bans by allowing consumers to repay their existing loan and take out another the next day. It is also possible for customers to avoid the cooling-off period entirely by simply borrowing from a different lender. Suzanne Martindale, an attorney with Consumers Union, says meaningful reform will likely require greater national oversight from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Virginia Community Capital is providing new financing to IT consulting agency Omegus Prime under the bank's Asset-Based Lending program. The program is designed to assist small government subcontractors in securing their first government contracts and is bundled with technical assistance from a certified small business support entity, in this case the George Mason Enterprise Center. Rashad Rivera, who founded the company after working as an IT consultant on federal contracts for 15 years, hopes the assistance will allow his firm to go from subcontractor status to a prime contractor.
As "crowdfunding" financing platforms grow more prevalent on the web, it is easier than ever for merchants to solicit funds from customers — but is it a good idea? After nine years in Brooklyn, the Chocolate Room, a specialty food shop, experienced a crippling rise in rent. The cafe’s owners, Naomi Josepher and Jon Payson, reluctantly decided to abandon their space and begin figuring out how to finance a $200,000 relocation. They settled on launching a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Word spread quickly and by the third day, the shop had more than $1,000 pledged toward its goal of $40,000. Then the resistance began. “There’s something about asking your customers to help fund your expansion that just feels a little ... wrong,” posted a commenter on one community website. “Cool or not cool?”
Senate Banking Committee leaders Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have announced an agreement on legislation to wind down government-owned mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Under the plan the financiers would be replaced with a new government reinsurer called the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp. The senators also plan to replace affordable housing goals that Congress had given Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with new housing-related funds to ensure the availability of affordable rental properties. To create space for community banks in the system, the senators said they would seek to establish a "mutual cooperative jointly owned by small lenders" to offer a cash window for eligible loans while allowing the institutions to retain mortgage servicing rights.
First Bancshares based in Hattiesburg, Miss., has agreed to buy BCB Holding in Mobile, Ala. First Bancshares will pay about $6.6 million for BCB, assuming BCB's debt and preferred stock issued to the Treasury Department. BCB, the parent of Bay Bank, has four branches and about $80 million in assets. "We are extremely excited and look forward to welcoming Bay Bank to our team," Hoppy Cole, First Bancshares' president and chief executive, said. "We believe it is a great combination of two service oriented community banks and by joining forces, we will improve our market presence in the Mobile area."
Chicago-based First American Bank surprised banking analysts with an unusally public debit card fraud announcement released after 18 days of frustration. Their investigation began Feb. 10, when the bank received 11 fraud complaints in one day from checking account cardholders. First American determined that the customers had all experienced fraud right after using their debit cards in Chicago taxis. The bank started shutting down debit cards, issuing new ones and informing customers. At the same time, the bank was trying to get MasterCard and Bank of America to shut down card acceptance in cabs, stop the breach or at least explain what it knew about the problem, but made little headway.
Kat Taylor, CEO of One PacificCoast Bank, sat down for a wide-ranging video interview with Forbes Magazine on the state of socially and environmentally-responsible CDFI banks and B-corps. One PacificCoast Bank pursues economic justice and environmental sustainability along with profitability. "We wanted banking to be based on relationships and to produce social justice and environmental well-being at the same time that it's financially sustainable so that it can persist and grow bigger, serving more people and achieving more mission."