The New York City Banking Commission has frozen deposits into Capital One and KeyBank, two of the city’s prominent financial institutions. However, the historic decision, sparked by the banks’ failure to submit plans detailing their efforts to combat discrimination, signifies the city’s commitment to demanding transparency and fairness in the financial sector.
Championing equity in the financial sphere
The world’s financial epicenter, New York City, has laid down the gauntlet in its push for equitable banking. This move, spearheaded by City Comptroller Brad Lander in collaboration with Mayor Eric Adams and the Department of Finance, has reiterated that banks seeking to operate within the city limits must demonstrate their commitment to fair practices.
A prerequisite for banks operating within NYC requires the submission of certificates detailing their non-discrimination policies in hiring, promotion, and service delivery. In a recent action, Capital One and KeyBank, holders of substantial city deposits—$7.2 million and $10 million, respectively—failed to meet these requirements, leading to the Commission’s decision to freeze their city deposits. This action, however, won’t affect existing accounts, which will continue servicing payments but won’t accept any new deposits.
Comptroller Brad Lander also voted against designating International Finance Bank, PNC Bank, and Wells Fargo to hold public funds in a bold move to strengthen oversight. This decision echoes his sentiment: “Banks seeking to do business with New York City must demonstrate that they will be responsible managers of public funds and responsible actors in our communities.”
Echoing these sentiments, Deputy Comptroller for Policy Annie Levers underscored the Commission’s role in ensuring the city only conducts business with banks committed to community reinvestment and fair credit practices. Her comments followed a public hearing that heard testimony from citizens who experienced discrimination in banking processes and predatory lending practices that jeopardized their rights and living conditions.
The decision to freeze deposits and the commitment to higher scrutiny is an isolated act and part of a series of actions to reinforce social responsibility in the banking sector. Twenty-six banks were certified to receive deposits from New York City agencies for the next two years, indicating that those adhering to fair practices can expect to flourish within the city limits.
New York City has sent a clear message that discrimination, in any form, will not be tolerated, especially within the city’s thriving financial sector. This pivotal move is not just a bold statement within NYC but also sets a precedent for cities worldwide to follow, potentially initiating a global shift toward a more equitable banking landscape.