May 30, 2024

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EMERGENCY MEETING Re: Santander Community Benefits – APR. 18 8-10am

Freeze Frame Black Boston contacted Santander Bank in November of 2016 when we first heard about the Bank’s poor CRA evaluation requesting a meeting to discuss ways we could work with the bank. The Bank initially agreed and asked that Freeze Frame, Boston NAACP, Mass Black Lawyers Committee meet with them. All attempts to actually schedule the meetings went without response. We are now in discussion with Mayor Walsh regarding the preparation of our own plan. We need to get the plan to him quickly. To that end, we are inviting you to attend a meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 8:00 am- 10:00 am at the Roxbury Innovation Center in the Bruce Bolling Building. We will provide a brief history and update, share suggestions for moving forward, solicit suggestions from you, sign off on next steps and, most importantly, decide on the team that will be negotiating on our behalf. This situation provides us yet another opportunity for organization and individuals who might not necessarily work together to be on the same page. You will also be asked to sign the letter to the key elected officials engaged in discussions on Santander Bank.
In December of 2004, Sovereign Bank signed an historic Community Benefits Agreement, (“Agreement”) committing over $3 Billion dollars to Massachusetts low-income and minority communities, establishing goals in minority and women business spending and diversity in its senior staff, grants, major spending commitments to affordable housing, community development, grants and the Empowerment Zone. The Agreement included the establishment of a Regional Advisory Committee charged with maintaining regular communication and input with the Bank on compliance with the agreement. The agreement was in effect until 2010-2011 when Sovereign Bank became Santander Bank. Santander Bank began a process of dismantling the Agreement almost immediately after the change. It’s also now clear that the Bank’s problems with compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act requirement that it meet the credit needs of the communities in which they take deposits began to wane around this same time. For most of us, it came as no surprise to learn that the Bank got especially poor marks for its lending activities in Boston, Worcester and Springfield after a Community Reinvestment Act performance evaluation conducted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
For Boston’s communities of color, the CRA rating is yet another blow to the challenges likelihood of our continuing goal of making real any plan to elevate the economic status of a majority of our residents, According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (“BRA”) a 2016 report found that close to 75% of Roxbury residents earn less than $35,000 annually. Those numbers hold true for Chinatown as well. Boston continues to hold the rank of #1 in income inequality of the top 100 cities in the US. Limited access to traditional capital is undeniably a direct cause for those devastating numbers.
As is required of a bank which receives an evaluation like Santander, the bank began the execution of a plan to address its failings. Santander engaged a Washington, D.C. organization who hired a consultant from Chicago to come to Boston to lead the development of a plan and the creation of a group that will represent us in negotiations with the Bank to develop a Community Benefits Agreement. This is disrespectful and wrong on so many levels. (1) We are more than capable of representing ourselves; (2) We negotiated and signed 4 community benefits agreements from 1999 -2004 with every major Massachusetts bank during the flurry of mergers and acquisitions which occurred during that time period. Various community and organizational leaders of color were invited to a meeting by the DC organization to meet with the Bank in February. We know that the  DC consultant met with the group before the Ban representatives came in. During the prep meeting the Black/Latino folks were told not to speak, just sit. The bankers walked in and the DC consultant directed the meeting. Disgusting!!!! We’re better than this. Most of our folks walked out and felt strongly that they had been used and mislead over the past several months about exactly what they were being invited to participate in. The ruse continued to last week when the DC organizer emailed many of you who they had contacted or met with requesting your permission to list your name on a memo to Santander Bank so the Bank could present the list to Mayor Walsh to demonstrate they had thrown a wide net of participation. Don’t be fooled!
We have an opportunity to make a real difference. A good Community Benefits Agreement should include community lending, staff diversity, grants/philanthropy, mortgage lending, minority business goals, real affordable housing commitments.  Our 2004 Agreement with Sovereign included all these and more. We worked with the Boston NAACP, /Boston Connects, Urban League, elected officials, community organizations, residents to craft an impressive Agreement which was in implementation for several years until Sovereign became Santander. This is a perfect opportunity to put aside history and get around the table together. We are looking for representation from the Asian and Latino community as well so if you see names missing, forward them to us please.  We must start with drawing the line in the sand over which we will not let Santander cross.The great news is that our elected officials, local and congressional, are standing with us. Let’s do this right!
Please RSVP your attendance to Lisa at Cruz Cos. at  617- 445-6901/ or India at 704-957-7892.
See you Tuesday!
Thank you

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