Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Banc of California expansion opposed by advocates for minorities, low-income

Irvine-based Banc of California's bid to acquire 20 branches from Banco Popular is facing opposition from advocates for low-income and minority communities.
Irvine-based Banc of California's bid to acquire 20 branches from Banco Popular is facing opposition from advocates for low-income and minority communities. David Valenzeula via Flickr Creative Commons

Irvine-based Banc of California is making a bid to become one of the region’s largest homegrown banks, but advocates representing minorities and low-income communities are doing what they can to stop those plans. 

Groups led by the California Reinvestment Coalition are asking federal regulators to deny Banc of California’s application to acquire 20 Popular Community Bank branches from Puerto Rico-based Banco Popular.

Banco Popular is getting out of the California market after years of catering to Latino and Asian clienteles in cities such as L.A., Montebello and Garden Grove. Consumer advocates are worried Banc of California will not properly serve the less affluent clients it will inherit, some of whom are immigrants who had never banked before they opened accounts at Popular Community Bank.

The coalition's executive director Paulina Gonzalez said the bank should disclose its plan for dealing with the lower-income customers it would acquire in the merger. For example, would there be mortgages and other products geared toward them?

But the company has refused to share such a plan, telling American Banker the information is proprietary.

"We need to really be building trust and have communities that have been previously unbanked get into good banking products that are low-cost, affordable and transparent,"  said Gonzalez, who plans to lead a protest outside the Popular Community branch in L.A. Tuesday morning.

Banc of California did not respond to KPCC's multiple requests for comment Monday. But on its website, the bank stated its commitment to meeting the needs of the underserved, and posted letters of support from community groups.

A spokesman for the regulating body — the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — said he could not say much about a pending application.

Regulators do appear to be giving the application more scrutiny. The agency has added a second public comment period that started Monday and will run to Aug. 19. And it's required the company to file a second round of public notices.

The coalition had complained that the original notices had been placed in the New York Times — which it said typical Popular Community Bank customers do not read — along with the Orange County Register. The new notices will run in the Spanish-language paper La Opinion and the Los Angeles Times.

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