In a series of articles six years ago, National Legal and Policy Center detailed how politically connected ShoreBank – a community development lending institution based on Chicago’s South Side – was granted a bailout under unusual terms from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Treasury after political pressure from area congressmen.
Now its successor, Chicago-based Urban Partnership Bank, is also in trouble with the FDIC and will try to raise an emergency $15 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. UPB continued the effort established by ShoreBank under the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act to “serve economically distressed communities and underserved people by providing access to financial services and products that are often unavailable” in “economically distressed urban areas,” where the financial institutions hoped to spur economic growth.
It appears the efforts made in 2010 to keep ShoreBank/UPB afloat, by then-FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, just extended the legacy of a failed business model. With $140 million in help from large institutions such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, the newly formed UPB took on about $1.3 billion in assets six years ago from the failed ShoreBank. Now the Tribune reports that UPB has entered a consent agreement with FDIC and its Illinois bank regulator that requires it to cut spending and raise more capital.
As NLPC reported in 2010, the FDIC took a $367.7 million hit in a transaction in which it momentarily took over ShoreBank, just long enough to relieve it of some of its woes, and then turned it back over to the same people to continue its same failed mission. Besides Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Bair reportedly also lobbied Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, General Electric and others to help save ShoreBank. This followed earlier intervention from four Illinois Democratic Congressmen – Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Jesse Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush and Danny Davis – who pressured Geithner to save their distressed community development baby.
The ShoreBank ties, however, extended even higher – to the Obamas and the Clintons. Staffers for the bank supported Barack Obama’s senatorial and presidential campaigns heavily. The Central Illinois 9/12 Project also outlined extensively the Chicago connections and highlighted Obama’s promotion (as a U.S. Senator) of the bank’s microlending efforts in far away places such as Kenya.
But the political nurturing and blossoming of the little community bank with a big heart goes back to the Clinton Administration. In the mid 1990s Congress had created the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, “to promote economic revitalization and community development through investment in and assistance to community development financial institutions, including enhancing the liquidity of community development financial institutions.” In 1997 the fund, managed by the Treasury Department, was allegedly being used as a tool to channel money to politically favored institutions – namely, those favored by President and Hillary Clinton.
A ShoreBank board member, Jan Piercy, was a college roommate of Mrs. Clinton and reportedly introduced her to the microlending work that ShoreBank practiced. The bank’s founders worked closely with the Clintons to help establish other similar community development institutions, as U.S. News & World Report explained in 2007. ShoreBank was dubbed “Clinton’s Favorite Bank” in a 1993 journal of the American Bankers Association.
The bank even inspired then Gov. Bill Clinton, who launched the similar Southern Development Bancorporation in Arkansas in 1988. Then as president, Clinton established the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI), which supports more than 50 community development banks and funds. “All these investments,” Clinton told U.S. News, “were inspired by the ShoreBank model….”
During Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign he had pledged $1 billion over five years to fund 100 new community development banks, according to a House Financial Services Committee report. As the funds were doled out to selected institutions, complaints arose because ShoreBank was granted a significant share of the money – $11 million of a total $37.2 million that was awarded from CDFI in its first round of funding in 1996. As then-Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus later learned, the CDFI awarded funds without employing any kind of scoring system or paper trail to evaluate ShoreBank’s requests for funds – unlike other applicants.
So from the roots of liberal do-goodism that attempted revitalization in depressed areas during the Clinton administration, to ShoreBank’s rescue in 2010, the institution has only survived thanks to political influence among Democratic power brokers. It’s the Chicago Way that’s kept David Vitale – a crony of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s who was his choice as president of the Board of Education – also as Chairman of UPB, despite its failure to attain profitability during his tenure.
According to the Chicago Tribune, UPB has shrunk from the $1.3 billion in assets it inherited from ShoreBank to about $600 million now, most of which are loans. The newspaper also reported that the FDIC said at the end of last year it expected to lose another $511.6 million due to ShoreBank’s failure, and that UPB has lost about $10.5 million through the first half of 2016. Vitale is making the rounds to local-based banks to seek $15 million in capital, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
“I feel pretty good,” Vitale told Crain’s, when asked about the $100 million-plus from ShoreBank’s bailout that it has burned. “Last time it was $150 (million); This time it’s $15 (million).”
As for UPB’s mission, a spokeswoman told the Tribune that bank officials remained confident they could continue lending to low-income inner city neighborhoods in Chicago. Why that would continue to be a viable option going forward, with the same leadership, apparently is of no concern.