2012-06-22 / Community

Meeks Seeks To Help Contributor Bank

Political opponents of Congressman Gregory Meeks are saying that he used his position as a ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee to benefit a bank that is one of his chief contributors.

A bill that Meeks is co-sponsoring would amend the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to adjust the date on which consolidated assets are determined for purposes of exempting certain instruments of smaller institutions from capital deductions. The bill would actually do nothing more than keep Emigrant Bank of New York from losing $300 million in Tier 1 capital, says Mike Scala, who is running against Meeks in the upcoming June 26 primary.

The bill’s sponsors include Meeks, and several other local legislators – all of whom received at least $2,000 from Emigrant Bank owner Howard Milstein and his family.

Under the Collins Amendment to Dodd-Frank, banks above the $15 billion asset threshold cannot count trust-preferred securities towards their Tier 1 capital. Emigrant Bank was above the threshold for two years. The new legislation would change the effective date of the amendment to March 31, 2010, by which time the bank fell below the threshold. Out of 7,307 banks in the nation only Emigrant would be affected by this legislation. In other words, the law would exempt one campaign donor’s bank from financial reform provided by the Dodd-Frank provision.

During the hearing on the bill – a hearing the bill’s co-sponsors attempted to avoid, and not all attended – Emigrant’s chief regulatory officer claimed failure to exempt the bank would result in less available credit to individual borrowers. “Cops, teachers, and firemen” were cited as those who would suffer if the bank were not exempted.

Scala says that many were angered when the banks were bailed out in 2008.

“We’re now witnessing an attempt to legislatively provide aid to a bank that doesn’t need saving. Emigrant currently has $10.5 billion in assets. The fact that Emigrant’s officer was questioned at the hearing about the impact the bill would have on Emigrant further highlights this legislation is catered to that one particular bank. I’m hopeful the bill will come under heavy public scrutiny before its vote on the House floor. We simply cannot afford more of this political irresponsibility,” he said.

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