The California Reinvestment Coalition, an organization that lobbies for banks to do more business in low-income communities, on Monday said it opposes Banc of California’s plan to acquire 20 Southern California bank branches from Popular Community Bank.
The activist group is asking federal regulators to hear more public comments before the branches in Los Angeles and Orange counties can be acquired by the Irvine-based Banc of California.
Banc of California representatives were not available to comment, but the bank released a statement listing support from multiple community groups, including the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce and Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County.
Banc of California, headquartered in Irvine, announced plans to buy the branches of the Puerto Rico-based Popular Community Bank, formerly known as Banco Popular, in April. Among the 20 branches, 12 are in Los Angeles County. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.
Paulina Gonzalez, California Reinvestment Coalition executive director, said Latino, Asian and immigrant consumers of Banco Popular, who had been historically underserved by banks, tend to have low trust for financial institutions.
She said that trust could be enhanced if Banc of California would release a plan detailing how it would attempt to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act, which is intended to spur banks to aid low- and moderate-income communities.
“If the bank is going to be serving them, it needs to ensure it’s going to be in an equitable and transparent manner,” she said.
Louis Gittleman, senior licensing analyst at the U.S. Comptroller, which regulates banking mergers, said the public comment period for Banc of California’s proposed acquisitions has closed, but that the agency has a policy of considering comments made after the deadline if they are not frivolous.
He also said that banks are not required to make their CRA plans public, Banc of California’s CRA-related activities have been favorably reviewed by the Comptroller.
“You must take that leap of faith that they do have all their plans in place,” he said.