An advocacy group protesting a local bank transaction wants former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to broker a deal and end the dispute.

California Reinvestment Coalition has objected to Irvine lender Banc of California’s planned acquisition of the Southern California operations of Puerto Rican bank Banco Popular, saying the bank should release a plan detailing how it will serve the low-income and minority communities that have been served by Popular.

Banc of California executives have said they have support from numerous community groups and will continue serving Popular’s customers and neighborhoods. Villaraigosa and Banc of California officials declined to comment for this article.

Last week, Paulina Gonzalez, the San Francisco coalition’s executive director, told the Business Journal she wanted Villaraigosa to help. For the past year, the former mayor and labor organizer has been a senior adviser to Banc of California, and he’s pictured in new bank advertisements that have gone up around Los Angeles in recent weeks.

“We’re going to be calling on the former mayor to put something together,” Gonzalez said. “These are the communities he’s from.”

Before she joined the California Reinvestment Coalition in January, Gonzalez was executive director of South L.A. non-profit Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, one of a handful of organizations that successfully lobbied USC to include more money for affordable housing and other community benefits in a major redevelopment plan.

Gonzalez noted that Villaraigosa helped broker that deal and said she wants him to do likewise in this case.

“He’s been silent on the issue so far, but we’re going to continue to reach out,” she said. “We’re hoping at some point very soon he’ll find a way to bring everyone together.”

Along with hiring Villaraigosa, the bank last year named Eric Holoman to its board. Holoman is president of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which invests in redevelopment projects in low-income neighborhoods. Gonzalez said she was surprised Banc of California hadn’t drawn up a community plan yet.

“With the bank’s decision to bring on Mayor Villaraigosa and Mr. Holoman, we thought there’d be public commitments,” she said.

Risky Business

Bank regulators have ordered Carson lender Merchants Bank of California to curtail its business with overseas money transmitters and to step up its compliance with rules aimed at preventing illegal transactions and money laundering.

Those are just a few of the stipulations of an order the bank and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency agreed to late last month. The order also calls for the bank to stop opening accounts for pawnshops, liquor stores and other businesses perceived as risky by regulators, and to limit its business with them. Merchants specializes in banking check-cashing shops and the order will likely impact that business line.

The order came just a few weeks after Merchants started closing accounts held by businesses that facilitate money transfers from the United States to Somalia. A non-profit group in Kenya estimated that Merchants processed as much as two-thirds of the more than $200 million in remittances sent to Somalia from the United States annually.

In letters to money services business with accounts that were targeted for closure, the bank cited “ever-changing regulatory requirements and expenses.” Other banks have cut ties to Somali money transmitters over the past few years, in part over concerns that they could be helping fund terrorist group al-Shabab.

Merchants executives did not return calls for comment.

C-Suite News

Jeff Nerland has joined downtown L.A. business consultancy SierraConstellation Partners as a senior director. Nerland has worked as an interim executive at companies including Hancock Fabrics and Daphne’s Greek Café. … Nicole Fry has joined West L.A.’s First Beverage Group, an investment bank focused on the beverage industry, as managing partner. She was formerly with Imperial Capital in Century City. … Peter Braunz and Jer Wood have joined downtown L.A. lender California Business Bank as chief information officer and head of business projects, respectively. Both were previously with San Diego lender BofI Federal Bank, previously called Bank of Internet. Adriaan van Zyl, California Business’ chief executive, was chief operating officer at BofI before joining the downtown bank earlier this year. … Scott Grimes has joined Pasadena credit card information firm Wallaby Financial Inc. as senior vice president for risk and operations. He was formerly with Pasadena prepaid debit card issuer Green Dot Corp. … Nathan Raizman has joined downtown L.A. lender Grandpoint Bank as a vice president. He was formerly with Irvine’s First Foundation Bank. … Sean Ozbolt has joined Aurora Resurgence, an affiliate of Westwood private equity firm Aurora Capital Group, as partner. Ozbolt was previously with Miami investment firm Bayside Capital.

Staff reporter James Rufus Koren can be reached at jrkoren@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 225.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.