A major player representing 5,400 community banks, has told federal regulators that Wal-Mart should be denied its request to purchase a small bank in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The Independent Community Bankers of America says that Wal-Mart poses “very serious public policy issues involving the mixing of banking and commerce, community reinvestment and conflicts of interest.” The ICBA told the federal Office of Thrift Supervision that many small towns have experienced “the devastating loss of locally owned and operated retailers and disinvestment after Wal-Mart establishes a store on the outskirts of town.” The ICBA suggests that credit availability will be a problem when the Wal-Mart bank siphons deposits from locally controlled community banks, hurting the local banks’ ability to support economic growth through local lending. The ICBA noted that Wal-Mart’s pattern of transferring its deposits out of local banks in the past has had a “devastating effect” as local retail dollars are exported elsewhere, hurting local lending abilities. “Will a local hardware or clothing store, a local pharmacy, or someone wishing to establish a new store be able to obtain credit from the Wal-Mart bank?” the ICBA questioned. “The Wal-Mart bank would have a disincentive to lend to businesses that compete with its parent company.” Congress is now considering legislation that would prevent such conflict of interest by disallowing commercial companies from purchasing a thrift institution.
The ICBA’s member banks hold nearly $439 billion in insured deposits, $526 billion in assets, and $314 billion in loans to consumers, small businesses and farms. Here is a company in the business of understanding community economics, testifying that Wal-Mart has caused a “devastating loss” of locally-owned businesses, and led to “disinvestment”. Bankers say it, small merchants say it, economic reports say it — but Wal-Mart continues to deny that it has a negative impact on local economies. To let Wal-Mart know how you feel about a Wal-Mart Bank, email the company at [email protected]