Seattle to Require its Bank to be Socially Responsible

Aug 12, 2013

The Occupy Wall Street movement has faded from the news, but the Seattle City Council invoked its memory Monday with the passing of a banking ordinance. 

The city council wants the bank where it deposits money to reinvest back into the community. 

Last year, when Seattle was looking for a bank, it required the banks competing for the contract to give information on socially-responsible practices—things like how they’re serving low-income residents, how many small business loans they’re making, and what they’re doing to prevent foreclosures. The city chose Wells Fargo for a five-year contract. 

This ordinance, sponsored by council member Nick Licata, makes sure the same socially-responsible banking criteria are used the next time around. 

"We want to assure that where we deposit public funds, they’re used as best as possible to benefit the citizens of our city," Licata said. 

Licata said the bill grew out of a desire to respond to the Occupy movement. The ordinance requires the city’s bank to report on things like loan refinancings, mortgage modifications, and consumer loans by zip code.

Under state law, the city is limited to doing business with the biggest banks, and can’t deposit much money at a credit union, Licata said.