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BoH president to Governor Lolo: It's a done deal

Gov says bank is “more worried about its bottom line”
fili@samoanews.com

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga  says he didn’t get any encouraging news from Bank of Hawai’i president and CEO Peter S. Ho during a meeting held last Friday in Honolulu. This information was revealed in a letter from the governor to Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, also dated last Friday.
 
The governor has been hoping to convince BoH to delay its departure for 12 months while his administration works on finding another bank to fill local banking needs when BoH closes its doors on Mar. 15.
 
Lolo’s letter thanked Faleomavaega for the written request to the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for an immediate investigation into the “perceived non-compliance of Bank of Hawai’i” with certain provisions of federal regulation (see separate story in today’s edition about Faleomavaega’s request to the Federal Reserve Bank.)
 
Lolo also thanked Faleomavaega for reaching out to his congressional colleagues from Hawai’i “to help our petition” to BoH to delay its departure for at least 12 months.
 
“I am very pleased and thankful for your immediate response and proactive actions supporting my efforts to preempt the economic devastation which our people and your constituents will suffer consequential to the cessation of the Bank of Hawai’i’s banking services to our already underserved and depressed territory,” he wrote.
 
Lolo then revealed his meeting last Friday with Ho, and the governor says that he left the meeting “utterly discouraged over the nonchalant attitude and matter of fact manner with which the issue is treated by Bank of Hawai’i.”
 
Lolo says it was impressed upon him by Ho that this is a “done deal” and “there was nothing I could say to change the decision already rendered by the [BoH] Board and sanctioned by the [federal] Regulatory Agency.”
 
“It was quite clear that our people's interest and the future of our territory was of no concern to the Bank of Hawai’i, rather it was more worried about its bottom line,” he wrote. “This attitude was rather disconcerting, because after 43 years of profitable existence in American Samoa, there was no apparent sense of moral responsibility for the welfare of the people from whom it derived its financial prosperity. It was made clear to me that the Bank of Hawai’i will not reconsider its departure date of March 15, 2013.”
 
While Ho indicated that BoH will extend any assistance possible to make the transition seamless, the only commitment of support was on the offering of its physical assets in American Samoa to assist efforts to recruit a replacement bank for the territory, said Lolo.
 
“It was quite apparent to me that the Bank of Hawai’i was more preoccupied with protecting its bottom line than seriously considering the severe economic impact of its action to depart on the territory's social and economic future,” he said.
 
Lolo also says that he hopes the Congressman’s letter to the Federal Reserve “will create a sense of urgency facilitating the immediate investigation of BoH’s compliance with federal regulations, but also with the provision of the Community Reinvestment Act with regard to the impact of services to an underserved and severely economically depressed area.”
 
The CRA prohibits redlining — denying or increasing the cost of banking to residents of racially defined neighborhoods — and encourages efforts to meet the credit needs of all community members, including residents of low and moderate income neighborhoods, according to the website for the Office of the Comptroller  of Currency with the U.S. Treasury.
 
Early last month Lolo wrote to BoH chief operating officer David W. Thomas seeking a 12-month delay, or less, allowing ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank time to implement other banking services, which are currently provided only by BoH.
 
Asked for comments or reaction to Lolo’s letter, BoH’s local manager Hobbs Lowson said a week later that “our decision to exit the American Samoa market has been a thoughtful process over time.”
 
“We have appreciated the opportunity to serve the community and will continue to work with the American Samoa Government and ANZ to transition accounts prior to our March 15, 2013 closure,” he said.



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