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UPDATE: Fed Reserve public meeting on BoH closure

reporters@samoanews.com

The U.S. Reserve Bank of San Francisco will conduct a public meeting next Tuesday in Hawai’i and American Samoa simultaneously, as they seek public comments regarding the closure of Bank of Hawai’i’s two branches in the territory.
 
Both Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Congressman Faleomavaega Eni have petitioned the federal agency, which has jurisdiction over American Samoa, to convene such a meeting.
 
The local media, including Samoa News, was informed late Tuesday afternoon by Lolo’s office about the public meeting and Faleomavaega issued a news release yesterday morning announcing the same. (See separate story printed elsewhere in today’s edition on additional information from the Congressman’s news release)
 
The governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said the Governor's Office will provide assistance to anyone wishing to make a statement at the public meeting.
 
“The meeting will give the public an opportunity to testify regarding any deficiencies with the 90-day notification process as well as the impact of the Bank of Hawai’i’s branch closure in American Samoa,” said Faleomavaega.
 
In his petition to the Federal Reserve calling for a hearing and probe, the Congressman said federal regulations clearly state that “an institution must include a consumer notice of at least ninety days in advance of the proposed closing in at least one of the regular account statements mailed to customers, or in a separate mailing.”
 
However, Faleomavaega says that he has received information from some concerned residents and constituents who claim they did not receive any written notice from BoH notifying customers of their decision to cease all operations in American Samoa.
 
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said in the public notice released Tuesday that the public meeting is being held in response to public comments it has received regarding BoH’s planned closure of its branch offices in American Samoa.
 
In accordance with the Interagency Joint Policy Statement on Branch Closings, if the Federal Reserve receives certain comments regarding a branch closure, “we are required to convene a meeting of interested parties to explore the feasibility of other options for providing banking service to the affected community,” it says.
 
The notice also made clear that the decision to close the branches is not one that requires regulatory approval and neither the FDI Act nor the Joint Policy Statement gives the regulatory agencies any authority to prevent or delay these closures.
 
As such the “meeting will focus on our sole role of facilitating a discussion exploring options for banking services in American Samoa.”
 
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 12 to begin at 10a.m. Hawai’i time ( 9a.m. American Samoa time). It will be hosted from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Room in Honolulu and space had been made available at Sadie’s by the Sea in Pago Pago for local residents to participate via teleconference.
 
In addition, teleconference facilities will be available for those wishing to comment but unable to attend in person at either location.
 
Persons wishing to comment at the meeting must submit a written request no later than 12:00 p.m. Hawai’i time, Mar. 8 (Friday). The request should include the following:
 
•            the location the commenter will attend or if they prefer to provide comment via teleconference;
 
•            a brief statement of the nature of the expected comment;
 
•            the estimated time required for the presentation;
 
•            address and telephone number (and facsimile number, and e-mail address if available); and
 
•            identification of any special needs, such as from persons desiring translation services or persons with a physical disability who may need assistance.
 
To the extent feasible, translators will be provided to persons wishing to present their views in a language other than English if this information is included in the request to testify.
 
Persons interested only in attending the meeting need not submit a written request to attend.
 
Requests should be sent to Tracy A. Basinger, Group Vice President, preferably via email at tracy.basinger@sf.frb.org and if email is not available then via fax at 415-393-1962.
 
An agenda for the meeting, which will include a scheduled time for each person's comments, will be provided to participants on Mar. 11. On the basis of the requests received, the Federal Reserve will prepare a schedule for persons wishing to testify and establish the order of presentation.
 
To ensure an opportunity for all interested commenters to present their views, the agency will likely limit the time for presentations. “At our discretion, persons not listed on the schedule but attending the meetings in person may be permitted to speak at the public meeting if time permits at the conclusion of the schedule of comments,” the notice states.
 
Comments at the public meeting will be presented to a panel consisting of Federal Reserve officials. In conducting the public meeting, the presiding panel will have the authority and discretion to ensure that the meeting proceeds in a fair and orderly manner.
 
Late yesterday, Tuesday, Lolo announced in a media statement that he had been informed by BoH’s president and CEO, Peter S. Ho, that the bank has delayed for an additional 90-days the compete shutdown of its local operations.
 
As it stands now, the bank’s Utulei branch will remain open for the additional 90-days while the Tafuna branch will shut down on Mar. 15, the original date that the bank had planned to close both branches.



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