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Public Meeting Transcripts

Public Meeting Regarding Fleet Financial Group, Inc., and BankBoston Corporation

Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Transcript of Panel Four

       14            MS. CAMPBELL:  My name is Joyce Campbell.  
         15   I am going to be reading Maude's testimony.  As you 
         16   know, Maude Hurd is the National President of the 
         17   community organization ACORN.  She couldn't be here 
         18   today because she had to work, as does a lot of our 
         19   members.  She had asked, though, that maybe in the 
         20   future we could have this in the evening so that we 
         21   could better represent our membership.  
         22            Anyway, as you know, ACORN members have 
         23   fought redlining and mortgage discrimination all 
         24   across the country.  We use the Home Mortgage 
         25   Disclosure Act and Community Reinvestment Act to 
  0103
          1   negotiate innovative agreements with banks that 
          2   remedy past discrimination.  Since we signed the 
          3   first of these agreements in 1985, the ACORN Housing 
          4   Program has worked with banks to put over 21,000 
          5   families into their own homes, valued at 1.53 
          6   billion dollars.  ACORN's program has also generated 
          7   an additional $4 billion in low-income community 
          8   investment.  
          9            ACORN's housing program has won awards for 
         10   its success in helping low-income minority borrowers 
         11   successfully get and pay their mortgages.  Our 
         12   agreements with banks include progressive 
         13   underwriting standards, intensive one-on-one housing 
         14   counseling and, whenever possible, below-market 
         15   interest rates.  
         16            Fleet signed an agreement to participate in 
         17   the ACORN Housing Program in 1995 when it bought 
         18   Shawmut Bank.  The agreement covered Massachusetts 
         19   and Connecticut and has produced over 1,000 
         20   successful home buyers and more than $120 million in 
         21   mortgages.  The program has also increased access to 
         22   home ownership for single parents, recent 
         23   immigrants, lower-income buyers and people who don't 
         24   qualify for traditional mortgage underwriting, 
         25   although they still pay their bills and they pay 
  0104
          1   them on time.  
          2            The Fleet-ACORN partnership program and 
          3   programs like it have been crucial in bringing 
          4   capital and credit into low-income minority 
          5   neighborhoods.  For most American homeowners it's 
          6   the single biggest source of wealth.  It means the 
          7   difference between living paycheck to paycheck and 
          8   building equity for yourself and your family.  
          9            Home ownership is even more crucial for the 
         10   stability and economic growth of minority 
         11   communities.  Minority homeowners hold 75 percent of 
         12   their wealth in home equity.  The difference between 
         13   owning and renting is staggering for African- 
         14   Americans.  The average black homeowner's net worth 
         15   is $48,300, while for the average renter it's only 
         16   $500.  Home ownership helps the homeowner, but it 
         17   also helps the community.  Homeowners are much more 
         18   likely than renters or landlords to protect and 
         19   improve their property.  There's more stability and 
         20   less crime in neighborhoods of homeowner-occupied 
         21   homes and greater involvement in community and civil 
         22   activities of all kinds.  
         23            With the ACORN-Fleet agreement and others 
         24   like it, we were really starting to see a positive 
         25   shift in the rate of minority home ownership. In 
  0105
          1   early and mid-'90s the percentage of growth of 
          2   minority home buyers was greater than that of whites 
          3   for the first time ever.  These deals were helping 
          4   our Massachusetts and Connecticut neighbors achieve 
          5   the American dream of home ownership, while helping 
          6   Fleet gain significant market share in minority 
          7   lending.  
          8            But as the '90s draw to a close, we are 
          9   starting to see a downward trend in lending to 
         10   minority and low-income census tracts.  As banks 
         11   like Fleet get bigger and less accountable to the 
         12   local communities, they walk away from innovative 
         13   programs and begin to use cookie-cutter formulas 
         14   that try to fit everyone into a white middle-class 
         15   ideal credit situation.  
         16            Sometimes they even get encouragement from 
         17   Washington, like the conservative Congress that's 
         18   trying to dismantle the Community Reinvestment Act.  
         19            If this merger proceeds, Fleet will be the 
         20   biggest mortgage player by far in Boston and 
         21   Bridgeport and many other cities across the 
         22   Northeast.  When they turn their backs on the 
         23   programs that brought in 30 to 80 percent of their 
         24   minority lending business in recent years, they are 
         25   turning their backs on our communities.  And let me 
  0106
          1   tell you, without these kinds of programs, our 
          2   neighborhoods don't stand a chance.  
          3            If Fleet turns their back on the ACORN 
          4   program, their record in Boston is likely to go as 
          5   low as it has in other cities.  Over the last ten 
          6   years Fleet has been showing an alarming trend.  
          7   Each time the bank merges, it decreases its 
          8   community reinvestment work.  Fleet's CRA ratings 
          9   have been going down in recent years, even when the 
         10   banks they have acquired have a grade of 
         11   "Outstanding."  It happened with Northstar in 1991 
         12   and NatWest in 1994.  These banks were high-quality 
         13   community lenders, but since being acquired by 
         14   Fleet, they have gone down to "Satisfactory" to "Low 
         15   Satisfactory" range and slipping.  
         16            Our community cannot afford to have history 
         17   repeat itself, as Fleet swallows up yet another bank 
         18   without making concrete commitments, continue 
         19   lending in low income and minority neighborhoods.  I 
         20   call upon the Federal Reserve to delay this merger 
         21   until Fleet can prove that it will meet its 
         22   investment obligations to our communities.  Thank 
         23   you.  (Applause)  I did it all. 
         24            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Ms. Wilkerson on 
         25   behalf of Mr. Christian.
  0107
          1            MS. WILKERSON:  Good morning.  My name is 
          2   Angie Wilkerson and I am speaking on behalf of 
          3   Matthew Christian.
          4            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Can you bring the 
          5   mike closer to you? 
          6            MS. WILKERSON:  Good morning.  I'm speaking 
          7   on behalf of Matthew Christian, and I'd just like to 
          8   put some things into proper perspective for myself.  
          9   As a member of ACORN, as a member of the community, 
         10   we began the program with Fleet many years ago.  We 
         11   were the ones who implemented the lifeline banking.  
         12   We were the first to implement the first-time home 
         13   buyers program, and if Fleet walks away from this 
         14   program, it would be devastating to the community.  
         15            I'm asking Fleet to stand by your 
         16   commitment that you originated with us and step up 
         17   to the plate and do what you're supposed to do.  If 
         18   you walk away, it will be so devastating for our 
         19   community, we will have more homeless people in 
         20   Massachusetts than we ever had.  So please continue 
         21   your commitment and give us the commitment that we 
         22   need in our community.  Thank you.  (Applause)
         23            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Thank you very 
         24   much.  Then we have Ms. Mustafa on behalf of Ms. 
         25   Thompson. 
  0108
          1            MS. MUSTAFA:  My name is Lunita Mustafa.  
          2   I'm a mother of six children and like Ms. Elnora 
          3   Thompson, I am divorced and I am a single parent.  
          4   I'd like to say on her behalf and on my behalf that 
          5   the struggle of raising children by yourself is not 
          6   easy, as we all know.  But for the past five years 
          7   parents like myself have had ACORN Housing 
          8   Authority.  We have had Massachusetts Affordable 
          9   Housing Alliance.  We have had Mayor Menino.  We 
         10   have had the CRA, Community Reinvestment Act.  
         11            Five years ago parents like myself were 
         12   coming out before people like yourself.  We were 
         13   carrying pictures, and we were crying.  We were 
         14   weeping for the death of our children to gangs, to 
         15   violence in our streets as the result of an unstable 
         16   community, of moving every year from place to place.   
         17            The burden on the children is every other 
         18   year you're the new kid on the block.  Every other 
         19   year there's a new gang or there's a new territory 
         20   that you have to deal with or a new school that you 
         21   have to settle into.  But for the past five years 
         22   we've had a chance to rest.  And today I don't have 
         23   a picture of dead children.  No.  I have a picture 
         24   of my two oldest children out of my six, and I'd 
         25   like to show it to you.  This is my daughter that 
  0109
          1   just graduated from Bentley College.  (Applause)
          2   And this is my son, my 18-year-old that I have been 
          3   in fear when I see other parents bury their children 
          4   on the streets, and he just joined the U.S. Navy and 
          5   he's a medic.  He just graduated boot camp and is 
          6   starting a school, his first year in medical school.  
          7   (Applause)  This is what ACORN Housing, 
          8   Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance and Mayor 
          9   Menino have stood by me and supported me to help me 
         10   to bring this about.  
         11            And I am crying today because five years 
         12   ago there was a wild beast in our community and it 
         13   was devouring our children.  And then today I hear 
         14   that they're going to unleash him and send him back 
         15   out there, and I still have four young children.  I 
         16   have my home, I have my CRA home, but what about the 
         17   rest of the people around me?  What if it becomes a 
         18   fast rental area again?  
         19            This is Fleet.  My son is supporting this 
         20   flag.  This is what the investment is bringing about 
         21   for Boston.  This is what house Boston is bringing 
         22   about.  This is the safe Boston.  This is the 
         23   result.  These are live children, and five years ago 
         24   somebody would have been crying for dead children.  
         25            I ask you, the Federal Reserve Board, 
  0110
          1   you're a family.  Please don't release the beast on 
          2   my community, on my children.  That's what the 
          3   merger represents to us.  That's what the merger 
          4   represents to Boston.  Without the support of the 
          5   CRA, without ACORN Housing Corporation, without 
          6   Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance and all 
          7   the people that supported us, we don't stand a 
          8   chance.  There is no muzzle for that beast.  Thank 
          9   you.  (Applause)
         10            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Ms. Carter. 
         11            MS. CARTER:  Can everyone hear me? 
         12            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Yes. 
         13            MS. CARTER:  I just hope this morning that 
         14   God's will be done in this hearing, and before I 
         15   start, I can ask for his help.  So Lord, let the 
         16   words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be 
         17   acceptable in your sight, in Jesus' name, amen.  
         18   Praise the Lord.  
         19            My name is Jennifer Carter.  I have been 
         20   banking with BankBoston for many moons, over 20 
         21   years.  I am very concerned about the aftermath of 
         22   the merger between Fleet and BankBoston.  I'm 
         23   worried that they will cancel ACORN.  After meeting 
         24   with them yesterday, they said that they will be 
         25   sitting down again with ACORN.  But I am more 
  0111
          1   concerned that this is just lip service.  And that's 
          2   lip service.  By turning their back on ACORN 
          3   program, Fleet is turning their back on our low- 
          4   income and minority community.  
          5            Have they forgotten that the ACORN Housing 
          6   Corporation borrowers made up over 30 percent of 
          7   Fleet's loans to low and moderate income 
          8   neighborhoods in 1996?  Have they forgotten that 
          9   ACORN Housing helped Fleet increase their lending in 
         10   low-income neighborhoods by almost 90 percent 
         11   between 1995 and 1997?  Have they forgotten ACORN 
         12   Housing is responsible for more than 50 percent of 
         13   BankBoston's loans to black and Latino borrowers in 
         14   1998 and responsible for 20 percent of BankBoston's 
         15   overall lending in that year?  
         16            I think that Fleet has forgotten that ACORN 
         17   has been -- has done -- excuse me.  I think that 
         18   Fleet has forgotten what ACORN has done to help them 
         19   meet their obligation to the low-income and minority 
         20   community.  But I would like to remind them again 
         21   today.  If this merger goes forward and Fleet does 
         22   not renew its lending agreement with ACORN by August 
         23   1st, I, Jennifer Carter, will be closing my account 
         24   at BankBoston, and I will also be encouraging my son 
         25   to close his account at Fleet.  And we, the members 
  0112
          1   of ACORN -- raise your hands, ACORN.  Praise the 
          2   Lord.  And we, the members of ACORN, have already 
          3   collected several dozen letters from other community 
          4   residents in that they are going to close their 
          5   account as well.  We will continue to collect these 
          6   letters throughout the summer.  And I have some 
          7   letters here if you'd like us to submit that to you. 
          8            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Yes, please do 
          9   so. 
         10            MS. CARTER:  So if Fleet is planning to 
         11   keep taking deposits from our community but stop 
         12   giving us loans, then we are going to cut their 
         13   credit line, too.  (Applause)  This is our way of 
         14   expressing our dissatisfaction with Fleet's 
         15   decision.  They cannot continue to keep profiting 
         16   from our deposits without putting back into our 
         17   community.  So that's why I'm here today, to bring 
         18   to the Federal Reserve's attention the urgency and 
         19   the dire need for this program, because it's all 
         20   about helping the low-income community to accomplish 
         21   the American dream.  
         22            Please do not rush your decision by 
         23   allowing this merger.  I believe extra time is 
         24   needed for Fleet to meet with ACORN again as they 
         25   have promised.  You cannot let this merger go 
  0113
          1   forward if it means that Fleet is allowed to walk 
          2   away from its community reinvestment responsibility.  
          3            I realize that nothing can be accomplished 
          4   unless God allows it, so I'm praying for you that 
          5   the Lord will lead and guide you.  Praise God.  And 
          6   I want to encourage Fleet, gather up the frogmen.  
          7   Let nothing be lost.  (Applause)
          8            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Ms. Jacobs. 
          9            MS. JACOBS:  Hello.  My name is Gwendolyn 
         10   Jacobs and I am president of ACORN's New York 
         11   chapter.  New York City has every bank there is.  
         12   There are so many corporate headquarters and there 
         13   are so much money changing hands, but not where I 
         14   live in Brownsville in Brooklyn.  Where I live it is 
         15   hard to find a good bank.  There weren't too many to 
         16   start with, and since they all started merging, 
         17   there are even fewer.  Because of this, people in 
         18   neighborhoods like Brownsville don't have checking 
         19   accounts.  They go to check-cashing stores.  There's 
         20   no local branch of a respectable commercial bank to 
         21   ask for a loan, so instead we're prey to B and C 
         22   lenders.  
         23            Fleet has had dialogue with ACORN about the 
         24   banking problems faced by low and moderate income 
         25   people in New York, but they have not helped us 
  0114
          1   address them.  Before we had discussed doing any 
          2   programs with Fleet, we had a valuable relationship 
          3   with NatWest which gave good loans to minority 
          4   residents of New York.  
          5            ACORN had a highly successful underwriting 
          6   program and then we negotiated a mortgage program 
          7   offering loans at 1 percent below the market 
          8   interest rate.  We were helping NatWest target 
          9   populations that were new to them, break into a 
         10   large, underserved Latino community and build 
         11   relationships with other community groups and with 
         12   local minority churches.  
         13            Then Fleet acquired them and it all ended.  
         14   We in the New York office were led on to believe 
         15   that these programs and our relationships would be 
         16   unaffected.  At the time of the merger, they told us 
         17   that all that would change was the stationery.  What 
         18   a lie.  But after the acquisition was complete, we 
         19   were told that they didn't need our product; that 
         20   they were covered.  
         21            Well, we followed Fleet since then, and in 
         22   fact, they don't have coverage that matched the 
         23   NatWest programs that were in place.  Fleet has been 
         24   terrible about providing communities with the 
         25   services prescribed by CRA.  It's hard to provide 
  0115
          1   services to a community when you don't have a branch 
          2   there.  
          3            In New York Fleet has 39 branches and four 
          4   of them are in predominantly Afro-American or Latino 
          5   communities. 
          6            New York State has a law that requires 
          7   banks to offer lifeline or basic banking accounts.  
          8   A few months ago when ACORN members went to these 
          9   four branches to ask about opening accounts, which 
         10   one of them happened to be my branch.  They acquired 
         11   it from NatWest.  When ACORN members went to these 
         12   four branches to ask about opening accounts, none of 
         13   them were told about the lifeline account.  When 
         14   members asked about lifeline accounts, they were met 
         15   with blank stares.  They were instead offered 
         16   accounts with a higher opening balance requirement 
         17   and unreasonable fees.  
         18            So ACORN went to Fleet so we could get this 
         19   fixed.  The New York State law was on our side and 
         20   Fleet claimed to be on our side, too.  We met with 
         21   them and asked them about their lifeline account.  
         22   We knew they offered it because it was in their 
         23   pamphlets.  So why didn't the employees working in 
         24   their banks know about it?  Why don't they advertise 
         25   it more, especially in the branches that serve the 
  0116
          1   people who need it, like the law says they have to?  
          2            That was when Fleet told us about their 
          3   merger with BankBoston.  They said they would make 
          4   sure that their employees knew before the basic 
          5   banking accounts and offered it more to customers.  
          6   They also said they would make posters for these 
          7   branches so people would not have to find mention of 
          8   the account in Fleet's pamphlet.  They would know 
          9   about it just from standing in the bank.  
         10            Well, our members went back about one month 
         11   ago, and I went last Thursday, and still they were 
         12   not offering the lifeline account.  Still you don't 
         13   find any posters either.  Fleet has become an 
         14   example of the rich getting richer from the poor 
         15   getting poorer.  With every merger they have made, 
         16   they have lost more interest in serving individuals.  
         17            People like me can't bring Fleet the money 
         18   that its corporate customers can, but we're not 
         19   making them lose money either.  We pay our bills and 
         20   we pay our rent, in the same way we could pay a 
         21   mortgage that we can keep a checkbook.  So I am 
         22   asking the Federal Reserve to carefully consider 
         23   Fleet's current merger.  For every employee they 
         24   will lay off and every bank branch that will be 
         25   closed, there are hundreds of consumers who will 
  0117
          1   have less access to banking services.  In low and 
          2   moderate income neighborhoods we need more banks, 
          3   not richer ones.  
          4            If Fleet -- the only way I believe Fleet 
          5   will do anything, it would have to be memorialized.  
          6   They would have to put it in writing before the 
          7   merger and they would have to put the money where 
          8   their mouth is.  (Applause)  Put the money where 
          9   their mouth is.  Saying it is not doing it, and 
         10   bigger does not necessarily mean better.  Time has 
         11   proven that to me.  
         12            When they took over NatWest, the little 
         13   card they have for the ATM has little things like 
         14   little ships.  Well, their ships are leaving out 
         15   lower and ours is coming back and we're filling them 
         16   up and we're getting poorer and they're sailing off 
         17   into the blue to the twin towers with the money.  
         18   (Applause)  Financial Services Corporation, that's 
         19   where it's going.  We're getting poorer and they're 
         20   getting richer.  
         21            That's unconscionable for them to merge and 
         22   get richer at the expense of the poor.  And we are 
         23   the most underserved, deprived, non-served people 
         24   you ever saw, and they're using -- they talk about 
         25   they don't get anything from our money.  Yes, they 
  0118
          1   do.  They get our money.  They're using our money 
          2   while we're sleeping and we're leaving it in their 
          3   bank.  We are their partners.  They should think of 
          4   us as partners because they're using our money.  
          5   While we sleep our money is in their bank and 
          6   they're doing something with it overnight.  Thank 
          7   you very much.  (Applause)
          8            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Ms. Brown.
          9            MS. BROWN:  My name is Lori Brown and I 
         10   live in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  I recently 
         11   purchased my home through the Fleet-ACORN program.  
         12   Before that I was living in a small three-room 
         13   apartment as a single mother; couldn't really afford 
         14   to get a larger place with the income that I was 
         15   making, but I knew if I could purchase a two-family 
         16   home I would be able to use the rental income to 
         17   bring down my housing payment to a level I could 
         18   handle.  But since I didn't have perfect credit and 
         19   I had recently become self-employed, even though I 
         20   made decent money, it wasn't possible to get a bank 
         21   to actually look at me seriously at that time. 
         22            The only one who really would look at my 
         23   situation was the Fleet program with ACORN.  Thanks 
         24   to that program my child and I are living together 
         25   in our new home on a quiet street where lots of 
  0119
          1   people are homeowners and really care about keeping 
          2   up their neighborhood.  I own my own home today and 
          3   my daughter has a safe place to grow up because 
          4   Fleet agreed to look at my loan application when no 
          5   one else would.  Through the ACORN Housing Program 
          6   Fleet didn't try to fit me into a cookie-cutter 
          7   pattern of what I was supposed to be.  Fleet took a 
          8   closer look.  
          9            I also used to work for ACORN Housing 
         10   Corporation as a loan counselor and now I work very 
         11   closely with ACORN Housing Corporation as a realtor.  
         12   I have worked with them for several years and I have 
         13   experienced how Fleet takes a closer look.  
         14            Most banks these days are using credit 
         15   scoring to decide if they want to make a loan.  They 
         16   ask everyone the same questions and run the same 
         17   credit report, send all these numbers to someplace 
         18   to compute them and they come back with a yes or no.  
         19   In our low and moderate income neighborhoods, 
         20   especially in Bridgeport, it was mostly no.  But the 
         21   ACORN and Fleet partnership took a closer look.  
         22   They looked at things that don't go into a credit 
         23   score, but that make a world of difference in your 
         24   application.  They looked at my plan to use the 
         25   income for my renting out one apartment in a 
  0120
          1   two-family home to help me pay my mortgage.  They 
          2   looked at how I had a great record of paying my rent 
          3   and paying my other bills on time and how I had 
          4   cleaned up my credit issues.  
          5            Through the ACORN Housing Program Fleet 
          6   took a closer look at why a lot of other people from 
          7   Connecticut in low and moderate-income communities 
          8   weren't able to get loans.  For example, there's a 
          9   lot of people who were paying very high rents.  If 
         10   you can afford to pay your rent and afford to pay 
         11   your bills and put food on the table, but not 
         12   necessarily have a whole lot of money left over to 
         13   put into the bank, and with Fleet they had all types 
         14   of flexibility with how much money you had to come 
         15   up with, and they really took a closer look at 
         16   having non-traditional credit issues, among other 
         17   things.  
         18            And when they worked with the ACORN 
         19   program, Fleet also took a closer look at being a 
         20   team player, which is something you really don't see 
         21   today with a lot of things.  While they're 
         22   processing the mortgage applications and 
         23   underwriting them, the people who are processing 
         24   them will call if there are any problems.  So if it 
         25   looked like a problem with an application, instead 
  0121
          1   of just denying it and not looking further into it, 
          2   they will call ACORN and work with them to work 
          3   through the issues and get people the mortgages that 
          4   they were seeking.  
          5            They took a closer look at my community and 
          6   we needed the help and we were glad to get it.  
          7   That's why ACORN Housing did almost 300 loans with 
          8   Fleet in 1996 in Connecticut.  These loans have 
          9   worked.  I know I am paying my mortgage payment 
         10   every month and on time and almost every one of the 
         11   clients that I counseled during that time period is 
         12   doing the same.  We haven't heard any complaints 
         13   from Fleet about the loans or about our clients.  
         14            So when I heard that Fleet was going to 
         15   walk away from the partnership, I was very 
         16   surprised.  I am asking Fleet to stop and take a 
         17   closer look now.  Fleet's partnership with ACORN 
         18   Housing accounted for more than 66 percent of the 
         19   loans to blacks and Latinos in Bridgeport in 1996 
         20   and almost 80 percent of the loans to blacks and 
         21   Latinos in Stamford and Norwalk.  In other words, 
         22   out of a total of 142 loans to blacks and Latinos in 
         23   Bridgeport in 1996, ACORN Housing's partnership with 
         24   Fleet was responsible for 94 loans.  Once more, 
         25   ACORN Housing accounted for 50 percent of Fleet's 
  0122
          1   conventional loans to all buyers in each of these 
          2   cities, 50 percent of all buyers, and in 1997 ACORN 
          3   Housing Program was responsible for over 60 percent 
          4   of Fleet's lending to blacks and Latinos, again in 
          5   Bridgeport, and 55 percent of lending to blacks and 
          6   Latinos.
          7            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Could you wrap 
          8   up, Ms. Brown?
          9            MS. BROWN:  Yes.  I would like to wrap up 
         10   by saying, please take a closer look.  Fleet should 
         11   not be allowed to increase their size without 
         12   increasing their community commitment, and I'm 
         13   asking that you oppose the merger.  (Applause)
         14            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Next we have Mr. 
         15   Collazo on behalf of Ms. Mateo.
         16            MR. COLLAZO:  Yes.  Hi.  How are you doing?  
         17   I'm here on behalf of Mrs. Mateo.  I happen to be 
         18   her counselor.  I worked with her for quite a while 
         19   before she became a homeowner.  Just last week she 
         20   managed to close the deal.  So she's basically a 
         21   homeowner thanks to the Fleet-ACORN Program.  
         22            She always wanted to be a homeowner and she 
         23   worked hard to save the few bucks that she had 
         24   extra.  She budgeted herself and finally she reached 
         25   the point where she managed to save enough money for 
  0123
          1   a downpayment.  Her husband was struggling with 
          2   illness which required surgery.  
          3            Basically what has happened after that, 
          4   after the surgery, other bills started accumulating 
          5   and Ms. Mateo was left with the responsibility of 
          6   paying all the finances and basically paying all the 
          7   bills. 
          8            When Ms. Mateo came to our program I worked 
          9   very hard with her to get her ready for the 
         10   responsibilities of home ownership.  I knew there 
         11   was Fleet available for her, so I started working 
         12   with her to make sure she was ready to meet all the 
         13   criteria.  No other bank would touch this loan by 
         14   looking at all the other issues that took effect 
         15   after the incident with her husband.  So after 
         16   carefully taking care of all the outstanding debts 
         17   and all the bills that were left over from the 
         18   incident, Ms. Mateo managed to basically regain her 
         19   own funds and come up with a downpayment.  
         20            So basically what it comes down to is 
         21   because of Fleet and ACORN Housing, the partnership 
         22   that we had, they managed to become first-time home 
         23   buyers.  You have to keep in mind without this 
         24   program, there will be no more Ms. Mateos around to 
         25   basically take advantage of such a great program 
  0124
          1   like ours.  
          2            I am asking you please do not approve this 
          3   merger without requiring Fleet to come to some 
          4   agreement that they're still going to help these low 
          5   and moderate income people that ordinarily would not 
          6   be able to go elsewhere.  This program was her only 
          7   chance and it was the only chance for many others as 
          8   well.  Thank up  (Applause)
          9            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Then we have Ms. 
         10   Miller for Ms. Blain. 
         11            MS. MILLER:  Okay.  I'm speaking for Rose 
         12   Blain.  She lives in Mattapan and she says, "I am 
         13   working with ACORN and Fleet to buy my own home in 
         14   Brockton.  For a long time I wanted to buy a house, 
         15   but I didn't believe that I could.  I got 
         16   information about ACORN from a meeting in Fields 
         17   Corner in Dorchester and I decided to participate in 
         18   the program.  The ACORN loan counselor, Robert 
         19   Davis, helped me to check my husband's credit, my 
         20   pay stub, my income tax and my bills.  I work 
         21   full-time and many night shifts as a nursing 
         22   assistant in a hospital pediatric ward.  Even though 
         23   my income is only $22,000 a year, ACORN's program 
         24   with Fleet Bank gave me the flexibility to have a 
         25   low downpayment and a good mortgage rate.  
  0125
          1            I was able to get a prequalifying letter 
          2   for a house based partly on my plan to rent out a 
          3   floor to another family.  The house I am trying to 
          4   buy is in Brockton.  I will be living there with my 
          5   husband and four kids.  It is my dream to own my own 
          6   home and be my own boss.  
          7            Even with ACORN's program it has taken me 
          8   two years to be ready to buy a home.  Without this 
          9   program a lot of people will miss the opportunity to 
         10   have their dream.  To me it is horrible that Fleet 
         11   is hurting so many people who would like to get a 
         12   house.  I want many families to get the same 
         13   opportunity that we did working with ACORN and 
         14   Fleet.  There's an old saying:  If it ain't broke, 
         15   don't fix it.  Well, this program ain't broke, so 
         16   please don't take it away from the people who need 
         17   it.  I urge you to renew the ACORN Housing Program 
         18   because it works and to stop the merger.  
         19            On a personal note, six years ago I lost my 
         20   home due to a bad loan and a bad house; okay?  I had 
         21   no credit.  But a good income, and the original loan 
         22   that I tried to obtain from a regular bank, I got 
         23   turned down, so I had to go to a shyster loan 
         24   company.  My loan was 16 percent interest and my 
         25   note was $2,000 a month.  After a few years I lost 
  0126
          1   everything.  
          2            But a sister program to ACORN helped me to 
          3   rebuild my life and start over again.  Without the 
          4   program and the training to give me the tools that I 
          5   wouldn't run into the same problems again and the 
          6   loan through the CRA Act, I would not have been able 
          7   to get another home for my family for at least 
          8   another 10 or 15 years; okay?  
          9            So ACORN works.  Megamergers do not.  And 
         10   we urge you today to please stop the merger, renew 
         11   ACORN and help us to keep our community going and 
         12   our cities on line.  Thank you.  (Applause)
         13            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Thank you very 
         14   much.  Any questions from the panel?
         15            MS. BROWNE:  I was a little unclear.  Has 
         16   Fleet said they will not renew their relationship 
         17   with ACORN?  Is it just up in the air?  If they have 
         18   said that they will not renew, have they given any 
         19   indication why?  Is it because BankBoston is sort of 
         20   handling community affairs?  I was a little unclear 
         21   whether this is something that's up in the air or 
         22   you have some reason to believe -- 
         23            MS. CAMPBELL:  No, it's not up the air at 
         24   all.  They said as of July 1st the program ends.  
         25   They walked away from the negotiation table.  They 
  0127
          1   have said since then a week ago at a meeting that 
          2   Marge was at and I was at, they said, oh, yeah, we 
          3   plan on setting up a meeting, you know, we have such 
          4   a good partnership.  But we haven't heard from them.  
          5            They had a meeting yesterday, a community 
          6   meeting that we weren't invited to, but we found out 
          7   about, so we went anyway, and they said, oh, yeah, 
          8   we're going to meet with you next week.  But I doubt 
          9   if that's anything concrete that we can -- you know, 
         10   it's up to you guys to make sure that they sit down 
         11   with us.  I mean, if you just let them say I will 
         12   and wait for them to do it, I don't think it's going 
         13   to happen.  (Applause)
         14            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Thank you very 
         15   much.  We are going to take a five-minute break 
         16   instead of a ten-minute break.  So I'll see you here 
         17   very soon.
         18            (Short recess)
         19            PRESIDING OFFICER SMITH:  Would you 
         20   identify yourself, please, for the record.

	
Last update: December 3, 2010