Divesting from Big Banks

We couldn’t ignore the action happening around the Big Banks this November so, breaking from our usual stories, we’re calling attention to the divestment from the nation’s largest banks. In Miami, on November 1st, the 99% are marching to pull their money out of Bank of America. Three hundred Colorado home owners have already pulled their money out of Wells Fargo, and on November 5th (Guy Fawkes day in the UK) many more people are slated to divest. The folks at Thrive Movement are encouraging people to bank locally and offer information about how to do it.

One initiative that has come out of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Bank Transfer Day–where they are calling for people to move their money from the large corporate banks to local community banks and credit unions.

This is an example of proactive, non-violent non-participation–a strategy Gandhi used successfully in India and Martin Luther King relied on in the Civil Rights Movement. Our financial system is corrupt at its core, as were the salt laws in India and segregation in the US. Moving our money out of the big centralized banks sends a clear message that we will not support them with our deposits, or be a part of their corrupt practices. It does not demand anything of anyone other than ourselves, and gives us an opportunity to exercise the power we have.

THRIVE – What on Earth Will it Take? also focuses on ways we can withdraw our support as a core solution strategy. We recognize that changing banks can feel like a big step, so we are offering some information on WHY this is such a powerful idea and WHAT you need to know to make it happen.

If you would like to learn more about how our money system REALLY works, then please check out this link for a brief Fractional Reserve 101 video. In addition, we have also created a simple 3-Step Guide to help you make the best choices when looking to transfer your money.

We personally used to put our money in Bank of America and Wells Fargo at the same time we were working to stop coal-fired power plants and nuclear energy, not realizing that banks use our deposits to make loans to corporations to fund their projects. Bank of America and Wells Fargo in particular were using our deposits to underwrite the loans to the same polluting companies we were otherwise trying to stop. Good intentions aren’t sufficient if we are funding the problem at the same time.

Environmental destruction and predatory loans are made possible by our bank deposits, and so is local community restoration. So please check out this link for a simple 3-Step Guide to move your money to a local bank or credit union.

We can STOP funding the problem AND START funding the SOLUTION all in ONE move.

Find out what else we can do to reclaim our lives and our future on 11-11-11 at thrivemovement.com.

Occupy Credit Unions by Giles Goat Boy

DISCLOSURE – I am a long-time member and employee of a credit union. As such, I have some expertise in how they operate, but my employment could be seen as a conflict of interest. I will do my best to write objectively, but please know that I do have a personal stake in the credit union movement.

Occupy Wall Street and other organizations have planned various “Move Your Money Day” actions in the next few weeks, but the run on the big banks has already begun. People are fed up with large, unresponsive banks and are moving their money to credit unions and small community banks. It’s not enough just to “move your money” to a credit union, though. Credit unions are financial cooperatives that provide the same services as banks, so when you become a member of a credit union, you have a voice in how that credit union operates. Use that voice!

Credit unions have boards of directors made up of elected volunteers from the membership. They might be reimbursed for expenses, but they are not paid. As a member, you can run for election to the board of directors. There might be a waiting period before you can run, but most members are eligible. As a board member, you can help make decisions about how the credit union charges fees, invests its funds, pays its employees, and interacts with the local community. Don’t just move your money – run for your credit union’s board of directors.

Even if you can’t serve on the board, you can vote for the board of directors. Read the newsletters. Visit your credit union’s website. Find out who’s running and how to cast your vote. Contact the candidates if you have questions about their views or experience. Don’t just move your money – vote for your credit union’s board of directors.

Most credit unions have at least one general membership meeting per year where executives and board members explain the previous year’s performance, go over their business plans, announce election results, and take questions from the membership. Go to the annual meetings. Ask questions. If you have an important agenda item, contact the board or one of the executives ahead of time and ask them to include it. Don’t just move your money – attend the credit union’s annual meetings.

Most credit unions aren’t concentrating on attracting more deposits right now, they need to make more loans. The difference between the amount of interest they pay to depositors and the amount of interest they collect from loans is the traditional way financial institutions make enough to cover their operating expenses (and make a profit in the case of banks.) That difference (the spread) continues to shrink as loan rates go down, because the amount that credit unions are now paying their members for deposits (like a savings account) is at or near zero. That side of the equation cannot go any lower. So, don’t just park some money in a credit union CD and leave it at that. Remember, it’s a CREDIT union. If you currently use a credit card, find out if the credit union offers one and apply (it will probably charge less interest than your current credit card.) Refinance your current car loan from a bank to your credit union (yes, you can do this.) Same with your mortgage. Any time you need a financial service, check with the credit union. They might offer what you need. Don’t just move your money – make the credit union your primary financial institution.

You can probably see why big banks are generally hostile toward credit unions. Credit unions provide real competition, which is why credit unions are constantly fighting off political attacks from the bank lobbyists. Stay informed on issues that affect your credit union. Contact your political representatives when necessary and fight for your credit union. Don’t just move your money – be an advocate for your credit union.

To counter the attacks from the banks, credit unions have their own trade associations and their own lobbyists. Unfortunately, the credit union trade associations are often caught up in the pay-to-play system that has corrupted our political institutions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Track political donations from credit union PACs. Call the credit union associations. Question why they are supporting regressive or dishonest candidates. Don’t just move your money, move to amend the Constitution to outlaw the legalized bribery that Citizens United and other court decisions have unleashed on our country.

Original articles by thrivemovement.com October 2011 & Giles Goat Boy (“Don’t Just Move Your Money–Occupy the Credit Union”) for Daily Kos, October 14, 2011.

More information from the Move Your Money Project.

More information about the efforts to amend the US Constitution.

More information about credit unions.

UPDATE The credit union industry is paying attention:

Opportunity for Credit Unions

Bank Transfer Day







  1. Jan Barrington says:

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