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Branch Closure - MyEasternShoreMD: Opinion

Branch Closure

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Posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 4:35 pm

To the editor: Fanciful speculation about the future uses of the closing PNC Bank High Street branch rather ignored the truth about this poster child for corporate welfare. Without impugning the character of local PNC staffers, who I have always found very helpful and polite, here are a few facts for readers that the corporate-controlled 'lamestream' media likes to overlook.

The High Street branch may be unable to suck sufficient profit out of the town center, but overall PNC Bank profits for 2012 were in excess of $3 billion. Its CEO, James Rohr, who is stepping down in April, receives an annual remuneration of about $16 million including base salary, stock, options and other benefits. He has an accumulated wealth of over $86 million including equity holdings and a pension pot of over $29 million. Under his stewardship the share price for PNC has gone from a high of over $81 in 2008 to its current level of just over $63 – wiping out almost a quarter of its value.

PNC Bank was a recipient of over $7.5 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout funds. Yes, you read that correctly, billion – spelled with a taxpayer backed capital “B” – in funds which the organization mainly used to gobble up a slew of smaller banks in financial distress.

Last April, the Federal Reserve said it planned to penalize eight financial institutions (including PNC) with tens of millions in fines for “unsafe and unsound” foreclosure practices. However, providing PNC complies with the government's foreclosure settlement deal, it looks like these dues will never ever be paid – thereby planting the seeds for a future housing crisis.

Also in 2012, PNC agreed to pay a $90 million settlement to a lawsuit accusing it of improperly manipulating customers' debit card transactions to generate excess overdraft fees.

Only last month the U.S. Department of Justice announced that PNC had agreed to pay another $7.1 million for failing to engage in prudent underwriting practices in connection with the issuance of loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. This case was brought under the False Claims Act, an arcane statute from 1863 that was prompted by vendors ripping off the federal government during the Civil War and supplying soldiers with shoddy munitions, material, food and other goods and services. So no change there then?

PNC's website trumpets the firm's corporate values with specious drivel such as “[we] are also proud of our longstanding history of supporting the communities we serve” and hypocritical nonsense like “trust us to do the right thing in all situations and circumstances.”

I could give further details of PNC's rap sheet, but I think readers get the picture? This is corporate cronyism and malfeasance on an industrial scale. Never mind calling for PNC to retain its branch on High Street, we should be demanding that its top executives go to jail!

More realistically, perhaps, instead of just lying down and taking this latest slap in the face, we could come together as a real community and fight back. Unless PNC reverses its closure decision, maybe the local Chamber of Commerce could encourage its members to move their business accounts to other banks. Residents could move their checking and savings accounts, transfer IRAs and annuities elsewhere – I know I will be.

When I first came to the U.S. over 20 years ago, I was immediately impressed by the positive “can do” spirit of ordinary working Americans. Where has that gone? We, the 99 percent, don't always have to knuckle under and take everything the self-serving 1 percent dish out.

Ted Newcomen

Chestertown

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