Can a Bank Be Too Do-Gooder to Fail? | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Can a Bank Be Too Do-Gooder to Fail?

The government has shuttered 120 banks this year and 19 in Illinois alone. But few closures have caused as much consternation and community concern as that of Park National Bank. Park National's closure calls into question millions of dollars of community development funding for neighborhoods on Chicago's West and South Sides.

ambi: Park National Bank, too good to fail! Park National Bank, too good to fail!

Protestors rallied outside a branch of Park National Bank earlier this week, calling on the government to reconsider shuttering the bank. The closure is especially frustrating to community members because Park National Bank was relatively healthy, but its holding company and some of its sister banks weren't.

Save our banks! Save our banks! Save our banks!

Why all the love for a bank? Especially these days, when bankers are everyone's favorite bad guy?

Oak Park Village President David Pope says Park National Bank, its holding company FBOP, and its owner Mike Kelly were uniquely dedicated.

POPE: The bank is committed to providing comprehensive banking services to underserved communities and residents of those communities.

He says Kelly used the bank as a way to do good-providing financial support to social welfare agencies and making investments in Oak Park and neighborhoods like Pullman, Englewood, Austin, and Maywood.
Pope reads an excerpt of a letter he sent to the head of the FDIC before Park National Bank and the other banks held by Oak Park based FBOP were closed.
POPE: Think, just for a minute, about the profoundly positive message that could be sent to all tax payers if an institution that may not too big to fail was nonetheless genually recognized to be too important to fail. Specifically because of its remarkable historic commitment to serve the least of us.

One of the groups Park National threw a lifeline is Chicago Jesuit Academy, a private, college prep, middle school for young men on the west side of Chicago-where every student's tuition is paid for by scholarship. The school day stretches from 7:30 in the morning to 6 at night. When I'm there, late in the afternoon, it's extra curricular time. New musicians are learning to play B-flat.

The school graduated its first class this spring-all of them earned admission to College Prep high schools, including Deon Taylor.

HILL: What was the best part of coming to school here?
TAYLOR: The best part of coming to school here, I'm not sure, there's so many good things. I'll probably say something else later. But, I'd say the relationships I developed.

He talks about his teachers and his classmates and then decides he probably should've said the education.

TAYLOR: I feel so comfortable in school when we go over things that I already did. I can help out other people and just having a feeling you know what you're doing, like you did this already, it's helpful, and you love it.

LYNCH: It would not be an overstatement to say that Chicago Jesuit Academy would not exist without the generosity of Park National Bank.

That's Matthew Lynch, he's the president of the school. Park National gave it a $4.2 million, zero interest loan to buy and renovate its school building.

LYNCH: We were a new school on the West Side of Chicago with no credit history but the bank saw in us great promise and great potential.

Park National also gave Chicago Jesuit Academy a million dollar gift, of which the schools has received $400,000. Now-with the bank's closure, what comes next is up to US Bancorp which took over Park National's assets. Lynch hasn't heard anything yet but he's hopeful U.S. Bank will honor Park National's commitments.

So is Oak Park Village President Pope, and the community protestors, who're asking for congressional hearings on why Park National couldn't be saved.

For its part U.S. Bank said in a statement that it believes in "being a strong community partner and responsible corporate citizen." A representative from the bank is planning to meet with Park National Bank and community leaders next week.

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