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Report: Megabanks rarely charitable
Biggest give less than 1 percent to charity
Published Friday, January 11, 2013 12:09 pm
by Stephanie Carson, N.C. News Service

Charlotte-based Bank of America is one of the institutions being questioned by a report examining the charitable contributions of the country.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has examined the contributions of four megabanks over five years. Report author Sean Dobson says the banks include making low-interest loans to for-profit companies, and employees' volunteer hours, when tallying their charitable giving - and overall, they spend a fraction of one percent of total revenue on philanthropy.

“They brag a lot about their charitable donations, and they brag loudest and most often whenever they're in Washington, D.C., lobbying lawmakers to try to water down financial reforms,” he said.

The institutions in the report are Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. Dobson says his group doesn't want Congress to be, in his words, “hoodwinked” by the megabanks’ claims of generosity as lawmakers work on more stringent banking regulations.

Also in the report is an evaluation of how the banks fared in meeting the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's minimum benchmarks for responsible giving. For instance, using at least half of their charitable dollars to benefit vulnerable populations instead of, say, Ivy League schools, or giving nonprofits more flexible, multi-year grants instead of one-time amounts. Dobson says none of the four banks met those standards.

“In fact, these four megabanks, their philanthropy compared to other big financial institutions, is actually mediocre in terms of its quantity and its quality,” he said.
Dobson explains a bank typically gives in two ways – through a separate charitable foundation, where the records are public and can be tracked; and from their own corporate treasury, which is private information and cannot be confirmed, even if the company is publicly traded.


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