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August 23, 2023

Pressley Seeks Answers from Big Banks on Racial Equity Pledges After George Floyd Murder

Ahead of 60th Anniversary of March on Washington, Congresswoman Requests Receipts on Commitments to Address Racial Wealth Gap

Text of Letters (PDF)

BOSTON — Today, ahead of the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, called on the five largest banks in America to provide a detailed update on the racial equity commitments the institutions made following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. In letters sent to the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Citi, Rep. Pressley outlined the glaring racial disparities perpetuated by the financial industry and requested a financial audit report detailing the current status of their pledges.

“There is no denying that the banking system has historically entrenched disparities in our country, denying Black people opportunities to grow our wealth and achieve financial prosperity,” Rep. Pressley wrote. “As one of the five largest banks in the United States, it is critical your financial power is used to rectify the wrongdoing and heal the very communities harmed by the historical and contemporary role that institutions such as yours have played and continue to play in perpetuating racial inequities.”

The letters underscored the growing racial wealth gap in America and detailed several ways in which banks have been lead actors in the discrimination, exploitation, and degradation of Black communities, including their role in historically inhibiting equitable access to credit for mortgage borrowers and entrepreneurs, and diminishing access to everyday banking services in communities of color.

“As the CEO of one of the five largest banks in the nation, you play a key role in determining which individuals and communities have access to economic opportunity,” Rep. Pressley continued. “Your prior statements and pledge are welcome steps, but there needs to be greater transparency on the actions [your bank] has taken.

Rep. Pressley requested the banks provide a detailed financial report and descriptions of the progress made on their commitments by October 23rd, including amounts disbursed categorized by bank function, demographic and geographic data of recipients, institutional policy changes to financial services, and future plans related to their pledge. She also asked them to describe any further steps the banks will take to address racial disparities relating to access to credit, home loans, business loans, and physical bank branches.

Text of the letters can be found here.

“We applaud Representative Pressley for her important intervention in pushing banks to use their outsized power to ameliorate racial inequalities instead of exacerbating them. Representative Pressley’s letter demanding accountability for the racial equity pledges made by the five largest U.S. banks is particularly timely given recent bills the House Financial Services Committee passed along party lines that would shut off avenues of corporate accountability like racial equity audit shareholder proposals,” said Natalia Renta, Senior Policy Counsel for Corporate Governance and Power at Americans for Financial Reform

“In 1711, Wall Street established an official trading post of enslaved peoples and by the 1830s, big banks were following suit with a practice of selling ‘securitized slave bonds’ to investors. From its inception, the financial industry has profited off racism and that legacy persists today. We applaud Rep. Pressley’s efforts to hold these banks accountable for the racial equity pledges they made in 2020, and we hope they’ll take steps to actively contribute to racial equity rather than exacerbate inequity,” said Jessica Church, Advocacy and Political Manager at Take On Wall Street

Rep. Pressley has consistently advocated for policies to help close the racial wealth gap in America.

  • In February 2023, she and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the American Opportunity Accounts Act, legislation that would create a federally-funded savings account for every American child in order to make economic opportunity a birthright for every child and help close the racial wealth gap. 
  • Rep. Pressley has also been a leading voice in Congress urging President Biden to cancel student debt. Following years of advocacy by Rep. Pressley—in partnership with colleagues, borrowers, and advocates like the NAACP—the Biden-Harris Administration announced a historic plan to cancel student debt that stands to benefit over 40 million people.
  • In June 2021, Rep. Pressley and then-House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2021, bold legislation to help address the U.S. racial wealth and homeownership gaps by providing $100 billion toward downpayment and other financial assistance for first-generation homebuyers to purchase their first home.
  • In May 2020, she introduced the Saving Our Street Act with then-Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to provide economic relief to small businesses with less than 10 employees, with a specific focus on Black and brown-owned businesses.