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February 21, 2024

Racial Justice Requires Financial Inclusion: The Treasury and Other Federal Agencies Must Now Act to Meaningfully Help Underserved Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Dennis M. Kelleher, Co-Founder, President, and CEO, issued the following statement on the filing of Better Markets’ Comment Letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), urging them to act to tackle the persistent racial inequity in the financial system.

“Despite the efforts of the Treasury Department and more than 20 other federal agencies, racial inequality and the lack of financial inclusion remains an urgent problem that ruins lives and communities, ultimately harming all Americans. As words flow, wealth, financial, and economic inequities continue to grow. We fully support the implementation of a new national strategy from the Treasury Department to tackle the persistent racial inequity in the financial system, but a request for information in December of 2023 is frankly grossly inadequate. Urgent, impactful action is needed.

“The fact that Black Americans continue to egregiously fall behind is as unacceptable as it is indisputable. For example, when Treasury’s efforts to address financial inclusion began in 2003, White Americans held more than 90% of total wealth, Black Americans held only 4%, and Hispanic Americans held only 2%. In 2023, Black Americans’ wealth share declined to 3% of the overall total and Hispanic Americans’ share was unchanged at 2%. Significantly more Americans own a home now than 10 years ago, but the gap between Black homeownership rates and those of other racial and ethnic groups has grown wider. And it was just reported that White Americans’ net worth outgrew Black Americans’ net worth by 30% in the pandemic.

“These gaps should come as no surprise, given historic discrimination and the ongoing hostility and unfair treatment that minorities routinely encounter at banks. Black customers report being racially profiled during routine visits to bank branches to open accounts or cash checks. Until banks stop being seen as hostile environments that must be avoided and instead as places where all Americans can access banking services and create wealth, we cannot stop working or claim success.

“Treasury must dramatically increase and improve the operation of Minority Deposit Institutions (MDIs) to deliver banking and other financial services to underserved communities. Currently, only 147 MDIs are in operation nationwide, just 3% of the total number of banks. Research shows that MDIs increase credit to minority borrowers and reduce delinquency. Additionally, Treasury must require the use of alternative methodologies to expand access to credit for underserved communities, aggressively strengthen oversight of unlawful conduct by banks toward minorities, further diversity among both public and private leadership staff, and immediately enhance federal data collection efforts.”

You can find the comment letter here.

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Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies—including many in finance—to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit www.bettermarkets.org.

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