Hawaii bank delays American Samoa closure again

Bank of Hawaii delays closure in American Samoa again after plea from territory's governor

Associated Press

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) -- Bank of Hawaii is indefinitely delaying a plan to close its branches in American Samoa after a plea from the territory's governor to bank executives.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said he met Monday with Bank of Hawaii CEO Peter Ho in Honolulu to ask for the second delay. The bank originally announced last year that it would close its two branches, leaving the territory with only one bank and none chartered in the United States. That plan was revised in March and delayed until March 2014, but Moliga asked again for more time.

A business group has been trying to set up a community bank to help the territory transition.

Avamua David Haleck, chairman of the Community Bank of American Samoa, said Tuesday that the bank applied three months ago for approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. He said a review is ongoing but that there is no specific timeline for when it will be completed and no guarantee it will be approved.

Haleck said he hoped the regulatory approvals would come soon "so that we can open a locally owned bank to serve the people, businesses and government in American Samoa."

Moliga said the latest delay will help the new bank finish setting up with minimal disruptions to business.

Ho said in a statement that the company wants a smooth transition for the territory's government and won't leave until its deposits can be accommodated.

Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, an executive assistant to Moliga, said there is no new timeline for Bank of Hawaii to leave the territory.

"It will be determined jointly between the governor and Peter Ho when it is assured that (Bank of Hawaii's) departure will not cause any economic and financial upheaval for American Samoa," he said.

Haleck said members of the public will be able to buy ownership shares in Community Bank after regulatory approval is received. He also said that the bank has received expressions of interest totaling $8 million from approximately 50 founding investors. The investors either live in American Samoa or operate businesses in the territory, he said.

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