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There are 'major shortcomings' in big banks' COVID-19 responses: CBB

Committee for Better Banks Lead Organizer Nick Weiner joins Yahoo Finance's Zack Guzman to discuss how the big banks have had 'major shortcomings' when it comes to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Meantime, we want to shift gears a little bit over to the way that banks are getting criticized through all of this. Of course, very different problem we're dealing with than back in '09, when banks were very much in the spotlight here. But still, a lot to be questioned over the way that it's treating workers, frontline workers, as well as people who have loans in trouble, as well as all the other things out there and dealing with all the money flowing through the banks right now.

And joining us for more on that is Nick Weiner, Committee for Better Banks Lead Organizer. And Nick, when we look at this, you guys were just out rating how some of these banks have been doing on those fronts. And not necessarily any of the major ones earning a passing grade. What are they doing so poorly?

NICK WEINER: Thanks, Zack. Great to be here. Look, I think the earnings calls this week really hit home why-- we at the Committee for Better Banks did this scorecard grading the 12 of the largest retail banks on how they treat people, their employees and individual customers, during this pandemic. Because it's a reflection of this disconnect in our economy between what's happening with the stock market and Wall Street versus what most Americans are experiencing in their everyday lives.

We saw profits on the investment banking side go up. On the retail side they're down. And a big reason is because the big four banks socked away about $20 billion dollars to cover loan losses because they're anticipating massive loan defaults, and with good reason, right? Last month I think 30% of Americans missed their June payment.

So a big question for us at the Committee for Better Banks, right, which as you mentioned is a coalition of frontline bank workers from across the country, is what are the big banks doing to help prevent what some are warning could be a housing apocalypse over the coming months? So in our view, they need to do as much as possible to prevent defaults and bankruptcies.

And they can do this by extending the CARES Act forbearance policies across housing, auto, and student loans, and help to maximize employment by not issuing any layoffs until we have a vaccine, and making sure that they're implementing consistent worker protections so that frontline bank workers can serve customers who are stressed and anxious about what's going to happen next.

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, I mean, I think a lot of those things would be ideal to see. But obviously a lot of companies right now are dealing with these struggles. And banks, as you know too, have to navigate all this responsibly and in handling what loans could come down the pipe. That's why we're seeing them do that.

But I just need to point out here, too, in terms of a lot of these larger banks saying that they would donate the net proceeds in terms of fees tied to those Paycheck Protection Loans. We had highlighted before about $24 billion in fees came from those. When you look at it, I mean, how does that kind of translate into these ratings?

I just want to highlight a few of them here, because you gave JPMorgan Chase a D, Bank of America a D, US Bank an F, Wells Fargo an F. I mean, are they at least not doing everything wrong? Surely they must be doing something OK.

NICK WEINER: So we did give them points for charitable contributions. But we set a high bar, right, to really highlight the need and the position the banks are in today versus right where they were 12 years ago. And thank goodness some of the Dodd-Frank protections are in place so that they're-- that they are better capitalized and in a position to help in the economy right now.

So we set a high bar. Part of the problem is, what we found through our analysis is that there's a patchwork of policies that each bank issued. And we thought really there needs to be some consistency, transparency to reduce anxiety. And that's what we're hearing from bank workers.

Initially back in March, bank workers were saying-- thought-- were being told there's no way you can telework because of federal banking regulations. And then suddenly there were positive cases in massive call centers around the country. And it seemed like the next day, tens of thousands of bank workers got laptops, were able to work from home.

And so when the need arises, the banks are able to meet the challenge. And so we did set a high bar because we're in unprecedented times. And we need these banks, these major institutions-- that collectively the banks we looked at have $8 and 1/2 trillion in assets, had $155 billion in net profits last year-- to do as much as we can to get through this massive crisis. And we need their leadership.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, no, a lot of questions around all this too. And obviously the Fed getting hit with a lot of these questions as well. But Nick Weiner joining us there from the Committee for Better Banks as the lead organizer. Appreciate you taking the time to chat that.

NICK WEINER: Yeah, thanks for having me, Zack.