#OWS: Alt. Banking Meeting Minutes || 23 October 2011

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Where: Carne Ross’s HQ (Independent Diplomat) on East 20th Street, Manhattan. 3pm.

•Meeting convened just after 3pm EST. Adjourned 4:45pm.
Carne will attach a list of attendees but at least two participated via telephone: Bob Foster and Fran Quittel (sp).

Topline: It was decided by unanimous consensus to move all discussion to nycga.net.
Carne offered to post repeated messages to our email thread speaking to the retiring of the current email list.
Sidebar: Rob attended from the Alt.Economy working group. Their focus includes Move Your Money. He agreed to share minutes of our meeting with his group.
Note: November 5th is the National Federation of ___ Credit Unions, target date for the Move Your Money Project.

Going forward:
We have three top-line initiatives:
1. Seeking legislative redress. (Weinstein: Going forward, perhaps Fran help initiate discussion of our options, given her work on Dodd-Frank.)
2. Building an alternative institution that is “plausibly competitive” (Carne’s language) to the status quo.
3. Short-term measure: Maintaining momentum, raising credibility of #OWS.

Action steps:
As indicated above, we’ll migrate discussion to nycga.net.
Carne will brief the GA (on Monday).
We agreed that spreading the word — talking about the goals of the working group – could be furthered by sharing them throughout our various networks.
We also agreed to begin aggregating a resource list. White papers, arguments, studies, facts. Perhaps we could create an area within our page for a Reference Library?
Christian proposed that we have a “Wellstone”-type brainstorming session for our next meeting.

Note: I have uploaded a recording of our meeting, but Google Mail has a size constraint of 25MB. The document is 48MB.
I can invite you to my Dropbox, perhaps, and you can download it? The file name is <OWS Alt.Banking_1.mp4>
Unless you have a better alternative.

Meeting was attended by a cross-section of folks: Activists (QNS MoveOn); the financial-fluent (including blogger of Naked Capitalism, Bob Foster); quant jocks, (MathBabe, Christian) and generalists (Ross, Weinstein).

It gets granular below here:

Germane contributions from participants:

•Christian (former programmer, knowledgeable re: financial instruments) proposed that we have a “Wellstone”-type brainstorming session for our next meeting.
(Weinstein: It would be helpful for him to elaborate on what this entails.)
Christian framed the concept of “utility banking,” pointing out that while profitable banks are “private,” that the extent of their government subsidies should disqualify them as such.
Christian referenced a paper — perhaps he’d like to upload? – “Corporate Personhood versus Economic Democracy.”

•Andrew urged the group to frame discussion as follows:
What is the current system doing?
What ought it to do?
He acknowledged that it explicitly decides on Winners & Losers, positing that it wasn’t the place of banking to do so. Picking what can outperform the market is actually counter-productive for the economy writ large.
Lastly, Andrew pointed out that many people sympathized, agreed with our actions, and need to hear the message so that they might find ways to show support and take action.

•Steve Behar (who has run for City Council) offered that an alternative banking structure might well look like banks circa pre-Glass-Stegall. Why not go back to the “old system” that worked from the ’30s to the ’80s (and tweak it for the 21st century)? Steve further suggested one of the two ideas that the group seemed prepared to adopt: Building something tangible. Forming a bank with $10-15M in deposits. Weinstein seconded this at the outset, envisioning that such a bank to allow us to both model good behavior and best practices, so showing how corporate banks do not operate in the free market. That they have unfair advantages.

•Jerry Weinstein suggested looking into whether Mohammed Yunis of Grameen Bank is interested in #OWS, specifically our working group’s efforts. (Implication: What can micro-finance teach us?)
And what, if anything, WikiLeaks data records might help us in building a case against the Big Banks.

•Linda educated the group about Credit Unions and also helped define what makes a “Community Bank.” (broadly speaking: size)
She indicated that there are five criteria for CU membership: place of employment; residency; volunteering in community; worshiping in the ‘hood. If one were a single proprietor, that also gained entree. Weinstein quickly sketched out an API that would allow consumers to find out if they met the criteria to join a credit union, and, if so, what was proximate. He handed this off to MathBabe (Kathy – sp?) who indicated it could be implemented by a member of Data Without Borders. (Weinstein and MathBabe will talk.)

•Cathy (MathBabe.org) reminded the group that we aren’t just talking about deposits, but that retirement and 401K’s were also at issue.
Yves (Naked Capitalism blogger) added that foreclosure fraud also needed to be addressed, noting that we need to get the General Assembly to take foreclosure issues seriously. They did not respond to April Charney’s requests for a table. How can we add our support?

•Yves tested the scope of the group’s ambitions, pointing out that the capital markets were controlled by 15-20 banking institutions world-wide. The group was interested in taking up the challenge.
She pointed out that it is insufficient to merely critique the status quo. We need to have proposals in place.
Bob Foster (on the conference call from Mexico) echoed Eve’s comments.

Yves raised the suggestion that we “team up”  – at least share knowledge – with Andrew Halding (sp) of Bank of England. Carne volunteered that had a high-level contact within the institution.

•Carne: There is media interest on our working group from elite publications from the New Yorker to the Nation. Invited, they did not show. Weinstein: Shall we pitch them as attendees?
Bob Foster pointed out that the composition of the group contradicted the meme that #OWS was a bunch of liberal arts-educated hippies. Among our ranks are the financial-fluent who saw that the present system was not only corrupt, but untenable. Foster suggested this as an angle to pitch media.

To that end: Carne restated the discussion: We want to create a system that is “plausibly competitive” with the Big Banks. That’s one of our goals.
Carne added that features of the project might include:
Being democratic
Non-profit
Universally accessible

•Greg described an upcoming (second) vote for a Spokes Council. If passed this would reduce the number of weekly meetings of GA.
Nikki (sp) offered that she might attend and would keep the group informed of doings.

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If there are corrections, please add them with notation, below the fold. Thx! – Jerry Weinstein

 

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