#OWS Alternative Banking Meeting Minutes || October 30

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Where: Carne Ross’s HQ (Independent Diplomat) located at 45 East 20th Street. 3pm

  • Meeting convened at 3pm EST. Adjourned 5:20pm. List of participants will be attached.
  • Note: Volunteered to take the minutes after introductions were already made. Therefore most of the comments and questions are not attributed. Please take responsibility for comments that you know you made, so we can make these minutes as accurate as possible.

Top-line: Discussion today centered on whether to split the main Alternative Banking Working Group into two subcommittees: Legislative Reform and Alternative Banking Institutions.

It was also decided that any discussions about main problems with financial and banking institutions, to be addressed by this working group will occur online. Anyone who would like to facilitate these conversations should get in touch with Christian. This was done to minimize redundancy in face-to-face meetings, and to ensure a plurality of opinion within any diagnoses.
Sidebar: Robyn and Charles attended from the Alternative Economy working group. They will share minutes of our meeting with this group. They are still focusing on the Move Your Money campaign, which takes place November 5th.

Going Forward:
The three top-line initiatives from the previous meeting were maintained. These were:
1. Seeking legislative redress. (Any specifics from this conversation will have to be added by someone sitting within this working group).
2. Building an alternative institution that is “plausibly competitive” (Carne’s language) to the status quo.
3. Short-term measures: Maintaining momentum, raising credibility of #OWS.

Note: Number 3 on this list was not heavily discussed within this meeting.

Action Steps:
As stated above, there was a separation of the larger group into two smaller groups: Legislative Reform and Alternative Banking Institutions.
We agreed that any discussion of the problems or diagnoses of current banking and financial structures, will occur online. It was not decided whether this would occur on nycga.net.

Meeting was attended by around 45-50 people both in person and through the phone. Attendees were of a similar cross-section as the previous week (Activists, financially-fluent, quants, and generalists). There were also many new additions (business owners, NGO directors, students). A journalist from the Huffington Post was also in attendance and took notes throughout the meeting.

Granular Notes
A large portion of the meeting concerned whether there should be two subcommittees within the larger group. Opinions diverged on whether this should take place, and how this would transpire.
Note: Many of the comments are not attributed as this was a large discussion. When possible they are noted. Comments over phone are also noted. They are not verbatim.

    • Carne proposes that given the size of the group that discussion would best be facilitated by two different subcommittees, each existing under Alt. Banking. These two groups would continue to be in conversation, however, would have two different focuses: Legislative Reform (LR) or Alternative Banking Institutions (AB).

Concerns and Questions About the Proposal

    • A concern was expressed by an individual who stated that while he is interested in both groups, he does not feel as if he has the educational background to participate in the LR group.
    • An individual agrees there needs to be two groups. Thinks much of the discord within the group will be in diagnosing problems in banking and finance. Argues that the Alt.Banking group must be clear in what it is attempting to address and redress.

(Carne: Concerned we will be having the same conversations every week, if this is made the starting point within face-to-face meetings.)

    • Some individuals agreed that we should just move forward with specific action steps and leave this conversation online. The minutes can also be used as a tool for developing this conversation. Approximately four other individuals used this time to argue in favour of this option.
    • Some individuals did not agree with this proposal. Their concern was centered upon a lack of a shared theory or understanding of problems.
    • Christian suggested this occur online. The method suggested was to collect complaints and opinions through discussions occurring on nycga.net, and developing categories of reform.
    • Another individual said that we should re-imagine an alternative banking system and look at how banking is done in other countries.
    • Yves raised the point that we may be unable to drive toward solutions if we cannot agree on a diagnosis of the problem.
    • Carne said that we can work on our diagnoses within these separate groups.
    • Jerry said that he hoped that the two groups culd share their conversations.
    • Matt echoed Eve’s concern; possible solutions, such as the Volcker Rule, cannot be contextualized without a common diagnosis of the problem. Focusing on the Volcker Rule is a choice.
    • Another individual suggested splitting into two groups, as the alternative banking discussion is more diffuse in its objectives, and could be where brainstorming could occur. The legislative discussion is more specific.
    • Representative from Zuccotti Park said that he wanted to reiterate the accomplishments of OWS thus far. Answers and demands could do a disservice to the movement if they came too early. There needs to be a chance for other Americans to join the dialogue.
    • OWS could be seen as a medium rather than a conventional movement. The group could report back to the movement to disseminate its ideas.
    • Everyone feels that we should be one with OWS as a movement. Carne Ross could go down to the site and speak to the movement about progress after meetings.
    • Phone 1: A gentleman seconded some of the remarks, and emphasized the importance of maintaining the process. People within the group need to feel that they are being listened to. Decisions that do no reflect the majority could alienate other constituencies of OWS.
    • Phone 2: Another individual on the phone said that people would feel comfortable accusing the banks of subverting the law. 1) Hold those to found la
      2) Predatory loans and fraudThese are crimes under the law. Most of us here would agree with that, and say that these banks are held to the standard of law.
    • Phone 3: One person on the phone asked to what extent we wished to focus on legislative reform and legislative redress. Do we want to focus on the banking system or the financial system? The legislative perspective is that we should enforce rules through attorney generals. Legislative redress in Washington is very difficult, speaking from personal experience.
    • Charles mentioned that on both the subject of legislation and on the subject of alternative banking, it might be fruitful to open a dialogue with the Spanish Alternative Economics committee.
    • James said that he could write down four elements of the banking system that were particularly in trouble: 1) Banking regulation. 2) Derivatives and Risk Management. 3) Rating Agencies. 4) Integration of Banks.
    • The representative from Zuccotti Park asked whether the Alternative Banking, Alternative Currency and Alternative Economy groups should merge.
    • Yves said that framing could not come before diagnosis. She agreed with the idea that the diagnosis could take place online.
    • One individual mentioned that there are different extremes with regard to framing the problem. One individual in the group is completely anti-capitalist but interested in reform. Felt that reform could be agreed upon.
    • One woman expressed the fact that credit unions are unable to make investments and some of their larger umbrella groups were big players in the housing bubble. We need to understand the structure of financial markets before recommending solutions.
    • Carne said that given the number of participants in the discussion it would be necessary to break the groups up. He also said that Alternative Banking, Alternative Currency and Legislative Reform needed to be kept separate.
    • Another individual offered a point of information, that credit unions do make investments through loans. He gave a very detailed explanation of how credit unions make investments. He said that it may be valuable to look at different categories of inquiry: The Volcker Rule, Alternative Currency, Alternative Economy (which represents a fundamental shift), and Alternative Banking (which is more focused on incremental reform, and how existing capitalism could function better).
    • Charles mentioned that in the Alternative Economics Working Group, the emphasis is placed on the cooperative economy. Within that economy the principles of profit, competition and investment are still active. The ideological force of the OWS movement has tended toward the worker cooperative model, which is itself a form of incremental reform within capitalism.
    • It was mentioned that twenty years ago there were more mutual banks, owned by depositors.
    • Another participant agreed, and said that he was less interested in re-writing capitalism than he was in discussing the problems of Reaganism and Neo-Liberalism.
    • Carne said that there were different foci of the discussion, and that there should be two groups: A Blue Sky Group for discussing alternative banking systems and a legislative reform group.
    • Fran: Expanded upon the role she played in creating an amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act. She outlined problems with dealing with the FDIC (for instance: being told, falsely, they would “need an act of congress to get back the $270 million owed to depositors”)This experience could be very helpful for the group, especially Legislative Reform.

(Note: The discussion was brought back to the separation of the main group into two. At around 4:15, two groups were formed: Legislative Reform and Alternative Banking Institutions. The conversations continued within these smaller groups).

Conclusions of Subcommittees

  • The two groups reconvened at 5:10 to summarize the discussions.

Legislative Reform:

  • Spoke about another group that is already examining the Volcker Rule
  • They spoke about the need to understand the power of lobbyists, and from where this power derives.
  • They decided it is necessary to draw a picture of who is being paid by whom.
  • They broke down the financial system into four categories and educated within the group.


Alternative Banking Institutions:

  • Described characteristics of new banks (in the ideal, normative sense). Discussed the need to distribute such ideas to the wider OWS movement.
  • Agreed to have an additional meeting later this week (most likely Wednesday) to further discuss characteristics and a potential proposal.

(Note: There was an additional note at the end of this discussion about whether both groups should continue to meet in one space. While it is a lot of people, most wanted to benefit from the cross-talk between the two areas. This discussion should be continued on nycga.net/groups/alternative-banking/forum)

4 Responses to “#OWS Alternative Banking Meeting Minutes || October 30”

  1. FogOfWar

    Thanks for posting this–very detailed!

    “Eve” should be spelled “Yves”


  2. Mark Anthony

    …wow….excellent minutes ! I can never volunteer now, as I’m afraid I would never do as good a job.

  3. James Cole

    Folks does anyone know how and where the subgroup that was discussing reform (as opposed to alternative banking institutions) is continuing that discussion?