WASHINGTON -- With heightened opposition from the banking lobby and labor groups to Wal-Mart's entry into retail banking, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. appeared ready last week to extend its moratorium for another six months on the retailer as well as Home Depot stores from chartering industrial loan banks.
The first moratorium was imposed last July after the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America complained of unfair competition and a breakdown of barriers against commercial entry into retail banking if the FCIC granted deposit insurance to the two retailers.
The expected FDIC extension of the Wal-Mart/Home Depot moratorium comes as a bill, broadly backed by the banking lobby, was introduced in the House Jan. 29 by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio) to bar a company from owning an ILC unless 85% of its business is already in financial services. The Frank/Gillmor bill had been first introduced in the closing days of Congress last year. The FDIC said it has taken on no new applications since July 2006 and the 14 it had on file have dwindled to 10. Among the dropouts was one from Wescom Credit Union of Pasadena, Calif., which planned to charter an ILC to buy card portfolios. Another application was from Berkshire Hathaway, but still up for consideration after action on the moratorium is one from Daimler/Chrysler, said an FDIC spokesman.
Wal-Mart has told the FDIC that it isn't interested in lending, but wants to handle its own electronic check processing, and credit card and debt card payments from its customers, instead of paying third-party providers to do it.
But many bankers are afraid that once Wal-Mart gets its foot in the door, it will open what amounts to full-service banking locations within its stores. This could hurt independent banks, particularly in rural locations, they say.
Wal-Mart also insists it has no plans to replace the 1,300 credit union and bank branches in its stores with its own branches, but only wants the bank charter to allow it to process the $2 billion a day in retail transactions conducted at its stores. --firstname.lastname@example.org