Starting a Public Bank: Groundbreaking legal memos describe paths forward

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Photo by Thomas Hawk

Starting a Public Bank — even when fully convinced of its ultimate value — can seem an overwhelming task when faced with the legal and legislative issues that present themselves.

Two legal memorandums — one for the City of San Francisco and one for the City of Santa Fe — have been completed recently that will be very helpful all across the country to those who are working to establish Public Banks. While PBI cannot take credit for these memos, we’re fortunate to be in the loop when they come out and are pleased to pass them on. Links are provided below.

The first is a groundbreaking legal memorandum written by Davis Polk and Wardwell Law Firm, one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. Their work came about after Susan Harman (Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland and Commonomics) reached out to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area who arranged for the law firm’s involvement: Link: Bank Regulatory Considerations Related to Establishing a Public Bank in the State of California

The memo suggests writing legislation in California to establish a new kind of bank charter, or “license,” that can serve to standardize the establishment of Public Banks in municipalities across the state.

The second was completed by Virtue & Najjar Law Firm for the City of Santa Fe: Link: Establishment and Operation of a Chartered Public Bank by the City of Santa Fe 

Both memos discuss how a Public Bank might fit within the laws and regulatory requirements of State and Federal law, and the bank chartering system. Both point toward possible paths forward in establishing a public bank. 

More in-depth discussion of these documents will take place in our newsletter in the coming weeks. 

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