Home-owned entries missing as Miami-Dade County chooses bank
By Risa Polansky
More than two years after soliciting financial institutions, Miami-Dade commissioners last week approved banks to handle county and clerk of courts accounts, but not without some contention.
City National Bank and TD Bank are to serve the clerk, and Wachovia will handle the county's general account.
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro noted several times how much the banking industry has changed over the past few years, questioning why the county wouldn't start the bidding process over to see which institutions could compete in today's market.
"Since 2007 the financial world has changed completely…. How could we not go back and put something [a new solicitation] out? It's mindboggling to me."
He also pushed to take another look in hopes of handing the business to local banks.
"There's no better benefit that we can give our community than have our monies deposited in a local bank…. It creates jobs, it creates robust business," Mr. Barreiro said.
City National, founded and based locally, is now majority owned by Spain's Caja Madrid. TD Bank, whose parent company is Canadian, has American headquarters in New Jersey and Maine. And Wachovia is now part of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo.
Part of the solicitation required that banks have headquarters or regional offices in Miami-Dade, but Mr. Barreiro said he'd rather see a homegrown institution handle the county's billions.
"This [kind of business] can make or break an institution, and make it in a big way," he said. "We can make a local institution into a major player in the national financial, banking world and get them that much of a bigger competitive edge."
Commissioner Joe Martinez noted that out-of-town banks still employ a local workforce.
And Commissioner Katy Sorenson said the most important thing is a bank's ability to properly handle the county's accounts.
"We're an international community…. The other thing is, banks are bought and sold every day," she said. "...What matters is they're doing the services we're requiring."
Still, Commissioner Barbara Jordan also criticized the new lineup of banks, which she called "really scare in terms of our local banking community."
Her gripe centered on one bank in particular, OneUnited, which touts itself as the largest black-owned and managed bank in the country.
The Boston-based institution, which has a regional headquarters in Miami, has handled county accounts in the past but was counted out of the solicitation this time around because it's not a member of the Federal Reserve System.
County Clerk Harvey Ruvin said Federal Reserve membership means more security.
Ms. Jordan argued it's almost the same as being Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insured and pushed for a vote to go back and negotiate with OneUnited, which failed.
Several officials pointed out that other banks were tossed out or never bid at all because of the Federal Reserve requirement and said it wouldn't be fair to give special treatment to one bank.
One past criticism that never resurfaced during the banking discussion: Wachovia's ties to the deal for the Marlins baseball stadium rising in Little Havana.
In discussing the bank selection at the committee level, Carlos Gimenez reminded fellow commissioners that Wachovia provided an up-to $100 million letter of credit to cover variable rate bonds sold as part of the ballpark financing "as long as we kept them as our bank."
He did not raise the point again during the final vote last week.