From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Advisory Committee Examines Fair and 'Predatory Lending'

From news@ELCA.ORG
Date 19 Feb 2001 13:46:38


February 19, 2001


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA) advisory committee on corporate social responsibility
discussed fair lending and "predatory lending" when it met here Feb.
2.  Members heard presentations on various lending practices of U.S.
financial institutions and how to identify abuses.
     John E. Lind, executive director, California/Nevada Interfaith
Committee on Corporate Responsibility (CANICCOR), San Francisco, told
the committee to separate any discussion of differences between prime
and subprime lending and of differences between predatory and
subprime lending.
     CANICCOR serves as a consultant to institutional investors on
the social responsibility of financial institutions.  It provides
information to funds that have social screens, and it provides
analysis for and coordination among institutional investors that take
an active role with the corporations in which they invest.
     Lind described prime lending as "conventional" lending.
Subprime lending requires more evaluation of the borrower's
creditworthiness, he said.  Subprime "interest rates are higher
because of the higher risk caused by the poorer creditworthiness of
the borrowers."
     Subprime lending serves a valuable purpose for those unable to
secure a conventional loan, said Lind.  Subprime lending is neither
good nor bad, he said, but it is "the primary place where predatory
lending operates."
     Lind provided the committee with several characteristics of
subprime lending that stockholders and "watchdog groups" could
monitor for signs of abuse, such as a financial institution approving
a loan based on the value of the collateral rather than on the
borrower's ability to repay the loan.
     Edward M. Gramlich, a member of the Board of Governors of the
U.S. Federal Reserve System, Washington, D.C., addressed advisory
committee members in a closed session* with trustees of the ELCA
Board of Pensions who met here Feb. 2-4.  The nonprofit Board of
Pensions, based in Minneapolis, manages $6 billion to provide pension
and other benefits for 48,000 pastors, lay leaders and employees of
the ELCA and their families.
     Through the advisory committee, the ELCA Division for Church in
Society (DCS) counsels various institutions of the church about the
social records of corporations in which they hold stock.  In some
cases, shareholder resolutions may be considered to effect change in
the corporation's practices.
     In January 2000, the ELCA advisory committee set its two-year
priorities -- areas in which to focus its energies as it considers
shareholder resolutions and the practices of U.S. corporations.  The
priorities are equity in the workplace, fair lending and community
reinvestment, elimination of land mines and care of the environment.
     Generally, resolutions are filed with corporations before the
end of each year in preparation for stockholder meetings to be held
the following spring.  Many resolutions are withdrawn before reaching
the stockholder meetings because they prompt significant dialogue
between the filer and the corporation's management.
     Trudy A. Brubaker, ELCA director for corporate social
responsibility, briefed the committee on the status of resolutions
filed with corporations in the past year.  Resolution topics included
endorsing principles for public environmental accountability and
avoiding securitization of predatory loans.
     In 2000, the ELCA joined with other churches and organizations
to ask AT&T to reconsider its decision to carry the Hot Network on
its cable television service.  The ELCA holds stock in AT&T but
protests its association with the adult film network, said the Rev.
James M. Childs Jr., DCS board chair, Columbus, Ohio.
     A shareholder resolution was written and filed with AT&T by
several members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
(ICCR).  About 275 religious organizations, including the ELCA,
coordinate their corporate social responsibility efforts through
  The ELCA did not file the AT&T resolution partly because it was
written and filed before the church could approve its involvement.
The advisory committee adopted a new annual time line for its work
that will make it possible for the ELCA to prepare timely resolutions
for ICCR consideration.
  The committee reviewed drafts of shareholder resolutions on
diversity on the board of directors and global warming.  Members
discussed points that could be made in resolutions on environmental
justice and environmental racism.
  The next meeting of the advisory committee on corporate social
responsibility will be here Aug. 25.

[ * Gramlich's presentation was made in a closed session to avoid
conflict with any matters of litigation that are or may be brought
before the Board of Governors.  For Gramlich's thoughts on predatory
lending, please see
for his remarks Dec. 6 at a conference in Philadelphia. ]

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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