Bank of America, state in dispute over $150M loan

  • Ashley Kierkiewicz

HILO — The Hawaii County Council on Tuesday joined Maui and Kauai in backing Gov. David Ige’s request that Bank of America return to the table to discuss a decades-old dispute over $150 million in home loans for Native Hawaiians.

The council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution urging the bank to respond to Ige’s request for a meeting to work out unresolved issues. A similar resolution passed in the state Legislature earlier this year.

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The bank, however, maintains it fulfilled its obligations and received confirmation from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in 2007 to that effect.

A telephone call and email to Andrew Plepler, Bank of America’s global environmental, global and governance executive, were not returned by press-time Tuesday.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, cited their family connections as one of the reasons they co-sponsored the nonbinding resolution.

Kierkiewicz, who has Filipino heritage and Hawaiian children, said her family may have been denied mortgages because of the bank’s past practices.

“I’m really happy to (be) standing in solidarity with our fellow counties Kauai and Maui and also the state,” Kierkiewicz said. “I really hope we are able to have very real conversations and movement on this, and they are held to the same standards we are when we use credit cards or take out mortgages.”

Lee Loy, who lives on Hawaiian Home Lands, said the issue literally hits home with her.

“We are beneficiaries of the trust and we have some very intimate understanding of what it takes to get a mortgage on Hawaiian Home Lands,” Lee Loy said. “The ability to recognize home ownership … it’s a pathway to a better and brighter future for us.”

The bank was accused in 1994 of discriminatory lending practices in the form of redlining, the practice of denying services to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas, by not providing mortgages on Hawaiian homelands.

The dispute began after Kahului-based Na Po E Kokua Inc. formed the Hawaiian Fair Lending Coalition and conducted research that led to the Federal Reserve System and Office of Thrift Supervision ordering the bank to make $150 million in Federal Housing Administration mortgages available on Hawaiian Home Lands by 1998.

The bank originated $13.1 million in loans on Hawaiian Home Lands from 1994 to 2012, and has made no FHA-247 loans since then, according to account information provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Aug. 20, 2018, the resolution says.

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Ige has sent letters to bank officials asking them to a meeting with government officials and Na Po E Kokua Inc. to sort things out.

“I am gratified to see that the Hawaii County Council work with other county governments, the state Legislature and the governor in holding Bank of America accountable to the people of Hawaii,” Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey said in written testimony Tuesday to the County Council. “I applaud the county’s initiative in taking a look at every option to help our most vulnerable populations and assisting our residence to afford living in Hawaii.”

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