The banking industry became the latest target of NAACP officials yesterday after President Kweisi Mfume released "report card" grades for 15 financial institutions and urged blacks to avoid using banks that received low marks.
The banks were graded on employment, community reinvestment, advertising/marketing, vendor development and charitable giving. Collectively, they received a C-minus.
Bank of America Corp., the country's largest bank, received a B, while SunTrust Banks Inc. received an F for failing to participate. Of the remaining 13 banks, seven received D's or D-pluses and six were given C's or C-minuses.
After announcing the grades at a news conference at NAACP headquarters in Northwest Baltimore, Mfume said NAACP officials will ask blacks and other minorities to remove their money from banks that it deems underperforming or failing.
"Except where there are pre-existing contractual obligations that must be honored, beginning today and for the next 12 months we will urge as many people and organizations as we can humanly contact to avoid spending their dollars or investing their dollars in banks that earn poor or failing grades," Mfume said, adding that an emphasis will be put on black churches.
"We don't enjoy taking economic action," Mfume said. "More and more we're forced into that because diplomacy doesn't always work."
Yesterday was the first time officials with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people ranked banks. Two weeks ago, the nation's oldest civil rights organization released its grades for 11 of the hotel industry's largest chains and asked travelers to avoid patronizing those that received poor or failing grades.
The rankings are part of the NAACP's Economic Reciprocity Initiative, launched in 1996, which seeks to measure corporate America's commitment to African-Americans and other people of color. Black-owned newspapers, religious organizations, fraternities, sororities and other groups make up the 69-member Economic Reciprocity Initiative partnership.
Mfume said he expects banks across the country to feel an economic pinch once word of the survey spreads. Beginning in December, NAACP volunteers will alert people as they go into banks, he said.
Barry Koling, a SunTrust spokesman, said officials did not have time to comply with the survey but plan to participate next year when the NAACP ranks banks again.
"Our data was not available in a format compatible with their requirements," Koling said. "It was entirely the result of our organization's configuring. I think we feel pretty good about the general track record, the spirit of the things the NAACP was looking at."
Mary Eshet, a spokeswoman for First Union Corp., which received a C-plus, said the bank was pleased to rank second out of 15 financial institutions and will continue trying to be more responsive to African-American consumers.
She said First Union has a Supplier Diversity Program, which procures supplies and services from minority-owned businesses. Also, she said, the bank makes an effort to provide loan, and other financial services to banks owned by women and minorities.
Other banks surveyed were: Chase Manhattan, Wachovia and Bank of New York, which received C's; Bank One and PNC Bank, each of which received a C-minus; National City, which received a D-plus; and U.S. Bancorp, Mellon Bank, Fleet Boston, KeyCorp, Citibank and Wells Fargo, all of which received a D.