American Samoa Senate Supports Community Bank

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Territory wants U.S. bank in place before Bank of Hawaii departs

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 16, 2013) – With a unanimous vote of 15-0, the Senate yesterday endorsed in third reading a Senate Joint Resolution, expressing support of the Legislature for the application of Community Bank of Amerika Samoa (IO) to obtain U.S. regulatory approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to open a U.S. chartered bank in the territory.

The measure now goes to the House for its review and consideration, before being sent to FDIC’s San Francisco office, which oversees FDIC-insured banks in western states and U.S. Pacific territories.

After the measure was approved during the Senate session, Sen. Faletagoa’i I. Tuiolemotu shared briefly with his colleagues his concerns with ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank.

He said that ANZ was very good in the early days and now it's not so good anymore. Additionally, ANZ currently provides limited banking services compared to Bank of Hawai’i, who will be departing soon, leaving a very heavy burden on the community.

He also said that banking with ANZ is getting very difficult, but didn’t elaborate further. He wondered if there was any way the Senate and the Fono could expedite bringing in a second bank before BoH shuts its local operations.

(BoH has decided to keep the Utulei Branch open until March of next year and Community Bank officials have publicly stated that they hope by that time they are prepared to open their doors. )

Sen. Avegalio Aigamaua agreed with Faletagoai about finding a way to expedite another bank in the territory, saying that there are reports that ANZ has hiked their ATM fees, which are now up to $7 or $8. He wondered if there is anything that the Fono can do to keep these fees down to a more affordable rate.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie called on the Senate Government Operations Committee to look into this issue of ANZ fees, including the high charges the bank imposes on non-ANZ customers for banking services, including non-ANZ ATM bank-cards.

As to what the Fono can do to expedite bringing in a new bank before BoH leaves the territory, Gaoteote said the Senate has endorsed the Joint Resolution supporting the Community Bank’s request for FDIC-approval. Gaoteote hopes that Community Bank opens its doors prior to BoH’s closure.

He thanked Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga for his diligent efforts, along with Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, in convincing BoH to stay for another 12 months while Community Bank, locally owned and operated by "our own people", goes through the necessary regulatory approval.

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