Like its sister programs around the country, the Oregon Law Foundation (OLF) uses interest earned on IOLTA accounts to fund programs that provide civil legal services to people of lesser means. Since 1989, the OLF has awarded over $17,000,000 for charitable, law-related purposes.
This mission is now in jeopardy.
U.S. Bank holds more IOLTA accounts in Oregon than any other banking institution. Under a new policy U.S. Bank recently lowered its IOLTA interest rate from 1% to .7% and will continue to lower the rate to .35% by the end of 2011. As reported by the Multnomah Bar Association, this will mean a drastic reduction in access to justice funds in 2012 and coming years.
What Can You Do?
- Be an informed consumer – start by reading this open letter from the OLF.
- Tell U.S. Bank what you think. The OLF suggests that you speak to your customer representative and tell him/her that you want U.S. Bank to remain an OLF Leadership Bank, paying a supportive rate on IOLTA accounts at no lower than .7%. Let your representative know you value access to justice and want U.S. Bank to remain a community leader paying a leadership rate on IOLTA accounts.
- Consider taking your business elsewhere. There are twelve Leadership Banks that pay at least 1% on IOLTA funds and charge no service fees to the OLF:
- Bank of Eastern Oregon
- Bank of the West
- Century Bank
- First Republic Bank
- Ironstone Bank
- Peoples Bank of Commerce
- Pioneer Trust Bank
- Siuslaw Bank
- South Valley Bank and Trust
- Washington Trust Bank
- Willamette Valley Bank
Keep in mind that letting your voice be heard may serve a dual purpose: informing U.S. Bank of the value you place on its role as a community leader and discouraging other banks from following in its footsteps.
There are presently seven advocate banks that pay between .7% and 1% interest and charge no service fees. (U.S. Bank will fall off this list by the end of the year.) Choose an OLF Leadership Bank to maximize the foundation’s rate of return.
This change in U.S. Bank’s policy does not appear to be financially based. In an article posted on July 20, 2011, the Portland Business Journal reported a 57% increase in profits for U.S. Bank in the second quarter. (See the article entitled U.S. Bancorp Profits Soar.)
Many thanks to the Multnomah Bar Association for championing this issue.
Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis