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Leaf Home arrow The News arrow National News arrow Seminole tribe wants to buy a bank
Seminole tribe wants to buy a bank
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 08 June 2014

Seminole tribe wants to buy a bank
By Donna Gehrke-White, Sun Sentinel
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
June 05.14

 The Seminoles, who have headquarters in Hollywood near the tribe's Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, would be the first tribe in Florida to run a bank. Nineteen U.S. banks have majority Native American ownership, 11 in Oklahoma, according to South Florida bank analyst Ken Thomas and FDIC records.

There is only one in the South -- Lumbee Guaranty Bank in Pembroke, N.C., with $319 million in assets -- and federal regulators would welcome a second, Thomas said.

"Quite frankly, I always wondered why the Seminole Tribe, with its strong cash flow and other business interests, has not pursued a bank here in South Florida," the bank analyst said.

The tribe recently pursued merging with Fort Lauderdale'sValley Bank, which has four branches in Broward County, according to applications submitted last month to the state and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

But Seminole leaders decided to pass on Valley Bank and continue to search for a more viable option. Federal regulators have determined Valley Bank was "significantly undercapitalized" and had ordered it in December to acquire more capital.

"They're going to wait and watch for a better opportunity," Seminole tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said.

Larry Mindrup, Valley Bank's interim president and CEO, did not return a voicemail Wednesday.

The Seminole have participated in a joint Native American venture for more than a decade in what became Denver-based Native American Bank, which now has more than $56 million in assets.

The Seminole tribe would now like to acquire a South Florida bank to provide better financial services to its members, Bitner said.

For example, there are no banks on the Brighton and Big Cypress reservations, only ATM machines. Members have to drive into Clewiston or other South Florida communities, Bitner said, to do their banking.

"They would potentially like to build a branch," he said.

A bank of their own also could provide help to tribal members interested in obtaining a mortgage to buy or build homes on the reservations, Bitner added.

Right now, members find it hard to acquire a loan because they wouldn't own the land underneath their homes on the reservations, he said. The federal government owns the land in trust for the tribe, making mortgages oftentimes problematic.

The FDIC, Treasury and other federal government agencies would welcome the Seminoles as a minority group, acquiring a bank, analyst Thomas said.

"They would do everything they can to assist them," he said.

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