American Banker: “Santander briefly closes Boston branch after protesters get inside”

Santander briefly closes Boston branch after protesters get inside

By Andy Peters, American Banker

Santander Holdings USA closed a branch inside the same building as its Boston headquarters Monday morning after about 50 to 60 protesters from a union-affiliated group briefly entered the space.

The retail office at 75 State Street closed for less than an hour, “to ensure the safety of our customers and employees,” after the demonstrators from the Committee for Better Banks got inside, the bank said. The headquarters offices are on the upper floors of the building.

The Committee for Better Banks, an alliance of unions and community groups, said it staged the demonstration to protest Santander’s alleged predatory lending practices and “poor working conditions.”

Raschelle Burton, a spokeswoman for the bank, said the protest was part of “an ongoing campaign sponsored by the Communications Workers of America to unfairly and inappropriately discredit Santander.”

The bank “recognizes and respects the rights of its employees to unionize or not, as they choose under U.S. law,” she said. “Santander prides itself on having an employee-friendly workplace where our employees are recognized and motivated and where direct, open and frequent communication between employees and management is encouraged.”

Members of the Committee for Better Banks protesting outside Santander’s office at 75 State Street in Boston Monday.

The committee has been trying to take advantage of the scandal at Wells Fargo to stir up discontent among workers at other banks. It recently alleged “unreasonable sales and debt-collection goals” at U.S. Bancorp in a letter to that company’s shareholders.

The group seized upon recent black marks against Santander Holdings, the parent company for both the $83 billion-asset Santander Bank and Santander Consumer, the Dallas-based auto lender.

Santander Holdings last week was hit with an enforcement action by the Federal Reserve that requires it to strengthen oversight of its subprime auto-lending unit. Last month, regulators downgraded Santander Bank’s Community Reinvestment Act rating, citing legal issues with its lending practices.

The committee is willing to do “whatever it takes to get workers and their customers what they deserve: a voice on the job and access to fair, ethical banking,” Teresa Casertano, a member of the Communication Workers of America, said in a statement.