Fox reports that a North Carolina retail and commercial bank has taken an unprecedented stand on behalf of private property rights, potentially opening a new front against eminent domain after the Kelo decision. BB&T has announced that it will refuse to underwrite any development involving the transfer of private property through eminent domain to commercial developers:
Banks give away millions of dollars in charitable donations and loan guarantees to the underserved each year, but BB&T may have just become the first bank in recent memory to withhold money from developers who don’t line up with the bank’s view of eminent domain law.
The North Carolina-based bank, which employs more than 28,000 people in 1,400 branches in 11 states, announced last month that it would no longer approve loans for developers who want to pursue commercial enterprises on land seized by the government using the power of eminent domain, or taking private property for public use.
The announcement was a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June in Kelo v. City of New London. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Connecticut town’s right to take land for private development if its use was deemed in the public interest.
In a Jan. 25 release, BB&T executives stated their disapproval of the court’s ruling.
“One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own,” said BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison, a noted libertarian. “As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.”
The National League of Cities doesn’t care much for the decision. Their spokesman called it a “rush to judgment without reflection or public discussion or debate”. That hardly seems fair considering the amount of controversy and comment the Supreme Court decision generated. The NLC wants to ensure the political viability of eminent domain in order to keep its options open for urban-renewal projects, so their opposition to the BB&T decision isn’t terribly surprising, even if it is poorly rationalized.
The truth is that the NLC keeps demonstrating its lack of reliance on normal market forces and instead wants to garner near-imperial powers for their members. BB&T has made a decision as an independent company as to where they wish to invest their money. They did so in order to protect the principle of private property, both their own and that of their customers. Good for them for standing up to those who believe that property exists only to derive the best possible tax income for their city and county budgets.