Cultural Revolutions

Reducing Expenditures

Fleet Financial Group. New England's largest bank-holding company, made big news when it fired 3,000 people and reduced its operating expenditures by $300 million. In addition, employees no longer get certain small perks, and even its best customers will pay fees that used to be waived for them. Analysts chalked it up to "corporate downsizing," but they didn't point out who had wielded the knife. One month before the layoffs. Fleet was the victim of a racial shakedown.

The villain is self-described "urban terrorist" Bruce Marks, although "midget mugger" might be a better moniker. The very-short Marks grew up in Scarsdale, New York, got his MBA from New York University, and went to work for the New York Federal Reserve Bank evaluating bank-merger applications. It wasn't an honest living, but it beat his later and extremely lucrative "community activism." Thanks to his four-year campaign against Fleet, Marks's Union Neighborhood Assistance Corporation is today $140 million richer.

Marks began shaking his little fist at Fleet when it was planning to buy the failed Bank of New England. He knew from his tenure at the Fed that the bank's record in lending to "low-income" borrowers, a regulatory code word for blacks, would come under careful scrutiny. If Fleet did not pass the quota test, the Fed would reject its application.

Marks noted that Fleet...

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