Public banks can be formed in California: Newsom signs new law

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

California cities and counties will be allowed to establish public banks under a controversial bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, making California only the second U.S. state to allow such institutions.

Public banks are intended to use public funds to let local jurisdictions provide capital at interest rates below those charged by commercial banks. The loans could be used for businesses, affordable housing, infrastructure, and municipal projects, among other things.

Proponents say public banks can pursue those projects and support local communities’ needs while being free of the pressure to obtain higher profits and shareholder returns faced by commercial banks. Support for public banks also has grown since the financial crisis a decade ago and since Wells Fargo & Co. was embroiled in a slew of customer-abuse scandals in recent years.