I have known John Reich since the days when he was vice chairman of the FDIC, but I really got the opportunity to "get to know him" as a man, a deeply caring man, with strong convictions and deep values, as director of the U.S. Office of Thrift Supervision (which regulates thrift institutions nationwide, such as Washington Mutual). I genuinely like the man I have had the pleasure of getting to know.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast area I remember meeting with Director Reich and expressing my deep despair with the less than robust response from the federal government, and furthermore, the fact that "few high level federal officials had even taken the time to visit the area firsthand." I went on to say that "it was something you simply could not understand unless you saw it for yourself." That going to the Gulf, seeing this devastation wrecked upon poor people, many of which were effectively in an economic disaster before Katrina hit, changed you. I was talking to him, per se, but he decided I was and immediately scheduled a personal tour for him and his senior advisors of the entire area. The trip had the desired impact on Director Reich, and he immediately returned to Washington, "telling the story of those in need" to all who would listen. Soon thereafter my friend (and someone else that I am increasingly coming to respect and admire) U.S. Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan also took a personal tour, and many, many others followed. This is the John Reich that I know; the one that "shows up" in people's lives. A soft spoken man with deep convictions, a steady sense of leadership and his own responsibility to lead, and a man with no problem going it alone when he needs too.
Recently Director Reich overturned a very controversial (and I believe harmful) Community Reinvestment Act rule within the Agency, effectively bringing the OTS in line with the other federal agencies who regulates FDIC insured financial institutions. I understand that this was not exactly a popular action in some quarters, but he did it anyway. He did it, simply because "it was the right thing to do."
Just last week Director Reich "showed up" again, but this time it was with me, in South Central Los Angeles. He wanted to see, witness and better understand our work for himself. We took the opportunity to show him the broader community we serve in under-served Los Angeles, and thereafter he readily agreed to meet with community leaders, including my friend Bob Gnaizda of the Greenlining Institute (also recently impressed with Director Reich), and later in a roundtable discussion with area bankers and the chairman and CEO of H & R Block, Mark Ernst (who also deserves kudos for "showing up" in South Los Angeles) on what we here at Operation HOPE are calling "CRA Plus," or doing more than what CRA compliance requires. We were talking about CRA as an emerging market opportunity for mainstream financial institutions, and Director Reich was right there with us.
Director Reich is a man that "shows up" in communities of color, in places of dispute, in geographies temporarily forgotten, in policy talks that count, and in the lives of his friends. I am honored to be associated with Director Reich through HOPE, but also to call him a friend too.
Bravo Director Reich. Bravo....
Onward, with HOPE