Battle Royale

The fight for the future of Carver Federal Savings Bank has turned public... and ugly


BBOC officials maintain that Cohee and Williams have no plans to takeover Carver. “This is about allowing shareholders to change the management if they so desire,” said Robert Patrick Cooper, BBOC’s senior counsel. “Two people on an eight-person board can’t [take over] unless they have amazing powers of persuasion.”

There’s nothing to suggest that Cohee and Williams couldn’t help turn Carver around. Carver’s situation was similar to that of Miami-based Peoples.

But Wright disputed the claim. “I would say [BBOC] has a better chance of going out of business than Carver. We’re building a strong, vibrant bank to better serve New York City,” she says.

Morgan Stanley officials refused to comment, only saying they remain committed to their investment in Carver. Provender’s Terrell was appointed to Carver’s board after the financing deal.

A flurry of letters began in January, which sparked coverage from the local media. Wright wrote to shareholders, telling them that Cohee has not dealt well with losing the Carver CEO position, and challenged his understanding of conducting business in Harlem. Cohee jabbed back, offering to help turn Carver’s fortunes around. Carver’s board, he wrote, “Does not understand basic commercial banking.” The letter criticized Wright for her lack of banking experience, saying she has only directed “quasi-governmental, not-for-profit agencies.”

Wright denounced Cohee for “getting personal with his outrageous claims. Business is business.”

The election turned out as BBOC feared: the Morgan Stanley-Provender alliance barely outmuscled BBOC, as Dinkins’ and Jones’ margin of victory was 30,670 and 31,689 votes, respectively, or just 4%. BBOC recently moved forward with another lawsuit against Carver to nullify the Morgan Stanley-Provender votes.

Waiting for the judge’s decision…
To many, the fight over Carver revolves not around two board seats, but around control of a symbolic neighborhood institution. The war between Carver and BBOC is far from over though. Wright and Carver have just won the first bout, and Cohee is a tenacious and calculating competitor.

At the end of the count, one institution will persevere. What remains to be seen is whether the prospective homeowners, the businesses they finance and the communities they serve will be the ultimate winners.

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