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Oakland City Council Seeks to Cut Goldman Sachs Ties After Bank Profits From Lowered Interest Rates

The Oakland City Council has voted unanimously to end a contract with Goldman Sachs that locked it into a financial deal called an high interest rate swap. The city signed on with the bank in 1998 on the premise it would reduce costs of its bonds amid rising interest rates. But after the 2008 financial meltdown, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero. As a result, Goldman’s rate dropped to 0.15 percent — even as it continued to require Oakland to pay a rate of almost 6 percent. The city council is calling on the city to refuse to do business with Goldman Sachs unless it ends the deal without requiring a $15 million payout. The vote comes after a long campaign by city workers, unions, the Occupy movement and local clergy members. “It’s really been through direct action and public pressure that we’ve been able to build for this,” says Alysabeth Alexander, Political Action Chair for SEIU Local 1021, who helped organize the Oakland community and present testimony to the council members. “This is actually the second swap that SEIU 1021 has taken on and we’re going to continue to do this with our community partners and take on Wall Street. It’s not right that in this fiscal crisis that they’re profiting off of our local governments.”