BB&T's Principled Stand

All across the United States, various financial institutions provide development companies the money to build luxury condominiums, big-box stores, retail shopping centers and parking garages. Many of these projects are built on property taken from private individuals by the government through its power of eminent domain—a clear abuse of the 5th Amendment’s Public Use Clause.

But there is one principled bank that stands alone in saying “NO” to eminent domain abuse—BB&T. The ninth largest bank in the country, with more than 1,400 branches in 11 states and in Washington, D.C.,[1] BB&T announced earlier this year that it will not finance any projects that have anything to do with taking people’s homes or businesses through the practice of eminent domain.

“The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it’s just plain wrong,” said BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison,[2] who also spoke at the Castle Coalition’s fifth annual eminent domain conference in June.

BB&T’s solid stance should not come as a surprise. On its website, the BB&T Corporation has an extensive description of its core philosophy: “Our fundamental principles [are] unchanging because these principles are based on basic truths.”[3]

Those principles include clearly outlined values, based on fact-based reality, objective reason, independent thinking, productivity, honesty, integrity, justice, pride, self-motivation, and teamwork.[4]

So it’s no wonder that those principles guided BB&T’s stand against eminent domain abuse, which will undoubtedly assist home and small business owners protect what they already own from the government’s wrecking ball.

The message is simple: “One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.”[5]

BB&T was certainly taking a bold step and did not know how their hard-line stance against eminent domain abuse would play out for their own business.[6] After all, they made the decision based on principle and not on how the marketplace would react. Given BB&T’s $109 billion in assets and ranking within the nation’s top ten banks,[7] many were paying attention to just what role this decision would play in their daily business.

By September 2006, BB&T was able to measure the impact of their decision, and the results were striking.

“The impact has been very positive, not negative,” said BB&T spokesman Bob Denham. “The policy was announced in January, and by February we had more net new accounts posted than in any previous month in the bank’s history.”[8]

Only eight months after their groundbreaking announcement, it may be still too soon to tell the long-term impacts of BB&T’s principled stand. But the Castle Coalition proudly predicts that protecting regular folks is always the smart and noble way to go.

BB&T clearly continues to stand on the side of honest, hard-working Americans in the fight against eminent domain abuse. For the sake of those Americans, the Castle Coalition hopes many other banks will follow in the principled and guided path of the bold leadership of BB&T—the outcome is obvious.

[1] Paul Nowell, “BB&T ends loans for eminent domain,” USA Today, January 26, 2006.

[2] Bob Denham, “BB&T announces eminent domain policy,” BB&T Public Relations, Press Release, January 25, 2006.


[4] Ibid.

[5] Bob Denham, “BB&T announces eminent domain policy,” BB&T Public Relations, Press Release, January 25, 2006.

[6] G.M. Corrigan, “BB&T praised for stand against eminent domain,” The Washington Examiner, September 8, 2006.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.