Looks like some members of the Occupy Wall Street Movement have adopted a new mantra: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
In September, an offshoot group called the Occupy Money Cooperative (OMC) began raising money to create a prepaid debit card.
The card, which works like any other prepaid debit card, has a fee structure that includes a $US1 monthly fee, a $US1.95 fee for A.T.M. withdrawals, and $US1 for balance inquiries. The card is integrated with Visa, though OMC promises that “a larger percentage of the revenue will flow to the OMC, rather than Visa … A big change.”
To be fair, OMC isn’t exactly buying completely into the run-of-the-mill banking game. Its debit card is part of a larger effort by the group to create a nonprofit banking services cooperative. The co-op hopes to create an alternative to the for-profit banks by establishing a full-service financial organisation (including checking accounts, loans, and financial education) that is controlled by the “users,” not shareholders.
“We launched [the Occupy Money Cooperative] because we felt that the way the for-profit banking industry operates in the U.S., it intrinsically exposes the U.S. economy to risk and makes us vulnerable to the consequences but, above all, fails many millions of Americans who don’t have bank accounts and are denied banking services,” founder and director Carne Ross, of the nonprofit advisory group Independent Diplomat, told Forbes.
The OMC works like a credit union in that it is democratically owned by its members. Credit unions, however, have restrictions on who can be members. Occupy Money Cooperative will be open to the public.
If this sounds a whole lot like a bank dressed up in a Guy Fawkes mask to you, you aren’t alone. In a Reddit AMA in August, Ross answered questions from a sceptical, and often antagonistic group of Redditors who asked whether or not Ross and the cooperative were simply appropriating the Occupy brand for their own devices. Ross was unequivocal in his assertion that Occupy and the cooperative have the same principles and are committed to the same goal.
Ross revealed during the AMA that the OMC will have regular member meetings, discussions, and elections for board members. It will also have “completely open accounting, while protecting the personal information of customers/members.”
The group is currently looking to fundraise $US900,ooo to get the cooperative off the ground. In keeping with their promise for transparency, the cooperative has detailed where that money will go.