|Photo by Mo Sook Park
|2005 MBF President's Award recipient Thomas Burton (left), the president and CEO of Hampden Bank, with MBF President Francis A. Ford.
The Massachusetts Bar Foundation honored Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Hampden Bank and Southbridge Savings Bank for their support of civil legal services at the Foundation's Grantee Reception held on Sept. 20. In front of more than 130 legal community leaders, the Foundation's president, Francis A. Ford of Worcester, presented President's Awards to all three banks.
In his address, Ford highlighted the important role banks play in ensuring equal access to justice in Massachusetts through their participation in the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts program (IOLTA). Mandated by the Supreme Judicial Court, the IOLTA program requires lawyers holding funds on behalf of a client to place them in an account, which pays interest to the client, or in an IOLTA account. Interest accumulated from the pooled IOLTA accounts is distributed to organizations working to increase access to justice in the state. The amount of funding the IOLTA program yields is critically dependent on the interest rates banks set for these accounts.
"All three banks we honor with the President's Award not only maintain leadership level interest rates in spite of fluctuations in rates from the Fed, but also waive all administrative fees on the accounts. By doing so, these banks exponentially increase the resources available to strengthen the administration of justice in our state," said Ford. "They are true community banks, and by their example, demonstrate the difference a caring bank can make to people of all income levels across the commonwealth."
Over 200 banks participate in the Mass. IOLTA Program, holding IOLTA accounts for over 18,000 lawyers across the state. Through this special partnership of lawyers and banks, organizations statewide receive critical funding to provide civil legal services to the poor. Last year, IOLTA provided more than $13.8 million to more than 100 public service legal organizations, allowing them to help the homeless, victims of domestic violence, political asylees, elderly, children and families in need.
"Banks have not received the thanks they deserve for their substantial contribution," said Anthony Doniger, chair of the Mass. IOLTA Committee. "Most impressive among these are banks like Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Hampden Bank and Southbridge Savings. We are delighted to see them honored for their outstanding contributions to supporting desperately needed legal services in the commonwealth."
The MBF, founded in 1964, is one of three charitable entities charged with distributing the IOLTA funds. The Foundation recently awarded $3.22 million to support 128 programs across the state.