Bankers Trust Chairman Denies It is Engaged in Boycott of Israel

Alfred Brittain III, chairman of the board of Bankers Trust Co. denied, in a letter to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today, that Bankers Trust is engaged in a boycott of Israel, or that the company discriminates in its employment “on any basis against any group.” The letter also denied that commercial banks are responsible for the “terms and conditions” contained in letters of credit.

Bankers Trust was one of 25 major American commercial banks named by the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League on March 11, along with “more than 200 U.S. corporations,” as “waging economic war against Israel in collaboration with the Arabs.” On March 16, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, criticized commercial banks generally, without naming any, for participating in letters of credit that contain boycott compliance clauses. Hertzberg pointed out at the time that Federal Reserve Board chairman Arthur Burns had urged commercial banks “to refuse participation” in such letters of credit.

Brittain referred in his letter to statements issued by “a number of organizations and a subcommittee of the New York State Legislature” concerning the Arab boycott of Israel and observed that “Certain practices of more than 200 corporations and banks have been described as being in support of the boycott.” In that connection, he wrote, “a misunderstanding may have developed on the position of Bankers Trust Company with respect to our business with Israel.”

DESCRIBES LETTERS OF CREDIT

The bank chairman’s letter went on to say: “First, Bankers Trust Company is not engaged in a boycott of Israel. To the contrary, the bank has done business with Israel since the country’s founding 28 years ago. We maintain relationships with all of the country’s major banks and have millions of dollars of loans outstanding in Israel.”

Brittain described letters of credit as “a service provided by banks to businesses engaged in foreign trade.” He said the “terms and conditions” governing overseas sales by exporters which are paid through letters of credit “are negotiated and agreed to by the exporter and importer in a separate sales contract prior to any involvement by a commercial bank. The role of the commercial bank is to issue an advice of the opening of a letter of credit, to process the previously agreed to trade documents and to pay the exporter.”

“Finally,” Brittain wrote, “Bankers Trust Company does not discriminate in its employment practices on any basis, against any group. Persons of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, including the Jewish faith, are at all levels of our organization–first vice-president, senior vice-president, the Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors.”

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