BMO Harris Bank's "Settlement Philanthropy"

The Chicago Community Trust's LGBT Community Fund received a $25,000 "leadership gift" from BMO Harris Bank, today. Harris pledged two more $25,000 installments over the next two years, as well. The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust matched Harris's donation with $150,000 for the Fund. (See Fundraising: Chicago)

Before it received these gifts, The Community Fund subsisted solely on a half a million dollars from The Chicago Community Trust, which recently committed to raising a full million dollars in total for them.

For hints on how the fund is likely to invest these new resources, part of its LGBT Community Needs Data Assessment summarizes their perspective on how and where, exactly, the Chicago area LGBT population needs help.

In a press release from BMO Harris Bank, Senior Vice President and Head of Community Affairs & Economic Development Judy C. Rice says Harris's "support of Chicago's communities takes many different forms." One of the major forms is legal settlements.

Harris gave $9.4 million gift to settle a lawsuit in December of 2011. Stephanie Blahut, an account holder at the bank, sued them for "illegally charging excessive overdraft fees."

According to Harris's site, they "raised more than $5.8 million through employee and corporate giving" since 2011, but among the major influences on the shape Harris's philanthropy will take in the future are the decisions of the justice system.

In addition to Blahut v. BMO Harris Bank, discussed above, Harris also got sued for turning the blind eye on a Ponzi scheme that used the now-defunct M&I Bank, acquired by Harris last year, to do its dirty work. In 2008, the perpetrator made a single deposit of $35.35 billion at M&I without soliciting a bit of attention, according to the suit.

The man responsible for the scheme, which ultimately cost taxpayers $3.7 billion, is Tom Petters. The brain behind the second largest Ponzi scheme in US history next to Madoff currently awaits trial in a Kansas federal prison.

The latest news on the case came out in July. While the judge believes that prosecutors "adequately allege[s] that M&I had knowledge of the underlying fraud," he called for a re-trial.  Should this opinion end in a ruling, Harris Bank may wind up obligated to make an additional settlement "gift" of $1 billion.