At one time the bank was owned by the Mine Workers. The union made its purchase of 76 percent control of the bank in 1949, for $9.1 million. It sold the bank at the end of 1985.
In the 1950's and 1960's, the National Bank of Washington gave - and received - benefits through the unusual alliance. For a time, Mr. Lewis caused the bank to invest in coal companies, which thereupon promptly became union mines - but infrequently at a profit.
More significantly, after Mr. Lewis won a pioneering, employer-financed U.M.W. health and welfare plan for the union in 1950, hundreds of millions of dollars paid in by the mine operators was kept by the union's bank in non-interest-bearing accounts, which enhanced the bank's profits at the expense of the plan's coal mining beneficiaries.
This unorthodox practice - reaping profits for the union-owned bank by cheating the ill and needy among the membership - was not ended until it was exposed and ordered stopped by a Federal judge at the conclusion of a long breach of trust lawsuit in 1970. The suit, brought by rank-and-file unionists, recovered millions of dollars in interest proceeds never converted to benefits for miners and their widows.