5/2/2021, CAPA NoVA Distinguished Chinese American Project

(Written by: 白晶 Jing Bai)

Thomas Sung (孙启诚) is the founder of Abacus Federa avings Bank (Abacus, 国宝银行 ) and a Chinese American community leader in New York. Born in Shanghai in 1935, Thomas came to the US at age of 16.  He graduated from Brooklyn Law School, then started his practice concentrating in immigration and general law. In 1984, he founded Abacus, located in Chinatown, New York.  To him, Abacus was more than just a bank, it was a community service to serve the underbanked community.  In his career as an attorney and banker,he devoted countless hours to pro bono work for the Chinese community.  As commented by a reporter, “Look, Mr. Sung is George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ ”.

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In 2012, the Bank was unfairly indicted by New York County District Attorney’s office on various charges relating to mortgage fraud. Fifteen Chinese-Americans bank staff were humiliated by the law and enforcement – they were handcuffed, chained together and paraded in the news. The Bank was totally vindicated from all charges after five years efforts from five lawyers in the family and more than 10 millions legal fee. The aggressive prosecution of Abacus was criticized by various media outlets.  The most visible one was the documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. The film received many awards including Oscar nomination, Emmy Award and Silver Gavel Award by the American Bar Association,etc.

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“We not only had the money and resources, but the knowledge, the experience, and expertise as lawyers to look at this case from a certain lens, and that’s something that many people do not have,” commented by Jill Sung, the oldest daughter. The Sungs family continues to be the advocator to promote justice for Chinese American.  In a recent interview with PBS, grappling with their own experiences and with the current atmosphere of rising hate crimes against Asians, Thomas said that, in order to be heard, the Asian American community would need to take a larger role in civic activities, vote, and “assert their rights as citizens in a democratic country.”

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For more information,


The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, By Matt Taibbi


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