Inner City
        Press' Bank Beat Reporter

  

     Welcome to Inner City Press’ Bank Beat.  We aim to scrutinize the industry, from high to low. Our other Reporters cover Community Reinvestment, the Federal Reserve, and other beats.   ICP has published a (double) book about the Bank Beat-relevant topic of predatory lending - click here for sample chapters, an interactive map, and ordering information. The Washington Post of March 15, 2004, calls Predatory Bender: America in the Aughts "the first novel about predatory lending;" the London Times of April 15, 2004, "A Novel Approach," said it "has a cast of colorful characters." See also, "City Lit: Roman a Klepto [Review of 'Predatory Bender']," by Matt Pacenza, City Limits, Sept.-Oct. 2004. The Pittsburgh City Paper says the 100-page afterword makes the "indispensable point that predatory lending is now being aggressively exported to the rest of the globe." Click here for that review; click here to Search This Site. Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere, which include bank-related topics.

Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere. Click here for a recent BBC piece on Inner City Press' reporting from the United Nations. New: Follow us on TWITTER   BloggingHeads.tv  Click for March 1, 2011 BloggingHeads.tv re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption by Inner City Press.  Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.

November 12, 2018

WSFS Take Over Of Beneficial Bank in Philadelphia Is Challenged By Inner City Press As CRA Targeted by Otting

By Matthew R. Lee, Video, story, FOIA docs

SOUTH BRONX, November 6 – The US Treasury Department is in a process to try to weaken and take the community out of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Docket file here. The protagonist, akin to Scott Pruitt when he was at the US Environmental Protection Agency, is Comptroller of the Current Joseph Otting. On September 12 Fair Finance Watch (and on FOIA, Inner City Press) commented to the OCC, here. On November 6 at 5 pm, before any midterm elections results came in, Fair Finance Watch filed comments at deadline with Otting's OCC, on Wilmington Savings Fund Society (WSFS) Bank's application to acquire Beneficial Bank in Philadelphia and closed 30 branches, despite WSFS' disparate lending record: "This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by WSFS Bank to Acquire Beneficial Bank. In the the Wilmington MSA in 2017, WILMINGTON SAVINGS FUND SOCIETY, FSB (WSFS Bank) had a denial rate for the home purchase loan applications of African Americans that was 5.48 times higher than for whites - an outrage, significantly more disparate that other banks in the market. For Latinos, WSFS Bank was and is worse, with a denial rate for home purchase loans 7.43 times higher for Latinos than for whites.
   This is not a lending record and pattern to impose on Philadelphia. And consider this: if approved, WSFS “plans to close 30 WSFS and Beneficial Bank offices, a quarter."
   See, “WSFS bosses Mark Turner and Rodger Levenson plan to close 30 of the combined companies’ 120 branches and eliminate around 350 of their 2,100 jobs.”
   There is more to say, and there are more markets. But concerned as we are about the OCC seeming to take outrageous disparities even less seriously than before, we ar timely submitting this one, for your action. This is systematic redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and WSFS Bank should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and the CFPB. But will today's OCC do it? The branch closings provides a second ground for the requested evidentiary hearing." What will Otting's OCC do? On October 17, yet more on Otting's assault on the CRA became known. He has taken to devaluing or lumping together and not putting in the docket or online the comments of community groups, calling them mass comments or form letters - when he himself not only solicited mass comments for the OneWest - CIT merger from which he personally profited, but even got some fraudulent comments.
Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted the documents obtained under FOIA into the record before the OCC. Now, on a ten day delay, the OCC has put into the file a cursory memo of its October 12 meeting with bankers ranging from Citigroup (Lloyd Brown and Devika Murray Bacchus), Capital One (James Matthews), TIAA and Regions to Wells Fargo, Fifth Third, Huntington and PNC, among others. This has the trappings of transparency, but none of the substance.

November 5, 2018

Another merger we're looking at: "A Missouri bank holding company is acquiring the parent company of Los Alamos National Bank in a merger agreement valued at $213 million. Enterprise Financial Services Corp. of Clayton Mo., which owns banks in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Phoenix metro areas, is acquiring Trinity Capital Corporation, LANB’s parent company. "

October 29, 2018

Mergers in the Midwest... and Transylvania. In Iowa - Nebraska . For Halloween, this merger  in... Transylvania...

To Argentina IMF Ready To Dispense $5.7B But Dodged Inner City Press on Austerity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 – On the morning of June 7 for the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing Inner City Press submitted several questions; IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said repeatedly the Fund's talks with Argentina were far advanced. Now on October 26, this: "The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed today the first review of Argentina’s economic performance under the 36-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) that was approved on June 20, 2018. The completion of the review allows the authorities to draw the equivalent of about US$5.7 billion (SDR 4.10 billion), bringing total disbursements since June to about US$20.4 billion (SDR 14.71 billion). The Board also approved an augmentation of the Stand-By Arrangement to increase access to about US$56.3 billion (equivalent to SDR 40.71 billion or 1,277 percent of quota). The authorities have requested the use of this IMF financing as budget support."  On August 31, this from Rice: "“IMF staff and the Argentine authorities have been working closely to strengthen the Fund-supported arrangement in light of recent market developments. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Fund staff and Finance Minister Nicolás Dujovne, and his team are scheduled to meet on Tuesday next week to advance the dialogue. Our goal is to rapidly conclude these talks and submit the revised economic plan to the Executive Board. As the Managing Director stressed, Argentina has the full support of the Fund and we are confident that the strong commitment and determination of the Argentine authorities will help the country overcome the current difficulties." Previously, this: "The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a three-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Argentina amounting to US$50 billion (equivalent to SDR 35.379 billion, or about 1,110 percent of Argentina’s quota in the IMF)." Now on August 13, this from IMF Chief Spokesman Gerry Rice: “The Argentine authorities’ plan to accelerate the reduction of the stock of LEBACs has been carefully designed by the government. Implementation of this plan should remove an important source of vulnerability as well as help contribute to a more effective monetary policy framework. The Fund supports the authorities’ efforts in this area which are consistent with the understandings reached under the IMF-supported Stand-By Arrangement.”  Back on June 7 Inner City also asked about Barbados, Zambia, Jordan and Ukraine. IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice, after calling on those in the room on the latter two - as well as a named Ukrainian journalist - left Zambia and Barbados for last, nameless, deferred. On Barbados Inner City Press had asked, "what will the IMF do to try to ensure austerity measures don't hurt the poor and also lead to protests and political instability?" Rice answered that there is an IMF team finishing in Bridgetown

October 22, 2018

Mergers we are looking at:


October 12, Montana - Idaho: First Interstate BancSystem, Inc. announced the signing of two proposed mergers, one with Idaho Independent Bank, headquartered in Coeur d’Alene, and another with Community 1st Bank, headquartered in Post Falls. ICP: "“Because there is overlap in a number of markets included in the Idaho Independent Bank and Community 1st mergers, some branches will undoubtedly be closed,” First Interstate CEO Kevin Riley said in an email."

October 11: Michigan - Indiana: "First Merchants Corp. on Wednesday announced it has a definitive agreement to acquire MBT Financial Corp. The 100 percent stock transaction has been valued at about $291 million."

Oct 8, Virginia: Union Bankshares, the holding company of Union Bank & Trust, has agreed to acquire Access National, the owner of Access National Bank and Middleburg Investment Group, in all-stock transaction worth around $610m."

Oct 7, Pennsylvania: "With an eye toward growth and extending its reach to more customers, Citizens & Northern Bank will soonmerge with Monument Bank. Officials with Citizens & Northern Corp., Wellsboro, bank holding company for Citizens & Northern Bank, and Monument Bancorp, Inc., Doylestown, recently announced the agreement."

Oct 5, California: "The oldest independent bank in Sacramento, The Merchants National Bank, has agreed to be purchased by Bank of Commerce Holdings."

Oct 3, Massachusetts: "Rockland Trust Company has entered into an agreement to take over Blue Hill Bancorp, which owns Nantucket Bank. The transaction would result in Rockland Trust having over 11 billion in assets and the largest Massachusetts deposit share and branch presence of any bank headquartered in the state."

October 15, 2018

UN Briber Patrick Ho Used Mashreqbank Which Settles on Money Laundering As Guterres Bans Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, Q&A, HK here

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 – Four months after the arrest for UN bribery of former Senegalese foreign minister Cheik Gadio and Patrick Ho, the head of China Energy Fund Committee full funded by CEFC China Energy, his ultimate boss at CEFC Ye Jianming was brought in for questioning in China. Among the hooks for the prosecution was payments of alleged bribes not only through HSBC but also Mashreqbank based in Dubai. And now on October 10 Mashreqbank has been hit with and settled money laundering charges by the New York State Financial Services Department: "Although the Branch's customer base consists principally of foreign financial
institutions located in high-risk regions, examiners determined that due diligence files
nonetheless lacked robust information about its foreign correspondent customers' markets." We'll have more on this. On October 4 Ho was again denied bail. Periscope video here. Now on October 9 the prosecution has requested that the trial begin later than the scheduled November 5, writing to Judge
Loretta A. Preska among other things that "this past Friday, October 5, 2018, the defendant submitted a classified notice pursuant to Section 5 of the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”). The defendant could have filed such notice a number of weeks ago, but waited until the very last day on which such a filing would be deemed timely under CIPA. The defendant also did not notify the Government that he intended to submit such a notice until the Court directed the parties to confer during last
week’s conference. The Government now has to draft, have approved for submission, and submit
a classified response in opposition, in which it intends to request a hearing concerning the use, relevance, and admissibility of classified information that would otherwise be made public by the defense during the trial, and expects, assuming appropriate authorization is provided, to request that the hearing be held in camera." If Ho's lawyers were slow, the US government's Voice of America is more so: it took it five days to report on the public bail hearing held in lower Manhattan on October 4. Tellingly, the report did not include VOA's long-time UN embedded reporter Margaret Besheer, nor did it mention Ho's arms brokering to South Sudan nor the name of previous and convicted UN briber Ng Lap Seng. Besheer has worked with
Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric to bar Inner City Press from even entering the UN and is involved with a pro-UN correspondents group which took $50,000 from Ng then provided the venue for his photo op with the UN Secretary General. (It turns out Guterres maintains a secret "banned" list including political activists, story here.) Similar quid pro quos are expected with Guterres on December 5 on 42nd Street, watch this site.

October 8, 2018

On Panama IMF Upbeat on FinTech and Urges Sensitizing on Money Laundering Panana Papers Page Turned?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3– The International Monetary Fund was upbeat on October 3 about FinTech's potential in Panama and seems to breeze over the issues raised in the Panama Papers. At the end of its Article IV review, the IMF said that "making tax crimes a predicate offense to money laundering by approving the draft legislation under consideration without further delay and ensuring the availability of beneficial ownership and accounting records of Panamanian entities are important to avoid being listed as a non-cooperative jurisdiction, and thereby eroding the recent gains. Continued efforts to sensitize the international community on progress with financial integrity is paramount." Is that spin? "An International Monetary Fund team led by Alejandro Santos visited Panama from September 24-October 3 to conduct the discussions for the 2018 Article IV consultation. The team met with the Minister of Economy and Finance Eyda Varela de Chinchilla, Banks Superintendent Ricardo Fernandez, as well as other senior public officials and private sector representatives." The IMF concluded, "FinTech has the potential to transform Panama’s regional banking sector, with close supervision and adequate regulation of developments needed to nurture the benefits while preserving financial stability....


On Spain the IMF cautioned against Spanish banks' exposure to "emerging markets" in its Article IV Concluding Statement issued October 3: "Reinforced efforts by major banks over recent months have notably lowered the system’s nonperforming loans and foreclosed real estate assets, but some banks still need to follow suit. The ongoing economic and house price recovery is helping to mend banks’ balance sheets. And while there is no clear evidence so far of a generalized house price overvaluation, vigilance is needed as housing-related new loans and especially consumer lending continue to pick up. Thus, for the Bank of Spain to be fully equipped to counter excessive risk-taking, its macroprudential toolkit should be swiftly expanded to include borrower-based tools such as limits on loan-to-value and debt service-to-income ratios. Moreover, rigorous management of liquidity and interest rate risks is needed, in particular ahead of the eventual normalization from the ECB’s accommodative policies, and against the risk of market volatility and sudden changes in risk appetite. Spanish banks would benefit from accelerating the build-up of high-quality capital buffers to protect their business against shocks—including spillovers from more uncertain economic conditions in some emerging markets—as they still lag European peers in terms of capital ratios even though they are generally less leveraged." It's an Iberian thing - Portuguese banks do a lot of business in the country's former colonies as well. We'll have more on this. The IMF approved a $290 million four year program for Barbados on October 1, see below. But thre are questions. For the IMF's embargoed media briefing on September 20, Inner City Press submitted questions including this on Zimbabwe: "please state the status of and steps toward any IMF staff program in light of reports that 'Britain will support Zimbabwe to get on an interim IMF staff program to help the country quickly clear its foreign arrears, Britain's ambassador in Harare Catriona Laing said after paying a courtesy call on Zimbabwe's Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube.'" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question from "Matthew Lee" and replied that while the IMF is working with the Zimbabwean authorities on designing reforms, any new program would require clearing arrears to the World Bank and AfDB, and commitments from international partners. Now on October 1, this on Barbados:
"On October 1, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a four-year Extended Arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Barbados for an amount equivalent to SDR 208 million (about US$290 million, or 220 percent of Barbados’s quota in the IMF). The Board’s decision enables the authorities to purchase the equivalent of SDR 35 million (or about US$49 million) immediately. The remainder will be available upon successful completion of seven semiannual review.
The EFF-supported program aims to help Barbados: restore debt sustainability, strengthen the external position, and improve growth prospects. Upfront fiscal consolidation, meaningful debt restructuring, and structural measures to support growth should put debt on a clear downward trajectory. The program will seek to protect vulnerable groups through strengthened social safety nets.
Following the Executive Board discussion, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, said: “The Barbadian authorities have developed a homegrown economic program to address longstanding challenges, which will be supported under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility. Over the last decade, Barbados’s economy has experienced low growth, while fiscal and external imbalances have gradually widened to reach an unsustainable situation, with very high debt and very low reserves. The authorities’ reform program seeks to address these challenges with a combination of front-loaded fiscal consolidation, measures to boost growth, and debt restructuring, while protecting social spending. Fiscal consolidation is key to the adjustment effort. The authorities aim to increase the primary surplus to 6 percent of GDP in FY2019/20 and maintain it at that level for several years thereafter. Reducing transfers to state-owned enterprises will be key in reaching the primary surplus targets. The program aims to reduce these transfers with a combination of much stronger oversight of state-owned enterprises, improved reporting, cost reduction, revenue enhancement, and mergers and divestment. A planned comprehensive review of tax policies is expected to lead to improvements in the tax system. The adoption of a fiscal rule and reforms in public financial management will help sustain the fiscal reform effort. A comprehensive debt restructuring will complement the fiscal consolidation. The authorities have identified parameters that would provide debt relief without jeopardizing financial stability, and an exchange offer for domestic debt (Barbados dollar-denominated) to private creditors was launched on September 7, 2018. The proposed debt restructuring includes features, including a natural disaster clause, that are expected to help the authorities stay current on their future debt obligations."
From the September 20IMF Transcript: "There is a question on Zimbabwe and I want to take that. It's from Matthew Lee who is asking can you give us the status of steps toward any IMF program in Zimbabwe in light of reports that Britain will support Zimbabwe to get an interim IMF program to help the country quickly clear its foreign arrears. MR. RICE: What I would say is we see the new administration of President Mnangagwa has expressed commitment to strong economic reforms and supporting reforms will require a comprehensive stabilization and structural reform program from the authorities and financial support from the international community to provide space for these reforms.

Where the IMF is, we stand ready to help the authorities design a reform package that can help facilitate the clearance of external payment arrears to international development banks and bilateral official creditors and that then would open the way for fresh financing from the internal community including potentially the IMF.

But, again, just to stress as we said before, potential financial support from the Fund is conditional on the clearance of those arrears to the World Bank, the AFDB and financing assurances from bilateral official creditors. We are working with the Zimbabwean authorities in the meantime to provide policy advice and technical assistance that might help, could help move that process forward."
Video here from 23:24.

October 1, 2018

On Sri Lanka IMF Gushes Over Vision 2025 But Blind Like UN to War Crimes and Cluster Bombs

By Matthew Russell Lee, 30/7 CJR, 19/6 Video

UNITED NATIONS GATE, September 28 – How do the various parts of the UN system deal with Sri Lanka? UN Peacekeeper chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix has been multiply informed that the Sri Lanka government vetting of peacekeepers the UN has relied on has not been complied with, regarding at least 49 soldiers now "serving" the UN in Lebanon. Inner City Press was sent a copy of the letters, and published them - then asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric for the UN's response. [See July 21 response, below.] On July 30 UNSG Antonio Guterres' sleazy basis for roughing up and banning Inner City Press now for life (and the impending UNGA week which Sirisena is slated to attend and pitch at) was reported in the Columbia Journalist Review, and now the NY Post. Now on September 28, the IMF gushes about the Sri Lankan economy, no mention of war crimes, cluster bombs (see below) or discrimination: "A staff team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Manuela Goretti visited Colombo during September 13-27, 2018 to hold discussions on the fifth review of the Sri Lanka’s economic program supported by a three-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF). At the end of the visit Ms. Goretti made the following statement:
“The mission made significant progress toward reaching a staff-level agreement with the government on completing the fifth review of the EFF. Discussions will continue during the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in October.
“The mission commended the authorities on their continued efforts to advance their economic reform program. The quantitative performance target on the primary surplus for end-June 2018 was met and inflation remained within the CBSL’s band, although reserve accumulation and tax revenues fell short of program targets due to the weaker economic environment and delays in policy implementation.
“The mission welcomes the authorities’ commitment to amend the Central Bank’s Monetary Law Act supporting the transition to inflation targeting and strengthening CBSL’s governance and accountability frameworks. Renewed efforts by the CBSL to strengthen reserve buffers and a clear commitment to exchange rate flexibility are critical to enhance external competitiveness and protect against adverse global market conditions.
“The CBSL’s efforts should be supported by a strong 2019 budget, a well-defined Medium-Term Debt Strategy, and a sound fiscal rule to secure debt on a downward sloping path and support investors’ confidence. With revenues falling short of targets, the focus should remain on implementing the new Inland Revenue Act and other tax policy measures, supported by modernized business processes to strengthen tax compliance. Greater revenue mobilization can make space for critical spending needs, including broader coverage of vulnerable families under the social safety net based on well-defined selection criteria.
“The authorities should push ahead with their Vision 2025 to support Sri Lanka’s rapid and inclusive growth through sustained efforts to promote trade openness and investment, fight corruption, enhance social protection, and encourage female labor force participation.”
The mission met with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, Minister of Finance Samaraweera, State Minister of Finance Wickramaratne, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Coomaraswamy, other public officials, and representatives of the business community, civil society, and international partners."
 
Meanwhile Sri Lanka which used cluster munitions is now President of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. "In Sri Lanka’s case they have driven many de-miners and UN staff out of the country and effectively silenced the witnesses. There are also many victims among recent refugees outside Sri Lanka in countries like Switzerland; their geographic dislocation should not diminish their rights as victims,” said Jasmin Sooka of ITJPSL. “The Convention requires Sri Lanka to undertake a victim survey which should include victims abroad subject to internationally recognized witness protection provisions.”  
Inner City Press has repeatedly asked Dujarric, "September 17-2: It is multiply reported that Sri Lanka during the upcoming high level week will make a presentation to the SG about, among other things, limited the currently stated vetting of Sri Lanka troops for participation in alleged war crimes. Please state the date of any meeting of the SG with President Sirisena, and state the UN's / SG's view of the current vetting system, including seeming lack of compliance by Sri Lanka. What is the status of Sri Lankan deployments and/or rotations?"

September 24, 2018

UN Corruption Under Guterres Has Haoliang Xu Spending $228000 on Travel UNDP Waste Up 44 Percent

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive CJR PFT

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 – The corruption in the UN system under UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres ranges from impunity for sexual abuse and harassment to double-dipping of benefits, to massive over-spending on travel by Guterres himself, by Erik Solheim and others at UNEP and, as Inner City Press will now be detailing in a series of articles based on leaked documents, in the UN Development Program and its Office of South South Cooperation. Travel expenses by UNDP in 2017 amounted to nearly $27 million, and by August 2018 came in at a staggering $26 million four months short of year end. Today we focus on UNDP's chief of Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific Haoliang Xu, who has rung up $227,770 in travel costs. Leaked travel budget document downloadable on Patreon here, with Air Ticket the first column and "Allowance" the second :
HAOLIANG XU, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific $ 227,769.79
China, Thailand $ 7,843.00 $ 1,016.00
Myanmar $ 7,203.60 $ 1,122.32
Mongolia $ 1,622.00 $ 806.96
Thailand - Bhutan $ 681.80
Thailand - Boston $ 7,421.00 $ 956.08
Indonesia - Thailand $ 7,361.10 $ 1,916.08
China - East Timor $ 7,296.00 $ 3,433.83
Washington DC $ 613.00 $ 329.78
Pakistan - Republic of Korea $ 9,523.30 $ 2,376.08
Iran - Thailand $ 5,943.00 $ 2,620.20
Sri Lanka - Thailand - China $ 2,412.00 $ 2,265.76
Belgium $ 4,210.00 $ 950.00
Philippines - Papua New Guinea - Thailand $ 9,553.00 $ 3,067.72
Switzerland $ 3,736.00 $ 942.72
Myanmar $ 7,515.00 $ 669.00
Thailand - Indonesia - Singapore - Laos $ 11,128.00 $ 2,832.90
Afghanistan - Thailand - Malaysia $ 5,300.40 $ 1,850.32
Sri Lanka - Thailand - India $ 18,722.20 $ 2,776.89
Bangladesh - Thailand $ 7,368.00 $ 1,805.00
Thailand - China $ 17,540.42 $ 2,682.64
Thailand - Hongkong - Fiji - Tonga $ 14,771.20 $ 3,248.86
Samoa - Australia - Nauru $ 5,140.00 $ 1,183.30
Guam - Micronesia - Palau - Thailand - Myanmar $ 13,938.00 $ 2,635.54
China $ 866.80 $ 848.40
Cambodia - Japan $ 5,613.11 $ 2,111.48." We'll have more on this - and on what Haoliang Xu was doing in these places. UNDP's chief of the Regional Bureau for Arab States Mourad Wahba has rung up $188,000 in travel expenses. L
eaked travel budget document downloadable on Patreon here, with Air Ticket the first column and "Allowance" the second :
MOURAD WAHBA, Regional Bureau for Arab States $ 187,763.32
Jordan - Egypt $ 8,346.20 $ 2,172.00
Belgium - Kenya - Somalia $ 11,861.00 $ 2,805.77
Washington DC $ 449.00 $ 347.20
Switzerland $ 15,850.10 $ 573.00
Egypt $ 3,897.00 $ 690.00
Jordan $ 5,103.44 $ 1,402.24
Washington DC $ 480.00 $ 521.44
Japan $ 7,634.00 $ 1,565.40
Syria - Lebanon - Turkey $ 4,246.00 $ 2,773.20
Belgium $ 6,936.00 $ 999.68
Djibouti - Yemen - Somalia - Kenya $ 6,918.00 $ 1,685.00
Germany $ 11,048.00 $ 1,154.00
Lebanon $ 3,615.00 $ (9.91)
France - Switzerland $ 11,424.00 $ 2,146.96
Belgium $ 17,565.00 $ 2,502.16
UAE- Kuwait $ 5,684.00 $ 1,701.96
Algeria $ 5,797.00 $ 447.18
Lebanon $ 3,220.00 $ -
Belgium $ 9,134.00 $ 2,247.40
Lebanon - Jordan - Tunisia - Libya $ 3,681.00 $ 1,899.56
Washington DC $ 937.00 $ 399.20
Germany $ 6,276.00 $ 1,523.14
Japan $ 6,908.00 $ 1,207.00." We'll have more on this. Wahba was given his current post, a transfer from the UN's failing even murderous (through cholera) presence in Haiti, as a form of quid pro quo. Before being banned from the UN as part of Guterres' censorship for corruption, Inner City Press asked spokesman Stephane Dujarric why the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Haiti would be taken out for another job at this time. The why wasn't answered.  This week, Dujarric has refused
to answer any Press questions about travel costs, at UNDP, Solheim's UNEP and - a fish rots from the head - his boss Guterres. In the past in the UN briefing room, before now being banned from it, Inner City Press questioned Wahba about his statement that Hurricane Matthew, and not the UN-brought cholera, was the worst humanitarian event since the 2010. So the UN under Guterres is failing on all fronts - and censoring to try to conceal it.

On September 19 Inner City Press profiled the Deputy Administrator of UNDP Tegegnework Gettu, whose travel waste we previously reported on and his threat to staff that they better be careful. Inner City Press Press was thrown out of the UN without due process and Guterres spokesman has refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about travel waste, of his boss Guterres and about UNDP in particular. Gettu's tab is $159,640.41. Look in his leaked list at his inflated airfare to Switzerland, leaked travel budget document downloadable on Patreon here, with Air Ticket the first column and "Allowance" the second :
TEGEGNEWORK GEITU, Associate Administrator $ 159,640.41
Nigeria $ 11,197.00 $ 280.00
Norway $ 5,116.00 $ 784.00
Afghanistan $ 16,260.00 $ 162.00
Switzerland $ 22,136.21 $ 368.00
Japan $ 5,405.00 $ 574.00
China $ 3,459.00 $ 460.00
Afghanistan $ 20,489.00 $ 162.00
China, Qatar $ 16,697.00 $ 2,178.00
Kenya $ 4,473.00 $ 1,050.00
Malaysia $ 11,084.00 $ 216.00
China - Ethiopia $ 16,645.02 $ 1,545.57
Djibouti $ 6,916.00 $ 466.35
Eritrea $ 1,273.26 $ 430.00
China $ 9,398.00 $ 416.00

We'll have more on this. On September 18, as elsewhere in the UN system corrupted by Guterres the head of UN Environment Erik Solheim blames his travel waste on his own administrative (Inner City Press exclusively pubished Solheim's internal email here), we focus on the head of UNDP, Achim Steiner. Since being given the top job at UNDP by Guterres in exchange for allowing Guterres' power grab of the UN Resident Coordinator system from UNDP, one of the dubious reform for support of which by UN Budget Committee char Tommo Monthe of Cameroon Guterres helped cover up Cameroon's slaughter of Anglophones, Steiner's international travel has cost nearly $10,000 or more for airfare per trip, with one trip to Myanmar
- Japan - United Kingdom costing around $28,000 for airfare only. Leaked travel budget document downloadable on Patreon here,
with Air Ticket the first column and "Allowance" the second :
UNDP MANAGEMENT Air Ticket Allowance
ACHIM STEINER, Administrator $ 353,732.24
Switzerland $ 1,024.00 $ -
New York $ 9,345.00 $ -
New York $ 8,612.00 $ 151.68
Italy $ 10,205.00 $ 320.00
Myanmar - Japan - United Kingdom $ 28,453.45 $ 1,239.04
Sweden - Norway $ 7,409.00 $ 736.00
Germany $ 10,039.00 $ 324.00
United Kingdom $ 6,576.00 $ 439.75
San Francisco $ 3,758.00 $ 411.24
Washington DC $ 408.00 $ 1,029.68
Washington DC $ 612.00 $ 893.06
Sweden $ 9,887.00 $ 214.00
Egypt $ 7,345.00 $ 207.00
Germany - Qatar $ 11,991.00 $ 2,592.06
Switzerland - India - China - France $ 31,443.70 $ 1,969.64
Switzerland - Ethiopia - Somalia $ 19,652.30 $ 6,976.69
UAE - Kuwait - Lebanon - Germany - Belgium $ 19,985.00 $ 3,143.32
Washington DC $ 1,380.00 $ 545.57
Zimbabwe - Argentina $ 16,523.00 $ 1,284.38
Boston $ 523.62 $ 385.00
Turkey - France $ 11,515.30 $ 708.59
United Kingdom $ 6,877.00 $ -
Sweden $ 5,779.00 $ 838.00
Washington DC $ 915.00 $ 1,099.70
Belgium - United Kingdom $ 7,974.00 $ 4,521.88
Norway - Russia $ 9,617.00 $ 938.03
Switzerland - France - Germany $ 13,829.00 $ 2,382.77
France $ 13,350.00 $ 841.35
Vietnam $ 6,830.00 $ 402.67
Argentina - United Kingdom $ 17,915.00 $ 764.77
Angola - Namibia $ 8,616.00 $ -
Germany $ 6,098.00 $ 322.00
Panama $ 3,037.00 $ 526.00." All for a total of
$ 353,732.24.... Note that Guterres' son has business links, undisclosed and unanswered on, in Angola and Namibia. We'll have more on this. We started September 17 with UNOSSC because after exposing how it was used by convicted UN briber Ng Lap Seng, a corrupt censorship order by Guterres and his Global Communicator Alison Smale resulted last week in Inner City Press remaining banned from a press conference by OSSC director Jorge Chediek, who was then invited by the resident correspondents present to say that te Office's corruption has been "fabricated." Video here. This is the UN of Guterres, who has taken 15 publicly funded junkets to Lisbon on which his spokesman Stephane Dujarric has refused to answer or disclose the costs. And this is Chediek's spending on travel, exclusive leaked document here. Chediak has undertaken 27 trips, costing nearly $145,000. The issue of Mr. Chediek' s travel has been raised previously by Inner City Press. In a 10 April 2017 article, Inner City Press wrote that the director "devotes his time to useless travel promoting books already 'launched' in New York and to pitching the conference that would give him his ASG post." In the lead up to BAPA+40, a majorinternational conference to be paid for and hosted by the bankrupt Argentine government, he seems to be doing just that, including bragging about this meeting with Guterres' Global Censor Alison Smale who has not provided any due process, nor made the UN's minimal public financial disclosure. In a recent example of the excessive travels undertaken by the staff of this questionable Office, a conference in China saw a total of four staff from New York, all Chinese nationals, accompany Mr. Chediek. Despite this undeniable waste, and in the context of
considerable strain on UNDP' s core funding, the Office for South-South Cooperation has
managed to escape all budgetary cuts. The Office continues to receive $3.5 million and a
similar amount for staff salaries annually as core funding from UNDP for the 2018 -
2021 period. More on Chediek's travel, in a series to be carried out down the line at UNDP, with Air Ticket the first column and "Allowance" the second :
JORGE CHEDIEK, UN Office for South-South Cooperation $ 144,298.82
Benin $ 5,390.00  $ 509.04
Switzerland $ 2,450.00 $ 1,272.00
Thailand $ 3,140.00 $ 975.53
Turkey - Kazakhstan $ 4,500.00 $ 1,091.24
Kenya $ 4,740.00 $ 1,210.72
China $ 5,270.00 $ 673.40
Brazil $ 5,950.00 $ 505.76
Argentina $ 3,520.00 $ 1,230.00
China - India $ 9,045.10 $ 1,420.90
Argentina $ 4,053.00 $ 1,168.32
France $ 2,424.50 $ 1,313.68
Germany $ 2,315.00 $ 1,030.00
Brazil $ 2,672.10 $ 815.50
Turkey $ 2,722.00 $ 363.00
Bangladesh - Hong Kong $ 7,800.00 $ 1,771.48
Hawaii $ 2,848.00 $ 337.80
Egypt - France $ 3,976.90 $ 2,283.00
Brazil $ 2,747.60 $ 822.17
Argentina $ 5,053.70 $ 909.52
Portugal - Spain $ 3,832.01 $ 1,698.16
Cuba $ 342.70 $ 848.94
South Africa $ 7,424.50 $ 710.39
China $ 5,429.00 $ 1,307.21
France - Norway $ 1,912.71 $ 1,603.60
Thailand $ 6,326.00 $ 1,262.83
Egypt $ 5,650.00 $ 983.92
India $ 3,882.21 $ 763.68
  Yes, a total of over $144,000. But there's worse at UNDP - watch this site. Since Guterres had Inner City Press roughed up on and banned since July 3, it cannot ask about this at the UN noon briefing as it has in the past, back to the time of Kofi Annan. But it has asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who Guterres' Communicator Alison Smale said would answered - but didn't: "August 27-3: Please state the Secretariat's and DSG / Development System's knowledge of dual citizen staff getting US Tax reimbursement and also Home Leave and Education grant entitlements using their national/original passport - and what is being done about it." No answer at all, 23 hours after the briefing in which Dujarric claimed the ban is for being in a parking lot making some diplomats and UN officials uncomfortable. (Isn't that a journalist's job?) On August 28, Dujarric wrote to Inner City Press regarding the question, "I WILL HAVE A COMMENT LATER ON THIS ISSUE." But nothing as of September 22...

Inner City Press Puts Zimbabwe Question to IMF Which Says Arrears Must Be Cleared Cameroon Too

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 20 – For the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing on September 20, Inner City Press submitted questions including this on Zimbabwe: "please state the status of and steps toward any IMF staff program in light of reports that 'Britain will support Zimbabwe to get on an interim IMF staff program to help the country quickly clear its foreign arrears, Britain's ambassador in Harare Catriona Laing said after paying a courtesy call on Zimbabwe's Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube.'" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question from "Matthew Lee" and replied that while the IMF is working with the Zimbabwean authorities on designing reforms, any new program would require clearing arrears to the World Bank and AfDB, and commitments from international partners. From the IMF Transcript: "There is a question on Zimbabwe and I want to take that. It's from Matthew Lee who is asking can you give us the status of steps toward any IMF program in Zimbabwe in light of reports that Britain will support Zimbabwe to get an interim IMF program to help the country quickly clear its foreign arrears. MR. RICE: What I would say is we see the new administration of President Mnangagwa has expressed commitment to strong economic reforms and supporting reforms will require a comprehensive stabilization and structural reform program from the authorities and financial support from the international community to provide space for these reforms.

Where the IMF is, we stand ready to help the authorities design a reform package that can help facilitate the clearance of external payment arrears to international development banks and bilateral official creditors and that then would open the way for fresh financing from the internal community including potentially the IMF.

But, again, just to stress as we said before, potential financial support from the Fund is conditional on the clearance of those arrears to the World Bank, the AFDB and financing assurances from bilateral official creditors. We are working with the Zimbabwean authorities in the meantime to provide policy advice and technical assistance that might help, could help move that process forward."
Video here from 23:24.
Inner City Press also asked: "On Guinea-Bissau, please confirm / expand upon the statement issued by the Bissau-Guinean government the the IMF during its mission which ends on 2nd October “will meet with the authorities, including those of BCEAO... to assess 'investment plans in the energy sector, compensation for fisheries products, related revenues' as well as the production and export of cashew nuts.”

On San Marino, please comment, including expressing the IMF's openness or not, to that “San Marino, whose banks are crippled by bad debts, will decide by the end of the year whether to ask the International Monetary Fund for a loan of around 300 million euros ($350 million) and to start issuing bonds, its secretary of state said.”

On Botswana, please provide IMF comment on reports that IMF says the country’s medium-term economic outlook will depend heavily on the success of structural reforms... 'In Botswana, beef and tourism are sectors that have significant potential and there are measures the government can take to promote these sectors such as removing an export monopoly on beef exports and improving the transport infrastructure.” A call to reform the beef sector has long been a contentious issue as the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is protected from export competition. The BMC Act grants the body a monopoly on the export of beef and prohibits the export of live cattle. Consequently, in the absence of competition from local butcheries and abattoirs, the BMC has solely benefited from the European Union market.”

On Cameroon, Inner City Press understands that a group of Internet access and human rights NGOs wrote to the Managing Director in late June stating the Cameroon's failure to inform the IMF of its Internet cuts and slow-downs violated the agreement, and that a call was held. What can the IMF now say about this, or about developments in Cameroon since then, especially now with controversial elections looming in which many may be unable to vote, with travel restrictions and bloodshed?

September 17, 2018

Some mergers we are looking at:

Sept 6, W VA into KY: City Holding Co., the Charleston-based parent company of City National Bank of West Virginia,announced two proposals, to acquire Poage Bankshares Inc., the parent company of Town Square Bank in Ashland and Farmers Deposit Bancorp, the parent company of Farmers Deposit Bank in Cynthiana, Kentucky.

Aug 29, Baltimore MD, "BV Financial, Inc. (OTC PINK: BVFL), the holding company for BayVanguard Bank, and Kopernik Bank, today announced the execution of a merger agreement pursuant to which Kopernik will merge with and into BayVanguard.

Aug 23, Iowa: MidWestOne Financial Group Inc. says it will acquire ATBancorp, parent company of American Trust & Savings Bank, in a transaction valued at $170.3 million,

Aug 23, NJ: Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. parent company of Lakeland Bank, and Highlands Bancorp, Inc., the parent company of Highlands State Bank, announced that the companies have entered into a definitive Agreement and Plan of Merger;

Aug 10, Iowa: Farmers Savings Bank, based in Victor, says it will be uniting with Keystone Savings Bank, based in Marengo.

Aug 9, Oklahoma: Gateway Mortgage's owners say they are acquiring the majority interest in Farmers Exchange Bank and will merge the lender into the Cherokee, Okla.-based depository.

Aug 8, DE into PA: WSFS Financial Corp. of Wilmington has agreed to pay $1.5 billion in stock and cash for Philadelphia's Beneficial Bancorp., merging the region's two largest locally based banks into a $13 billion-asset company;

September 10, 2018

Inner City Press Asks IMF About Pakistan From Which No Request Ghana Kenya Zambia Angola

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 6 – For the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing on September 6, Inner City Press submitted five questions including this on Pakistan: "please confirm or deny and comment on this: Pakistan is “very likely to seek an IMF program”, says Johanna Chua, Citigroup’s Head of Emerging Markets Asia Economics & Strategy Bank in a report released on Monday. The report says an approach is likely by end September." Spokesman Gerry Rice said that no request from Pakistan has been received - nor any request from Turkey. Inner City Press' other questions to the IMF: "On Ghana, please describe and explain the IMF's response to the request for transparency from the Minority in parliament via its leader Haruna Iddrisu on Ghana’s $2 billion Sinohydro deal with China.
On Kenya, please comment on / respond to this: The IMF is said to be behind the push for a 16 per cent value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products that triggered the price increase.  Observers have flagged the close relationship between the fund and Uhuru's top finance officials who have worked for the international lender in the past. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich worked as an economist for IMF before joining the ministry. His second in command, Kamau Thugge, worked for the institution for 21 years before becoming Uhuru's senior economic adviser. Before joining the World Bank, Geoffrey Mwau, the director general for budget, financial and economic affairs, worked for IMF. Also, what is the IMF's view of the Kenyan parliament having voted last Thursday to retain the cap on commercial interest rates?
On Zambia, please comment on this: Special Assistant to the President  Amos Chanda says if the IMF  takes 50 years to come through with a balance of payment support programme for Zambia, Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe will not wait, but look elsewhere for help, including China. Chanda says President Edgar Lungu, who left for China yesterday with a huge government and private sector delegation, will remain in that country until September 7th to enhance economic ties as well as renegotiate Chinese debt.

On Cameroon, Inner City Press understands that a group of Internet access and human rights NGOs wrote to the Managing Director in late June stating the Cameroon's failure to inform the IMF of its Internet cuts and slow-downs violated the agreement, and that a call was held. What can the IMF now say about this, or about developments in Cameroon since then?

Also if there are any updates on Yemen or Burundi.
On Angola, will the IMF confirm and comment on this: Angola will ask the International Monetary Fund for a $4.5bn loan, highlighting the financial dire straits facing the major oil exporter even though global crude prices have recovered considerably. Talks between Luanda and the IMF will begin in October, Finance Minister Archer Mangueira said.
"

On Angola, Mr. Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund earlier said, "We have received a letter from the Angolan authorities for IMF staff to initiate discussions on an economic program that could be supported by the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The request follows an IMF staff mission visit in Luanda during August 1-14, 2018 and an initial letter requesting a program to be supported by a Policy Coordination Instrument (PCI). The Government of President Lourenço has taken important steps toward improving governance and restoring macroeconomic stability. The IMF stands ready to help the authorities address Angola’s economic challenges by supporting their economic policies and reforms based on the Government’s Macroeconomic Stabilization Program and in the National Development Plan for 2018–22. We expect to initiate program discussions with the Angolan authorities as soon as feasible."

September 3, 2018


With Argentina In Financial Meltdown, IMF to Meet FM Dujovne Sept 4 But Dodged Inner City Press on Austerity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 – On the morning of June 7 for the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing Inner City Press submitted several questions; IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said repeatedly the Fund's talks with Argentina were far advanced. On August 31, this from Rice: "“IMF staff and the Argentine authorities have been working closely to strengthen the Fund-supported arrangement in light of recent market developments. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Fund staff and Finance Minister Nicolás Dujovne, and his team are scheduled to meet on Tuesday next week to advance the dialogue. Our goal is to rapidly conclude these talks and submit the revised economic plan to the Executive Board. As the Managing Director stressed, Argentina has the full support of the Fund and we are confident that the strong commitment and determination of the Argentine authorities will help the country overcome the current difficulties." Previously, this: "The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a three-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Argentina amounting to US$50 billion (equivalent to SDR 35.379 billion, or about 1,110 percent of Argentina’s quota in the IMF)." Now on August 13, this from IMF Chief Spokesman Gerry Rice: “The Argentine authorities’ plan to accelerate the reduction of the stock of LEBACs has been carefully designed by the government. Implementation of this plan should remove an important source of vulnerability as well as help contribute to a more effective monetary policy framework. The Fund supports the authorities’ efforts in this area which are consistent with the understandings reached under the IMF-supported Stand-By Arrangement.”  Back on June 7 Inner City also asked about Barbados, Zambia, Jordan and Ukraine. IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice, after calling on those in the room on the latter two - as well as a named Ukrainian journalist - left Zambia and Barbados for last, nameless, deferred.

August 27, 2018


IMF Says Angola Requests EFF Program But Dodged Inner City Press on Austerity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 – Now it's Angola. Mr. Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund jsut said, "We have received a letter from the Angolan authorities for IMF staff to initiate discussions on an economic program that could be supported by the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The request follows an IMF staff mission visit in Luanda during August 1-14, 2018 and an initial letter requesting a program to be supported by a Policy Coordination Instrument (PCI). The Government of President Lourenço has taken important steps toward improving governance and restoring macroeconomic stability. The IMF stands ready to help the authorities address Angola’s economic challenges by supporting their economic policies and reforms based on the Government’s Macroeconomic Stabilization Program and in the National Development Plan for 2018–22. We expect to initiate program discussions with the Angolan authorities as soon as feasible." Another one.

August 20, 2018

  Here's a merger we are already looking at, and will look at more closely: "WSFS to buy Beneficial, create Philly area's largest locally based bank."

August 13, 2018

Some mergers we are looking at:

July 31, Texas: Steele Holdings,  parent of American State Bank, announced a proposal to acquire Joaquin Bankshares and Texas State Bank;


July 31, Indiana - Illinois: NorthWest Indiana Bancorp. parent of Peoples Bank SB, and AJS Bancorp, Inc. announced aproposal in which NWIN would acquire AJSB and its wholly-owned subsidiary, A.J. Smith Federal Savings Bank, of Midlothian, Illinois;

July 30, Ohio:  Richwood Bancshares, Inc. the holding company for the Richwood Banking Company, said it proposes to acquire Home City Federal Savings Bank;

July 27, Washington State: Banner Corporation announced a proposed merger with Skagit Bancorp Inc. (promoted in NYC's Times Square on Aug 3: https://twitter.com/Banner_Bank/status/1025426769594134528

July 26, Florida: FMB Banking Corporation says it is merging with The First Bancshares Inc;

July 25, Georgia into FLA: Weston-based FCB Financial Holdings, the owner of Florida Community Bank, says it has agreedto be acquired by Synovus Financial Corp. based in Columbus, Georgia;

July 25, Carolinas: First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company and Palmetto Heritage Bancshares, announced a merger agreement;

July 25, Mass:  Hometown Financial Group, Inc. the holding company for bankESB (Easthampton, MA) and bankHometown (Oxford, MA), and Pilgrim Bancshares, Inc. (OTC: PLRM) have jointly announced a merger;

July 24, Texas:  Dallas-based Veritex Community Bank and Houston-based Green Bank NA propose to merge;

August 6, 2018

To Gabon's Ali Bongo IMF Doles Out $100M With No Mention of 40 Year Family Rule and Delayed Elections

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, August 1 – The International Monetary Fund is doling out money to Ali Bongo's government in Gabon, with nary a mention of four decades family rule or delayed elections. It's like the IMF's work in Cameroon, below. As to Gabon on August 1 the IMF said it "completed the second review of Gabon’s economic program supported by an extended arrangement under Extended Fund Facility (EFF). Completion of the review enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 71.43 million (about US$ 100.2 million). This brings total disbursements under the arrangement so far to SDR 214.29 million (about US$ 300.7 million). Following the Executive Board discussion on Gabon, David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair stated: “Macroeconomic conditions are slowly improving in Gabon, but the recovery remains fragile. Estimates indicate that overall economic growth weakened due to declining oil production and the stronger-than-expected impact of fiscal consolidation on sectors linked to government expenditure. These weaknesses were moderated by a robust growth of the mineral extraction, agriculture, and timber sectors. In 2018, higher oil prices, new investment in the oil sector and export processing zones, and increasing manganese production will help support a modest recovery of economic growth to about 2 percent.

“Gabon’s performance under the EFF arrangement has been mixed, with fiscal slippages in late 2017 and early 2018 complicating cash management, undermining efforts to manage and clear external arrears. The authorities have reiterated their commitment to the program and have implemented a supplementary budget for 2018 aiming to bring the fiscal consolidation back on track. The new budget is supported by strong measures to contain the wage bill and other non-priority spending. The planned elimination of a large number of semi-autonomous government agencies and the strengthening of controls on the remaining agencies should improve the transparency and efficiency of public spending. Steps have also been taken to boost non-oil revenue collections, including by eliminating costly customs duty exemptions except for only a few items. To better manage fiscal risks should non-oil revenue collections underperform, the supplementary budget introduces an automatic adjustment mechanism for public spending.

“The authorities have renewed their commitment to the arrears clearance strategy. As a corrective action for completion of the second review, the authorities cleared all arrears owed to bilateral and multilateral creditors, as well as arrears owed to commercial creditors whose claims are guaranteed by a sovereign. The authorities intend to clear all remaining commercial non-guaranteed arrears by the end of the year. To avoid new arrears, the authorities committed to strengthening cash flow management, including through regular updates of their monthly fiscal cash flow plans. The authorities plan to clear domestic arrears per the agreed calendar under the Club de Libreville.

“Gabon’s near-term economic prospects will depend on continued financial sector stability. Decisive steps should be taken to accelerate the resolution of the three public banks in distress, and to develop the framework for the resolution of non-performing loans. Clear and regular communication of the domestic arrears clearance strategy would also be important to rebuild economic confidence.

“Social spending needs to be protected and expanded to maintain broad support for the economic recovery strategy. Strict implementation of the authorities’ announced measures is essential, including to establish a minimum floor of social assistance spending for vulnerable groups and stepped up public outreach efforts to better communicate social spending objectives." Communication without elections, same family for 40 years? After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system, which on both July 5 and July 6, 2018 has banned Inner City Press for covering the UN's budget (
Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II) - including the International Monetary Fund. On July 23 the IMF published a report on Cameroon, including touching on the economic impact of the "anglophone crisis." The IMF report states: "The current anglophone crisis takes its roots in Cameroon’s unification in 1961. The 1972 constitution replaced federalism with a unitary state. Throughout the years, the anglophone population, which resides mostly in the north-west and south-west regions and account for 20 percent of Cameroon’s total population of 25 million, has demanded more autonomy and rights, while the state has become increasingly centralized. They founded the largest opposition party (Social Democratic Front) in the 1990s.
The crisis has escalated to an armed separation movement with rising humanitarian costs. The crisis started in October 2016 with strikes by lawyers and teachers and was followed by a boycott of schools, protests and ghost towns. It subsequently morphed into an armed movement for independence marked by violence on both sides, which escalated in recent months to killings and detentions, burning and looting of villages, and kidnappings of government officials and civilians. Despite a heavy military presence, the insecurity has spread leading to rising humanitarian costs. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that more than 20,000 people have fled to Nigeria, and 160,000 have become internally displaced persons (IDPs). This adds to the burden from 340,000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that the cost of assisting refugees and IDPs in Cameroon has risen to US$87 million, of which only US$15 million are funded. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the anglophone crisis is taking a toll on the economy. A rigorous quantification is difficult because of lack of adequate data. However, real exports of coffee and cocoa, grown mostly in the anglophone areas, have decreased by about 10 percent in 2017. Coffee export volumes further declined by 72 percent in the first quarter of 2018 (y/y). Tax revenues decreased by 8–9 percent in both regions in 2017 compared with 2016, due to lower economic activity and difficulties to collect taxes. Additional security expenses amounted to 0.4 percent of GDP in 2017 and at least 0.2 percent of GDP in 2018." Inner City Press was informed, not by the IMF, that on July 10 the IMF held a conference call with NGOs, while continuing as recently at July 6 to dole out funds to the Paul Biya government. In late June a group of lawyers and human rights organizations wrote to the IMF's Christine Lagarde to flag a possible breach of IMF loan terms by the government of Cameroon. The loan, which was approved in June 2017, “aims to restore the country’s fiscal and external sustainability and unlock job-rich, private sector-driven growth.” Under its terms, Cameroon agreed to a recurring obligation to report, within two weeks, “[a]ny decision, decree, law, order or circular having economic or financial implications, from its publication date or effective date.” It seems clear however that Cameroon did not report at least two instances when the government shut or slowed down internet services in certain regions of the country, which experts say would have cost millions to the country’s economy. A conservative estimate of the economic harm done places it at $3.2 million, while others estimate that the costs may have been as high as $38.8 million. “The result is that the government’s unlawful interference with internet freedom has had a debilitating effect on the economy, affecting not only media companies but also businesses, as they are dependent upon internet for transactions and operations,” reads the letter. Then there was a call.

July 30, 2018

More mergers we are watching:

these in Colorado: https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2018/07/20/colorado-banking-industry-mergers.html

and in Texas, "San Antonio’s Vantage Bank Texas and McAllen’s Inter National Bank" https://www.expressnews.com/business/local/article/Vantage-Bank-Inter-National-Bank-announce-merger-13066512.php

and this one in Washington State, of interest because it quickly follows a rare merger fall-apart: https://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article215101210.html

On France Lagarde's IMF Praises Banks Avoiding Large Indebted Firms and Communications Amid Benalla and Biya

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 – When the International Monetary Fund released from embargo its report on Managing Director Christine Lagarde's home country France at 10 am on July 26, it will full of praise including of French banks. It noted, however, that "vulnerabilities remain, especially related to elevated debt levels in parts of the corporate sector against a backdrop of global interest rate normalization. Directors welcomed the recent macroprudential measures aimed at reducing imbalances and underlined the need for continued monitoring of vulnerabilities and building bank buffers against shocks, including through the implementation of ongoing international regulatory changes." It cited "the definition of large indebted firms used by the Haut Conseil de Stabilité Financière (HCSF) in its macroprudential policy to limit banks’ exposures to vulnerable firms." And the IMF recommends "Building buffers in the banking system to limit potential spillovers. The decision to limit bank exposures to large indebted corporates and the activation of the countercyclical capital buffer
are welcome decisions and continuing to rely on communication tools to raise awareness of market participants." This while Macron is under fire for his aide Benalla roughing up protesters, and while French ally Paul Biya in Cameroon, to which the IMF is handing money, is outright shooting women and children and Anglophone villages. Communications tools, indeed. After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system, which on both July 5 and July 6, 2018 has banned Inner City Press for covering the UN's budget (
Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II) - including the International Monetary Fund.

July 23, 2018

UN Briber Patrick Ho of CEFC Loses Motions to Dismiss on FCPA and HSBC Money Laundering, UN Bans Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video, Q&A, HK here

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 – Four months after the arrest for UN bribery of Patrick Ho, the head of China Energy Fund Committee full funded by CEFC China Energy, his ultimate boss at CEFC Ye Jianming was brought in for questioning in China. Now on July 19, the lawyers for Patrick Ho argued before U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska that count after count of the indicts should be dismissed. First they argued that under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, if Patrick Ho is a "domestic concern" some counts of the indictment must be dropped. The prosecution called the argument absurd -- Ho is a national of China and a resident of Hong Kong who acted for the "Energy NGO" China Energy Fund Committee in allegedly bribing UN President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, as well as Chad's President Idriss Deby - and the judge agreed. Next they argued that even a series of transfers from HSBC in Hong Kong to HSBC in New York to Mashreq Bank in NY to Mashreq Bank in Dubai did not fall under the money laundering statute. The judge, citing the the Daccarett case and Julius Baer cases from DC, disagreed. Periscope video here. The motions to dismiss were denied, and Inner City Press left the court to deal with the UN, which not only still hasn't even started an audit of CEFC's bribery but has, since July 3, banned Inner City Press which asks from the all UN premises. Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II, Independent here. The UN is corrupt. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press made this connection: the president of ECOSOC is Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN. Her president, in Prague Castle, is Miloš Zeman -- who, like Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa when he was UN President of the General Assembly, made Ye Jianming an official adviser. (Inner City Press' CEFC investigative covered has been picked up in the Czech media, for example here.) Now on April 17, Zeman is set to meet this week with another Chinese state owned firm, CITIC and its chairman, Chang Zhenming. CITIC is reportedly seeking to buy a stake in CEFC's Czech-based unit CEFC Europe. So Inner City Press asks, would CITIC buy its way into China Energy Fund Group's consultative status with ECOSOC, presided over by the Czech Republic? The Czech Mission to the UN, and ECOSOC's supposed spokesperson Paul Simon, have yet to answer any of Inner City Press' written questions. This is today's UN, under Antonio Guterres.

Earlier, Zeman sent two officials to Chinese to inquire into the status or, or help, Ye Jianming: chancellor Vratislav Mynár and economic advisor Martin Nejedlý flew to Shanghai on March 13, along with CEFC  European division head Jaroslav Tvrdik, and have now returned. They said Ye “is being investigated for a suspicion of breaking the law,” after meeting CEFC President Chan Chauto. CEFC’s Czech-based unit CEFC Europe said: “CEFC Europe has been informed about the planned change in the shareholder structure in which Mr Ye Jienming will no longer be active as a shareholder nor in the company’s leadership. NOW might Zeman's Representative Chatardová belatedly take action in the UN ECOSOC of which she is President? 

 Inner City Press has repeatedly written to the Czech Mission to the UN, to the attention of
Marie Chatardová as President of ECOSOC, asking how China Energy Fund Committee given all of the above can remain in special consultative status with ECOSOC. The Czech Mission has not answered, including when the question is raised at the UN's televised noon briefing, as Inner City Press asked again on March 19, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Deputy SG Amina J. Mohammed is going to the Czech Republic about ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council].  So, I was going to and may still ask Brenden [Varma] this, but I wanted to ask you this.  It has arisen that the China Energy Fund Committee, the ultimate owner in Shanghai has purportedly been brought in for questioning, and it turns out he was not only an adviser to Sam Kutesa as PGA [President of the General Assembly], but also an adviser of the Czech Republic President.  The Czech Republic has sent people to sort of look into his situation, but the Czech Republic also has the presidency of ECOSOC.  So, noting that I haven't gotten any answer from the Czech Mission, my question is…

Spokesman:  I think those are questions that you should address to the Presidency of ECOSOC.

Inner City Press: I guess but my question is an overall UN question.  Is there… is there any… it seems like it might be a conflict of interest if your President has a business relationship with an NGO to be in charge of the committee that is either… how do we get an answer if…?

Spokesman:  That is a question for the… that’s a question for Member States.  Member States elect the Presidency of ECOSOC.  They elect the bureau.  Those are Member State questions.  I struggle to answer the questions directed to the Secretary-General.  I think Member States need to answer other questions."

July 16, 2018

Some mergers we are watching:

July 2, IL:  
Midwest Bank says it will acquire Andalusia Community Bank;

June 29, TN: 
Knoxville-based SmartFinancial says it will