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.

February 19, 2018

After ICP Protest to Ameris Bank Merger With Atlantic Coast & Hamilton, Fed Asks 10 Qs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, February 17 – The bank with the worst record in the United States for gouging consumers with overdraft fees, Ameris, has applied to the Federal Reserve to buy Atlantic Coast Bank in Florida, and thereafter Hamilton State Bancshares. On January 29, Fair Finance Watch filed formal opposition to both with the Federal Reserve, citing the gouging, Ameris' disparate mortgage lending record in Atlanta, Georgia and Florida, and the Community Reinvestment Act. See below. Inner City Press has requested records under the Freedom of Information Act. Now the Federal Reserve has asked Ameris a series of question, full copy here on Patreon: "In connection with the application under section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act on behalf of Ameris Bancorp (“Ameris”), Moultrie, Georgia, to merge with Atlantic Coast
Financial Corporation (“ACFC”), and thereby indirectly acquire Atlantic Coast Bank, both of
Jacksonville, Florida, the following additional information is requested. Supporting
documentation should be provided as appropriate. 1. Describe any due diligence performed by Ameris or related to the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”), including any efforts to ascertain the needs of the communities served by Atlantic Coast Bank. To the extent the needs of the communities
to be served were identified, summarize how Ameris contemplates assisting in addressing
those needs. 2. Indicate any of products or services of Atlantic Coast Bank that Ameris contemplates discontinuing in connection with the proposal. To the extent that any products or
services would be offered in replacement of any products or services to be discontinued,
indicate what these are and how they would assist in meeting the convenience and needs
of the communities affected by the transaction. 3. In the application (page 10), Ameris indicates that Ameris Bank plans to continue to
implement the current CRA policies of Atlantic Coast Bank following consummation.
Elaborate on that statement, including to what extent, if at all, the CRA policies of
Ameris Bank would be implemented at the combined institution. 4. Indicate to what extent Ameris Bank’s consumer compliance program, including its fair lending program, would be implemented at the combined institution. 5. Relative to the branches of Atlantic Coast Bank that Ameris currently intends to close
upon consummation of the bank merger, which are listed on page 6 of the Bank Merger
application, as well as the “Julington Creek Branch” and “Jacksonville Branch” of
Ameris Bank that Ameris currently intends to close upon consummation, please specify
which are consolidations/relocations and closures in accordance with the guidance
provided in the revised joint policy statement by the banking agencies regarding branch
closings. 1 In addition, specify the branches which are located in LMI or minority census
tracts, and, for the contemplated closures in LMI or minority tracts, indicate efforts
contemplated to mitigate the potential impact of these closures. 6. Describe any litigation or investigations by local, state, or federal authorities involving Ameris or any of its subsidiaries or ACFC or any of its subsidiaries that is currently pending or was resolved within the last two years. 7. Based on staff’s review of the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated
November 16, 2017, between Ameris and ACFC (the “Agreement”), section 4.9 of the
Agreement (regarding the making of any loans in excess of $1,000,000) raises concerns
that Ameris may be able to exercise control over the day-to- day operations of ACFC and
Atlantic Coast Bank prior to the Federal Reserve’s approval of the application. Discuss
in detail the reasons ACFC and Atlantic Coast Bank are required to give prior notice to
Ameris for the actions described in section 4.9. Explain whether this provision would
give Ameris the ability to control the activities that ACFC and Atlantic Coast Bank
conduct in the ordinary course of business. Discuss the reason for choosing the specific
dollar amounts requiring prior notice to Ameris and provide the number and percentage
of transactions within the last year that would have required prior approval under the
stated conditions. 8. Provide the Disclosure Schedule referenced in the Agreement.
9. Clarify whether section 5.3 of the Agreement would require ACFC or Atlantic Coast
Bank to disclose confidential supervisory information or other information the disclosure
of which is prohibited by applicable statute or regulation. If section 5.3 of the Agreement
would require the disclosure of such information, provide a commitment signed by
Ameris stating that Ameris will not seek to enforce section 5.3 of the Agreement with
respect to any confidential supervisory information, and provide a copy of such
commitment to ACFC. 10. Provide updated financials for the period ending December 31, 2017. In your response, please include pro forma capital and asset quality ratios, as well as pro forma estimates for exposure to commercial real estate lending for the combined firm.
Please provide your response within eight business days." We'll have more on this. From Fair Finance Watch's (and Inner City Press') filing with the Fed: "This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Ameris Bancorp to merge with Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation, and thereby directly acquire shares of Atlantic Coast Bank in Jacksonville, Florida. Fair Finance Watch has reviewed Ameris' lending in 2016, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data is available, in both the Atlanta and the Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and finds both to be disparate. In the Atlanta MSA in 2016 for refinance loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 3.75 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 152 such loans to whites, only 16 to African Americans and only eight to Latinos. In the Atlanta MSA in 2016 for home purchase loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.11 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 582 such loans to whites, only 206 to African Americans and only 48to Latinos. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for home purchase loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.69 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 203 such loans to whites and only SEVEN to African Americans. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for home improvements loans, Ameris made five such loans to whites and none to African Americans or Latinos. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for refinance loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.2 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 100 such loans to whites and only FOUR to African Americans. This is disparate. Fair Finance Watch also reviewed Ameris' home purchase lending in the Tallahassee MSA in 2016: Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 3.78 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 147 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans. Ameris is systemically disparate. Also for the record, and to be addressed at the requested evidentiary hearings: “Georgia bank socking customers with overdraft fees,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 3, 2017: “Ameris Bank collected the most overdraft/insufficient fund fees per account of any U.S. bank, says the analysis, which is based on federal government data from the first three quarters of 2016. Ameris collected an average of about $176 per account.. The No. 2 bank on the list of the top 10 collected an average of about $131 per account. The national average was $17.76.”  This is predatory. Ameris gobbled up Jacksonville Bank and now seeks Atlantic Coast. Would branched be consolidated or closed? This must be addressed, including at the requested evidentiary hearings. We note that Ameris is already trying to look beyond this challenged proposal, to try to acquire Hamilton State Bancshares, Inc. and Hamilton State Bank. We also hereby oppose that; the two proposal should be consolidated and hearings held on both. On the current record, Ameris' application should be denied." 

February 12, 2018

Mergers we are watching:

Feb 9, Oregon: Oregon Community Bank says it plans to acquire Grand Marsh State Bank;

Feb 6, Maine, rare credit union proposed merger between York County Federal Credit Union of Sanford and Atlantic Federal Credit Union of Brunswick;

Jan 23, Ohio into NC: Park National Corporation says it plans to apply to acquire NewDominion Bank, which would leave Charlotte NC with only one bank headquarters: BofA;

Jan 23, Illinois into Florida: CNB Bank Shares says it has signed an agreement to merge Jacksonville Bancorp with and into CNB Shares;

Jan 18, Michigan: Mackinac Financial Corporation, the holding company for mBank, said it wants to merge with First Federal of Northern Michigan Bancorp.

February 5, 2018

Pinnacle bragging of closing branches in "underperforming" markets: "Pinnacle Financial Partners Corp. confirmed Monday that it eliminated at least 145 former BNC Bancorp jobs in 2017, with plans for another 40 jobs this year.

The Nashville, Tenn., bank completed its $1.9 billion purchase of the High Point bank June 16, gaining $7.4 billion and 76 branches, including three in Forsyth County and 20 overall in the Triad.

At $22.2 billion in total assets, it has become a top-50 U.S. bank.

BNC had 1,075 employees in the Carolinas and Virginia when the deal closed, so the reduction represents 17 percent of its former workforce.

Pinnacle spokesman Joe Bass said the bank initially had plans to eliminate another 109 jobs, but those employees were retained in “different, needed roles.”

Bass said the bank also has added 27 “financial advisors and other revenue producers” in the former BNC territory, 13 since the closing of the deal.

Pinnacle listed having 2,222 full-time equivalent employees on June 30, up from 1,217 on March 31. The workforce was down to 2,132 on Dec. 31.

Pinnacle closed 10 BNC branches in December, including the High Point branch at 109 Penny Road, known locally as Pennybyrn, and in Randleman, Bass said.

“The Penny Road location was a special office only open for two half-days a week,” Bass said.

Terry Turner, Pinnacle’s president and chief executive, told analysts during a fourth-quarter conference call Jan. 17 that the closed branches 'weren’t exclusively rural markets by definition, but they were underperforming markets.'" New low for Pinnacle.

January 29, 2018

The worm turns: "An Ohio-based bank is planning to acquire NewDominion Bank, a move that would leave the Queen City with just one bank headquartered here. Newark, Ohio-based Park National Corp., the holding company for Park National Bank, has agreed to pay $76.4 million to purchase the remaining shares of the Charlotte-based community lender, which would put NewDominion under the community bank division of Park National Bank. If the merger is completed by mid-year as expected, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) would be the only Charlotte-based bank left in the Queen City."

January 22, 2018

ICP Asks IMF of Tunisia, Yemen Central Bank, Somalia Debt, and Cameroon, Some Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on January 18, Inner City Press submitted questions about Yemen, Somalia, Tunisia and Cameroon. On Yemen, it asked "With continuing holes in the Yemeni Central Bank, what if anything is the IMF doing?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question and then said that the IMF is helping to build the Central Bank's capacity amid the humanitarian crisis. Transcript to come. On Somalia, Inner City Press asked of reports that “Somalia owes around $4bn making it almost impossible for Mogadishu to access new funds from the IMF.” The IMF puts the figure at $5.1 billion. What explains the difference, and how could Somalia access new IMF funds?" Rice replied that records were lost in the war and are being reconstructed; for now $5.1 billion is the figure. Again, transcript to come,  - and more on Cameroon and the continued undermining of the Internet and the economy by this big IMF recipient, Paul Biya's government. Before Rice's long Tunisia answer, Inner City Press had asked: "On Tunisia, what is the IMF's comments on its role in imposing austerity on the country since the popular uprising of January 2011? Did the IMF exerted sustained pressure on the Tunisian Central Bank to stop intervening in the currency markets to defend the value of the Tunisian dinar, increasing imports?" The IMF was prepared for this, emphasizing for example that cooking oil will not be subject to the VAT, but sweets and alcohol will. Video and transcript to come.

January 15, 2017

Mergers we are looking at:

Jan 12, CA: Heritage Commerce Corp proposes to acquire United American Bank;

Jan 10, PA into OH:  First Commonwealth Financial Corporation says it will apply to acquire Cincinnati, Ohio based Foundation Bank;

Jan 9, Michigan: Meta Financial Group proposes to acquire Crestmark Bancorp and Crestmark Bank;

Dec 29, PA:  Juniata Valley Financial Corp. says it will acquire Liverpool Community Bank;

Dec 29, CA: Nano Financial Holdings says it will acquire Commerce Bank of Temecula Valley

December 26, Ohio: LCNB National Bank says it will acquire Columbus First Bank;

Dec 19, CA: First Foundation Inc. proposes to acquire PBB Bancorp...

January 8, 2018

Another merger proposal we are looking at, deep in the heart of Texas: AimBank aims to acquire Platinum Bank. We'll see.

January 1, 2018

On December 27, BancorpSouth said it had received – after nearly four years of waiting – regulatory approvals from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance, to complete its mergers with Ouachita Bancshares Corp., of Monroe, Louisiana, and Central Community Corp., of Austin, Texas. "We are pleased to have secured the necessary regulatory approvals and are working to complete both transactions," said BancorpSouth Chairman and CEO Dan Rollins in a press release.  Note: this is the redlining bank, that's why the deals were and should be delayed, denied. We'll have more on this.

December 25, 2017

Another merger we'll be looking at in early 2018: NC-based First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. announced a proposal to acquire Tampa-headquartered HomeBancorp.

December 18, 2017

Some mergers we are looking at:

Dec 13, Iowa-based (12 state) Heartland Financial USA announced a proposal to acquire First Bank Lubbock Bancshares;


Dec 12, TN into AL: SmartBank said it will buy Southern Community Bank with branches in 

Dec 12, California: TriCo Bancshares said it plans to acquire FNB Bancorp, parent of First National Bank of Northern California;

Dec 11, Louisiana:  Union Savings and Loan Association proposes to acquire Hibernia Bancorp;

Dec 6, MS into FLA: The First Bancshares announced it proposes to acquire Sunshine Financial;

Dec 5, Mich: Independent Bank Corporation (says it proposes to acquire Traverse City State Bank;

Dec 1, Missouri: Guaranty Federal Bancshares says it proposes to acquire Carthage, Missouri-based Hometown Bancshares

Dec 1, Florida: City National Bank announced it proposes to acquire TotalBank from Banco Santander of Spain;

Nov 28, Texas: Independent Bank Group says it proposes to acquire Integrity Bancshares, Inc. and its subsidiary, Integrity Bank SSB, Houston, Texas;

Nov 27, FLA: FCB Financial Holdings says it will buy Floridian Community Holding;

December 11, 2017

In Michigan, The Traverse City State Bank says it will be merging with Independent Bank and that the merger is expected to close in the first half of 2018....

December 4, 2017

  In Florida, the proposed acquisition of a Spain-owned bank by one owned in Chile is presented by some, spun by others as local. We'll see.

ICP Asks IMF of Caribbean Critique, No Reclassification, Yemen & Zambia Answered, Kenya Not

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on November 30, Inner City Press asked about critiques of the IMF from the Caribbean, about Yemen, Zambia and Kenya. The first three of these were answered. IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question: "Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said of the IMF, 'If you care about the Caribbean, you must change the rules of engagement and allow us to help ourselves.'He's said the billions of dollars in Caribbean loans should be reclassified by the IMF. What is the IMF's response?" Rice said Managing Director Lagarde is aware of the criticism from the Caribbean forum a few weeks ago and that a study is underway including of catastrophe bonds but, he said, the IMF cannot currently do the requested reclassifications to make countries eligible for concessionary financing.On Zambia, Rice notes that Inner City Press at the UN had asked, "Treasury Secretary Fredson Yamba has said Zambia expects to host an IMF mission before the end of the year and hopes to have a $1.3 billion loan deal in place in early 2018. 'Come 2018, we must have a final (IMF) programme. It has taken a long time because the parameters have been changing.' What is the IMF's status with Zambia?" Rice said after the pause in August,progress has been made, the interest is there, but some information and clarifications are still awaited. "We are waiting for further data and details on the government's external borrowing plans," he said. On Inner City Press' Yemen question, Rice said the IMF "donor grants will be needed" for the payment of wages and social assistance and that the IMF is willing to help with macro-stability once the conflict is over. But when will that be? Here was and is Inner City Press' Kenya question: In Kenya, IMF rep Jan Mikkelsen is quoted that “discussions about the current programme and what will follow after the expiration in March are expected to begin soon, with the new government taking office. The authorities have indicated that they are interested to continue a programme relationship with the IMF."Has the IMF taken note of, and what is its comment on, the critique of the election by Raila Odinga and the NASA Coalition? Would the IMF also confer with the opposition?" We'll have more on this. 

November 27, 2017

  Revolving door continues to spin: Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is joining private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg... His predecessor Timothy Geithner cashed out to Warburg Pincus in 2014.

November 20, 2017

Japan's Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi Skirts North Korea Sanctions With "Incorrect" Application to US OCC, Public Excluded

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photo

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 – Amid talk of increased enforcement of sanctions on North Korea, and possible imposition of new sanctions against Myanmar, a November 13 letter from the New York State Department of Financial Services cites Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi for “continuing compliance failures in Hong Kong, which has a 'repeat transaction' program for certain high risk clients in Chinese cities bordering North Korea. The repeat transaction program results in not more but less scrutiny of these clients transactions.” The NYSDFS letter also notes that BTMU has processed transaction through its New York branch for “Burmese parties” on the OFAC sanctions list. How did Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi react to the New York regulator's investigation of these issues? It applied on October 30 to switch to the more lax Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and had its application approved in a mere week, then threw the state regulators out of its New York branch on Sixth Avenue. All this just a few blocks from the United Nations whose Security Council, on which Japan has a seat until the end of the year, has imposed rounds of sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons program, and was set to vote for a new UN Special Envoy on Myanmar, or Burma, on November 16. What's going on? Now Inner City Press can exclusively report a further outrage, not included in the NYSDFS letter nor a Wall Street Journal article which quoted it. The OCC gave its approval in a week even while belatedly listing Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi's filings under "THESE APPLICATIONS APPEARED INCORRECTLY IN A PRIOR WEEKLY BULLETIN." Photo here; link to Bulletin here. The public, as is the trend under the OCC, was cut out. The face savings compliance agreement, here, does not cure or address this. The OCC is lax not only in sanctions compliance and absurdly short comment periods on corporate applications - it also markets itself to banks as being “flexible” on other compliance issues including the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act. Recently the OCC announced that even a rare less than satisfactory CRA rating would not bar approval of a bank's application, click here for that Inner City Press coverage. A new Comptroller, Joseph Otting formerly of OneWest Bank, is set to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate this week, even while the OCC has refused to answer a pending Press (and CRC) request under the Freedom of Information Act. A lawsuit has now been filed. What will a FOIA request into the OCC's communications with Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi yield? Watch this site.

November 13, 2017

It's not just in the US, and neither are we: Punjab National Bank Set to Shut / Merge or Re-Locate 300 Branches Across India

November 6, 2017

Mergers we are watching:

Nov 3, New Jersey: Spencer Savings Bank, SLA proposes to acquire Wawel Bank;

Nov 2, Illinois: Bank of Farmington proposes to acquire Laura State;

Nov 2, MO: The Bank of Missouri says it will apply to acquire Martinsburg Bancorp;

Nov 1, Illinois: State Bank of Speer says it will merge with Morton Community Bank;

October 30, Montana: Glacier Bancorp proposes acquiring First Security Bank - note: a combination would control 35% of the local Bozeman banking market;

Oct 30, Virginia: Old Point Financial Corp., the parent company of Old Point National Bank, says it will acquire Citizens National Bank;

Oct 24, MS - AL: The First Bancshares, Inc. says it will acquire Southwest Banc Shares, Inc. parent company of First Community Bank in Alabama;

Oct 23, Maine into NH:  Bangor Savings Bank proposes to acquire Granite Bank;

Oct 19, NJ: First Bank says it will acquire Delanco Bancorp;

Oct 17, IL: Midland States Bancorp, Inc. says it will acquire Alpine Bancorporation...

  And in Germany, US-present Deutsche Bank says it will acquire Postbank to form one unit with $325 billion in assets. In Mexico, Banorte says it will acquire Interacciones to form the country's second-largest financial group.

October 30, 2017

Proposed mergers we are looking at: From the North (North) East: New Hampshire based Granite Bank proposes merging into Bangor Savings Bank in Maine; together they'd have $4 billion and 59 branches...

October 23, 2017

  On Associated - Bank Mutual, the Fed e-mailed Inner City Press part of the application but not, it seems, the rest of the file including the multiple protests. Maybe we're missing something... Meanwhile, Bank Mutual Corp. reported third quarter net income of $3.8 million, or 8 cents per share, down from $4.5 million, or 10 cents per share, in the third quarter of 2016.

October 16, 2017

On Cameroon, IMF's Superficial Answer, After Telling ICP Internet Cut Off A Financial Risk

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 – 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 Najat Rochdi 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 - including the International Monetary Fund. After the IMF told Inner City Press is viewed Yaounde's policies toward the Anglophone areas as a fiscal risk, on June 26 the IMF board handed the Biya government $171 million. And after Inner City Press asked the IMF on October 13, during its Africa press conference during its Annual meeting, about the rising crisis in Southern Cameroon, the IMF's Abebe Aemro Selassie Director of the IMF's African Department, said on camera that it is hard to assess the impacts but the IMF tries to pay heed to "situations like the one you refer to." Really? (He was upbeat on Gabon, too, with no reference to the protests.)

October 9, 2017

Amid a mounting fight against Wisconsin based Associated (it would close 36 branches if allowed to acquire Bank Mutual, list herewe note that "there were 60 U.S. bank mergers and acquisitions completed in the second quarter of 2017, and Wisconsin accounted for 10 percent of them."

  There are also evasions and negative fall-out from proposed mergers, like "236 people being laid off by Sterling Bancorp following the completion of its merger with Astoria Financial Corp." Associated Bank's announcement it would There's been more such negative consolidation fall-out of the type we in NCRC can and should monitor, collect and amplify, organize around, using social media.

A list:

Oct 6, Louisiana: Business First Bank proposes acquiring Minden Bancorp;

Oct 4, Indiana: MutualFirst Financial proposes to merge with Universal Bancorp;

Oct 3, Alabama: Troy Bank and Trust Co. proposes to buy First National Bank;

Oct 2, Oregon:  Beneficial State Bank proposes to fully acquire Albina Community Bank;

Sept 25, South Carolina: First Reliance Bancshares, Inc. proposes to acquire Independence Bancshares;

Sept 21, 2017, Tennessee: F&M Bancshares Inc., the parent bank holding company of Centennial Bank, proposes to acquire Merchants & Planters Bancshares Inc;

Sept 21, Massachusetts: Brookline Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:BRKL)(“Brookline”) proposes to merge with First Commons Bank, NA;

Sept 20, Oklahoma: American Bancorporation, Inc., the holding company for American Heritage Bank, headquartered in Sapulpa, Okla. proposes to acquire Highland Ban-Corp, Inc.

October 2, 2017


ICP Asks IMF of Talks with "Money Launderer" in Congo, Pakistan Minister Dar Charged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on September 28, Inner City Press asked among other things about the IMF negotiating with a reputed money launder in Congo-Brazzaville, and about corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar of Pakistan, also in IMF talks. On the former, IMF Deputy Spokesman William Murray said the IMF is again in Brazzaville, for the third time, having a “series of contacts” on financial assessment. He declined to confirm or deny the IMF is talking with Orion Oil's Lucien Ebata, but this is widely known, as is his dealings in cash, via the Panama Papers. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press' Pakistan question was and is: “On Pakistan, it is reported that “the IMF said it had been told by Pakistani officials that the restrictions [on luxury imports] would be removed within a year but Mr Abbasi now says his government was planning to impose more.” Also, what is the IMF comment on the corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar?” But when re-submitting through the IMF's online form, with allows only 300 characters, Inner City Press took out “[on luxury imports]” thinking the IMF would know what restrictions were being referred to, since they imposed them. They did not, and did not address the Ishaq Dar corruption allegations. Yet. Watch this site. When the International Monetary Fund re-started its biweekly embargoed press briefings on September 14, Inner City Press submitted questions about Hurricane Irma and moratoria, Mozambique, DR Congo and Ghana: "what is the IMF's response to civil society saying 'the Finance Minister, in particular, is facing conflict of interest investigation with USA SEC, Ghanaian SEC and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana... We are losing hope as the IMF seems not concerned about all these developments”? The first two got answered, during the briefing, then this on Ghana, from an IMF Spokesperson: "We are aware of the allegations raised in Parliament and the related debates that have been reported on by the media. The Minister of Finance testified before Parliament to clarify the issue. Since the approval of the ECF arrangement we have been working with the authorities on strengthening debt management and improving governance and transparency of government operations. The enactment and ongoing implementation of the Public Financial Management Act, along with the implementation of the debt management strategy, indicate progress in these areas."  Inner City Press asked: "On Antigua and Barbuda, and Hurricane Irma impacted countries more generally... will there be no moratoria? What is the IMF doing?" IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said, "There's a question from Matthew Lee on moratorium... on that, I would refer to what Mme Lagarde said a few days ago, of course the IMF has tremendous sympathy. She also said we stand ready to help. There are a number of options we can look at in that context. At the moment we are still trying to make an assessment. As a factual member, none of our members including Antigua and Barbuda have formally requested assistance from the Fund." Oh. On Mozambique, he called again for the publication of the full audit. Inner City Press also asked, "On the DR Congo, what is the IMF's response to civil society requests it has received that the Fund end its dealings with the National Petroleum Company of the Congo (SNPC), specifically that “if the IMF obtained the dissolution of Cotrade, a subsidiary of the SNPC, it can also demand and obtain the dissolution of the SNPC and the major works”? Watch this site and see IMF's July 20, 2017 transcript: , with Inner City Press' question at that time: "Ghana President, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday said the country will not extend its three-year aid program with the IMF beyond April 2018. The IMF had urged it to do so to give it time to complete the program’s goals. Did the IMF so urge? A step back real quick for some context. Right now, we’re in the process of completing the fourth review of Ghana’s ECF program. We’ve made significant progress in program discussions, and we expect to reach understandings in all remaining issues in the coming days. The discussions are going to continue and as a result of these continuing discussions, a Board discussion to complete the fourth review probably won’t take place until late August. Again, Media Relations will get back to everyone on the exact timing. But it’s probably late August when Ghana’s fourth review will be taken up by the Executive Board.
Now, the question that was just posed was regarding a comment about extension of the ECF next year when it’s scheduled to expire. The President made it clear that he would like to move Ghana beyond aid. And successful completion of the IMF-supported program could be instrumental in achieving this goal by restoring macroeconomic stability in Ghana. A request for program extension is essential for our ability to complete the review of this program overall. And given the significant fiscal slippages from last year, it will also take longer to bring debt onto a clearly declining path, which explains the need for the program to cover performance into later next year. This was something that was outlined in a press release issued by the finance minister on July 18th. Mozambique: the IMF’s Mr. Lazare, our mission chief, has said that, quote, “critical information gaps remain unaddressed regarding the use of loans, proceeds”, close quote. Please be more specific about what the IMF sees as the information gaps, and how they can be filled, with what information and in what detail? First of all, we welcomed and continue to welcome the fact that the delivery of an international forensic audit on three companies to the office of the public prosecutor of Mozambique has taken place. We commend Mozambique public prosecutor for undertaking this important audit and for releasing the summary of the report. Transparency and good governance are key conditions for sustainable, inclusive growth, and that applies to all countries. Now we look forward to the publication of the entire audit report in due course. At that point, we will be able to provide an informed view on the audit and its implication
s. Still U
Nanswered: "
On Zambia, Fitch has “said the key risk stemming from the current political tension if it escalated could jeopardize an IMF aid package as well as other lender's willingness to provide the southern African nation with external financing” and that “progress towards an IMF program has remained slow and may be delayed further by domestic political events, adding that expectation of an IMF program was key to Zambia's B/negative sovereign rating.” Please comment on if progress is slow and on these risks. In Sri Lanka, Joint Opposition’s Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardana on July said that the country's Inland Revenue Act, in accord with the agreement arrived at with the IMF, is “an attempt to sabotage all forms of tax relief provided by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure as the Finance Minister, and clarified that state-sponsored relief was also included under the new Act.” Is that the IMF's understanding of the Inland Revenue Act? Please comment. If there is an updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring “Silicon Mountain." Back on June 22 Inner City Press submitted questions about Zambia, Cameroon and Haiti, where it was. During the embargoed briefing, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' Zambia question and said, "implementation of the remaining actions in the next few weeks will enable us to present the authority's request for an Extended Credit Facility arrangement to the Board, and we expect that to be in August of this year." But this Haiti question has yet to be answered: "Chris Walker said reconstruction from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, and investments in health, education, and social services... will be achieved in part through the elimination of excessive subsidies, including subsidies for retail fuel sales. Please specify the IMF's thinking on time timing and range of subsidy elimination and ideas for EDH utility." On this and Cameroon (see below), we'll have more.  On Cameroon, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked for the IMF's "updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain.'" Watch this site: we'll stay on this. The next IMF briefing is July 13. From the IMF's May 11 transcript, of its Deputy Spokesperson Willam Murray: "I’ve got a question from Inner City Press on Sri Lanka. Do recent government moves on the Inland Revenue Act make it more likely the IMF Board will act on the request for completion of the second loan review in June and make a third disbursement? Again, it’s a question about Sri Lanka and the Inland Revenue Act and the likelihood of completing the second review. We had a staff level agreement in Sri Lanka on May 3rd, last week. We noted in announcing that agreement that it’s subject to completion of a prior action by the authorities, which is submission of the Inland Revenue Act to Parliament. And that was a prior action that was agreed earlier this year. Our legal experts are still analyzing the content of the new draft bill, and are in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities. That’s where we stand at the moment on Sri Lanka." The answer's appreciated.  Back on April 12 when at its Spring Meetings the IMF held its Middle East and Central Asia press conference, Inner City Press submitted this question: "Please describe the IMF's view and possible plans on Yemen, given the crisis there, including on President Hadi's proposed moving of the Central Bank out of the capital to Aden. What is the IMF's view of and any assistance to the Central Bank's performance?" After the briefing, the IMF provided this answer: "The humanitarian and economic impact of the conflict has been devastating; it has caused many deaths, depressed economic activity, and destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure. There is now even a tangible risk that the conflict could lead to famine in some parts of Yemen. Yemenis food supply relies largely on imported staples, like wheat and rice. Yemen needs urgently foreign exchange grants from donors to pay for imported food. But Yemenis also need to be able to buy the food that is imported. Resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen is therefore also urgently needed. Given these needs, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) could be the pivotal player for facilitating food imports and for resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen. But to play this humanitarian role, the central banks in Aden and Sana’a need urgently to find a way to cooperate in the interest of providing sufficient food to all Yemenis.  Fund engagement is currently limited. We support the Yemeni authorities and the international community to the best of our abilities.The Fund stands ready to re-engage more fully as soon as the conflict is resolved to help rebuild economic institutions, jumpstart growth, and stabilize the economy."

 Back on April 6 when the IMF held its biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about South Africa, Zambia, Bosnia, Nigeria and the UN, Cameroon and other issues.

September 25, 2017

BB&T continues: in PA: it will close its Robesonia branch office in Heidelberg Township on Dec. 1 and will shutter its Shartlesville branch in Upper Bern Township on Dec. 8. The closures are part of 140 BB&T branch closures planned by the bank across its 15-state footprint in 2017, according to BB&T CEO Kelly S. King, who addressed investors on Sept. 12.

September 18, 2017

Mergers we are watching:

Sept 6, Montana: Eagle Bancorp Montana, the holding company of Opportunity Bank of Montana, proposes to acquire Ruby Valley Bank, Twin Bridges Montana;

Sept 1, Nebraska: Central Bancshares, based in Cambridge, Nebraska, proposes toacquire United Republic Bank;

August 25, Pennsylvania: Mid Penn Bancorp proposes to acquire The Scottdale Bank & Trust Company;

August 22, Arkansas: Arvest Bank proposes to acquire Bear State Bank;

August 18, Missouri:  Southern Bank proposes to acquire Southern Missouri Bank of Marshfield;

August 17, Maryland: Howard Bancorp proposes to acquire 1st Mariner bank in Baltimore;

and last but far from least, August 16, Alabama into Florida: Alabama-based National Commerce Corp. proposes to acquire Florida's FirstAtlantic Financial Holdings.

September 11, 2017

Talk about picking around the edges: "The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday announced it is prohibiting Daniel X. Brennan, a former Mortgage Production Manager at Regions Bank, Birmingham, Alabama, from participating in the banking industry after determining he engaged in improper practices regarding residential mortgage origination.
The Board found Brennan engaged in unsafe and unsound practices, or breached his fiduciary duties to Regions Bank, by making payments by personal check to a Regions Bank loan processor who processed and approved certain mortgage loans originated by Brennan in violation of Regions' policies. Brennan consented to the enforcement action by the Federal Reserve."

September 4, 2017

Update on a merger we're watching: "Associated Bank plans to close 28 Bank Mutual branches, including a dozen in the Milwaukee area, as part of its $482 million acquisition of Bank Mutual. In addition, eight Associated branches in Wisconsin are slated to be consolidated into nearby Bank Mutual branches...."

August 28, 2017

We're looking at Birmingham, Alabama-based National Commerce Corp proposing to acquire FirstAtlantic in Florida...

August 21, 2017

Charm city: "Howard Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:HBMD) (“Howard”) and 1st Mariner Bank (“1st Mariner”) jointly announced today the signing of a definitive agreement and plan of reorganization whereby Howard will acquire 1st Mariner. Upon the closing of the transaction, 1st Mariner will merge with Howard’s wholly owned bank subsidiary, Howard Bank, and the combined organization will operate under the Howard Bank name and be headquartered in 1st Mariner’s existing Baltimore city location. Howard is the parent company of Howard Bank headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland. Howard Bank operates a general commercial banking business through its 13 branches located throughout the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area. At June 30, 2017, it had consolidated assets of approximately $1.1 billion, portfolio loans of approximately $880 million and deposits of approximately $855 million. Following the acquisition and after branch consolidation, Howard will have 21 well-located offices in the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area, with pro forma assets of $2.1 billion, portfolio loans of $1.5 billion and deposits of $1.6 billion based on financial data as of June 30, 2017."
August 14, 2017

Two more proposed mergers we are looking at:

August 6, Ohio, Indiana & Kentucky: First Financial Bank Corporation and MainSource Financial Group propose to merge; 

August 2, CT - Pennsylvania: BBN Financial Corp proposes to merge with Atlantic Community Bancshares;

August 7, 2017

Proposed mergers we are looking at:

July 27: Texas: Valley Bancorp Inc. proposes getting bought by Triumph Bancorp;

July 26: Washington State: Heritage Financial Corporation announced a plan to acquire Puget Sound;

July 25, Ohio-Indiana: MainSource Bank announced that it will merge with First Financial Bank, moving its headquarters to Cincinnati;

July 18: KS into OK: Kansas-based Equity Bancshares proposes to acquire Tulsa-based Patriot Bank

July 31, 2017

Wells Fargo Stole 25,000 Cars By Imposing Unneeded Insurance, CRA Downgrade Should Continue

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 28– Four months after Wells Fargo Bank's Community Reinvestment Act rating was dropped to "Needs to Improve," barring it from acquisitions, it has emerged that over 800,000 people who took car loans from Wells were charged for needless auto insurance, pushing 274,000 Wells Fargo customers into delinquency and triggering nearly 25,000 wrongful vehicle repossessions. So much for the industry having cleaned itself up after the predatory lending meltdown. New York City announced it will not enter any new relationships with the bank, also suspending Wells Fargo's role as a senior book-running manager for NYC General Obligation and Transactional Finance Authority bond sales. A statement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Controller Scott Stringer noted that "Currently, Wells Fargo holds contracts with the City to provide banking services, including to operate 'Lock Box' services that hold taxes and fees collected by the City. There is approximately $227 million of City dollars held in Wells Fargo accounts." Bu will they get involved in opposing Sterling National Bank, which Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch have exposed as having "unreliable" CRA data, notwithstanding the OCC's scam "Satisfactory" rating on May 30? Click here. We'll have more on this. Back in late March, the bank settled for $110 million a class action lawsuit for having opened fake accounts without customers' knowledge or approval. But will Wells Fargo, which Inner City Press has covered through its acquisition of First Union and even before, from Washington to Alaska, still be allowed to go forward with its reported plan to close 400 bank branches, including in low and moderate income areas?

July 24, 2017

We're looking at Associated Bank's July 20 proposal to buy Bank Mutual, having noticed "There are a lot of duplicative branches, clearly.”

July 17, 2017

So Royal Bank of Scotland settled on the cheap with FHFA for $5.5 billion on its predatory lending and MBS sales - but look for more from the DOJ...


UN Sends to Greece Nimetz, Adviser to Firm Invested in Greek Bank Saxo, Conflict, No Breakthrough

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 14 – Amid the UN bribery case against Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng began, and following a UN Security Council visit to Haiti in which victims of the UN's cholera criticized the failure to follow though on individual reparations, Secretary General Antonio Guterres on June 28 announced that his Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Matthew Nimetz would travel to Skopje from July 1-4 and then to Greece. UNsaid was that Nimetz is an advisory director of General Atlantic, which has a stake in a Danish bank, Saxo Bank, with a Greek subsidiary. Isn't this a conflict of interest?

July 10, 2017

ICC Slams South Africa For Not Arresting Bashir, IMF Cites “Weakening Governance,” Corruption

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 – On South Africa, the International Monetary Fund on July 6 noted that "perceptions of weakening governance and uncertainties regarding the direction of future economic policies, partly related to the electoral calendar, have adversely affected consumer and investor confidence... Strengthening governance and fighting corruption will also be critical." Meanwhile the International Criminal Court in The Hague, also on July 6, ruled that "by not arresting Omar Al-Bashir while he was on its territory between 13 and 15 June 2015, South Africa failed to comply with the Court's request for the arrest and surrender of Omar Al-Bashir contrary to the provisions of the Statute, thereby preventing the Court from exercising its functions and powers under the Statute in connection with the criminal proceedings instituted against Omar Al-Bashir. Nevertheless, the Chamber considered, bearing in mind its discretional power, that a referral of South Africa's non-compliance to the ASP and/or the UNSC was not warranted." We'll have more on this.

July 3, 2017

Like UN's Haiti Impunity, ICP Asks of New Srebrenica Decision, BNP on Rwanda, Shell on Ogoni 9

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 – Days after UN cholera victims told Inner City Press in Haiti that the "community projects" UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres described to the Press would be useless to them, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about a court decision that UN Peacekeepers bore responsibility for deaths in Srebrenica as well, and about human rights cases against UN Global Compact members BNP Paribas and Shell. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: the decision in The Hague by Netherlands appeals court confirming that the partial responsibility of the Dutch battalion of UN peacekeeping in the deaths in Srebrenica.  And people are angry because it’s reduced the damages to 30 per cent; it’s basically saying they might have been killed otherwise.  But what is the UN’s response, given that the Dutch battalion was, in fact, a UN peacekeeping battalion.  What’s been learned to it, and what do you have any to say about that?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we’re aware… I think, first of all, our thoughts need to be with the victims of the massacres that took place in Srebrenica and with the relatives of the victims and the survivors and all of those who perished in the atrocities committed throughout the Former Yugoslavia.  As you know, the UN was not a party to this court case, which was in a national court in the Netherlands.  We will study the judgment carefully, but, at this point, we’re not going to make any further comment, because our… my understanding, at least, is that it will be appealed to a higher court.  And as you know, the UN issued years ago a rather exhaustive report on its failings, the Organization’s failings in Srebrenica.

Inner City Press:   But isn’t it not a party because it cited immunity early in the case?  I mean, I’ve seen the lawyer even of this current case saying that that’s why the UN’s not…

Spokesman:  Well, the fact is we’re not a party.

Inner City Press:  Two related.  One, there’s a case also in The Hague against Royal Dutch Shell by, it’s called the Ogoni nine, but it’s a case basically tying corporate responsibility to a military crackdown.  Separately, there’s a case now just begun against the Banc Nationale de Paribas [BNP Paribas] about the Rwanda genocide.  I don’t expect… you can say obviously these are not UN related, but since both seem to be members of the UN Global Compact, I wanted to know, does the UN track such high-profile human rights corporate cases? And, if so, what… are… are the institutions expected to respond?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that these cases are all ongoing, and the Global Compact, as you know, has a mechanism to deal with its own members.  So I will leave it at that...

Inner City Press:  On the Burundi thing, have you run the names through?

Spokesman:  As soon as I have something on it, I will share it.

  Nothing. Dujarric dodged questions about what the victims said, from Inner City Press. This while Guterres is recruiting a "victims' advocate" - on every issue except those the UN killed? Video here. So on June 28 Inner City Press asked Dujarric if Guterres' supposedly "new" approach to the cholera the UN brought to Haiti meant he will continue to seek impunity. From the UN transcript: at least two federal court cases about the UN having introduced cholera to Haiti.  In this case that's in Brooklyn, where they're arguing that… that the UN essentially waived the immunities that it's claiming by having a mechanism to deal with negligence, which I think most people would say this was, as opposed to intentional, is there anything in the new Secretary-General's new approach to cholera that will be reflected in a response, or is it the UN's continuing response that it bears no legal responsibility at all?

Spokesman:  Our legal position is unchanged.  The UN's effort as outlined by the Secretary-General is focusing on preventing the spread or resurgence of cholera in Haiti and helping communities in a first instance.

Inner City Press: And what's the status of his discussions with countries about the $40 million that…?

Spokesman:  I've nothing more to say than what the Secretary-General himself announced.

 From the UN's June 27 transcript

June 26, 2017

ICP Asks IMF About Zambia, August Answer, Nothing Yet on Haiti From Which ICP Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

HAITI, June 24 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on June 22 Inner City Press submitted questions about Zambia, Cameroon and Haiti, where it was. During the embargoed briefing, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' Zambia question and said, "implementation of the remaining actions in the next few weeks will enable us to present the authority's request for an Extended Credit Facility arrangement to the Board, and we expect that to be in August of this year." But this Haiti question has yet to be answered: "Chris Walker said reconstruction from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, and investments in health, education, and social services... will be achieved in part through the elimination of excessive subsidies, including subsidies for retail fuel sales. Please specify the IMF's thinking on time timing and range of subsidy elimination and ideas for EDH utility." On this and Cameroon (see below), we'll have more.  On Cameroon, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked for the IMF's "updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain.'" Watch this site: we'll stay on this. The next IMF briefing is July 13.

June 19, 2017

Wells Fargo Quoted UN IFAD Official In Its Press Release, IFAD Tells ICP No Partnership

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 – On the important issue of remittances, the UN agency IFAD (the International Fund for Agricultural Development) has partnered with none other than Wells Fargo, fresh off its exposure for setting up dummy accounts without customers' consent, which had led for example New York City to stop doing new business with Wells. Not the UN - IFAD's Adolfo Brizzi appears in Wells Fargo's press release. Inner City Press asked IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo, himself a long time UN system official, about the lack of due diligence. He promised to look into it, while saying something about the UN having to respect the sovereignty of governments. Periscope video here. More than 24 hours later, IFAD in writing told Inner City Press: "Dear Matthew, I am the communications officer with IFAD at yesterday's noon briefing. I am writing with the follow up as promised. IFAD does not have a partnership with Wells Fargo. As part of the Global Forum on Remittances, Investment and Development, numerous companies as well as civil society and policymakers recognize the importance of the International Day of Family Remittances. One of our key objectives remains to do everything we can to lower remittance transfer fees to a maximum of 3% (SDG target 10.c) and to do that, we must be in dialogue with all actors involved. I noticed you already published, so I would hope that you would print the facts above in your next edition. Katie Taft
Senior Management Communications, Via Paolo di Dono 44 00142 Rome, Italy."

   So IFAD didn't approve Wells Fargo putting its name, and official's quote, in Wells Fargo's press release?  Companies can blue-wash themselves at will? Houngo also cited "transparency" - Inner City Press previously reported that while at UNDP Houngbo declined to make even basic public financial disclosure. Now the form showing his refusal has itself been taken off line. This is the UN.

June 12, 2017

After FFW Protested on Cabela, Synovus Snail Mails & Withholds Response, Here, ICP FOIAs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, June 10 – The Federal Reserve System asked Synovus more than a half dozen questions on May 22, on its (straw-man)  application to acquire Cabela's World's Foremost Bank, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch protested on May 6. Now Synovus, intent on gaming the System, snail mailed its rseponse, which we have put online here, and immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the withheld portions. What's not withheld is full of empty jargon and buzzwords, for example: "Given the opportunistic nature of this Transaction, Synovus will ensure that it optimizes the value generated through a prioritization process and execution framework. In addition, the Transaction would provide Synovus with additional flexibility to extend its three distinct CRA and fair lending mortgage loan programs beyond the original $25 million commitment, if appropriate." It's inappropriate. Two months after Inner City Press reported Capital One failing in its proposal to acquire Cabela's "World's Foremost Bank," a way to try to avoid the regulators and Capital One's Community Reinvestment Act record emerged. The scam involves Synovus buying the bank then passing one the credit card receivables to Capital One, while keeping the deposits, so Capital One wouldn't be reviewed under CRA. The Fair Finance Watch opposed this, in a filing to the Federal Reserve...

ICP Asks IMF About South Sudan, They'll Meet in Kenya June 12, Need Peace for Program

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on June 8 Inner City Press submitted questions about South Sudan, Egypt, Mozambique and Qatar, as well as Cameroon. Four of these five got answered. On South Sudan, Inner City Press asked again for an update, and later on June 8 an IMF spokesment told Inner City Press, "IMF staff continue to engage with the authorities in South Sudan by providing some technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of South Sudan. A budget / public financial management technical assistance mission is due in Nairobi, Kenya next week (June 12) to meet with officials from South Sudan. IMF staff will also continue to be engaged by providing advice on macro-economic policies, but a program will understandably require a clearer path towards peace in the country." During the embargoed briefing, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice noted that Inner City Press asked, "In Egypt it's said that starting July 1 for fiscal year 2017-2018 the country will see another sharp price rise as a result of the IMF loan requirements, including cutting fuel subsidies to 1.75% of gross domestic product this year and then to less than 0.5%. What is the IMF's response?" Rice said the IMF is following President Sisi's plan to cut fuel subsidies in three years; Rice said that the subsidies benefit those who are better off and cutting them will allow increased social spending on the most vulnerable. We'll see. On Mozambique, Inner City Press asked "the Kroll audit of secret debts was filed on May 12. When does the IMF expect it should be made public, and what is the status of IMF / Mozambique?" Rice said that the IMF expects first a summary then the whole report to be published, and that the technical talks on a new program depend on this audit report. On Qatar, Inner City Press asked "What is the IMF's assessment, going forward, of the cut-off of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others, in terms of credit rating and otherwise?" Rice said it is too soon to say how these tensions will be resolved." Or, Inner City Press would add, how.  Inner City Press also asked the IMF, "If there is an updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain;' Also if there are any updates on Burundi or Yemen or South Sudan. " Watch this site.

June 5, 2017

Regulators Said Sterling's CRA Data Unreliable, Fed Expedites Now Delays ICPs FOIA, OCC Cover Up

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, June 3 – Sterling Bank, which is applying for approvals to acquire Astoria Bank, is known by its regulators to have filed unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data from at least 2014 through 2016, a documentobtained by Inner City Press shows. The story, and outrage, has been picked up by the American Banker newspaper here, by Paul Davis and Allison Prang, crediting Inner City Press - and Sterling Bank had no comment. Instead, Sterling's outside counsel Wachtel Lipton chose to snail-mail its response to the wrong address, and not e-mail it to Fair Finance Watch. Via here, with envelope re-submitted to Fed and OCC. This while the Federal Reserve has granted Inner City Press' request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request for all records, promising the responsive documents by June 1. But now the Fed, in a June 1 letter, has unilaterally extended its time to June 22: "Dear Mr. Lee, This correspondence is to provide you with an update on the status of your FOIA request. The search for records is being completed and staff is beginning to review the search results for responsiveness and releasability.  We will continue to process your request as quickly as possible.  Accordingly, the Board hopes to be able to respond to your request, or provide a status update, on or before June 22, 2017.  Very truly yours, Jeanne M. McLaughlin Manager, Freedom of Information Office." Why expedite and then extend? Why did the OCC rush a cover-up "Satisfactory" rating? We'll have more on this. First Fed letter on Scribd, here.

May 29, 2017

Merger proposals we are watching: Sandy Spring Bancorp proposal to pay $489 million to WashingtonFirst...

ICP Asks IMF About Saudi - Blackstone Deal, and Possible Extension for Ghana, Cameroon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 – When the International Monetary Fund resumed its biweekly embargoed press briefings on May 25, Inner City Press asked about Saudi Arabia (and Blackstone), Ghana and again Cameroon.IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question, "On Saudi Arabia, what is the IMF's view of the interaction between the country's sovereign wealth fund's deal with Blackstone and the warning that rapid cuts to the government’s budget deficit could damage the economy?" Rice replied that the IMF views the Blackstone deal as an attempt to diversity internationally, and not related to domestic deficit reduction (transcript will be on IMF's website. Inner City Press also asked, "amid reports that Ghana will agree to extend the IMF program in return for a bigger credit facility, what is the IMF's position on the government's speed in meeting the objectives of the program?" Rice acknowledged that the IMF and Ghana are discussing an extension but said it would require a formal request by the country; he said a key objective is to key public debt on a continuing downward path. On Cameroon (and Yemen and the UN's "Financing for Development" outcome documents), no answers yet. Watch this site. From the IMF's May 11 transcript, of its Deputy Spokesperson Willam Murray: "I’ve got a question from Inner City Press on Sri Lanka. Do recent government moves on the Inland Revenue Act make it more likely the IMF Board will act on the request for completion of the second loan review in June and make a third disbursement? Again, it’s a question about Sri Lanka and the Inland Revenue Act and the likelihood of completing the second review. We had a staff level agreement in Sri Lanka on May 3rd, last week. We noted in announcing that agreement that it’s subject to completion of a prior action by the authorities, which is submission of the Inland Revenue Act to Parliament. And that was a prior action that was agreed earlier this year. Our legal experts are still analyzing the content of the new draft bill, and are in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities. That’s where we stand at the moment on Sri Lanka."

 The answer's appreciated. On Cameroon, Inner City Press has asked for the IMF's "updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain.'" Watch this site: we'll stay on this.

May 22, 2017

  From Steve Mnuchin's Senate Q&A, two things jumped out: he said Trump already has a permanent Comptroller of the Currency in mind. And he said the biggest banks may not be too big to fail, but too big to succeed...

May 15, 2017


ICP Asks IMF About Sri Lanka Inland Revenue Act, Here, and For Cameroon Silicon Mountain Update

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 – When the International Monetary Fund resumed its biweekly embargoed press briefings on May 11, Inner City Press asked about Sri Lanka and Cameroon, among others. From the IMF's transcript, of its Deputy Spokesperson Willam Murray: "I’ve got a question from Inner City Press on Sri Lanka. Do recent government moves on the Inland Revenue Act make it more likely the IMF Board will act on the request for completion of the second loan review in June and make a third disbursement? Again, it’s a question about Sri Lanka and the Inland Revenue Act and the likelihood of completing the second review. We had a staff level agreement in Sri Lanka on May 3rd, last week. We noted in announcing that agreement that it’s subject to completion of a prior action by the authorities, which is submission of the Inland Revenue Act to Parliament. And that was a prior action that was agreed earlier this year. Our legal experts are still analyzing the content of the new draft bill, and are in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities. That’s where we stand at the moment on Sri Lanka."

 The answer's appreciated. On Cameroon, Inner City Press has asked for the IMF's "updated view about the Internet cut off (lifted only after 94 days) and other restrictions in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon injuring 'Silicon Mountain.'" Watch this site: we'll stay on this.

May 8, 2017

Some mergers we are looking at, feel free to contact ICP or FFW:

May 4: Tenn. based First Horizon National Corp proposes to acquire Charlotte NC-based Capital Bank Financial Corp.  in a $2.2 billion deal;


May 4: Seacoast Banking Corporation of Florida proposes to acquire Palm Beach Community Bank;

May 1: First Bank, with 100 branches in SC and NC, says it will buy Asheville Savings Bank in NC;

April 28: Cali (small)  - Central Valley Community Bank has announced a merger agreement with Folsom Lake Bank near Sacramento;

April 27: VA/NC: TowneBank says it is acquiring Raleigh’s Paragon Commercial Corporation, the parent company of Paragon Commercial Bank;

April 27: SC/NC (& GA, VA) South State Corporation (NASDAQ: SSB) and Park Sterling Corporation (NASDAQ: PSTB) jointly announced today the signing of a definitive merger agreement;

April 26: Penn-based CBT Financial Corp. says it will merge with the Riverview Financial Corporation, the parent company of Riverview Bank, Halifax Bank, Marysville Bank, Citizens Neighborhood Bank and Riverview Financial Wealth Management.

April 25: Mid-America Financial Corp., parent company of Golden Belt Bank, announced a proposal to buy Morgan Financial Corp., the holding company for Morgan Federal Bank in Colorado;

April 24: National Commerce Corporation of Birmingham, Alabama proposes to acquire  Patriot Bank, headquartered in Trinity, Florida;

May 1, 2017

 A merger we are looking at: Columbia, S.C.-based South State Corp. says it will acquire Charlotte, N.C.-based Park Sterling Corp for $690.8 million to create a new company with $14.5 billion in assets, $11.5 billion in deposits and $10.4 billion in loans. We'll see.

April 24, 2017

On Yemen, IMF Tells ICP Central Banks in Aden & Sana’a Should Cooperate to Avoid Famine

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 – When at the International Monetary Fund's Spring Meetings the IMF held its Middle East and Central Asia press conference, Inner City Press submitted this question: "Please describe the IMF's view and possible plans on Yemen, given the crisis there, including on President Hadi's proposed moving of the Central Bank out of the capital to Aden. What is the IMF's view of and any assistance to the Central Bank's performance?" After the briefing, the IMF provided this answer: "The humanitarian and economic impact of the conflict has been devastating; it has caused many deaths, depressed economic activity, and destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure. There is now even a tangible risk that the conflict could lead to famine in some parts of Yemen. Yemenis food supply relies largely on imported staples, like wheat and rice. Yemen needs urgently foreign exchange grants from donors to pay for imported food. But Yemenis also need to be able to buy the food that is imported. Resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen is therefore also urgently needed. Given these needs, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) could be the pivotal player for facilitating food imports and for resuming paying public salaries and social assistance grants in all of Yemen. But to play this humanitarian role, the central banks in Aden and Sana’a need urgently to find a way to cooperate in the interest of providing sufficient food to all Yemenis.  Fund engagement is currently limited. We support the Yemeni authorities and the international community to the best of our abilities.The Fund stands ready to re-engage more fully as soon as the conflict is resolved to help rebuild economic institutions, jumpstart growth, and stabilize the economy."

 Back on April 6 when the IMF held its biweekly embargoed press briefing, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about South Africa, Zambia, Bosnia, Nigeria and the UN, Cameroon and other issues. On Zambia, Inner City Press asked, "On Zambia, please state if a sale / privatization of Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) is no longer a condition for an IMF program with the country, as inferred from the recent list of conditions issued by the IMF's Tsidi Tsikata."  After the briefing, an IMF Spokesperson replied to Inner City Press that "We have made progress towards reaching understandings on an economic program that could be supported by an IMF arrangement. There is broad agreement on key objectives, targets, and policies. We have agreed to continue discussions at the forthcoming April 2017 Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank here in Washington D.C. At this stage, it is premature for us to get into specifics on policy actions such as sales of parastatals."

April 17, 2017

 Also looking at this merger, and Wells Fargo branch closings:  New Jersey: Sussex Bancorp proposes to buy Community Bank;


RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294989 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. CARLTON BRANCH 110 THIRD STREET CARLTON MN CARLTON COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294991 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. PASADENA BRANCH 910 FAIRMONT PARKWAY PASADENA TX HARRIS COUNTY

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294992 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. ARKANSAS OFFICE 3615 EAST 9TH STREET TEXARKANA AR MILLER COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294993 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. OCALA MAIN OFFICE 109 WEST SILVER SPRINGS BOULEVARD OCALA FL MARION COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294994 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. LAWNCREST DRIVEIN 5918 RISING SUN AVENUE PHILADELPHIA PA PHILADELPHIA COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294995 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. OLMOS PARK 4014 MCCULLOUGH SAN ANTONIO TX BEXAR COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS 2017-LBBRANCHCLOSING- 294996 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. UPTOWN MB 1102 REYNOLDS STREET AUGUSTA GA AUGUSTA RICHMOND COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/20/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS - 294997 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. SINGER ISLAND 1100 E BLUE HERON BLVD RIVIERA BEACH FL PALM BEACH COUNTY 

RECEIPT 3/22/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS 2017-LBBRANCHCLOSING- 295034 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. WESTMINSTER RETIREMENT CENTER BRANCH 12191 CLIPPER DRIVE LAKE RIDGE VA PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY

RECEIPT 3/23/2017 BRANCH CLOSINGS 2017-LBBRANCHCLOSING- 295046 WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A. COLORADO MESA UNIVERSITY 1455 N. 12TH STREET GRAND JUNCTION CO MESA COUNTY

April 10, 2017

   Fair Finance Watch and others opposed Capital One buying the deposits and credit card business of Cabela's bank -- but now it's said Synovus of Columbus, Georgia might take the deposits and immediately transfer the credit card business to Capital One without any CRA review. Meanwhile the Federal Reserve quietly reduced the time of its review of mergers for financial stability, and denied a request for reconsideration.  A deal that had stalled out has been revived: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has "sweetened its bid" for PrivateBancorp - there are predictions of more Wall Street mergers, as well as a strange bipartisan move to limit the size of the largest banks... Some mergers we are looking at:

April 6, California: PacWest Bancorp proposes to acquire  CU Bancorp for $705 million;

April 5, Indiana: Fountain Trust Company proposes to buy Farmers State Bank;

March 29, Pennsylvania: Mid Penn Bancorp, Inc. proposed to merge with the Scottdale Bank & Trust Company;

March 27, Arkansas into Florida: Home BancShares, parent company of Centennial Bank proposes to expand by buying Stonegate Bank  in Pompano Beach, Florida

April 3, 2017

After Capital One Failed on Cabela, Synovus Scam Emerges, To Evade CRA, FFW Opposes

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, March 30 – Two months after Inner City Press reported Capital One failing in its proposal to acquire Cabela's "World's Foremost Bank," now a way to try to avoid the regulators and Capital One's Community Reinvestment Act record has emerged. The scam would involve Synovus buying the bank then passing one the credit card receivables to Capital One, while keeping the deposits, so Capital One wouldn't be reviewed under CRA. The Fair Finance Watch will oppose this, trying to ensure that another bank merger challenged by Fair Finance Watch fails. In December it was Astoria's proposed take over by NY Community Bancorp, here. Soon, Sterling.

   In January, disparate lender Investor Bancorp, on which Fair Finance Watch previously got a condition imposed saw its proposal with Bank of Princeton fall apart.

  And now it's Capital One - Cabela, on which Inner City Press commented: "In the New York City MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which HMDA data is available, for conventional home purchase loans Capital One denied the applications of whites 23% of the time, while denying African Africans fully 45% of the time, and Latinos even more, 46% of the time. This is unacceptable.

  Meanwhile, Capital One is “closing branches in Laurel, Gaithersburg, Frederick and Merrifield.”

   Capital One came back with snark, as has Simmons National -- but then announced including to NCRC that  it will withdrawn its application. Onward.

March 27, 2017

ICP Asks IMF About Belarus Letters & Talks, Cameroon Silicon Mountain Internet Cut

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 23– When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed press briefing on March 23, Inner City Press asked Spokesperson Gerry Rice about Belarus, Cameroon and other issues. On Belarus, Inner City Press asked: "requests have been publicly made to write to head IMF mission to Belarus Peter Dolman and advisor of the IMF mission in Minsk Julia Lysko to NOT give loans to the government. Has the IMF received such letters? If so, how many, and what weight does it give them and the issues raised in them?" Rice read out the question, then said he's not aware of any letters being received, but is aware of a petition from press reports. He said the IMF met Belarus' presidnet on March 16 and talks about a program will continue up to the IMF's Spring Meetings in April.

  On Cameroon, Inner City Press asked: "the IMF's Mr. Selassie said: 'there will be significant fiscal reforms that need to be effected as well as reforms to promote growth and we are working on developing those with a number of the CEMAC countries.' Please provide further specifics, particularly regarding Cameroon and the continuing financial impact of the now 65-day Internet shut down to the Anglophone areas including “Silicon Mountain” in Buea." We hope to have more on this.

March 20, 2017

After FFW Protest, Fed Sends Community Bank System Lending Qs, CEO Tryniski Trashed CRA

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, March 13 – At what point does bank executives' spin to investors and the media become more than misleading? Take Community Bank System (NYSE: CBU), which has now received on March 13 consumer lending questions on top of the nine earlier questions from the Federal Reserve on its proposal to acquire Merchants, after its CEO derided issues Fair Finance Watch raised about the proposal.

 On March 13, the Fed asked CBU: "In connection with the application by Community Bank System, Inc. (“Community”), DeWitt, parent company of Community Bank, National Association (“Community Bank”), Canton, both of New York, to merge with Merchants Bancshares (“Merchants”), and thereby acquire Merchants Bank, both of South Burlington, Vermont, pursuant to section 3(a)(5) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, 12 U.S.C. § 1842(a)(5), Federal Reserve staff requests the following additional information:
 
1.       Provide an update on Community Bank’s Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”) activities and efforts since its July 27, 2016 CRA Performance Evaluation.  In your response, address the activities in the bank’s assessment areas under each of the lending, investment, and service tests.
 
2.       Regarding consumer lending products:

a.       reconcile page iv of the Bank Merger Act (“BMA”) application, which states that Merchants Bank currently offers consumer loans, with page xiv of the BMA application, which states that Merchants Bank does not currently offer consumer lending products and services; and

b.      explain how the consumer lending products and services offered by Community Bank, including overdraft lines of credits, are enhanced compared to Merchants Bank’s offerings."

  On its last proposal, CBSI bad-mouthed a Community Reinvestment Act protest even as it had to delay its Oneida deal. First, CBSI's "Hal Wentworth said that Inner City Press is not a local group and pointed out that letter was the only one filed on the Oneida deal. 'This activist does not do business with either Oneida or Community Bank, but nonetheless made vague allegations regarding Community,' Wentworth said. 'These allegations were entirely without merit and will be fully addressed by Community Bank and Oneida Savings in the application process.'" Then the deal was significantly delayed, with CBSI pushing the date back.

  More spin:  CFO Scott Kingsley told the media that FFW's protest "is not the sole reason. We have other things that have to sequentially happen to get to the technological conversion in July. When we did not have a definitive answer from the Fed or other parties last week, that put the technological conversion at risk, so we opted not to go ahead.”

  This time, it went to the CEO Mark Tryniski, who in January 2017 told stock analysts that "despite the baseless protest filed with the Fed Reserve by a serial activist, we expect to close in the second" question. We'll see. Among the nine questions: "Community Bank states that, to the extent it does not intend to continue to offer certain loan products and services offered by Merchants Bank post-merger, it does not believe that not offering such products and services would have a significant impact on the target bank's communities. As an example, Community Bank cites the fact that Merchants Bank would no longer accept applications for FHA/VA loans (on behalf of a mortgage company), but that Community Bank would offer loan products and programs which are not currently offered by Merchants Bank that Community Bank believes are comparable and 'equally valuable' to its communities, such as FNMA's Home Ready Program, Community Bank's Affordable Housing Program, and the USDA loan program. Compare the features of FHA and VA loans for which applications are presently taken by Merchants Bank with the features of the products and programs that Community Bank asserts are comparable, including any features of FHA and VA loans that are not covered by Community Bank's offerings."  Watch this site.

March 13, 2017

Mergers we are looking at (beyond Sterling - Astoria), followed by IMF on Cameroon:

March 1, Louisiana into Florida for $1 billion: IBERIABANK Corporation proposes to acquire Sabadell United Bank, N.A. from Banco de Sabadell, S.A. for $1.025 billion;


March 1: Louisiana into Texas: First Guaranty says it proposes to acquire the parent of Synergy Bank in Waco, Texas;

February 17, Indiana: First Merchants Corporation proposes to acquire Independent Alliance Banks, Inc;

February 13: Iowa into Colorado: Dubuque, IA-based Heartland Financial USA, Inc. proposes to buy Aurora, CO-based Citywide Banks of Colorado, Inc;

February 8, Tennessee: FB Financial Corporation proposes to acquire Clayton Bank and Trust and American City Bank (collectively “Clayton Banks”);

February 6, Maryland: Kopernik Bank says it proposes to buy St. Casimir's Savings Bank;

February 6, Illinois: First Busey Corporation says it proposes to acquire First Community Financial Partners, Inc. the holding company for First Community Financial Bank

IMF Tells Inner City Press Risks In Cameroon in 2017 Include "Events" in Anglophone Areas

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 9– When the International Monetary Fund's spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions at the IMF's biweekly media briefing on March 9, Inner City Press asked about Cameroon, specifically the crackdown in the northwest and southwest of the country. Inner City Press asked, "On Cameroon, after the mission led by Corinne Delechat, what is the status of talks for a program, and since the IMF cited “civil unrest in the neighbouring Central African Republic,” please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact." Rice read out the question and then said, among other things, that the risk factors for 2017 include a continuation of the "social and political events" in the "so-called Anglophone" areas of Cameroon. Interim video here. On IMF site, here, from 34:56. IMF transcript:

"There is a question of Cameroon, from Matthew Lee, "After the Mission what is the status of talks for a program; and since the IMF cited civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic, please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon? And also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact?"

So, the background here is, I think important the context. So, the Fund's engagement here in the CEMAC Region, CEMAC is the six Central African Economic nations that comprise the Central African Economic and monetary community. They met in Yaoundé on December 23rd. The Managing Director was there. And in that meeting, heads of state discussed the economic situation, the severe shocks that have hit that CEMAC region in recent years, including the sharp decline in oil prices, and decided to act collectively and in a concerted manner. And the heads of state requested the assistance of the IMF to design economic reforms needed to reestablish macroeconomic stability in each country and in the region as a whole.

So, again, context: I can tell you that the funders already sent missions to Gabon, Republic of Congo. And a reminder to you, that we already have programs with Central African Republic and Chad. Okay?

Now, we also have sent a mission to Cameroon, which is the question. And we did issue a press statement, which the question referred to, just on Tuesday. That was the Corrine Delechat reference.

So, the specific question, to turn to that. We are indeed aware of the events in the so-called Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The macroeconomic impact of any event that could affect production and/or consumption, is typically felt with a certain lag. So, these events started in November last year, and thus are likely to have not had a significant impact on production in 2016.

For 2017, the risks to our growth outlook include a combination of external and domestic factors, including continuation of the sociopolitical events in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. And as our press release the other day indicated, our view is that the medium-term outlook for the Cameroonian economy remains positive, subject to the implementation of appropriate policies."

We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

March 6, 2017

In Indiana, "Another Fort Wayne bank is being swallowed. Independent Alliance Banks Inc., the holding company of iAB Financial Bank, is being acquired by First Merchants Corp. of Muncie in a deal worth about $250 million...It’s unclear how many local jobs could be lost in the consolidation of back-office operations." We'll see.

February 27, 2017

IMF Tells ICP No Talks with Nigeria of Program, Day After UN Sounded Alarm

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 9– When the International Monetary Fund's spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions at the IMF's biweekly media briefing on February 23, Inner City Press asked about the alarm sounded the day before by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres about humanitarian crises in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Rice answered Inner City Press, specifically on South Sudan and Nigeria.

  Inner City Press asked, "On February 22 the United Nations appealed for $4.4 billion for humanitarian crises in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. Please state what the IMF is currently doing with regard to these four countries. In Nigeria, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun has said the country will not apply for an IMF program. What does this say about Nigeria, the UN's appeal, or the IMF?"

  Rice confirmed that there are no negotiations with Nigeria for a program - this while the UN says there is a humanitarian crisis there. He cited the upcoming 2019 elections. Rice said the UN is offering help to the South Sudan authorities, and that famine would exacerbate suffering. From the IMF's February 23 transcript:

"There is a question on the U.N. appeal for the humanitarian crisis that is affecting a number of countries. He is asking what is the IMF doing, what can the IMF do.

We have obviously taken note of these developments with concern for the human tragedy that may be taking place. It’s clear the ongoing conflict in places like South Sudan has already exacted a huge toll on people’s livelihoods, and the outbreak of famine would exacerbate conditions immeasurably.

So, in terms of the IMF, we are in contact with the authorities to discuss how we can be as supportive as possible.

I’ll take one more online, and that is on Nigeria. The question is the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, has said the country will not apply for an IMF program. What does this say about Nigeria and the U.N. appeal, which we just mentioned, or the IMF?

You know, Nigeria is clearly facing a challenging outlook, as we have said before. The authorities have initiated some measures, but more remains to be done. Urgency is needed in implementing a coherent and credible package of monetary, fiscal, and structural policies, as the window for bold reforms is closing, as the 2019 elections are approaching fast.

The IMF staff concluded the 2017 Article IV consultation with the authorities earlier this year, and the Board discussion is scheduled for later in March.

It’s true the Nigerian authorities have not approached the IMF for a program, have not. As such, there are no discussions or negotiations going on regarding a program with Nigeria.

However, and again, as we have said before, the Fund continues to provide technical assistance and have a productive dialogue with the authorities, and we stand ready to help should the country make a request for financial assistance."

February 20, 2017

Heartland Financial's Denver-based Centennial Bank is proposing to acquire Aurora's Citywide Banks ....

February 13, 2017

Fall-out: The buyer of Delaware County Bank says 58 jobs will be eliminated at the Lewis Center bank’s headquarters as the companies prepare to merge operations. Pennsylvania’s First Commonwealth Financial Corp., which last year agreed to a $106 million purchase of Delaware County Bank parent DCB Financial Corp. (OTC PINK: DCBF), is planning two rounds of job cuts at 110 Riverbend Ave., according to a required disclosure with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

February 6, 2017

  The branch closing are coming fast and furious. Scandal plagued Wells Fargo is set to close 400 by 2018; the Huntington closures are looming, starting with 39. FFW protested the latter and will the former - watch this site. Here are other mergers we are looking at:

February 1, Maryland: Old Line Bancshares announced a proposal to acquire DCB Bancshares and Damascus Community Bank;


January 31, Pennsylvania / NJ:  Bryn Mawr Bank Corporation announced a proposal to acquire Royal Bancshares and Royal America;

January 30, Texas: Vista Bancshares announced a proposal to acquire Hamlin Financial Corporation and Hamlin National Bank;

January 27, Florida: HCBF Holding Company announced a proposal to acquire Jefferson Bank of Florida, Oldsmar;

January 25, Ohio: First Merchants Corporation announced a proposal to acquire The Arlington Bank;

January 23: California into Washington State: Hope Bancorp, which is closing  or consolidating nine branches, announced a proposal to buy UniBank;

January 23, Arkansas into Texas: Simmons First National Corporation announced a proposal to acquire First Texas BHC;

January 22, Tennessee into NC: Pinnacle Financial Partners announced a proposal to acquire BNC Bancorp for $1.9 billion;

January 30, 2017

  After Fair Finance Watch got a CRA condition imposed on Investors Bancorp when it bought Roma, now Investors next proposal, to buy Bank of Princeton, has fallen apart.

January 23, 2017

Simmons First replies to Fair Finance Watch that it will consolidate HCIC branches, but doesn't say which ones..

January 16, 2017

Some proposed mergers we are looking at

January 11, Missouri: Southern Missouri Bancorp proposes to acquire Tammcorp, Inc. and its Capaha Bank;

January 3, Wisconsin: River Valley Bank proposes to acquire Integrity First Bank;

December 19, Indiana into Kentucky: MainSource Financial Group proposes to acquire Louisville-based FCB Bancorp Inc., the parent of The First Capital Bank of Kentucky;

December 15, California: Bay Commercial Bank proposes to acquire First ULB Corp. and its wholly owned subsidiary United Business Bank;

December 14, Arkansas into Oklahoma: Simmons First National Corporation proposes to acquire Southwest Bancorp;

December 14, Virginia: McLean-based Southern National Bancorp. of Virginia proposes to acquire Richmond-based Eastern Virginia Bankshares...

  As noted, the $2 billion proposed merger of New York Community Bancorp and Astoria Financial was called off, citing regulatory delay / community opposition. But TheStreet was quick to argue "Don't Expect Scrapped Astoria Merger to Stop Trump-Era Bank Deals... Expect the Fed to OK mid-sized bank deals in the coming months." We'll see.

January 9, 2017

 Capital One's application to buy Cabela's grandiosely named "World's Foremost Bank," subject to comments and requests for extensions, is a strange one: Inner City Press is informed that Cabela's announced that Capital One said that they didn't think they could get OCC approval before early October 2017. We hope to have more on this.

January 2, 2017

So Bank of Hope operates 85 full-service branches in California, Washington, Texas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama - it's closing nine, it says...

December 26, 2016

We timely filed this:

On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by CAPITAL ONE NA to acquire the “WORLD'S FOREMOST BANK”

This comment is timely.

In the New York City MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which HMDA data is available, for conventional home purchase loans Capital One denied the applications of whites 23% of the time, while denying African Africans fully 45% of the time, and Latinos even more, 46% of the time. This is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Capital One is “closing branches in Laurel, Gaithersburg, Frederick and Merrifield.” See, for the record, http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2016/05/04/heres-how-much-capital-one-is-spending-this-year.html

Fair Finance Watch joins in the comments on NCRC, and will submit further comments in the extended comment period. On the current record, Capital One's application(s) should be denied.

December 19, 2016

Some proposed mergers we are watching:


Dec 9, Tennessee: SmartBank proposes a purchase from FSG bank;

Nov 30, Texas:  Harlingen-based Texas State Bankshares, Inc. and Blanco-based Blanco National Holdings, Inc. announced a proposal to merge Blanco National Bank with Texas Regional Bank;

Nov 22, Pennsylvania: ACNB Corporation announced a proposal to acquire New Windsor Bancorp;

Nov 21, Texas: Independent Bank Group announced a proposal to acquire Carlile Bancshares, Inc. and its subsidiary, Northstar Bank, Denton, Texas;

Nov 17, Montana into Oregon: First Interstate Bancorp. announced a proposal to buy Bank of the Cascades' parent company for $589 million - they've made some public commitments, here;

Nov 17, Arkansas into Tennessee: Simmons First National Corporation announced a proposal to acquire Hardeman County Investment Company, headquartered in Jackson, Tennessee, and its wholly-owned bank subsidiary, First South Bank;

Nov 15, NC: Union Bank & Trust of Oxford announced a proposal to buy the little bank (!);

Nov 14, Mississippi into Alabama: Trustmark Corp. announced a proposal to acquire RB Bancorporation;

These are ones to watch:

Federal Reserve:

Chair: Janet L. Yellen, Term Expires February 3, 2018 (as Chair), January 31, 2024 (as Gov.)
Vice Chair: Stanley Fischer, Term Expires June 12, 2018 (as Vice Chair), January 31, 2020 (as Gov.)
Governor: Daniel K. Tarullo, Term Expires January 31, 2022
Governor: Jerome H. Powell, Term Expires January 31, 2028
Governor: Lael Brainard, Term Expires January 31, 2026
2 Governor Seats Currently Vacant

December 12, 2016

ICP Asks IMF About Guinea Bissau's Bank Bailouts, No Deadline to Unwind

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 8 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on December 8, Inner City Press submitted a number of questions, including this one about Guinea Bissau:

"On Guinea-Bissau, by when does the IMF expect authorities to entirely unwind the bailouts of Banco da Africa Ocidental and Banco da União?"

  Not at the briefing, but ten hours later, an IMF spokesperson provided this answer, which we publish in full:

"The question of the legality of the bailout contracts is currently with the courts in Guinea-Bissau and there is no deadline by which the courts have to pronounce their verdict. IMF staff are monitoring these developments. As such, at this stage it would be speculative for us to make any statements about the estimated timing for the complete unwinding of the bailouts. Overall, IMF staff welcome the authorities’ resolute stance in unwinding the bank bailouts. Following through on all steps until the bailouts are irreversibly unwound will be important to safeguard public finance. To strengthen the banking sector, it will also be necessary to implement remedial actions that are being elaborated through regional banking supervision and to enforce existing prudential norms.’"

  Inner City Press also asked about Egypt:

"In Egypt, is it the IMF's understanding that none of the first tranche will be used to pay off old loans? Also, any comment on the arrest of Azza Soliman, amid the crackdown on civil society and the media?"

  IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice lumped most of the online questions together - with the exception of Reuters, which he named in order to offer a defense of “Madame Lagarde” - and on Egypt's recent tariff increases said these are NOT part of the IMF's program.

 Rice blamed the tariff increases, rather, on the World Trade Organization. He added that the IMF's staff report and other documents should be released very soon, in the next few days. We'll have more on that.

   Rice and the IMFdid not answer, or even take, this Inner City Press questions:

At the UN the Group of 77 and China has said of the IMF that “a new quota formula is needed that further shifts quota shares to developing countries while protecting the quota share of the poorest countries.” Does MD Lagarde agree?

  We'll have more on this in the near future.
December 5, 2016

For once, looking (far) overseas: possible merger between Kazakhstan’s two largest lenders, Halyk Bank and Qazkom would control around 40 percent of the sector. Uh, antitrust? Monopoly?

November 28, 2016

Ah, slides: http://seekingalpha.com/article/4025589-independent-bank-group-ibtx-merger-carlile-m-call-slides

November 21, 2016

They're at it again: last week Trustmark Corp -- holding company for Trustmark National Bank, which has a presence in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas — announced a proposal to acquiere RB Bancorporation and Reliance Bank....

November 14, 2016

Mergers we are looking at:

November 4, Florida: Seacoast Banking Corporation of Florida announced a proposalto acquire GulfShore Bancshares, the parent company of GulfShore Bank;

November 4, Wisconsin: Nicolet Bankshares Inc announced a proposal to acquireFirst Menasha Bancshares;

November 3, Virginia: Bank of Lancaster and Virginia Commonwealth Bank announced a proposed "strategic merger of equals;"

October 31, Iowa into California: Iowa-basd Heartland Financial USA, Inc. announced a proposal to buy San Luis Obispo, CA-based Founders Bancorp (note: Heartland has branches in  Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and California);

October 24, Virginia: Access National Corporation and Middleburg Financial Corporation announced a proposal to merge;

October 20, Massachusetts: Independent Bank Corp, parent of Rockland Trust Company, announced a proposal to buy Island Bancorp, Inc., parent of The Edgartown National Bank;

October 18, Mississippi: The First, a National Banking Association, announced a proposed merger with Gulf Coast Community Bank. A resulting bank would have operations in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

November 7, 2016

This week, looking "non-bank" - China Oceanwide Holdings offering $3.8 billion to buy U.S. insurer Genworth Financial, which would require approvals including from "fegulators in Delaware, New York, North Carolina and Virginia, as well as in Australia, Canada, China, Mexico and officials at mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must sign off on the transaction for it to be completed. In addition, the transaction must be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S." -- we'd be there...

October 31, 2016

ICP Asks IMF of Hadi's Bid to Move Yemen Central Bank, Spox Calls It Complex

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on October 27, Inner City Press asked three questions including:

"On Yemen, what is the IMF's view and monitoring of President Hadi's action to move the Central Bank to Aden, including impact on the humanitarian situation?"

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question and then said moving the bank is complicated, that the bank has done a good job. Beyond the Vine video of complete answer here.

He did NOT say that Hadi may be on his way out, even under UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's most recent proposal. So by what right would Hadi further help starve Yemenis? We'll have more on this.
October 24, 2016

Looking at: "First Bancshares of Hattiesburg said Friday that it would acquire Iberville Bank of Plaquemines, Louisiana, and Gulf Coast Community Bank of Pensacola, Florida. The moves will give the parent company of The First bank 48 offices and $1.6 billion in assets in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida."

October 17, 2016

Some mergers we are looking at:

October 7, Iowa into Illinois:  TS Banking Group of Treynor, Iowa has announced a proposal to acquire First National Bank and Trust in Clinton;

October 5, Wisconsin: Heritage Bank and Stratford State Bank have announced a proposed merger;

October 5, Pittsburgh:  Dollar Bank announced a proposal to merge with with Pittsburgh-based Progressive-Home Federal Savings and Loan;

October 4, Indiana into Ohio and Delaware: First Commonwealth Financial Corporation announced a proposal to merge DCB Financial into First Commonwealth, with new branches in Ohio and Delaware;

September 29, Tennessee:Apex Bank announced a proposal to merge with American Patriot Bank of Greeneville;

September 27, California: Citizens Business Bank and Visalia-based Valley Business Bank have announced a plan to merge;

September 26, NC into Tennessee: HomeTrust Bank has announced a proposal to acquire TriSummit Bank based in Kingsport, Tennessee

October 10, 2016

After ICP Challenges Its Suffolk Bid, People's United 2015 Data Even Worse

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 5 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York.  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on August 13 challenged this application and People's United, as it did Bancorp South in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This is even more true upon review of the just-released 2015 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. Inner City Press has now commented to the Federal Reserve:

 "in 2015 in the New York City MSA, People's United made 110 home purchase loans to whites and only ONE to an African American and only four to Latinos...  In 2015, for refinance loans in the New York City MSA, People's United made 103 loans to whites, only five to African Americans and only two to Hispanics.