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  Click for March 1, 2011 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption by Inner City Press.  Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.

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;











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,

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:

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.

   People's United record is scarcely better on Long Island, where it snapped up Bank of Smithtown and Citizen's Bank as it now proposes to do to Suffolk County National Bank. In 2015 for home purchase loans on Long Island People's United made 49 home purchase loans to whites, only four to African Americans and only four to Latinos. For refinance loans it mad 70 loans to whties, only one to an African American and only four to Latinos. Again, this is systematic redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and People's United should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and CFPB."

  Responding to ICP and NCRC, People's claims that acquiring another suburban bank would improve this disparate record in New York City. How?

October 3, 2016

The September 29 hearing in the House made clear Wells Fargo's CEO should step down. As one example, first he said he couldn't remember if he's read the LA Times (Reckard) story in 2013 - then he said the board considered it. He's the chairman of the board....

September 26, 2016

Another proposal we're looking at: TIAA-Everbank...

September 19, 2016

September 9, Ohio: United Community Financial Corporation, the parent company of Home Savings and Loan, announced that it has entered into a merger agreement with Premier Bank and Trust.

Aug 23, also Ohio: First Defiance Financial Corp. announced a proposal to acquire Commercial Bancshares, Inc.  (And some history, here, from... 1920);

Aug 24 Maryland (rare shareholders' denial) "The planned merger of Woodsboro Bank and Middletown Valley Bank was not approved by shareholders, so each bank will continue to operate independently"

August 18 - "Regional bank United Bankshares Inc. proposes to  buy fellow bank Cardinal Financial Corp. for about $912 million in a push to expand in the Washington, D.C., metro area" - there are already securities litigation firms looking at this proposal.

September 12, 2016

A proposed merger we're watching: " United Bankshares has signed an agreement to acquire its rival Tysons Corner, Virginia-based Cardinal Financial in a deal worth $912 million... Cardinal offers banking services through its subsidiary bank, Cardinal Bank, which has a network of 30 branches throughout Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C."

September 5, 2016

ICP Asks IMF of Yemen Central Bank, Zim & Mozambique, IMF Staff Moves In

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on September 1, Inner City Press asked five questions including:

"On Yemen, IMF Mission Chief Albert Jaeger has urged the Central Bank and the government to cooperate. What is the IMF's view of President Hadi's proposal to move the Central Bank to Aden, and his complaints against the Central Bank and its Governor?" IMF video here, from Min 41:54.

IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question -- without the name of Albert Jaeger or Inner City Press -- and offered praise of the Central Bank governor, citing the Bank's public letter. (Click here for UN envoy's in-person answer to Inner City Press on August 31.)

Inner City Press asked, about Mozambique: "On Mozambique, outgoing IMF Representative Alex Segura has been quoted that IMF insists on international audit of Mozambique’s public debt. Please confirm, and describe the goals of this month's IMF mission to Mozambique."

Rice said there will be a mission in Maputo on September 22.

Inner City Press also asked, "On Zimbabwe, what is the status of the government's moves to clear its arrears to the IMF?"

Rice said there is NO financial program under discussion and can't be until arrears are cleared.

UNanswered were these two:

In Serbia, Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said the 3.8 percent electricity price increase to comply with conditions set by the IMF in return for a $1.34 billion loan was the “smallest possible increase, half the amount the IMF asked for.” Is that the case?

In South Sudan, the government has adopted a budget for the 2016/17 fiscal year which nearly tripled spending at $520 million; Finance Minister Stephen Dau said “it contains reform measures that were advised by the IMF in their consultation when they came here last May.” Is that the case? Please describe the IMF's work with South Sudan, as the UN Security Council prepares to visit there."

 At the September 1 briefing, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice said the IMF board expects to take up Ukraine in the second half of September. He confirmed that an IMF staff member was just named the governor of the Central Bank of Mozambique -- shades of the film "Our Brand Is Crisis" -- while saying he'd look into whether the ex-IMF staffer in Greece worked for the Fund in 2010 or after.

August 29, 2016

Chickens coming home to roost: "Astoria Financial Corporation (NYSE: AF) (“Astoria” or the “Company”), the holding company for Astoria Bank, today announced that its Board of Directors, at the August 24, 2016 Board Meeting, established December 21, 2016 as the date for the 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (the “2016 Annual Meeting”), and set October 28, 2016 as the voting record date.

The 2016 Annual Meeting had been delayed due to the pending merger of Astoria with New York Community Bancorp, Inc. (the “Merger”). However, since the regulatory approvals required to complete the Merger have not yet been received, Astoria has decided to schedule its 2016 Annual Meeting to be held on December 21, 2016 in order to comply with New York Stock Exchange corporate governance requirements. If the closing of the Merger occurs prior to December 21, 2016, the 2016 Annual Meeting will not be held.

Because the date of the 2016 Annual Meeting has been changed by more than 30 days from the anniversary of the Company’s 2015 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, the Company has set a new deadline for the receipt of any shareholder proposals submitted pursuant to Rule 14a-8 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Rule 14a-8”), for inclusion in the Company’s proxy statement and proxy card relating to the 2016 Annual Meeting. Any such shareholder proposal must be submitted in writing and received by the Secretary of Astoria at One Astoria Bank Plaza, Lake Success, New York 11042 no later than 5:00pm on September 9, 2016."

August 22, 2016

For BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press has challenged for some time, the other shoe has dropped. It announced: "As a result of the retroactive downgrade of the bank’s CRA rating, the company and the bank likely will be unable to obtain the necessary Federal Reserve or FDIC regulatory approvals to complete the two pending mergers with Ouachita Bancshares Corp. and Central Community Corporation and their respective affiliated banks until such time as the bank’s CRA rating is improved to “satisfactory.” The company presently understands that the FDIC expects to begin its next CRA evaluation of the bank later this year and to complete that evaluation during the first quarter of 2017; however, the company cannot make any assurances as to the timing or outcome of its next CRA evaluation."

August 15, 2016

Hidden impacts: from NC it is reported, "Three High Point Bank locations are slated to close this fall as its acquisition by Bank of North Carolina is finalized. Branches at 3015 East River Way in High Point, 515 Pineview Drive in Kernersville and 536 S. Stratford Road in Winston-Salem will close Nov. 4." We'll see.

August 8, 2016

So Texas-based Strategic Growth Bancorp proposes to merge with Kansas-based Sunflower Financial Inc., and create "a super-community bank" that would have more than 60 offices in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Texas...

August 1, 2016

On Zimbabwe, ICP Asks IMF of Arrears, If Any Program, UN of UNrest, #ThisFlag

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, July 28 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on July 28, Inner City Press asked questions including on Zimbabwe, to Deputy Spokesperson William Murray, as transcribed by the IMF:

"This is from Matthew Lee. It’s a question on Zimbabwe. Matthew Lee from Inner City Press. 'On Zimbabwe with the U.K. saying it would veto any IMF program, what is the status of the IMF’s program and discussions with Zimbabwe?' Thanks, Matthew, for that question. I think some of this will sound familiar to many of you, but let me comment.

"There is no financing program under discussion with Zimbabwe at this point; however, the authorities have announced a plan to clear their arrears with the IMF and other international financial institutions as part of their re-engagement with the international community. Once the arrears are cleared and the IMF Executive Board approves the normalization of relations with Zimbabwe, the authorities request for a financing program could then be considered. Beyond that, I don’t really have any guidance in terms of timing or when a program would be possible or likely."

At the UN on July 27, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq, Vine here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: there is quite a bit of turmoil in Zimbabwe and many people have written open letters, and I don't know if they have written direct letters to the UN, I wanted to know, DPA [Department of Political Affairs] or any portion of the UN, have they… are they aware of this increasing… well, This Flag, unrest and does the UN see any role for itself through DPA or its country team in trying to maintain peace and security and democracy in the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are aware of the recent reports in Zimbabwe.  We are monitoring the situation.  This is not something in which the UN has been directly involved.
July 25, 2016

So Yadkin tries to sell itself to F.N.B. even before swallowing - and closing a dozen of - the NewBridge branches. What sense would this make?

July 18, 2016

ICP Asks IMF of Jordan & Lebanon, Reply Here, S Sudan & Yemen Not Yet

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, July 14 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on July 14, Inner City Press asked four questions including this one:

Inner City Press: On Lebanon, Jordan and other formally “middle income” countries with refugee issues, the World Bank has reportedly shown flexibility. Is the IMF still banning them from concessionary financing?

Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question and said the IMF has shown flexibility in Jordan to provide fiscal space on the refugee issue and encouraging donors to provide concessionary financing. Inner City Press has asked the UN's Sigrid Kaag about Lebanon, as previously reported. Two other questions Inner City Press has asked the IMF:

On South Sudan, amid the fighting on July 9 President Salva Kiir said his gov is working with IMF to resolve the economic crisis. Please describe that work, and state whether IMF is evacuating or trying to evacuate its staff from Juba;

In Yemen, there has been a significant decline in foreign currency reserves, causing a significant devaluation in the Yemeni Rial. What if anything is the IMF doing on this?
July 11, 2016

Some merger proposal we are watching:

July 8, California: Cathay General Bancorp proposes to acquire SinoPac Bancorp;

July 8, Washington State: Bank of Tacoma proposes to merge with Olympia’s Thurston First Bank;

July 6, Illinois: Wintrust Financial Corporation proposes to acquire First Community Financial Corporation;

July 1, Georgia: Pinnacle Financial proposes to acquire Independence Bank of Georgia;

June 29, Illinois: First Midwest Bancorp proposes to acquire Standard Bancshares;

June 28, Pennsylvania into Virginia: Dollar Bank proposes to acquire Virginia-based Bank @lantec;

June 22, NC: First Bancorp proposes to acquire Carolina Bank Holdings;

June 21, Texas: American Bank of Texas proposes to merge with First United Bank.

July 4, 2016

So Chemical is gunning for U.S. Bank funds to buy Talmer, while trying to withheld the specifics. They sent to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch: "A copy of the financing proposal from US Bank dated June 22, 2016, which has been accepted by Chemical Financial Corporation, is attached in Volume 2 of this Supplemental Response as Confidential Exhibit E. "

June 27, 2016

On Talmer, the Fed has asked Chemical to "[p]rovide a copy of the loan commitment for up to $60 million which will be used to assist Chemical in financing a portion of the transaction purchase price.  Any debt used to finance the acquisition should have a term commensurate with the long term nature of the investment."

June 20, 2016

ICP Asked IMF of Sri Lanka Airlines Resolution, Iraq & Mozambique

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, June 16 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on June 16, Inner City Press asked five questions including this one on Sri Lanka:

Inner City Press: On Sri Lanka, what is the IMF's view of the reported adoption of a capital gains tax, and what did Mission chief Todd Schneider mean by expeditious resolution of Srilankan Airlines' financial issues: how soon, and resolved how?

After the briefing, an IMF Spokesperson replied to Inner City Press: "We see the introduction of a capital gains tax as a positive development and in line with recommendations to broaden the tax base and raise tax revenue from its current low level.

 "Regarding the issue of Sri Lankan Airlines, the three-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program recently agreed with the government and approved by the Executive Board of the IMF contains a structural benchmark for the Cabinet to approve a resolution strategy for Sri Lankan Airlines by September 2016."

Actually answered during the June 16 briefing:

Inner City Press: "In Belarus, finance ministry deputy Maxim Ermolovich this week said that "All the preliminary conditions that were discussed by the government have been implemented. We expect an appropriate response from the IMF and the start of a new program.” Does the IMF agree? What is the timing?"

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question - without naming minister Ermolovich - and said that the IMF is visiting the country from June 21-30 then will have more to say.

Inner City Press also asked, on Mozambique: "In Mozambique, as the IMF mission began yesterday, the metical fell 10% and a coalition of 26  civil society groups say that $1.86B of loans were corrupt and should not be paid; experts cite anger among donor nations after the government ran up more than $2 billion in private debt deals behind their back. What is the IMF's thinking on the $1.86B in loans, and the currency decline?"

Rice answered this one in the DC briefing room, emphasizing that all undisclosed loans, whatever their purpose, should be transparently and publicly disclosed.

ICP Iraq: In Iraq, Abadi financial adviser Mudher Salih said the IMF has been informed of the approval of required measures. Is this the case, including the settling by the end of the year all arrears owed to foreign oil companies operating in Iraq?

Later in the morning, on Iraq, this was received:

"The Iraqi authorities and IMF staff are in close contact about the prior actions for the Stand-By Arrangement, two of which (circulation of revised fiscal program to Parliament, circulation of revised spending plan to line ministries) still need to be met. Payment of all arrears to international companies by end-2016 is part of the program."

This question, along with Inner City Press requests for updates on Yemen and Burundi, is still pending:

ICP: On Colombia, in the IMF's expansion this week to a Flexible Credit Line of $11.5 billion, what consideration was given to the government's near-peace with the FARC, and talks with the ELN? What are and would be the economic impact of these?

  Watch this site.
June 13, 2016

Some more we're looking at:

June 2, Pennsylvania: Prudential Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Polonia Bancorp;

June 1, West Virginia: Summit Financial Group announced a proposal to acquire First Century Bankshares;

May 24, Michigan: Mackinac Financial Corporation, the holding company for mBank, announced a proposal to acquire Niagara Bancorporation;

May 20, NC into VA: First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. announced a proposal to acquire Bank of Virginia;

May 19, Georgia: State Bank Financial Corporation announced a proposal to acquire S Bankshares;

May 17, Wisconsin: Merrill Federal Savings and Loan announced a proposal to merge with Tomahawk Community Bank; 

May 10, Florida: Sunshine Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire  FBC Bancorp.

June 6, 2016

ICP Asked IMF of Protests in Suriname, IMF Today Supports Tariff Rise

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, June 2 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing back on May 19, Inner City Press asked about protests against the IMF in Suriname:

"On Suriname, there have been protests of the rise in electricity prices. What is the status of the discussed two-year US$478 million stand-by arrangement? What is the IMF's response to the protesters linking the price rises hurting the poor to policies demanded by the IMF?"

  Spokesperson Gerry Rice said that the Fund does support the Surinamese authorities' moves to eliminate to subsidies, to "open space." See the IMF's transcript, below. On June 2, Inner City Press has asked:

"In Suriname, opposition leader  Chandrikapersad Santokhi has publicly complained that the IMF did not have discussions or contacts with the opposition prior to the recent loan. Is that true? How widely did the IMF consult in the country?"

 This has not been answered...

May 30, 2016

This we like to see: "Thousands of employees of five associate banks of the State Bank of India staged protests across the State on Friday against the proposed merger ..."

May 23, 2016

ICP Asks IMF of Protests in Suriname, IMF Supports Cut of Subsidies

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, May 19 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly briefing on May 19, Inner City Press asked about protests against the IMF in Suriname:

"On Suriname, there have been protests of the rise in electricity prices. What is the status of the discussed two-year US$478 million stand-by arrangement? What is the IMF's response to the protesters linking the price rises hurting the poor to policies demanded by the IMF?"

  Spokesperson Gerry Rice said that the Fund does support the Surinamese authorities' moves to eliminate to subsidies, to open space. From the IMF's transcript:

 Gerry Rice: Let me take a few things online.. There is a question on Suriname there have been protests about the IMF backed electricity price increases. What is your reaction, what is the status of the program? And what I can say on Suriname is the authorities have requested our assistance to support their comprehensive program to stabilize Suriname's economy and set the stage for its recovery.

On the electricity issue on the tariffs indeed the Fund supports the governments plan to gradually eliminate electricity subsidies because that will make space for better targeted social spanning and in addition improve the fiscal situation. We expect the Board to consider the request from the Surinamese authorities in the coming weeks.

There is a question on Malawi. What is the status of the IMF's programs particularly in light of the previously discovered irregularities referred to as cash gate. So on Malawi an IMF team visited Lilongwe in March. This is in the context of the seventh and eighth reviews under an ECF, an Extended Credit Facility and on program performance Malawi has demonstrated a concerted effort to get the program back on track.

Including on domestic financing and domestic assets on the structural side reforms in the financial sector were carried out as planned and improvements in public financial management in particular bank reconciliations are gaining momentum but this needs to be sustained. There was a press release that was issued at the end of the mission that has a bit more detail on that for Matthew. In addition I can say at the start of this week the IMF's Board approved an extension of Malawi's arrangement under that ECF until June 30, 2016 to provide additional time for authorities to implement structural measures under the program. There is a statement on this on our website.

We'll have more on this. Inner City Press also asked for updates on Burundi, Sri Lanka or Yemen, and these two questions:

On Saudi Arabia, I didn't see it in what was released this morning: what does the IMF think the impact of the Saudi-led Coalition's conflict in Yemen on the Saudi economy?

On Gambia, please say if the country has requested an $11 million or any other program, and summarize the relations / discussions between the Fund and the country.
May 16, 2016

Something we're looking into, and will more closely: Franklin Financial Network, this $2.3 billion (assets) bank holding company is putting back the timeline for its proposed acquisition of $145 million Civic Bank & Trust...

May 9, 2016

Mergers we are looking at:

May 6, W VA into KY and IN: "West Virginia-based WesBanco, Inc. has announced plans to acquire Your Community Bankshares, expandig WesBanco’s franchise into attractive markets in Kentucky and Southern Indiana;"

May 5, Maine into NH: Bar Harbor Bankshares announced a proposal acquire Lake Sunapee Bank;"

May 2, Maryland: "Revere Bank [Proposes] to Buy Monument Bank in Maryland;"

May 3, NJ - PA: "Investors Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire The Bank of Princeton;"

April 28, California: Central Valley Community Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Sierra Vista Bank;

April 27: New York, antitrust: KeyCorp will seek to sell 18 branches to Northwest Bank: 13 branches in Erie County and five branches in Niagara County;

April 27, Indiana: Lizton Financial Corp announced a proposal to acquire Indiana Business Bancorp;

April 27, Missouri: Security Bank of the Ozarks announced a proposal to acquire Community Bank N.A

April 26, Florida: Stonegate Bank has signed an agreement to buy Regent Bancorp Inc.

May 2, 2016

On Sri Lanka, IMF Reaches $1.5B Program, ICP Asked in Feb, Accountability

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 -- Back on March 17 when the International Monetary Fund held is biweekly briefing, Inner City Press arrived in person with questions on Zimbabwe, Jamaica and, as for months, Sri Lanka.

 But it was not a normal briefing: it started with a paper about the International Monetary System, leaving the ten journalists  present to fight for time to ask their questions. Inner City Press got in two questions, see below, but not the one about Sri Lanka.

  On the morning of April 28 Inner City Press asked ESCAP researchers about the IMF and Sri Lanka, video here, last question.

 Now on April 28 with a 9 pm embargo time the IMF has put this out:

IMF Reaches Staff Level Agreement with Sri Lanka on Three-Year $1.5 Billion EFF

Following discussions held between IMF staff and the Sri Lankan authorities during the 2016 Spring Meetings in Washington, staff-level agreement was reached on a three-year progra to be supported by the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

  Note: accountability is NOT on the program - and the white vans are back. We'll have more on this.

April 25, 2016

Keycorp's Mooney: "Nothing we know at this point suggests that our applications aren’t proceeding as planned." So, making predictions about the process?

April 18, 2016

The Goldman Sachs settlement is a joke - except it's not funny. Next time they apply...

April 11, 2016

Some we're looking at:

April 6, Montana: First Interstate BancSystem and Flathead Bank of Bigfork announced a proposal under which First Interstate Bank would acquire Flathead Bank

April 5, Georgia: State Bank Financial Corporation and NBG Bancorp, Inc. announced a proposal for State Bank Financial to acquire NBG Bancorp;
April 4, GA-SC: United Community Banks  and Tidelands Bancshares announced a proposal  for United to acquire Tidelands and its wholly-owned bank subsidiary, Tidelands Bank;

April 4, Mass: Westfield Financial and Chicopee Bancorp announced a proposal whereby Chicopee would merge with and into Westfield;

April 4, PA: DNB Financial Corporation and East River Bank of Philadelphia announced a proposal under which DNB woud acquire East River;

April 2, NY-Del: Norwood Financial Corp and Delaware Bancshares announced a proposal for Norwood Financial Corp. to acquire Delaware Bancshares;

March 28, West Virginia: First Sentry Bancshares and Rock Branch Community Bank in Nitro announced a proposed merger agreement where First Sentry will acquire Rock Branch.

April 4, 2016

The Federal Reserve's "Semiannual Report on Banking Applications Activity" says the volume of approved M&A proposals increased in the second half of 2015 to 143, compared with 133 approved in the second half of 2014. For all of 2015, 279 M&As were approved, up from 248 in 2014. There were 190 approved in 2013 and 226 in 2012. FWIW, the number of withdrawn applications has been declining steadily. There were 21 withdrawals in 2015, compared to 43 in 2012. We'll have more on this.

March 28, 2016

  Norht of the border, there's anger at bank branch closures, too: "Some seniors living in Rosemère, Que., are upset that their neighbourhood RBC branch located in the heart of their town will be closing to merge with a branch situated 3.5 kilometers away.

"It's a great convenience for everybody in the town to have a central bank, and there are a lot of seniors who will not be able to access the new branch," said Rosemère resident Kathleen Kidd, who has been going to the branch for years.

The branch that is closing is the Royal Bank's Jardins Rosemere Branch, located at 395 Grande-Côte Road. The bank said there are not enough customers to keep it open.

It will be merging with the Labelle & Hwy 640 branch located at 370 Labelle Blvd.

"That branch suits them. This branch suits the residents of Rosemère," Kidd said of RBC's decision."

March 21, 2016

ICP Asks IMF of Zimbabwe - Loans Not Sure - & Vultures Dart & Singer

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, March 17 -- When the International Monetary Fund held is biweekly briefing on March 17, Inner City Press arrived with questions on Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Jamaica.

 But it was not a normal briefing: it started with a paper about the International Monetary System, leaving the ten journalists -- all male -- present to fight for time to ask their questions.

  An excellent -- the best - Greek journalist asked about Greece; Ukainian TV asked about a quote from Victoria Nuland then fought for question time with TASS. A Brazilian journalists asked if there will be a program.

  Inner City Press jumped in with the Zimbabwe question, since the head of the Central Bank has been saying the country will get a loan up to $984 million in the third quarter.

  Not so fast, IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray said. He had a long if-asked, which we'll insert here later. The upshot is that Zimbabwe still owes too much money, and despite support from (some) other states as an IMF meeting in Lima, the rules are the rules. At least for Zimbabwe.

 Inner City Press also asked Murray to acknowledge that the windfall profits made off Argentina by vultures Singer and Dart wont' inevitably incentivize more predatory behavior. Murray said he wasn't going there. But the market will be: watch this site.
asked questions and got responses on Tunisia, Jamaica and Zimbabwe.

March 14, 2016

More merger snafus, this time in PA: "Pittsburgh-based FNB Corp. and central Pennsylvania-based Metro Bancorp first announced plans for the $474 million acquisition in August, and both companies' shareholders approved the terms in early January, according to a joint announcement.... BJ Runkle had five separate accounts with Metro Bank before it became First National Bank recently, and she's considering switching every one of them to another bank due to an issue she experienced after the merger. Runkle, of West Manchester Township, said one of her accounts is a joint account with her friend who was moving to South Carolina. But when the merger was finalized during the weekend of Feb.12, her friend's name was removed from the account and replaced with her fiance's name. 'Thankfully it was my fiance and not just a random person,' she said. 'But I thought if they messed that up, what else might they have messed up?' Runkle posted about her difficulties on Facebook and got an overwhelming number of responses indicating other former Metro customers were having difficulties, including missing money and being locked out of online accounts, she said."

  Groups can and should use social media more to find and interact with those impacted by mergers and bank misdeeds...

A list:

March 4, Illinois: Morton Community Bank proposes to merge with Trivoli Bancorp Inc., parent company of Heritage Bank of Central Illinois;

March 2, Wisconsin: Community First Bank announced a "merger of equals" with Livingston State Bank;

Feb 29, VA - W. VA: Summit Financial Group, Inc. and Highland County Bankshares, Inc. announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement between Summit Community Bank, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Summit, and HCB;

Feb 24, Nebraska: Sandhills State Bank proposes to buy 100 percent of Bank of Keystone;

Feb 22, S. Dakota:  BankWest could hit $1 billion in assets later this year if regulators approve a $113 million proposed merger with First State Bank;

Feb 17, NJ: Lakeland Bancorp Inc., which acquired Pascack Community Bank in August, has continued its expansion by agreeing to take over Harmony Bank;

Feb 16, WI: Citizens Community Bancorp, Inc. and Community Bank of Northern Wisconsin propose to merge;

Feb 16, Arizona: State Bank Corp,  holding company for Mohave State Bank, announced it has signed a definitive merger agreement whereby Country Bank would merge into Mohave State Bank

March 7, 2016

 We note the conciliation agreement in Kansas City: There will be more...
February 29, 2016

A case we are watching: "Deutsche Bank AG must face a U.S. lawsuit seeking to hold it liable for causing $3.1 billion of investor losses by failing to properly monitor 10 trusts backed by toxic residential mortgages, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan said Belgium's Royal Park Investments SA/NV may pursue claims that the trustee Deutsche Bank National Trust Co ignored "widespread" deficiencies in how the underlying loans were underwritten and serviced, and failed to require that bad loans be repurchased."

February 22, 2016

Bank merger blues:

"While F.N.B. Corporation says its merger with the Harrisburg-based Metro Bancorp has gone smoothly, their new customers are saying the opposite"

We'll have more on this.

.February 15, 2016

IMF Tells ICP Negotiating Mission to Sri Lanka Late March, Burundi, Romania Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 11 -- When the International Monetary Fund held is biweekly briefing on February 11, Inner City Press asked, "On Sri Lanka, please comment on and provide context for the reported request from the government for a new IMF program."

   IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice, after noting how Inner City Press submits its questions (electronically), replied that Sri Lankan authorities have expressed an interest in a program to deal with balance of payments. He said there would be a negotiating mission in late March or early April.

  The embargoed briefing began with a read-out of the press release that there is no competition to Christine Lagarde for a second term -- similar to the way at the UN, there was no competition to Ban Ki-moon for a second term. Is this any way to run a multilateral, quasi universal international organization?

  Inner City Press also asked about Romania (“Romania on Monday made the last interest payment on the 13 billion euro it took from IMF in 2009” and Dragos Tudorache, head of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, has said "We don’t plan to conclude a new deal with the IMF” - please provide an IMF comment / response)
and this, on Burundi:

"On Burundi, at the UN Peacebuilding meeting at the UN yesterday (Feb 10), the IMF said any new program would depend on relations with the international community. Please explain this, how relations with the international community impact an IMF program."
February 8, 2016

We like this: Is there a global environmental justice movement? We say... yes.

February 8, 2016

Chemical - Talmer might *think* they'll escape scrutiny because they announced at the same time Huntington - FirstMerit did...

February 1, 2016

  The proposed mergers in Ohio and Michigan, we are looking at...

January 25, 2016

 Mergers looking at:

Jan 15, Illinois: Royal Financial, Inc. announced a proposal to acquire Park Bancorp, Inc.

Jan 12, Indiana into Wisc: "Evansville, Ind.-based Old National Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Madison-based Anchor BanCorp Wisconsin Inc, deal worth approximately $461 million.

Jan 7: Wyoming (and Colorado): Valley Bank and Trust Company announced a proposal merge with  Wyoming State Bank.

Jan 7, Ohio: Ohio Valley Banc Corp announced a proposal to acquire Milton Bancorp;

Jan 6, NJ: OceanFirst Financial Corp. announced a proposal to acquire Cape Bancorp for approximately $208.1 million;

Dec 30, PA: United-American Savings Bank in Pittsburgh announced a proposal to merge with Emclaire Financial Corp., parent company of Venango County-based Farmers National Bank of Emlenton;

Dec 18, Maryland: Bay Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Hopkins Bancorp, Inc. (“Hopkins”), the parent company of Hopkins Federal Savings Bank;

Dec 18, Florida: Coral Gables-based Professional Bank announced a proposal acquisition of Palm Beach Gardens-based FirstCity Bank of Commerce;

Dec 17, NC-VA: TowneBank announced a proposal to acquire Monarch Financial Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Monarch Bank for $229 million.

January 18, 2016

IMF Answers ICP on Burundi, Had Said Peacekeeping Income in Budget, Off Track

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- When the International Monetary Fund held is biweekly briefing on January 14, Inner City Press submitted a number of questions, leading with Burundi and whether the Nkurunziza government's "income" from sending troops to Somalia and Central African Republic should be disclosed in the budget.

  IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question then referred to the IMF's March 2015 sixth review, saying the government had committed to include the income from peacekeeping operations in the budget. Rice then said due to deterioration in the security situation, the seventh and eight reviews are not possible and the program is "off track."

  On January 14 the IMF's Rice also noted the US Congress having approved quota reform (answering that he was not aware of any new oversight this might trigger), and said that Managing Director Lagarde will hold Greece meetings in Davos. Rice declined to answer ICP's question on Nigeria, saying much has been said on the topic; a Trinidad and Tobago question remained outstanding as the embargo time expired, but Inner City press was later on January 14 told on Trinidad and Tobago, the IMF's engagement with the country is one of economic policy advice or what we call surveillance. There is no program nor any talk of that, Inner City Press was told.
January 11, 2016

  Kentucky-based Republic is trying to withhold basic information; Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has requested it under FOIA. And now the Fed has asked Republic about CRA as well...
January 4, 2016

It is said, on Seeking Alpha, "New York Community Bancorp and Astoria Financial are merging, and it's not a great match.

NYCB hurts its business with this deal, and it is now large enough to be designated a SIFI.

Behind the scenes activism could be a reason for the transaction.

On October 28th of this year, New York Community Bancorp (NYSE:NYCB) announced an agreement to merge with Astoria Financial (NYSE:AF) in a cash and stock deal. The merger was unanimously approved by management teams at both companies under the premise of creating operational synergies and adding meaningful value to shareholders. However, based on impending consequences of the deal, as well as fundamental differences between the two companies, there is reason to believe that this deal was not made with shareholder interests in mind. "

And that's not the half of it. Watch this site.

December 28, 2015

So the Federal Reserve has extended its comment period on Key Corp's anticompetitive proposal to acquire First Niagara. But that is not enough...

December 21, 2015

On ISIS Finance, Talk of Oil and Turkey, Paris Pre-Paid Cards, No Bitcoin

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 17 -- The day before Syria talks resume at the New York Palace Hotel in Manhattan, finance ministers spoke in the UN Security Council about cutting off financing for ISIS. French finance minister Michel Sapin spoke darkly of the use of pre-paid cards for the November 13 Paris attacks; Russia's Ambassador Churkin named two Turkish companies as involved in ISIS oil sale.

  Inner City Press asked Syria's Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, who came to take questions at the Council stakeout, about ISIS' oil. He named Turkey, then want on to name Qatar and Saudi Arabia, slamming its “Sunni coalition” recently announced.

  When US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, along with Sapin and the UK's George Osborne held a short press conference in the UN briefing room, Inner City Press hoped to asked Sapin about pre-paid cards, and Lew and Osborne about Bitcoin. But the question, just four, were limited to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the New York and Financial Times. So it goes.

December 14, 2015