Inner City
        Press' Bank Beat Reporter

  

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

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

October 27, 2014

In the UK, the "biggest retail bank will set out plans next week to close more than 200 branches under a blueprint that will also see 9,000 jobs disappear... Lloyds Banking Group will say that a significant minority of its 2,250 branches across the UK will be shut by the end of 2017, ending a three-year moratorium on such closures. The focus of the axe will be on urban centers."

  Inner City Press -- and the Fair Finance Watch -- will have more on this.

October 20, 2014

  TD Sleaze: “A former Toronto-Dominion Bank executive was charged in south Florida federal court with six counts wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a $1-billion (U.S.) Florida Ponzi scheme on Friday, according to court documents.Frank Spinosa, 53, faces 20 years in prison and $1.5-million in fines, prosecutors said in a statement. He was released on a $250,000 bond on Friday and is due to be arraigned on Oct. 24.Spinosa allegedly used his position at Canada’s TD Bank to help attorney Scott Rothstein convince investors to buy stakes in what he said were settlements of potential lawsuits over sexual harassment or whistleblower claims.”

October 13, 2014

IMF Press Conference Has Syria Questions from USAID, Yemen & Mali Qs Ignored

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 10 -- With the International Monetary Fund having its Annual Meeting, Managing Director Christine Lagarde began by saying the quota reform, blocked by the US, is crucial.
 
  Then at the IMF's October 10 press conference about the Middle East, even as Press questions about Yemen and other topics were pending, the IMF called on USAID to ask a question about Syria.

  See video here at Minute 41, question of Mona Yacoubian, USAID's Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Bureau.

   The IMF's transcript omits that the question was from USAID, that the questioner said, "Mona Yacoubian from USAID."

  It is often said that these press conference are limited to the media, including to the Free UN Coalition for Access which advocates for press access including at the IMF. How then can a US government agency ask a question about Syria? And what does it mean?

  Inner City Press submitted a question on October 10 about Yemen, still not answered, and during the Africa briefing about Mali and South Sudan. Does the IMF answer questions from the US government but not from the press? Was it just a mistake?

    Back on October 6 with the dispute between Argentina and hedge or vulture funds more and more discussed, the International Monetary Fund released a paper and held an embargoed press call on the topic of "Strengthening the Contractual Framework to Address Collective Action Problems in Sovereign Debt Restructuring."

  Inner City Press asked the IMF's Sean Hagan, General Counsel and Director of the IMF's Legal Department, how his "market based" approach relates to the vote take last month in the UN General Assembly and to respond to the critique that the lack of quota reform at the IMF undermines the legitimacy of its approach.

   Hagan said the UNGA's approach is "treaty based," and that

"There was insufficient support in our members to support that approach, there has been in no change in the attitude of our members when we discussed this last year.”

  But in essence the membership of the IMF is the same as the UN General Assembly -- it's just that in the IMF votes are weighed to wealth, measured in the past. The UN is controlled by five permanently veto-wielding Security Council members. At the IMF for now there is one veto: the US.

  Hagan made much of Kazakhstan including some of the IMF supported language in its most recent bond issuance. He mentioned copycat litigation, already pending in Grenada. He said it seems the issue will be discussed at the upcoming IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings in a session involving "civil society organizations." We'll have more on this.

October 6, 2014

  We are looking at  First Western - Sunflower to form a $2.5 billion bank in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, California and Wyoming; to form a $1.5 billion bank (Metcalf) in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma; in Louisiana ( announced Sept 29); in Indiana (Oct 1); and Iberiabank to acquireFlorida Bank Group (announced Oct 3)... A story:

IMF Weighs Financial Inclusion in Kenya, But Not Elsewhere, Ghana Update

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- Amid the Kenya report released under embargo today by the International Monetary Fund is a review of financial inclusion and technology:

"Financial inclusion continues progressing with mobile-banking loans and deposits driven by M-Shwari (7 million customers in its first year of operations) and higher SME access to credit.

"M-Pesa was introduced in 2007 as a means to transfer money via mobile phones. M-Pesa users deposit money into a 'cell phone account,' and use SMS technology for transfers and 'on demand' payments. Thanks to its use of low-cost technology, overall transaction costs have declined as bills can be paid remotely. Even more importantly, the poor have benefited the most: M-Pesa reaches 84 percent of population earning less than US$2 a day.  M-Shwari, a deposit-lending facility tailored to the poor, has 7 million active customers in over a year of operations. Kenyan farmers benefit from schemes to acquire equipment, like water pumps, with repayments being made through M-Pesa; M-Kopa allows the use of solar panels in areas not served by the power grid, with repayments in small installments."

   Whether in other contexts the IMF is promoting financial inclusion is another question. But there is much to be learned from Kenya - including for lower income parts of the ostensibly developed world. We'll have more on this.

  On October 1 at the UN, Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access pushed for and reported on a briefing about African Regional Economic Communities, here.

  Back on September 25, with Ghana hosting an International Monetary Fund visit, Inner City Press asked IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice about what Ghana’s President John Mahama said this week at the New York Stock Exchange: "It is my hope that by January we should start a three-year IMF program to try and stabilize the macroeconomic environment.”

Rice took the question from Inner City Press and said "I can tell you we currently have an IMF team in Accra to initiate discussions on a program. We will have a press release at the end of that mission. The context is, indeed, that the Ghana authorities initiated discussion on an economic program that could be supported by the Fund. Those are the discussions that are then taking place. So it's premature to have dates and more details on that process because the team is in Ghana. We’re expecting it to conclude this week, and we will communicate at the right time."

  Then this, concluding that "discussions on a possible program that could be supported by the IMF will continue in Washington during the Annual Meetings."

  Inner City Press also submitted this question on September 25: “Ukraine PM Yatseniuk yesterday said, 'We do understand that we have to readjust the program. Because when we started the program with the IMF, it was a peace program. For today, this is a wartime government and a wartime program.' What is the IMF's response to / comment on this?”

  While Rice said that there was no request for any “readjustment” yet, that the IMF will combine two reviews in November with an eye toward its Executive Board meeting on Ukraine at the end of the year or early 2015. He said the purpose of such reviews, generally, is readjustment.

  But Rice did in this answer address the appropriateness of IMF lending into what Yatseniuk called “a wartime government and a wartime program" speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. We'll have more on this as well.

September 29, 2014

On Ghana, IMF Tells ICP Visit Ongoing, 1/2 Answer on Ukraine

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- With Ghana hosting an International Monetary Fund visit, Inner City Press asked IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice at his embargoed briefing on September 25 about what Ghana’s President John Mahama said this week at the New York Stock Exchange: "It is my hope that by January we should start a three-year IMF program to try and stabilize the macroeconomic environment.”

Rice took the question from Inner City Press and said yes, an IMF team is in Accra discussing a program, and will have something to say once the visit concludes.

  Inner City Press also submitted this question: “Ukraine PM Yatseniuk yesterday said, 'We do understand that we have to readjust the program. Because when we started the program with the IMF, it was a peace program. For today, this is a wartime government and a wartime program.' What is the IMF's response to / comment on this?”

  While Rice said that there was no request for any “readjustment” yet, that the IMF will combine two reviews in November with an eye toward its Executive Board meeting on Ukraine at the end of the year or early 2015. He said the purpose of such reviews, generally, is readjustment.

  But Rice did in this answer address the appropriateness of IMF lending into what Yatseniuk called “a wartime government and a wartime program" speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. We'll have more on this.

September 22, 2014

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is looking at recently announced mergers, like in BB&T's proposal to buy Bank of Kentucky for $363 million announced last week, and to buy 41 Citibank branches in Texas, announced earlier this month; Virginia(August 30); Pennsylvania (August 28), Florida (August 25), and elsewhere...

UN Obfuscates Lack of Debt Relief for Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Censors

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 18 -- When the UN presented its "State of the Global Partnership for Development" report on September 18, it said that three countries not being processed for debt relief -- Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan -- are only treated that way because they have no national economic plans.

  Inner City Press challenged this, noting public discussions of blocking any debt relief to Sudan, which like Eritrea and Somalia is under UN sanctions.  In response, UN DESA tried to say it was a matter of stability and being in conflict.

   But the IMF continues working on a program with Mali, certainly in more conflict than Eritrea, despite the untransparent purchase of a new jet by Mali's president.

   Inner City Press has asked the International Monetary Fund about Mali, and on July 10 was told the IMF has suspended its program at least until toward the end of this year, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice answered Inner City Press.  Video here, from Minute 19:30.  Since then, IMF visits and work toward unlocking money has proceeded.

  If the UN and its DESA obfuscate the reasons countries like Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea don't get debt relief, what else are they obfuscating?

Footnote on how the UN runs briefings: on September 18 initially the first question was being given to a reporter who actually covers development. But the UN Correspondents Association's representative complained, demanding a set aside, and got it, along with an apology. Then asked a softball question, not following up on a false answer and in all probability not reporting on it. It's asking the (first) question just for the sake of it, the UN's Censorship Alliance whose Executive Committee worked to try to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN and remains UNreformed. The new Free UN Coalition for Access opposes set-asides, especially for the UN's Censorship Alliance.

September 15, 2014

Here's what Inner City Press asked the IMF last week:

ICP Asks IMF of Sovereign Debt, It Says Contractual and Market Based on Hold Outs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 11 -- Two days after 124 nations in the UN General Assembly voted to start a process on sovereign debt restructuring, Inner City Press asked the International Monetary Fund, "What is the IMF's comment on the “sovereign debt restructuring” resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 9? The resolution cites the IMF's work on the issues, in 2003."

  At the IMF's embargoed briefing on September 11, IMF spokesperson William Murray provided a long answer, including that the IMF is working on a "market based" solution, particularly on debt contractual terms to prevent "hold out" problems. He mentioned, as he had to, Argentina, which has had it own contentious relation with the IMF.

  Clearly, Argentina -- and Bolivia as chair of the Group of 77 -- were aware of these IMF efforts when they pursued the issue in the UN General Assembly. We'll have more on this.

  In the last briefing, Inner City Press asked the IMF about ebola. This time, Murray cited the economies of Liberia and Sierra Leone shrinking 3 to 3.5%, and Guinea by 1.5%.

  On Portugal, he said the IMF has received no communication about an early pay-off.

  Inner City Press also asked the IMF for its view of Cyrus' foreclosure laws -- sounds like the IMF doesn't like them -- as well as Yemen and Egypt:

What is the IMF's view of the partial roll back by Yemen's government of its initial cut in fuel subsidies?

On Egypt, what is the status of the IMF's work with the country? What is the IMF's comment on Bank of America Merrill Lynch saying it expects no near-term IMF engagement with Egypt?

  We'll have more on this as well.

When Argentina's foreign minister Héctor Timerman held a press conference at the UN at 5:30 pm on September 9, he was flanked not only by Argentina's ambassador to the UN Maria Cristina Perceval but also the chair of the Group of 77, Sacha Llorenti of Bolivia.

  They spoke of 11 countries opposing their resolution on sovereign debt and vultures funds, or sovereign debt restructuring, including the United States. Timerman took the high road, saying that Argentina would present a project with the G77 and speak with all opponents.

  He asked how the UN General Assembly, which he called the most democratic forum, could be involved in so many fields but not this one. Why indeed.

September 8, 2014

Last week the New York Times reported on Evans Bank being under investigation for redlining. Well, on March 17, 2014 Inner City Press reported:

Word in update New York is the AG is looking at Evans bank NA; we looked at 2012 date for the Buffalo MSA:

for home purchase loans, 59 loans to whites, one to an African American applicant, no Latinos.

worse: for refinance loans, 147 loans to whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos...

And on marketing / outreach:

for home purchase loans, 71 applications from whites, one from an African American, none from Latinos.

worse: for refinance loans, 185 applications from whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos...

So yeah, they should be looked at. And so should others...

September 1, 2014

On Valley National - 1st United, now on Inner City Press' FOIA appeal the OCC acknowledges that it improperly withheld communications between the OCC and Valley National -- but claims that ALL communications about the CRA can be withheld. Some transparency.

August 25, 2014

  We are looking at recently announced mergers, like in Alabama (August 4), Ohio (August 4) and more, more recent...

 August 18, 2014

The now-proposed merger of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle and Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines would result in an institution with $119 billion in assets covering 13 states. Our initial concern is about public notice, and public participation. Watch this site.

August 11, 2014

BancorpSouth has announced it will withdraw its two protested applications, now after the protests being faced with investigation not only for money laundering but also fair lending. They say they'll re-file. We'll see.

August 4, 2014

In beginning to look at CIT - OneWest, Inner City Press finds that in 2012 OneWest in the Los Angeles MSA for home purchase loans made 28 loans to whites - and NONE to African Americans. We'll have more on this.

July 28, 2014

On CIT - OneWest, it would make for another over $50 billion SIFI bank. Any new SIFI requires particular scrutiny. CIT used to do subprime lending; given OneWest's record, and given CIT's subprime history and joining the SIFI / Too Big To Fail club, public hearings will be needed.

On Gaza, IMF Tells ICP That PA Needs Help, Israel GDP Down 0.2%

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 24 -- With no ceasefire yet in Gaza, Inner City Press on July 24 asked the International Monetary Fund for its estimate of the economic impact of the conflict in both Gaza and Israel, including specifically with the FAA and now Delta and other airlines' decisions on access to Ben Gurion Airport.

  IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray read out Inner City Press' Gaza question (and others from Inner City Press on Ukraine and Liberia) at the IMF's embargoed briefing on July 24. On Gaza, the IMF's Murray answered Inner City Press:

With the conflict ongoing, it is too soon to make an accurate assessment of the impact, which will depend on the conflict's duration. Post-conflict reconstruction poses risk to Palestinian Authority finances absent additional donor financing. The Palestinian Authority does not have fiscal room to take on this additional burden.”

  On Israel, after noting that he saw news of renewed access to Ben Gurion Airport, Murray answered Inner City Press:

As for Israel, Israel financial market have remained stable, with shekel steadily appreciating, the Tel Aviv 100 has been little changed in past two weeks. The cost of the conflict of past two weeks, point two percent of GDP... The impact on economic activity, tourism and SMEs in southern Israel has already been felt. A further deceleration of GDP growth could be likely in 3d quarter. Once conflict ends we expect growth in Israel to rebound relative quickly.”

A tale of two economies, you might call it. Murray added that the IMF Executive Board will be off from August 4 to 15, and that the IMF's next briefing will be on August 28. Watch this site.

July 21, 2014

Well noted: the DOJ's settlement with Citigroup went out of its way NOT to mention Jack Lew's time at Citi, nor Geithner's role in mis/un regulating Citi at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Yes, funny...

July 14, 2014

Revolving door, EU edition: Deutsche Bank AG (DB) has hired Luxembourg's Luc Frieden as vice chairman for international and European affairs from mid-September.

On Mali, IMF Suspends after IBK Plane Buy, UN Partners on Crime

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 -- On Mali, the International Monetary Fund has suspended its program at least until toward the end of this year, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice answered Inner City Press on July 10.  Video here, from Minute 19:30.

  There will be an audit, and (re) consideration of procurement systems. This comes as UN officials including UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous visit Mali talking about cooperation in fighting crime -- apparently not including the President's new $40 million plane and no-bid contracts.

  Inner City Press also asked the IMF, in its embargoed briefing on the morning of July 10, about Romania and Pakistan.

On Romania, what is the IMF's comment on President Basescu now rejecting the planned social security tax cut, pending measures that would cover a likely revenue shortfall?

  Rice said that off-setting measures are needed; video here, transcript below.

In Pakistan, the Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has abandoned the policy of releasing national accounts on a quarterly basis, described as “a violation of the IMF's guidelines on good statistical practice” - is that the case? Any IMF comment?

  Rice spoke of the IMF's technical assistance; video here, transcript of all three questions here:

MR. RICE:  There are a few questions from InnerCity Press, so let me just -- let me just take some of them, I won't take them all, but they may be of interest to -- more broadly.

One is on Romania. "What is the IMF's comment on President Basescu's now rejecting the planned Social Security tax cut, pending measures that would cover a likely revenue shortfall?"

Maybe just stepping back and setting that question in context. The joint IMF/EC Mission had constructive discussions with the Romanian authorities, so far on how to ensure further progress on the third review of the current program. Some key issues remain outstanding so those discussions continue.

On the specific question, I would say that while the Fund shares the objective of lowering the high tax burden on labor in an effort to stimulate employment, we need to understand how the government intends to compensate the revenue shortfall. Without offsetting measures, a reduction of the Social Security contribution rate by 5 percentage points, would increase the fiscal gap.

A question on Mali. "Can you provide an update on the IMF's review of the two contracts that were awarded without competitive bidding, including the purchase of a new plane for the President?"

Again, just setting the context; the first review under the current extended credit facility, which had been initially scheduled for June, is being postponed following the recent discovery of a series of problematic transactions which reveal weaknesses in public financial management.

Now, a delegation led by the Minister of Economy and Finance, visited Washington for a few days of talks in June, and reached an agreement with the IMF on remedial measures which include an audit of the transactions by the Independent Government Auditor, and a tightening of the Procurement Code. And at the end of that visit the Minister and the Mission Chief issued a joint declaration which we published.

So what's the status? The status is that as per that joint statement, the reviews, again, under the ECF arrangement, have been postponed until September, and related disbursements would only happen toward the end of the year, at the earliest.

So, again, the conclusion of the reviews will depend on the implementation of the remedial measures and, again, in line with this, any related support in the form of a disbursement would only happen following approval by the reviews by our Executive Board.

One other question that I will take, which is on Pakistan. "The Bureau of Statistics has abandoned the policy of releasing national accounts on a quarterly basis, described as a 'violation of the IMF's guidelines on good statistical practice' is that the case? What is your comment?"

My comment is that the IMF has been providing technical assistance to Pakistan on improving national account statistics with significant progress observed over the course of the last year. The upcoming mission, which is scheduled for early August, will follow up on latest developments with data dissemination.

A question that was not (yet) answer was this, on Jamaica:

In Jamaica, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw has said that Managing Director Lagarde “crossed the line from being non-political to making statements, which can be construed as political interference.” What is the IMF's or MD's response?

  Watch this site. 

July 7, 2014

IMF Praises French Banks, Silent on BNP's Sudan Violations, Lagarde Echo?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 3 -- In the International Monetary Fund's final Article IV consultation report on France issued under embargo on July 3 there is an elephant in the room, or in the report: BNP Paribas, its violations of sanctions and nearly $9 billion fine. Click here for Inner City Press' coverage of the settlement.

  The IMF today says of France that its "Directors observed that the economy and public finances are better shielded from banking shocks thanks to the efforts made by banks to build stronger liquidity and capital buffers and to an improved bank resolution framework. However, they noted that the regulatory framework is still evolving."

 Still evolving away from concealing transactions with Omar al Bashir's Sudan, for example?

  The IMF's eight-page Staff Report mentions BNP only twice: both in charts touting French banks' compliance with Basel III. The 31-page "Selected Issues" does not mention BNP once.

   Then again, now the US Securities & Exchange Commission has given a waiver from BNP suffering the consequences of its actions and plea (click here for a Reuters piece citing Inner City Press' previous work on Chase Manhattan now JPMorgan Chase.)

June 30, 2014

Now Umpqua is closing 27 branches. Is that part of its vaunted “CRA Action Plan,” mailed June 18 to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch? We'll have more on this.

June 23, 2014

U.S. government slapped SunTrust Banks Inc. with $968 million in fines and consumer relief as the Atlanta lender became the latest bank to settle allegations of abusive mortgage practices.

And the revolving door continues: J.P. Morgan Names Former Congresswoman Melissa Bean Midwest Chairwoman...

Here now is M&T Bank, laundering money for drug gangs in Baltimore -- CRA, anyone?

U.S. District Judge James Bredar in Baltimore on June 17 accepted the government’s claim in a February complaint that the teller converted proceeds of illegal drug sales from small denominations to $100 bills in at least eight transactions, ranging from $20,000 to $100,000, without notifying regulators. The M&T teller in the case, Sabrina Fitts, 29, was sentenced to a month in prison followed by eight months of home detention for her role in the failure to file the mandatory reports. She worked at the bank’s Perry Hall, Maryland, branch outside of Baltimore. Fitts was paid a 1 percent fee by a member of a drug trafficking organization for each transaction completed without a report, according to prosecutors. “Through the cooperation we provided to law enforcement during an investigation into the illegal activities perpetrated by a former employee, we have assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office with this prosecution and recovery,” Mike Zabel, a spokesman for M&T, said in an e-mailed statement. “This case shows how banks work closely with law enforcement to prevent and detect money-laundering.”

Yeah, right...

IMF Warns of Romania Fiscal Gap, Heads to Ukraine June 24, 7 Qs UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 19 -- What is the International Monetary Fund's response to Romania's plan to cut required social contributions by employers by five percent later this year? Inner City Press asked this and seven other questions on June 19, and got this response from IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice:

We share the objective of reducing the high tax burden on labor in an effort to stimulate jobs, however the announced cut of the social security rate by five percentage points creates a fiscal gap and will make it difficult to reach the fiscal target in 2015. Offsetting measure need to be identified.”

  The answer is appreciated -- Inner City Press covers Romania and the IMF, for example here -- but this similar question on June 19 by Inner City Press on Slovakia has yet to be answered, by the embargo time:

On Slovakia, what is IMF's response to Finance Minister Peter Kazimir insisting the government will base its decision-making on Slovak legislation stating that the VAT rate should be reduced automatically when the public-finance deficit falls below three percent of GDP?

  Six other questions remain unanswered, including the now-perennial, does the IMF include Western Sahara in its data for Morocco:

On Morocco, can you confirm what central bank governor Abdellatif Jouahri has said, that a new two-year line of credit is being finalized and will “be less than $6.2 billion granted by the fund in 2012-2014”? And again, is Western Sahara included in the IMF's Morocco data? (As submitted)

In Yemen, in light of attacks on power plants and pipelines, what is the status of the IMF's $550 program and its conditions? Is there a concern the cuts to subsidies could lead to further unrest?

In Myanmar, does IMF believe the country is ready for the opening of foreign financial institution, while governance of the Central Bank of Myanmar continue to fall under Myanmar's outgoing central banking law, dating to 1990?

In Ukraine, does IMF have any comment on US giving $10 million to Kyiv for anti-corruption programs? Does the IMF have any view of or comment on President Poroshenko asking Parliament to replace central bank chairman Stepan Kubiv with investment banker Valeria Gontareva, who has no government or regulatory experience? In terms of central bank independence, and in light of the IMF's program with Ukraine?

  This last was partially answered; and the next IMF mission to Ukraine started June 24 in Kyiv and goes for two weeks. Watch this site.


June 16, 2014

Connecticut games redux: Peyton R. Patterson, now CEO of Bankwell Financial Group, has done a second IPO, and aims to buy Quinnipiac Bank & Trust. This echoes the sell-out of NewAlliance Bancshares - formerly New Haven Savings Bank, converted in 2004 from depositor to investor ownership, then sold to First Niagara Bank. Slash and burn banking? We'll see.

June 9, 2014

BNP Paribas cynically violated sanctions on Sudan while the French government and others were accusing Khartoum of genocide. Now French president Francois Hollande comes to BNP's defense, saying not to fine it too hard or he will look askance at T-TIP. So be it - these trade deals would globalize for example censorship under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Good riddance!

June 2, 2014

So BNP Paribas committed fraud to beat Sudan sanctions and is now defended by French politicians -- even as France talks tough on Darfur at the UN. Mistral, anyone?

May 26, 2014

IMF Answers ICP on Serbia, Says Talking with Bosnia & Yemen

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 -- At the International Monetary Fund's May 22 embargoed briefing, spokesperson Gerry Rice answered Inner City Press' question about the Balkan floods; afterward, his office provided a response on Yemen.

  From the IMF transcript released today, video here from Minute 26:

GERRY RICE: Let me go online for a minute, because I've got a couple of questions here from Matthew Russell Lee. He asked Mali... and about the serious flooding in the Balkans which we're all, of course, very concerned about that. He's asking about the impact on the countries of the Balkans, and Serbia, and Bosnia.

Serbia's, again, been significantly affected. We have great concern, also, about the human casualties and the wide-spread damage, but we do not yet know the full extent of that. As an EU pre-accession country Serbia will be eligible for aid from the EU's disaster Fund.

In the meantime, the IMF engaged with Serbia through our policy advice, as well as in our discussion with other international, financial organizations through our resident representative. On Bosnia, actually, we have a staff team on the ground right now.

  Inner City Press, beyond Mali (reported here), had also asked about Yemen, adding the response to that as an update and now here:

ICP Question: Yemen's Finance Minister said the country will reduce fuel subsidies to get a $500M IMF program, hoped to be concluded by end of May. What is the status, and what about fuel shortages and impacted Yemenis?

IMF Answer: A mission is discussing with the authorities their economic reform program and how the IMF can support them.

  Well, a similar reduction in subsidies by the government in 2005 led protests that left dozens killed and wounded. And now, after deporting a journalism, Yemen says it will inform about its military operations by putting its own videos on YouTube... Watch this site.


 
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May 19, 2014

  We will be looking at : May 7, NJ/NY into Florida for $312 million, Valley National proposes to acquire 1st United Bancorp; May 5, Arkansas into Tennessee for $243 million, Simmons First National Corporation proposes to acquire Community First Bancshares;  May 5 in Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr Bank Corporation to acquire Continental Bank Holdings; May 5 Illinois buying into Florida, First American Bank to buy Bank of Coral Gables; May 5 in Texas, Green Bancorp to acquire SP Bancorp;  April 29 in Texas for $307 million, Southside Bancshares to acquire OmniAmerican Bancorp..

May 12, 2014

IMF Positions on Bosnia & Ghana, Would Talk Opposition, W. Sahara No Answer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- While Ukraine and Greece were the subjects of the first six questions taken at the International Monetary Fund's May 8 embargoed briefing, the IMF impacts countries all over the world. Inner City Press submitted five questions -- on Morocco, Madagascar, Pakistan, Bosnia and Ghana -- the last two of which were read out and answered during the briefing. Video here, filmed from IMF webcast while at UN Security Council stakeout

  On Ghana, Inner City Press asked: the Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress Kofi Asamoah spoke out on May Day against the government seeking an IMF program. What does the IMF make of it, and would the IMF consult with such opponents if a program were requested?

  IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said that Ghana has yet to formally request a program - there is a lot of discussion in the country about it, though. The IMF Board after its discussion of the Article IV review will have a press release in due course. He added that the IMF speaks with a range of people, and has spoken with the Trades Union Congress in the past.

  On Bosnia, Inner City Press asked what steps would the IMF require to unfreeze the next tranche of its stand-by program? Does the IMF have any comment on the Federation's May 6 auction of 6-month treasury bills?

  The IMF's spokesperson Rice's answer was long, so with the embargo expired we are uploading the video here, filmed from the IMF webcast while at the UN Security Council stakeout:Rice said the fifth review was completed; the decision by the Parliament to delay decisions including excises on different on tobacco products has delayed completion of the staff review. To go forward, full implementation of the prior actions is needed.

Inner City Press also asked:

  In Pakistan, PTI Information Secretary KPK and MNA Ayesha Gulalai has said, “it is very unfortunate that Pakistan's budget is being prepared by the IMF in Dubai.. instead of taxing the 4 million wealthy identified by the FBR, burden is being passed on to the already burdened masses.” What is the IMF's response?

  On Madagascar, when George Tsibouris on May 6 said the government agreed to "address the issue of fuel price subsidies over time," can you be more specific on how much time the IMF envisions? Also, can the IMF be more specific about what is referred to by "creating a level playing field for the private sector"?

  While the Managing Director is in Morocco, can you answer if Western Sahara is included by the IMF in Morocco's data, and what impact the IMF believes the Western Sahara issue has on Morocco's economy and economic prospects?

This last one, Inner City Press also asked two weeks ago, and again more recently on connection with the IMF's Ukraine program. Watch this site.

May 5, 2014

The M&T merger continues to face delays as M&T has had to increase spending to comply with anti-money-laundering guidelines. Earlier this month, M&T said its first-quarter profit fell 16%, on lower mortgage revenue and higher compliance costs.

On Ukraine, IMF Will "Take Stock" Of Keeping In Crimea Data- "Until Recognition"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 -- The day after the International Monetary Fund announced its $17 billion program for Ukraine, under embargo until 11 am it released its Staff Report and held a media call.

   In the Staff Report the IMF says, "It is acknowledged that at this stage the authorities do not have effective control with respect to Crimea for purposes of implementing their economic policies in that territory... Staff will take stock of future developments on this matter that might affect the need and feasibility of presenting Ukraine’s data with or without Crimea."

   Inner City Press on the embargoed call asked the IMF's Reza Moghadham what factors the staff will "take stock" of in terms on continuing to include Crimea in Ukraine's data.

    Reza Moghadham replied that it is IMF policy to continue to include until their is "international recognition" of the separation. Inner City Press asked, so does the IMF still include Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia's data?

   Moghadham said Georgia is not in his division, but that an answer might come. Inner City Press submitted the question in writing last Thursday, as well as asking if Western Sahara is included in Morocco's data by the IMF.

  On April 30, the IMF sent this statement to the Press:

IMF Executive Board Approves 2-Year US$17.01 Billion Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, US$3.19 Billion for immediate Disbursement

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a two-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Ukraine. The arrangement amounts to SDR 10.976 billion (about US$17.01 billion, 800 percent of quota) and was approved under the Fund's exceptional access policy. The authorities’ economic program supported by the Fund aims to restore macroeconomic stability, strengthen economic governance and transparency, and launch sound and sustainable economic growth, while protecting the most vulnerable.

The approval of the SBA enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 2.058 billion (about US$3.19 billion), with SDR 1.29 billion (about US$2 billion) being allocated to budget support. The second and third disbursements will be based on bi-monthly reviews and performance criteria, and the remainder of the program period will be subject to standard quarterly reviews and performance criteria.

  Back on April 24 the IMF said it expected to approve a $14-18 billion program for Ukraine on April 30, while still including Crimea in its Ukraine data, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said at the IMF's embargoed briefing on April 24.

  Rice said the IMF expects its $14-18 billion to "unlock" $15 billion in financial assurances that have already been made by others, whom he did not name. He said that the IMF has now received from Kyiv documents covering all "prior actions" or conditions imposed by the IMF.

  Asked if sanctions imposed to "punish" Russia might harm Ukraine, Rice said the IMF position is that current US and European Union sanctions on Russia are unlikely to have a significant effect on the Ukrainian economy. He said the IMF believes the more substantial risk is from the possible further escalation of tensions.

  On the IMF still including Crimea in its Ukraine data, Rice would not explain except to add that Crimea is only 3.7% of its Ukrainian data. Asked for analogies to lending to Ukraine at this time, Rice cited past IMF programs in Bosnia, Sri Lanka and Peru, calling them "fragile" and with "political tensions."

While the IMF answered three of the six questions Inner City Press submitted during the briefing, its question concerning whether the IMF still includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia in its Georgia data was not answered -- nor whether it includes Western Sahara in its Morocco data.

  The inclusion of Crimea in the IMF's Ukraine data raises the question of the relation between the UN General Assembly vote, with 58 abstentions, on the Crimean referendum and the International Monetary Fund, as well as the US Congress' refusal to pass the IMF quota reforms which US President Obama agreed to in 2010.

April 28, 2014

Schizo: Mercantile Chairman Michael Price told his company’s annual shareholder’s meeting at the Kent Country Club on April 24:

The $151 million merger, first announced last August, has been delayed after a New York-based public interest group challenged the merger, claiming the Grand Rapids-based bank holding company has a poor record of lending to minorities. That challenge has triggered a review process by the Federal Reserve, which has delayed its approval of the merger, which Mercantile and Firstbank executives had hoped to complete by the end of 2013. “It takes a long time to walk through that process,” Price told some 100 shareholders gathered at the Kent Country Club. “We have a pretty strong feeling we’re at the end of the process.”

Price told shareholders his bank has earned “outstanding” rankings in its past two surveys under the Community Reinvestment Act. Referring to the challenge by the Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch, Price said the group “cherry-picked” two loan categories. “He’s just one guy,” said Price of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch director Matthew Lee. The bank recently drew the ire of the group when it complied with its request for information by sending paper documents rather than easy-to-crunch data files

April 21, 2014

In the Persian Gulf, Ahli United Bank, Bahrain's largest lender, is evaluating a sale or a merger with a rival bank in a potential $5 billion deal, several bankers familiar with the situation said. A deal of this size would be the largest banking transaction in the region for the past 20 years, beating Emirates Bank's $3.7bn acquisition of National Bank of Dubai in 2007 and Qatar National Bank's $1.9bn purchase of Societe Generale's Egyptian business in 2012... We are watching.

April 14, 2014

  There's more to say, but this is on Mercantile of Michigan:

April 12, 2014

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Attn: Chair Janet Yellen, Secretary Robert deV. Frierson
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20551

Re: Comments in Extraordinary Circumstances On, Requesting Hearings & an Extension of the Comment Period On the Applications of Mercantile Bank Corporation to merge with Firstbank Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire Firstbank

Dear Chair Yellen, Secretary Robert deV. Frierson and others in the FRS:

Starting in October 2013, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has on fair lending grounds protested the Applications of Mercantile Bank Corporation to merge with Firstbank Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire Firstbank. To assess in Mercantile's record is improving or further deteriorating, ICP asked Mercantile through counsel for its 2013 HMDA-LAR. It is attached, for inclusion in the record.

Amazingly, the bank has provided its LAR only in paper form, so that it cannot be computer analyzed. This contrasts to other banks' timely responses to ICP with their LAR in the requested .DAT format in which it is filed.

Reviewing the 2012 HMDA data, ICP examined Mercantile's and its mortgage company's home purchase, refinance and home improvement lending in its Grand Rapids, Michigan headquarters MSA and finds them outrageous.

In 2012 in the Grand Rapids MSA for conventional home purchase loans, Mercantile Bank lent ONLY to whites. Its mortgage company made 42 such loans to whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

In 2012 in the Grand Rapids MSA for refinance loans, Mercantile Bank lent ONLY to whites. Its mortgage company made 159 such loans to whites. It had a 100% denial rate for African American applicants.

In 2012 in the Grand Rapids MSA for home improvement loans, both Mercantile's bank and mortgage company lent only to whites.

This is outrageous. So is the bank's cynical decision to provide its 2013 LAR in un-analyzable form. The comment period should be extended, the bank admonished and its applications denied.

April 7, 2014

On US Bank's application to acquire more than 90 branches from Royal Bank of Scotland, Inner City Press has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the entirety of a largely redacted / black-out response by US Bank, showing that several RBS products would be dropped. Now that US Bank has admitted to the Federal Reserve that it would eliminate Charter One's Credit Builder and energy efficiency loan programs, and make it more difficult for the customers it would acquire to avoid fees, the Fed should schedule public hearings. So far, the comment period was re-opened and extended to April 25, when more analysis will be submitted.

March 31, 2014

Too big to fail? "Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. has held preliminary talks with Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC about the possibility of buying its U.S. retail-banking business, according to people familiar with the discussions. Executives from the two banks recently have met to discuss a possible deal for RBS Citizens, which boasts nearly 1,400 branches and $122 billion in assets across 12 states in the Northeast and Midwest, these people say... Authorities in the U.S. and Japan would have to agree to allow Sumitomo Mitsui, already one of the world's biggest banks, to get even bigger--a potentially tall order in an environment where regulators are wary of too-big-to-fail banks." We'll see.

March 24, 2014

Old National has provided WARN Act notice in Indiana of at least 40 merger related layoffs...

March 17, 2014

On Ukraine, IMF Defers Most Press Questions While Mission “In Field,” Insiders?

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON, March 13 – The day after several US Senators argued that International Monetary Fund quota reform would have to be approved by Congress to enable the IMF to meaningfully assist Ukraine, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice if this is true. Video here, from Minute 12:05.

  Rice genially said several times that the question couldn't or wouldn't be answered while the IMF mission is “in the field” in Ukraine. He initially gave the same answer to Inner City Press' question that had nothing to do with Ukraine: is it true, as Russia reportedly argued at the most recent G-20 meeting, that quota reform could be accomplished without US approval, under some set of rule changes?

  Rice during the briefing repeated this could not be answered while the mission is in Ukraine. Later it was conveyed that the reform is not possible without US approval. The answer is appreciated: a benefit of asking in person. But Inner City Press (and the Free UN Coalition for Access) hope to make the online asking of questions work better from now on.

  The IMF visit to Ukraine should end tomorrow, so we'll see – on Sudan and South Sudan as well: responses will be published upon receipt.

  In another non-Ukraine question, Inner City Press asked Rice about a book published earlier this week in Hungary, that the then-economy minister in 2011 told Goldman Sachs that the government would be going to the IMF for a program. Since much currency trading ensued, Inner City Press asked if the IMF has any rules limiting its government interlocutors from trading on or sharing insider information.Video here, from Minute 31:12.

  Rice said there are confidential provisions. But are those only for the contents of communication and not the existence of communications or negotiations? We'll see.

Word in update New York is the AG is looking at Evans bank NA; we looked at 2012 date for the Buffalo MSA:

for home purchase loans, 59 loans to whites, one to an African American applicant, no Latinos.

worse: for refinance loans, 147 loans to whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos...

And on marketing / outreach:

for home purchase loans, 71 applications from whites, one from an African American, none from Latinos.

worse: for refinance loans, 185 applications from whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos...

So yeah, they should be looked at. And so should others...

March 10, 2014

M&T Bank with its stalled merger proposal with Hudson City Bancorp cut CEO Wilmers’s pay by 23 percent last year as the stock lagged. Wilmers, who said executives should make sacrifices in their compensation in his most recent annual shareholder letter, was awarded $3.05 million for his work last year, the Buffalo, New York-based bank said today in a regulatory filing. That included a salary of $950,000, a $425,000 cash bonus and $1.68 million in restricted stock. He was awarded $3.95 million for 2012. While Wilmers, 79, saw his cash bonus increase, his salary was cut 49 percent from last year and the amount of stock he received declined 12 percent, according to the filing...

March 3, 2014

Under review in New York are Ocwen's affiliates Home Loan Servicing Solutions Ltd., which has bought mortgage-servicing rights from Ocwen, and Altisource Portfolio Solutions SA, which provides IT services to Ocwen...

In the United Kingdom, there are increasing calls for a community reinvestment act -- as Royal Bank of Scotland tries to sell its Chicago-land branches to US Bancorp, and to spin off Citizens Bank...

February 24, 2014

Now, on a delay (from Jan 27 to Feb 11) Huntington's lawyers at Wachtell, Lipton have provided Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch with a copy of their letter to the OCC, arguing unpersuasively that the 226 Third Street branch in Marietta, Ohio is sufficient to close down the one at 478 Pike Street, more than a mile away, despite consumer complaints. We'll see...

February 17, 2014

M&T, whose Hudson application Inner City Press protested in 2012 and is still pending, now is challenged on fair lending and says it will close 10 branches in New York. We'll see.

February 10, 2014

Here's a combination that should be reviewed, in the new New York: "Atlas Bank, a division of Kearny Federal Savings Bank." Really?

February 3, 2014

Talk about arrogance: with the proposed Mercantile - Firstbank merger subject to Additional Information letters from the Federal Reserve after ICP/FFW's fair lending protest, Mercantile CEO Michael Price said Price "said they are making 'steady progress' towards completing the merger." What, without approval? Exactly what steps are being taken?

January 27, 2014

The CEO of Old National, Robert G. Jones, has replied to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, acknowledging lending figures Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch raised, but saying they are OK. We disagree and put these pages of the letter online here; we'll have more on this.

January 20, 2014

Last month Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch commented on Old National's application to buy Tower Financial (below); now Old National wants to buy United in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We'll be there..

Reviewing the 2012 HMDA data released by the FFIEC (and largely unaddressed in existing CRA performance evaluations and fair lending exams), ICP has examined Old National's home purchase, refinance and home improvement lending in the Indianapolis, Evansville and Fort Wayne MSAs and finds them outrageous.

In 2012 in the Indianapolis MSA for conventional home purchase loans, Old National Bank lent ONLY to whites. It made 78 such loans to whites; none to African Americans or Hispanics. In Table 4-1, it made 25 loans to whites, one to an African Americans and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. This is a pattern.

For refinance loans in Indianapolis, Old National made 601 such loans to whites, 18 to African Americans and seven to Latinos.

For home improvement loans in the Indianapolis MSA, Old National in 2012 made 89 such loans to whites, one to an African American and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. Yes, this is a pattern.

In 2012 in its Evansville (Headquarters) MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2012, Old National Bank made 195 such loans to whites; six to African Americans and NONE to Latinos, denying the application it received from a Latino applicant. In Table 4-1, it made 80 loans to whites, three to African Americans and ONE to a Latino.

For refinance loans in Evansville, Old National made 775 such loans to whites (while denying 371 from whites), 8 to African Americans (while denying 12 from African Americans) and only two to Latinos, while denying 6 applications from Latinos. The denial rate disparities are a pattern.

For home improvement loans in the Evansville MSA, Old National in 2012 made 155 such loans to whites (while denying 133 from whites), 5 to African Americans (while denying 7 from African Americans) and only two to Latinos, while denying three applications from Latinos. The denial rate disparities are a pattern.

Finally, for now, in the Fort Wayne MSA where it seeks to buy Tower, Old National Bank in 2012 for home purchase loans and home improvement loans lent only to whites. For refinance loans in Fort Wayne it made 28 loans to whites, one to an African American and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. This is a troubling pattern.

Also troubling regarding Old National is its history of branch closing. According to its hometown newspaper the Evansville Courier News & Press (September 10, 2013)

"since 2004 Old National has purchased 175 banking offices, either through acquiring smaller financial institutions or buying selected office locations. Old National has also shed 140 banking offices by consolidating 121 locations and by selling 19 other offices."

Old National is a bank with a disparate lending record that specializes in buying and closing bank branches.

January 13, 2014

As Indiana-based Old National now moved on United Bank & Trust in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it still hasn't completed its attempted acquisition of Tower; in 2012 in the Indianapolis MSA for conventional home purchase loans, Old National Bank lent ONLY to whites. It made 78 such loans to whites; none to African Americans or Hispanics. In Table 4-1, it made 25 loans to whites, one to an African Americans and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. This is a pattern on which we'll have more....

January 6, 2014

This week we first look overseas: in South Sudan, amid the slaughter, it's said Kenya Commercial Bank considering pulling out. But threatened with difficulty then maintaining or regaining licenses, it decided to stay and was praised for it. Which shows if one doesn't want branches to be closed...

The US Community Reinvestment Act should be enforced throughout the country (and world), and across the full spectrum of banks. On that principle, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's challenge to Mercantile Bank's application to acquire FirstBank in Michigan proceeds. When last we reported, Mercantile tried to rebut FFW's analysis of its lending disparities by submitting self-serving letters, for example one from a borrower of saying, "I am a person of color."

Now we can report, as Mercantile did not, that the bank is being sued for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The facts at issue are more relevant to the Federal Reserve, and on the merger, than the letter Mercantile solicited and submitted. Watch this site.

December 30, 2013

Rockville - United in Connecticut have disclosed the four branches they would close in the merger they have yet to apply for, here. In this case, the longest distance is slightly over a mile. The companies should be applying to the Federal Reserve Board soon...

December 23, 2013

Blind leading the blind -- FIG Partners tells its clients:

"Yesterday, MBWM-Mercantile Bank filed an 8-K stating that due to the timing of certain regulatory processes and approvals the pending merger with Firstbank Corporation (FBMI) will most likely not be completed on 1/1/14 as previously planned. Instead it appears the transaction will close later in 1Q14 possibly in February. The delay appears to be related to certain CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) and fair lending issues. Based on our conversation with management there does not appear to be much merit to this accusation but time will tell."

Yeah, time will tell.

December 16, 2013

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has commented to the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about the lending record of Indiana-based Old National as it attempts to buy Tower Bank and Trust:

Reviewing the 2012 HMDA data released by the FFIEC (and largely unaddressed in existing CRA performance evaluations and fair lending exams), ICP has examined Old National's home purchase, refinance and home improvement lending in the Indianapolis, Evansville and Fort Wayne MSAs and finds them outrageous.

In 2012 in the Indianapolis MSA for conventional home purchase loans, Old National Bank lent ONLY to whites. It made 78 such loans to whites; none to African Americans or Hispanics. In Table 4-1, it made 25 loans to whites, one to an African Americans and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. This is a pattern.

For refinance loans in Indianapolis, Old National made 601 such loans to whites, 18 to African Americans and seven to Latinos.

For home improvement loans in the Indianapolis MSA, Old National in 2012 made 89 such loans to whites, one to an African American and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. Yes, this is a pattern.

In 2012 in its Evansville (Headquarters) MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2012, Old National Bank made 195 such loans to whites; six to African Americans and NONE to Latinos, denying the application it received from a Latino applicant. In Table 4-1, it made 80 loans to whites, three to African Americans and ONE to a Latino.

For refinance loans in Evansville, Old National made 775 such loans to whites (while denying 371 from whites), 8 to African Americans (while denying 12 from African Americans) and only two to Latinos, while denying 6 applications from Latinos. The denial rate disparities are a pattern.

For home improvement loans in the Evansville MSA, Old National in 2012 made 155 such loans to whites (while denying 133 from whites), 5 to African Americans (while denying 7 from African Americans) and only two to Latinos, while denying three applications from Latinos. The denial rate disparities are a pattern.

Finally, for now, in the Fort Wayne MSA where it seeks to buy Tower, Old National Bank in 2012 for home purchase loans and home improvement loans lent only to whites. For refinance loans in Fort Wayne it made 28 loans to whites, one to an African American and NONE to Latinos, denying both applications it received from Latinos. This is a troubling pattern.

Also troubling regarding Old National is its history of branch closings, and attempt to stay just below the $10 billion threshold for scrutiny under the Dodd Frank Act.

According to its hometown newspaper the Evansville Courier News & Press (September 10, 2013)

"since 2004 Old National has purchased 175 banking offices, either through acquiring smaller financial institutions or buying selected office locations. Old National has also shed 140 banking offices by consolidating 121 locations and by selling 19 other offices."

Old National is a bank with a disparate lending record that specializes in buying and closing bank branches. It seeks to continue to fly under the radar. The article continues:

"Old National currently has $9.6 billion in assets. Jones said the bank’s assets will remain just below the $10 billion mark even after the Tower acquisition.The $10 billion threshold is important because of banking rules that were put into place as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms following the recent recession. Banks with $10 billion or more in assets are limited in how much they can charge merchants in debit card transaction fees. Smaller banks are not subject to this limit. Jones said Old National would expect to lose between $8 million and $12 million a year in transaction fees once it hits the $10 billion asset mark. To remain below the $10 billion threshold following the Tower transaction, Old National can reduce its assets by taking steps such as reducing its investment portfolio or selling residential mortgages."

Old National with its disparate lending record and business strategy of reducing services in communities seeks to game the system by staying just under the threshold.

ICP is requesting evidentiary hearings and that this proposed acquisition, on the current record, not be approved.

December 9, 2013

in examining the 2012 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data of Michigan's Mercantile Bank, Inner City Press found that in the Grand Rapids MSA for conventional home purchase loans, Mercantile Bank lent only to whites. Its mortgage company made 42 such loans to whites, none to African Americans or Latinos.

After Inner City Press put this and other date in an October comment on Mercantile's application to acquire Alma, Michigan-based FirstBank, the Federal Reserve asked Mercantile a round of questions on November 6, and another on November 26. These included:

"Describe any other community outreach efforts (e.g., credit needs ascertainment, marketing / advertising, and product development) by Mercantile to make credit available to residents throughout the bank's assessment areas, including to African America or Hispanic individuals or residents of minority census tracts in those areas, including in the Grand Rapids MSA.

"Mercantile stated (page 11) that, effective in 2013, the monthly reports to the bank's CRA Committee include the number of minority loan applications and originations and that these changes were implemented to bring focus to the bank's efforts to increase the number of minority loan applications. Indicate when this expanded reporting began..."

Could it be too little, too late? On November 26, Mercantile filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its plan to close the deal by the end of the year, and for FirstBank to not file a 2013 SEC Form 10-K, no longer held.

Another proposed merger in Virginia, of United Bancshares and Virginia Commerce Bancshares (VCBI) has similarly been delayed by comments by NCRC and members, including Inner City Press. United Bancshares went out and hired the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, to try to push its application through with the Federal Reserve.

Is this a trend? It would seem so. In discussions between Inner City Press and a pro-industry cynic (that is, an arbitrageur), theories emerged such as that regulators have "excess capacity" or feel some responsibility for the subprime lending triggered meltdown of 2008.

In the alternative, as community and consumer groups turn their attention to smaller banks and find disparities that had heretofore escaped their scrutiny, they bring them to the attention of regulators who, at least for now, seem to take them more seriously.

The lesson for banks might be to clean up and improve their lending records before applying for mergers. Or to not set aggressive closing dates and then have to extend them. On this, we agree with the arbitrageur.

December 2, 2013

There is interest in the NCRC challenged proposed merger of United Bancshares with Virginia Commerce Bancshares (VCBI). ICP also commented; Union Bancshares went out and hired Sullivan & Cromwell. But still the deal isn't approved, and the arbs are taking notice...

November 25, 2013

IMF in Sri Lanka Ignoring CHOGM Issues Unanswered, Sudan Ignored

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 21, updated twice -- The International Monetary Fund visited Sri Lanka, during the same time frame there was worldwide news about crackdowns on the press and families of those disappeared or killed by the government. But the IMF's Naoyuki Shinohara issued a statement mentioning none of that, basically cheering for the government.

  During the IMF's bi-weekly media briefing on Thursday, Inner City Press submitted this question, and others set forth below [the IMF at deadline says an answer is pending on the DRC]:

"In Sri Lanka, does IMF acknowledge any impact of the issues raised during the CHOGM, but not mentioned by Naoyuki Shinohara?"

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice, purporting to answer questions posed not only "in the room" in Washington but also online, including a repeat question from a financial reporter usually in the room, never acknowledged this one. (The only way Inner City Press has gotten a substantive answer from the IMF on Sri Lanka was by going to the briefing in person, and even then...).

  This time, IMF Spokesperson later on Thursday sent this:

Dear Mr. Lee, On your Sri Lanka question: The CHOGM discussed a broad range of issues, as is typical for these meetings. The IMF did not participate or take positions on the issues discussed or outcomes.

Mr. Shinohara’s visit focused on areas specific to the IMF’s mandate – including recent economic outturns, fiscal and monetary policies, structural reforms, and measures that might help to facilitate sustained growth and low inflation.

As has become its pattern under Christine Lagarde, the IMF ignored Africa questions:

In DRC, what is IMF's view of, and role in, the draft Oil Law, since Oscar Melhado said to avoid "mistakes made with the mining sector"?

[After the briefing, an IMF spokesperson wrote, "I’m following up on your question on DRC will get back to you asap.]

On Sudan, please explain Edward Gemayel's Oct 12 statement that: "Sudan has a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies" - and if IMF acknowledges any role in or responsibility for the unrest including 200 dead related to subsidy cuts?

  While unanswered is what the IMF does in the Sahel, where the World Bank for example has announced new programs. If only because many are part of FrancAfrique and Lagarde's in charge of the IMF, an answer if not a program would be expected. Watch this site.

Footnote: Again the IMF had no comment on the US having spied on it. Nor did it have an answer on Honduras saying it wants an IMF program. At least Rice took that question - but perhaps only because it was "in the room." Africa? Forget it - or, forgotten by the IMF?

November 18, 2013

JP Morgan Chase Gets Asked of Predatory Lending & Even Tony Blair, Cancels Q&A

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13, updated -- It was back on November 6 that JP Morgan Chase started teasing a November 14 Twitter Q&A by an unnamed executive, urging that questions be posed using the hashtag #AskJPM.

  The foreseeable push-back didn't begin then. But the day before answers were promised, the hubris of bailed-out predatory lender JPM Chase believing it could launder itself through social media was brought to light.

  And so the questioning began, ranging from "Can I have my home back?" through "Do you own anything you didn't steal?" Inner City Press' UN-focused following up, "Does Tony Blair still work for, or get paid by, JPMorgan Chase? For what, exactly?"

  (Blair, alongside being the UN Quartet's representative on Palestine and Israel, took a job with JPMorgan Chase among others, and refused in the UN to answer Inner City Press' questions about the conflict of interest.)

  After much mocking, @JPMorgan called it off: "Tomorrow's Q&A is canceled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board."

  Such is the level of righteous anger, after the predatory lending, after the bail-outs. But that's among people -- in Congress, the wheels being greased, JPMorgan and Citigroup have already rehabilitated their image. That's what made them blind. Watch this site.

Footnote: Returning to a UN perspective, what would happen if the UN in Haiti asked people what they thought, after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deemed all cholera claims "not receivable"? This is why large parts of the UN system not only never promise to answer questions -- they never do. They communicate one-way. But social media questions should be answered...

Update: it's reported that two-thirds of the 80,000 #AskJPM tweets were negatives. So who WERE those other one-third?

November 11, 2013

Not only will RBS speed up its spinning off of Citizens - now it is settling some predatory lending / underwriting charges in the US: "Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS, RBS.LN) has agreed to pay more than $150 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges over a subprime residential mortgage-backed security offering in 2007. RBS Securities Inc., which was known as Greenwich Capital Markets at the time of the offering, didn't admit to or deny the allegations that it misled investors over whether the loans backing the offering met its underwriting guidelines. The SEC said nearly 30% of the loans were below the guidelines, even though the firm said they 'generally' met them." Predators....

Among proposed mergers we're looking at:

In North Carolina, NewBridge Bancorp and CapStone Bank... In Washington State, Heritage Financial Corporation and Washington Banking Company. Also in the Pacific Northwest, Bank of the Cascades outbidding Banner Bancorp to try to buy Idaho's Home Federal Bank. Up in Alaska, Northrim BanCorp announced a proposal to buy Alaska Pacific Bancshares. And Huntington Banchares' proposal to acquire Advantage Bank. The analysis: "Mergers and acquisitions were virtually nonexistent in Ohio following the recession, with only 16 bank deals from 2008-12." But now they're back - and so are we.

November 4, 2013

Royal Bank of Scotland is moving up its divestiture of Citizens Bank in the US: an stock sale of 20 to 25 percent in the second half of 2014, all of the rest by the end of 2016. And if an actual bid to buy the US subsidiary comes up before then?

October 28, 2013

IMF Stresses Lagarde NOT Call for Wealth Tax, Ignores Africa

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- That the International Monetary Fund under Christine Lagarde has devoted more and more of its members' money to Europe is one thing. But her IMF now won't even answer basic questions about other continents, most notably sub-Saharan Africa.

At Thursday's bi-weekly IMF press briefing, amid in-room questions about Ireland and Greece and Cyprus, Inner City Press, Inner City Press submitted two questions about Africa: Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On Sudan, after Managing Director Lagarde's meeting with Sudanese financial minister Abdel-Rasool, what steps if any have been taken regarding the country's debt, what are the prospects and issues?

On DR Congo, does Gecamines reportedly concealing its possible sale of its stake in Kamoto Copper Co. to Dan Gertler impact on the chances of the IMF reviving its $532M DRC program or starting a new one?

But despite multiple submissions, and a separate e-mail, these Africa questions were not even read out. Rather, repetitive questions about Europe, a question about Egyptian officials saying the IMF insulted that that was not answered, old Argentina questions (the IMF said it had "nothing fresh"), and a pointed clarification that the IMF is not, repeat not, recommending a wealth tax. Of course not!

That clarification was made electronically to deputy spokesperson William Murray. He said, my colleagues want me to make this clear. But the colleague did not highlight or allow the Africa questions.

Finally, just before the 10:30 embargo, on the DRC this came in:

Subject: RE: Question Received
From: ____ at IMF
Date: Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 10:21 AM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com

Hi Matthew: Please find below the responses to your question on DRC. We’ll get back to you on Sudan.

· As we have already said, the Fund stands ready to start program negotiations with DRC if the authorities request it.

· Background: In May 2013 the authorities published an affidavit on the Comide transaction, paving the way for the reengagement of the IMF in a program context if the authorities request it.

The point is, now there is another Gecamines cover-up. That doens't change anything? Watch this site.

October 21, 2013

Last week's Intelligence Squared debate on breaking up the big banks featured "one of America's most outspoken Federal Reserve presidents, Richard Fisher, joins forces with former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson to debate in favor of breaking up the big banks. Arguing against them: Douglas Elliott and Paul Saltzman, two financial industry titans, advocating for the continued growth of big banks. To prevent the collapse of the global financial system in 2008, Treasury committed 245 billion in taxpayer dollars to stabilize America’s banking institutions. Today, banks that were once “too big to fail” have only grown bigger, with JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs holding assets equal to over 50% of the U.S. economy. Were size and complexity at the root of the financial crisis?"

The answer is yes. But the debaters bared touched on CRA or consumer protection. An oversight we aim to counteract...

October 14, 2013

On August 12, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a timely protest to the proposed deal of Republic and H&R Block. And now the deal had fallen apart. Good riddance.

Investors Bancorp's application are still pending -- the disparities are just too great.

October 7, 2013

It's global: "Mizuho Bank, a core unit of Japan's second-largest lender, lent money to crime-syndicate members for more than two years without cutting them off or alerting the authorities."

Then, "Mizuho Bank said that at least four senior executives in charge of legal compliance knew about loan transactions with crime-syndicate members for more than two years from 2010 but that they didn't alert the bank's chief executive or its board." Can you say, scapegoat?

September 30, 2013

IMF Says Nothing Is Its Fault in Greece or Pakistan, Ignores Sudan, Defers on Iran

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- Nothing is ever the fault of the International Monetary Fund under Christine Lagarde, it seems.

Thursday morning at the IMF's embargoed press briefing spokesperson Gerry Rice answered a question about the depreciation of the rupee in Pakistan by saying not only is it not the IMF's fault, the IMF will solve it.

  A journalist down from the UN asked Rice about the view that the rise of "Golden Dawn" in Greece is related to austerity policies. Oh no. Of course not.

  From New York, Inner City Press has asked about Sudan (and South Sudan, and Palestine) --

On Sudan and the deadly protests there of the elimination of fuel subsidies, does the IMF have any view if the elimination was implemented too quickly? What is the status between the IMF and Khartoum, including on any debt relief?

On South Sudan, what is the status of discussions on a Rapid Credit Facility and a government program to be monitored by IMF staff?

On Palestine, what is the IMF's view of yesterday's Communique by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee?

  How will the IMF answer these questions? Will the IMF give it answer to a question about Iran and Hassan Rouhani -- when is the last time an IMF managing director met a leader of Iran? -- only to the wire service that asked the question in person, or to all press which cover the Fund? Watch this site.

September 23, 2013

Umpqua - Sterling? We'll be there.

September 16, 2013

On Syria, ICP Asks & IMF Says No Mission Since Early 2011, Spillover

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 12 -- At the UN, all or most talk is about Syria including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon jumping the gun and telling France not only WHEN his chemical weapons report will be released, but what it will say.

  Is the IMF under Christine Lagarde similar focused?

For the IMF's bi-weekly briefing Thursday morning, Inner City Press submitted this question:

"Has IMF done any work or estimates on impact of Syria crisis including refugees and impact on trade in neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey or Iraq?"

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice acknowledged Inner City Press' question; his answer was that due to the security situation, there has been no IMF mission since early 2011. He said the IMF is monitoring the potential spillover, but has no updated information. Well.

Inner City Press also asked this question, about the Great Lakes region to which the Security Council -- and it seems, no press -- will be traveling in October:

"On the DR Congo and Great Lakes, the World Bank announced a major program. Does the IMF have any comparable programs in or with the Great Lakes countries?"

Watch this site.


 
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September 9, 2013

Blast from the past: when Adams Bank and Trust applied to open a new branch in Nebraska, the Federal Reserve Board got "public comments received from prospective competing banks in Colby and from residents of the surrounding areas. The commenters assert that their community’s demographic and economic characteristics would not profitably support another branch and that the area’s financial services needs are adequately met by the financial institutions currently operating there." Saying "we don't want more banks" was one of the bases for the "convenience and needs" concept in US banking law...

Also in Nebraska: a new banking entity, Heartland Bank. The Hastings Tribune reports that the merger of Geneva State Bank and State Bank of Riverdale would create a bank with more than $350 million in total assets. The merger is expected to be completed before year's end, pending regulatory approval John Wilkins is chairman and CEO of Geneva State Bank, and he says the merger "makes a lot of sense to both communities we serve."

September 2, 2013

Talk about wan: when Chile's Banco de Credito responded to a CRA challenge to its application to acquire City National Bank of Florida, though the law firm of ARHMF, all it did was cite an old CRA exam...

August 26, 2013

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has told the OCC, on the Applications of Republic Bank, NA to acquire assets and liabilities of H&R Block Bank: both institutions have a history of high cost lending to consumers, through tax refund anticipation loans and otherwise.

See, for the record, "Steve Trager: Pending H&R Block bank deal could return Republic Bank to being mega tax refund provider," Insider Louisville, July 11, 2013 http://insiderlouisville.com/news/2013/07/11/republic-bank-buys-h-r-block-after-fdic-makes-it-exit-tax-refund-lending-it-buys-h-r-block-biggest/

Even if Republic denies that headline from its headquarters city, public hearings should be held on what Republic would do with H&R Block's "Emerald Card" program, particularly given its subsidiaries and plans, Republic Prepaid Systems, "an issuing bank to offer general purpose reloadable prepaid debit, payroll, gift and incentive cards through third party program managers" and Republic Credit Solutions, "preparing to pilot short-term consumer credit products through multiple channels.”

Reviewing 2011 HMDA data, the most recent data available (and largely unaddressed in existing CRA performance evaluations and fair lending exams), ICP has examined Republic Bank & Trust Co's refinance and home improvement lending in the Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati MSAs and finds them outrageous.


In the Louisville MSA in 2011 for refinance loans, Republic 40.4% of applications from African Americans, versus on 20% of applications from whites. Its denial rate for Latinos was even higher: 45.5%

For home improvement loans, Republic denied 50% of application from African Americans versus 24.8% of applications from whites. Its denial rate for Latinos was 100%.

In the Cincinnati MSA in 2011, Republic made 27 refinance loans to whites and NONE to African Americans, nor Latinos. It made seven home improvement loans to whites, none to African Americans (denial rate 100%) nor Latinos.

On the current record, the applications / notices should not be approved.

The OCC has responded that the public comment period has been extended to September 11. How appropriate. Watch this site.

August 19, 2013

We've said Capital One wants to be Number 5 with the monopolist quartet - and now it's in multi-family. "Capital One has a USD296.5 billion portfolio as of year to date. The company is pleased with the acquisition and its influence to the company's market position. Michael Slocum, current President of the lender's Commercial Banking Group, said, "The combination of Capital One's multifamily business and Beech Street will make us a top 5 national multifamily originator." We'll have more on this.

August 12, 2013

Look at Investors Bancorp, bragging it will consummate its Roma proposal - but it was slated for May 31, no approval because disparate lending record, raised by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch: http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2013/07/investors_bank_reports_17_perc.html

August 5, 2013

IMF's Spain Report Thrice Mentions Bankia, Lagarde Question UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 2 -- The International Monetary Fund's annual report on Spain, under embargo until 10 am today, runs some 66 page but mentions Bankia only three times, all of them in financial tables.

But as Inner City Press asked the IMF at its briefing on July 11, Managing Director Christine Lagarde was on the witness list of the Spanish political partyUnion, Progress & Democracy, which alleged fraud in the weakening and bail out of the bank.

The IMF answered Inner City Press' questions from that day on Sri Lanka, and more recently on South Sudan.

On Sri Lanka: "The one on Mr. Singh is accurate. The Island and Daily Mirror coverage of Mr. Mathai's talk was much better in our view and may be helpful to you."


From the IMF's transcript of Inner City Press' question:

I have a question on South Sudan. We'll jump to Africa. I think we'll move off Europe for awhile. On South Sudan:

“How does the IMF view the recent firing of the vice president and ministers and non-passage of the petroleum act? What impact may this have?”

Thanks for that question. The effects on both countries, both South Sudan and Sudan, are likely to be quite severe, given the rundown of their reserve buffers since 2011, and a progressive build up of economic and social tensions. We can't give you a precise analysis of what these firings mean in terms of the severity of the economic dislocations in South Sudan and Sudan, but we basically hope that both countries will implement their recent agreements, given their importance for regional peace and economic stability. We also think that implementing these agreements will help relieve the economic pressures that have been building up since oil was shut down there in January of 2012.


But on Bankia and Lagarde, nothing.

That process led Bankia to put its subsidiary City National Bank of Florida up for sale. BankUnited, which Inner City Press covered last week, was said to be among the suitors, but Chile's Banco de Credito e Inversiones ended up with the winning bid on May 24, for $882.8 million.

Analysis now proceeds on that proposed acquisition. Until July, Inner City Press used and cited SNL Financial in stories such as these. A request to continue, and specifically about BankUnited and this, is pending before Christina M. Twomey of SNL's Public Relations. We hope to have more on this - and on Larry Summers and the Fed. Watch this site.

July 29, 2013

So for $2.3 billion, Pacific Western Bank plans to acquire CapitalSource Bank, eh?

On South Sudan Firings & Oil, IMF Tells ICP Effects Will Be "Severe," UN Mute


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 25, updated -- While the UN has yet to speak on the mass firing of ministers by South Sudan's Salva Kiir, when Inner City Press asked the International Monetary Fund at its embargoed Thursday briefing, the IMF by contrast has an answer.

Inner City Press asked, "On South Sudan, how does IMF view the recent firing of Vice President and ministers... Petroleum Act and impending shut off of oil, what impact may these have?"

IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray said, "the effect on South Sudan and Sudan are likely to be quite severe, given the run down of their reserve buffers since 2011 and a progressive build up of economic and social tension."

About the firings, Murray said the IMF can't be precise what they mean for severe economic dislocation. But, he said, the IMF "hopes both countries implement their recent agreements." Who doesn't?

From the IMF's transcript of Inner City Press' question:

I have a question on South Sudan. We'll jump to Africa. I think we'll move off Europe for awhile. On South Sudan:

“How does the IMF view the recent firing of the vice president and ministers and non-passage of the petroleum act? What impact may this have?”

Thanks for that question. The effects on both countries, both South Sudan and Sudan, are likely to be quite severe, given the rundown of their reserve buffers since 2011, and a progressive build up of economic and social tensions. We can't give you a precise analysis of what these firings mean in terms of the severity of the economic dislocations in South Sudan and Sudan, but we basically hope that both countries will implement their recent agreements, given their importance for regional peace and economic stability. We also think that implementing these agreements will help relieve the economic pressures that have been building up since oil was shut down there in January of 2012.

Simultaneously at the UN in New York, US Secretary of State John Kerry brought up South Sudan, or really Jonglei state, making a call for humanitarian access on President Kiir "and others." What others?

Kerry was at the UN for a meeting about the Great Lakes region, with by video Jim Kim, president of the World Bank (but no one from the IMF) in attendance. But even Ban Ki-moon said the "first" order of business was Syria. And his UN has yet to speak about the firings in South Sudan. Is he waiting for instructions? Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press has also asked the IMF about Belarus and Burundi: "On Burundi, what is IMF's advice to the country, does the IMF share concerns (such as those expressed by UN Peacebuilding configuration chair this week), what are the next steps?"

Update: After embargo, this arrived from an IMF spokesperson on Burundi - and on a previously asked Zimbabwe question:

· “The IMF continues to be engaged with Burundi through a three-year financing arrangement aimed at mobilizing domestic revenues, catalyzing donor support and strengthening public financial management.

· In order to keep the program on track in light of recent revenue slippages, the authorities submitted a revised budget to parliament this week. This will provide a framework for continued donor engagement through a series of sectoral conferences related to the implementation of projects in the priority sectors outlined within the authorities’ Poverty Reduction Strategy.

On Zimbabwe, the World Bank's country manager has said that "arrears clearance is the main thing." Does the IMF agree? What is the IMF look for from Zimbabwe?

· Zimbabwe is currently making payments to the Fund (and to the World bank and African Development Bank as well), but the country remains in arrears to the IMF and other multilateral and bilateral creditors

· We agree with the authorities that a comprehensive arrears clearance strategy supported by development partners will be essential for Zimbabwe going forward.

· The IMF supports the Zimbabwean authorities’ efforts to work towards arrears clearance.


Meanwhile an IMF spokesperson on July 25 sought clarification of an Inner City Press submitted two weeks earlier about Sri Lanka. Inner City Press has provided the clarification, asking if the IMF stand behind quotes attributed to IMF resident representative in Colombo Koshi Mathai and even more so Anoop Singh, IMF's Director for Asia and the Pacific region. We'll publish IMF's belated answer if and when received; watch this site.

July 22, 2013

There's another merger in Arkansas we're looking at: Gerald J. Ford's bid to buy Metropolitan National Bank...

July 15, 2013

Republic Bank & Trust Co. is acquiring most of H&R Block Bank -- that is, a bank known for tax refund loans buying the Emerald Card program. For now: “The agreement, which is subject to regulatory approvals, calls for Republic to acquire $3 million in assets and $470 million in deposits from H&R Block. As a result, Republic would receive an estimated $467 million in cash from H&R Block at closing.” We'll have more on this.

July 8, 2013

So Acacia, after trying to sell itself to Customers Bancorp Inc. but having that “terminated because of delays in receiving regulatory approvals,” now sells to Stifel Financial Corp. But what of Customers? Has it improved in any way? We'll have more on this.

July 1, 2013

Last week, a merger proposal announced by Home BancShares, with operations in Florida to buy Liberty in Arkansas for $280 million - we're watching.

June 24, 2013

More Deep South action: Natchez, Miss.-based Southwest Security Inc. unit United Mississippi Bank ($286.0 million) is set to acquire Bude, Miss.-based Peoples Bank of the South ($82.0 million) through a stock purchase transaction, it was reported June 20. More on this?

June 17, 2013

What a trio: Green Dot Bank, the subsidiary bank of Green Dot Corp., on June 7 agreed to try to acquire from GE Capital Retail Bank reloadable prepaid cards bearing the marks of Walmart - jeez...

June 10, 2013

Hedge funds that profited on the way down from the collapses, for example Paulson & Company, the Carlyle Group's Claren Road Asset Management and Perry Capital, are now buying up the preferred shares of Fannie Mae with a eye to taking it private.

  They are buying in the markets, with little disclosure or oversight, and lobbying in DC. Also in the mix is James Millstein, "fixer" of AIG, now ready to cash in through, what else, Milstein & Company.

  On the other side, Fannie Mae has become a grab-bag, with fees imposed on mortgages for entirely unrelated government goals. Who wouldn't want such a pinata?

June 3, 2013

So Capital One "in the process of selling receivables associated with HSBC's partnership with electronics retailer Best Buy to Citigroup," according to SNL Financial. "Fairbank said he had hoped his company and Best Buy 'could've gotten to a meeting of the minds.'"

And what ever happened with that "add-on" settlement and sleaze?

May 27, 2013

Bank of America is looking to dump about 40 branches with deposits of around $1 billion in southeastern New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, probably to either F.N.B. Corp. National Penn Bancshares or the previously-fought Community Bank System...

May 20, 2013

The proposed acquisition of Munster, Ind.-based CFS Bancorp Inc. by Muncie, Ind.-based First Merchants Corp. would take First Merchants into the top five rankings of banks in terms of Indiana market share and make it the second-largest bank based in the Hoosier State, spreading its footprint into the northwest corner of the state, and even into the southern Chicago suburbs, per SNL Financial.

Combined, they'd be at $5.4 billion, "the second-largest financial holding company headquartered in Indiana. The combined company w[ould] have nearly 100 banking offices in 26 Indiana counties, as well as two counties in both Ohio and Illinois."

May 13, 2013

We reported on its before, but now it seems it's getting closer: Banco do Brasil closing in $900 million deal for Bankia's Miami-based City National Bank of Florida, apparently beating out BB&T, PNC, New York Community Bancorp, Toronto-Dominion Bank -- and, unreported, BankUnited... Watch this site.

May 6, 2013

  Here's portions of a filing:

As an initial matter, and for the record on this application, ICP submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDIC for the whole application and for any and all records reflecting FDIC communications with the applicant about the proposal for the past six months, and asks for an expedited ruling and documents, on which the FDIC has unilaterally extended its time to response until after May 2. The comment period should and must be extended.

Reviewing 2011 HMDA data, the most recent data available (and largely unaddressed in existing CRA performance evaluations and fair lending exams), ICP has examined Renasant's home purchase and refinance lending in the Memphis and Atlanta MSAs and finds both outrageous.

In the Memphis MSA in 2011 for conventional home purchase loans, Renasant made 60 such loans to whites, and only TWO such loans to African Americans, and only ONE to a Hispanic.

For Table 4-1, Renasant made 46 such loans to whites, and only FOUR such loans to African Americans, and only THREE to Hispanics.

Cumulated home purchase lending in this MSA: Renasant made 104 home purchase loans to whites, and only SIX such loans to African Americans, and only FOUR to Hispanics. This is inconsistent with other lenders' demographics of lending in this MSA.

For refinance loans in the Memphis MSA in 2011, Renasant made 112 such loans to whites, and only SIX such loans to African Americans, and only ONE to a Hispanic. This is inconsistent with other lenders' demographics of lending in this MSA.

In the Atlanta MSA in 2011 for conventional home purchase loans, Renasant made 27 such loans to whites, and NONE to African Americans or Hispanic.

For Table 4-1, Renasant made 16 such loans to whites, and only ONE such loans to an African American, and only ONE to a Hispanic.

Cumulated home purchase lending in this MSA: Renasant made 43 such loans to whites, and only ONE such loans to an African American, and only ONE to a Hispanic. This is inconsistent with other lenders' demographics of lending in this MSA.

For refinance loans in the Atlanta MSA in 2011, Renasant made 204 such loans to whites, and only TWELVES such loans to African Americans, and NONE to Hispanics. This is inconsistent with other lenders' demographics of lending in this MSA.

Also for the record, is facing a class-action lawsuit filed by securities law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd. The case claims that the merger proposal underwent a "fundamentally flawed process," only benefits Renasant and is detrimental to shareholders of First M&F.

The management and board of First M&F were also alleged to have violated their fiduciary duty by relying on conflicted analysis from Keefe Bruyette & Woods, First M&F's financial adviser, and providing shareholders with inadequate information about the deal, the report added.

Moreover, the suit also claims that First M&F's management did not look for a higher bid than Renasant's and agreed to deal-protection devices preventing other banks from bidding an offer higher than Renasant's.

Renasant has previously closed offices without replacing them: it shuttered its Trussville, Ala., branch and did not plan to open any replacement office, the Birmingham (Ala.) Business Journal reported Nov. 3, 2011."

On the current record, Renasant's F&M application should not be approved....

April 29, 2013

Takes one to know one: John Kanas of BankUnited claims “regulators should have applauded Chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers and M&T Bank for taking over a 'weakened' institution like Hudson City Bancorp Inc. and 'approved on the spot.' But the delayed deal approval until M&T strengthens its Bank Secrecy Act compliance programs 'poured cold water on [it] and put it off for God knows how long.'” That's per SNL Financial.

We on the other hand would say, why let a bank lax on money laundering take over a very disparate bank?

April 22, 2013

Revolving door: OCC Chief Counsel Amy Friend is recusing herself for a year from discussions on the Dodd-Frank Act's Volcker rule in order for her to avoid conflicts of interest, according to SNL Financial. The conflict of interest stems from Friend's previous stint with consulting agency Promontory Financial Group LLC before she joined the OCC in February. While she worked with Promontory as a managing director, she advised a number of large institutions that are now being overseen by the OCC on matters related to the Volcker rule.

Friend handled former clients such as Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Morgan Stanley, American Express Co., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Grosvenor Capital Management LP, LPL Financial Holdings Inc., MidCountry Financial Corp., National Australia Bank Ltd., Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., and Fidelity Investments, a group of companies headed by FMR LLC, while she was in Promontory Financial. According to an OCC memorandum, Friend will recuse herself for a year from OCC business that involves her former employer as well as Morgan Stanley or five other former clients. She will not be recusing herself from OCC matters that involve former clients that she has not worked with for 12 months prior to her departure from Promontory.

Revolving door...

At IMF, South Sudan on Budget Support, Comoros on Restrictions, BRICS Bank

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- When four African finance ministers spoke to the press Saturday at the IMF Spring Meeting, it was South Sudan which stood out. Its minister Kosti Manibe Ngai, calling his country “just a baby,” stated that for the last year it has foregone 98% of government revenue, due to the oil stand-off with Sudan.

While under the Matrix of Implementation agreed to, but not yet even note much less congratulated by the UN Security Council, the oil's set to start flowing, Kosti said that donors will be coming through with $250 million in direct budget support in the coming year. (Click here for Inner City Press' reporting on the Matrix, and the Security Council's silence.)

Such support, with no strings attached, stands in contrast for example to the trend in Rwanda, where donors attach conditions leading to the country increasingly saying it is willing to go it alone, if it must.

At the IMF there was discussion of “diaspora bonds,” and Ali Soilihi of the Comoros decried IMF restrictions which refuse to classify “ex-im loans from India or China” as concessionary.

Cameroon's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala talked up his economy -- and the recent release of the French Moulin-Fournier family, on which (Boko Haram) note he passed the floor to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria.

She went big-picture, on how the downturn in the Eurozone has hurt African exports, and on the need to coordinate Continent-wide on credible statistics and transparency.

Among the questions, a reporter from the Democratic Republic of Congo asked about minerals just being exported from Africa for processing elsewhere. It brought to mind the looming conflict in Katanga, another DRC region where the Kabila administration's power is notably weak.

  A Chinese reporter not surprisingly asked about the BRICS bank. Is that and not the IMF the future for some countries in Africa?

  Earlier in the week at the UN, an answer to Inner City Press is that the IMF is all about Europe now, deeper and deeper into Ireland, Greece and Cyprus. So whither Africa? Watch this site.

India Fin Min Chidambaram Tells ICP Obama's IMF Reform Vote Delayed, Will Meet Lew

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- On his way to the International Monetary Fund - World Bank meetings in Washington, India's Finance Minister P. Chidambaram stopped in New York City on Wednesday, and Inner City Press asked him about IMF reform. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked specifically about quota and governance reform. Chidambaram replied that the “review is incomplete because the US has not voted.”

  The US has a 17% vote, which can block the required 85% majority.

  Chidambaram continued that “they promised to vote after Obama's swearing in, but it's gotten delayed.” He said he believe “it will happen, but later than we would have liked it to happen.”

  In Washington, Chidambaram will meet with new US Treasury Secreary Jack Lew, formerly of Citigroup. Will he raise India tech visa issues? Apparently not -- he noted that the new bill that has been introduced is 1,500 pages long, adding, “we don't have 1,500 page bills back home.”

  He was asked about corruption, and his answer was that of the twenty questions he has gotten in the past two days, only two were about corruption. He said that up in Boston -- just after the Boston Marathon bombings -- he spoke to MIT, an investor.

Some were surprised he continued with the Boston leg of his trip. Ironically, many international journalists based in New York have been sent up to Boston, to sit writing speculative stories they could have written in New York, or in their own basement, like “tax day is hated by right wingers.” Great insight.

At Chidambaram's press availability, in the Waldorff Towers, a coffee service was waved off; a media based on high frequency stock traders asked a question about its own proprietary data. Was this a sales pitch? In more than one way? Watch this site.

April 15, 2013

Look who's scoping out City National Bank of Florida? Now it's Banco do Brasil SA. In BankUnited still in the game?

April 8, 2013

In March 2013 Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch began a challenge to Investors Bancorp's application to acquire Roma. In the NYC MSA in 2011 for conventional home purchase loans, Investors Bank made 220 such loans to whites, and only TWO such loans to African Americans. Its denial rate for Latinos was FIVE TIMES higher than for whites.

 On April 5, Investors Bancorp announced it will try to also acquire $300 million Gateway Community Financial Corp - this also will be opposed, on the current record.

IMF Compares Ireland to Florida & California, Tells ICP of Faster Foreclosures

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- Amid reports that the International Monetary Fund is pushing Ireland to ease and speed up the repossession of homes for mortgage debt, Inner City Press on Wednesday asked the IMF's Ireland Mission Chief Craig Beaumont to compare the situation there to that in the United States.

Beaumont told Inner City Press that Ireland is “not too different from Florida, Nevada and California, where arrears rose quite high. There is something to be learned,” he said.

But what?

Beaumont said that the IMF “will be monitoring how the reform, removing an unintended barrier to repossession, how that impacts the actual number of cases moving forward and time taken to conclusion.”

Conclusion, it seems, is the loss of the home. Beaumont referred Inner City Press to the IMF's report under embargo until 11 am Wednesday, US East Coast time (4 pm in Dublin, from where Beaumont spoke). We'll have more on that. Watch this site.


April 1, 2013

IMF Defensive on Cyprus & Lagarde Legal Bind, Ignores Africa, Sudan & Tunisia: Then Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 28, updated -- The seizing of bank deposits in Cyprus was not surprisingly the main focus of the International Monetary Fund's bi-weekly embargoed press briefing on Thursday.

In a careful worded and repeated response, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice called the situation in Cyprus “complex and unique in nature” and said the precedent of savings account levies would be “difficult to extend to the rest of Europe and the world.”

Rice was asked, but does the IMF want to extend it? Reference was made to Spain and Portugal. Rice repeated the same line. It was reminiscent of the claim that the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Kosovo was “sui generis.”

Still non-Africa, Rice took questions about Ukraine (online) and on Slovenia, from Bloomberg. Tellingly, Slovenia's prepared to put an IMF-er in as its finance minister.

Rice was asked, diplomatically, about Christine Lagarde's “legal problems in France” and if the IMF's governing bodies had been briefed on them. Rice said she is able to continue her work, but would not discuss any briefing of the board.

Of the proposed BRICS development bank, Rice was asked though not by the Western wires. Rice said the IMF is following the challenge “with interest” since infrastructure in Africa is also of interest to the IMF.

Is it? Inner City Press submitted, by e-mail and twice through the IMF's Online Media Center, questions on Sudan and Tunisia. Receipt was acknowledged, but neither was read out much less answered. Infrastructure, indeed. Watch this site.

After not taking the question, afterward an IMF spokesperson replied to Inner City Press:

We welcome the recent security and oil-related agreements between the two countries, which could enable South Sudan’s oil production to resume and relieve the economic pressures that have been building up since oil was shutdown in January 2012. The Fund stands ready to continue supporting both countries going forward.

We are providing policy advice to the Sudanese authorities that would allow them to address the domestic and external imbalances, which resulted from the secession of South Sudan. The Fund is also providing well targeted technical assistance in key areas like tax policy and administration, public financial management, banking sector reforms and exchange rate reforms.

As you know, we have also launched a three-year capacity building program for South Sudan on key areas including foreign exchange issues, central banking, oil revenue legislation, non-oil taxation, expenditure management, and macroeconomic statistics.

And later at 1 pm, this came in on Tunisia, from an IMF spokesperson:

The fuel price increases that came into effect earlier this month are part of the measures underlying the 2013 budget that was approved by Parliament last December. These increases would help ensure that spending on subsidies, particularly on energy products that benefit mostly the better-off, are contained. A better targeted social safety net, as part of a larger subsidy reform, should be put in place to mitigate the impact on poorer households.”

And then a link! Hi Matthew, Please find below the link to the subsidies reform paper that was drafted by the IMF and includes examples and statistics for countries across the region. It was launched yesterday http://www.imf.org/external/np/fad/subsidies/index.htm

March 25, 2013

Florida dealing: On March 22, Boca Raton, Fla.-based 1st United Bancorp bragged it entered into a definitive agreement to buy North Palm Beach, Fla.-based Enterprise Bancorp Inc. in a deal valued at about $45 million. 1st United Bancorp and unit 1st United Bank ($1.56 billion), will TRY TO acquire Enterprise Bancorp and its subsidiary, Enterprise Bank of Florida ($233.4 million). Note that: TRY TO.

To see TD Bank challenged for funding the Keystone XL pipeline does good for the soul.

March 18, 2013

So the Securities & Exchange Commission has allowed Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to block shareholders' proposals that directors explore the break-up of these banks. Strange, after the financial meltdown and bailouts...

In Tunisia, IMF Asks of Ennahda Government's Mandate, of Sri Lanka Moody's

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 14, updated – The engagement of the International Monetary Fund in what's called the Arab Spring remains halting – or halted.

On Thursday Inner City Press asked IMF deputy spokesman William Murray, “In Tunisia, what is the status of IMF programs in light of unrest including over reduction of subsidies and rising prices, and the now shorter-term government?”

  During the IMF's embargoed briefing, Murray replied that our negotiations for a precautionary stand-by arrangement are ongoing on a technical level. As you noted, a new government has been formed. Staff is now inquiring about its intention and mandate.

The new government, including Ennahda, says it will only stay in power until elections later this year. What mandate does it have?

Taxi drivers are set to go on strike on March 18. The Tunisian Organization for Consumer Protection has called for protests against fuel price hikes.

In late February, Moody’s Investors Service joined other rating agencies, cutting Tunisia’s credit rating to near junk status.

Inner City Press has asked the IMF another question about Moody's: “On Sri Lanka, now Moody's says, 'A new IMF funding program would have helped build up foreign reserves.' How does that square with IMF's previous answers about no new program? (Moody's report is called 'Sri Lanka — The Post-IMF Backdrop: Downward Growth Pressures and Elevated External Pressures.')”

Inner City Press has also asked, among other questions, for the IMF's comment if any “on the arrest of former IMF VP Goodall Gonde in Malawi.”

From the IMF's transcript:

MR. MURRAY: That's obviously to be discussed. I don't have guidance on that. Let me get to a couple of questions here on the Media Briefing Center and then I'll get back to you. Let me read it out:

INNER CITY PRESS: "In Tunisia, what is the status of IMF programs in light of unrest, including reduction in subsidies and rising prices, and now a short-term government?"


MR. MURRAY: Negotiations for a precautionary Stand-By Arrangement are ongoing at a technical level with the Tunisian authorities. As you noted, a new government has been formed and staff is now inquiring about its intentions and mandate. In any case, the IMF continues to stand ready to help Tunisia in any way deemed necessary during this difficult political transition process.


Update: this was answered, after the embargo time, with this: "regarding your comments, we have no comments on the Gondwe case." But a former IMF official is charged with treason and plotting a coup... On Sri Lanka, this:

"Matthew: We have nothing more to offer than what I mentioned in my last email to you—along with the latest press release I attached.  A bit puzzled by your question—and not sure where you are headed.

An IMF-supported program could have helped Sri Lanka build up their reserves and, more importantly, boost market confidence. The mission and the authorities explored the possibility of a new IMF program designed to build on Sri Lanka’s achievements under the SBA. Productive discussions took place on a number of issues, including further fiscal and related reforms that would consolidate and extend these achievements.   However, the authorities announced that they were not continuing negotiations with us since they wanted our assistance only if it was in the form of budget support, which we were not able to provide. From our side, we had some concerns about the budget, and in particular about weak government revenues, that would in any case have required substantial further discussion. The mission and the authorities will stay in close touch and continue the close partnership between Sri Lanka and the IMF. "

But on February 14 the IMF told Inner City Press, "In view of Sri Lanka’s ready access to international capital markets, IMF financial support for Sri Lanka’s budget is not required at this juncture." Now even Moody's says different. Where is this going?


March 11, 2013

Sleazeball on the move? New York Community Bancorp is reportedly checking out Pasadena, Calif.-based OneWest Bank FSB, successor to IndyMac. The owners of OneWest, reported to include John Paulson and George Soros, first looked to U.S. Bancorp and UnionBanCal. NYCB? Bad news...

March 4, 2013

Regarding BankUnited, “BDO observed that for early certificates there was a weakness in the controls over the review process for single-family asset charge-offs. BDO identified one charge-off that was overstated by $501,272.” They're also involved in a brouhaha with Universal Health Care Group Inc. on Feb. 13 blasting Bank United as "irrational," "poorly conceived" and "unnecessary" the demand by BankUnited NA to liquidate the stock in several health insurers through a "foreclosure sale.” So why are they being allowed to expand in New York? Watch this site.

February 25, 2013

In Panana, HSBC aims to sell off its banking operations to Bancolombia SA for $2.1 billion in cash, saying it will close in the third quarter. We'll see. Antonio Losada, CEO of HSBC Latin America, said HSBC Bank (Panama) is being sold so the bank can focus on its core markets of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Yeah, right...

February 18, 2013

A deal we will be looking at is Renasant Corp's proposal to acquire Kosciusko, Miss.-based First M&F Corp - they say they'd close at least seven branches, we'll start on that issue. Watch this site.

February 11, 2013

Customers Bancorp, trying to buy Acacia, is getting grilled over several rounds by the Federal Reserve, following ICP/Fair Finance Watch's comments. The answers don't seem to be convincing the regulators. Yet Customers wants to buy more and more.

Miami-based Pacific National Bank, $355.0 million, controlled by the government of Ecuador, is up for sale, according to SNL Financial. We may have more on this one – and definitely on Customers.

Feburary 4, 2013

So at Capital One, is Richard Fairbank ready to hit the road? The hiring, from outside, of new CFO Stephen Crawford has set off that theory. Critics of Capital One's subprime lending practices (and add-ons through venders) should know: it was Crawford who advised Fairbank on buying HSBC's subprime card operations....

As IMF Stops $240M DRC Loan for Opacity, UN Stonewalls, Waits for Drones

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 31 -- The UN has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo for well over a decade, back to Dag Hammarskjold, in fact. And what has come of it?

   On Thursday Inner City Press posed Congo questions to the UN in New York, after the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

   During the IMF's embargoed morning briefing, Inner City Press asked about the IMF's freezing of $240 million in loans to the lack of transparency in the mining industry, which involves ENRC, Glencore and, of course, Freeport-McMoRan.

   An IMF spokesperson responded, before 11 am, "Hi Matthew, On your DRC question, the ECF arrangement expired on December 10, 2012... it was not extended as requested by the authorities because published information related to the transfer of mineral assets by a state-owned enterprise, which was considered necessary to complete the review, was deemed insufficient by the IMF."

   Then at the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about the UN's and now the DRC's delayed investigation into 126 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army in November. UN deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey would not explain by UN Peacekeeping chief Ladsous' statement that the probe would be finished in January is not being abided with. Video here, from Minute 6:54.

   But from what spokesman Del Buey said, it's again clear the UN is relying on and supporting Congo's government, no matter what. Inner City Press asked about two new leaked e-mails from inside MONUSCO, about its patrols on the Rwanda border.

   Del Buey said the UN would not comment on documents "that may or may not have been leaked" to Inner City Press -- despite the UN's MONUSCO mission just the day previous saying that the Press should check with the UN about such documents.  Video here at Minute 13:34. Transparency, anyone?

  Would the IMF lend to its UN family (dysfunctional) sibling UN Secretariat and Department of Peacekeeping Operations?

  Nor, five hours after the briefing, has Del Buey explained why Ladsous' supposedly urgent drone request will not be opened until the second part of March.

   Inner City Press put the same drone question, and one about the failure in Addis Ababa of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's DRC framework, to outgoing Security Council president Masood Khan on Thursday afternoon.  Video here, from Minute 7:27.

  He called the differences in Addis "procedural," and deferred on the drone question. But at least he answered, all month, unlike Ladsous.  For the six minute beta #LADSOUS2013 video, click here. Watch this site.

January 28, 2013

After Capital One CFO Gary Perlin said "suppression in the third quarter benefited meaningfully from the effect of the remaining [Statement of Position] 03-3 mark on delinquent loans acquired from HSBC," Capital One announced it will return to the ABS market for the first time since 2009. So how good were those HSBC subprime and ING DIRECT acquisitions? Watch this site.

January 21, 2013

In Greece, IMF Presses For NBG-Eurobank Merger, to 40% Market Share

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- The International Monetary Fund has been known to press for the privatization of banks. But in Greece, as reflected in the IMF Staff Report released at 10:30 am today, the Fund is actively cheering on anti-competitive mergers, including to create a bank with a 40% market share of deposits.

Whatever happened to antitrust, and consumer protection?

The IMF's Staff Report breathlessly reports that "the system is also consolidating to lower costs. Two smaller banks were acquired by two core banks, and merger steps between two large banks, NBG and EFG, are now underway."

Bank mergers are not automatic - regulators are required to review them, including for antitrust. But the IMF goes on to state that "the authorities will allow the NBG-Eurobank merger to proceed. This could have significant business and funding advantages."

After some brief cautionary language, the IMF relies on the "EC’s DGCompetition [to] review the anti-trust aspects of the deal."

So does the IMF, which pushes for and praises this making of monopolies, have no antitrust or consumer protection duty at all? Watch this site.

Footnote: the IMF's Staff Report on Portugal will be released at 12:30 pm, Washington time, today.

January 14, 2013

Profile of HSBC, in its US headquarters city, from Reuters:

"When the housing market crashed, so did Volker's contractor business, and he was unable to keep up with payments on his barn-like two-story house in Buffalo, New York. His mortgage servicer, HSBC, foreclosed on the home in 2009. A few months later, while he was staying with his girlfriend, he stopped by the house to find an HSBC padlock on the doorknob and bank stickers plastered across the door. Shattered glass covered his front steps. When he crawled through a broken window, he found the place trashed - by whom, he doesn't know. Even the toilets were gone. Hearing nothing more from the bank, he figured the house was no longer his. The place continued to decay. Gutters tore loose from the eaves. The yard turned into a dump for balding tires. Volker's neighbors started complaining to the Buffalo Housing Court, which eventually tracked down Volker at the rental where the 49-year-old was living and ordered him to appear in court. That's when Judge Carney told him that he was still the owner. "I was stunned," Volker says. "I never for a moment thought I still owned this house."

"Volker worked with a realtor to try to get HSBC to take several short-sale offers - deals under which the bank would allow Volker to sell the house for less than the amount owed on it - but he says HSBC turned them down. Since then, he's been asking the bank to agree to a deed in lieu, whereby he would give the house back to the bank. So far, he hasn't been able to make that happen. He has $1,000 in water and trash bills and faces up to $30,000 in demolition fees if the city decides his house is a safety hazard and must be torn down. HSBC declined to comment on Volker's case."

Typical.

January 7, 2013

In the pending merger proposal of FirstMerit to buy Citizens Republic, FirstMerit tried to withhold nearly all of its submissions to the Fed. But through the Freedom of Information Act, Inner City Press has obtained some of the withheld material, including about the two banks' "small amount of cross-border activities."

December 31, 2012

From the land of dirty deals, Investors Bancorp is gunning to buy Roma Financial Corp in New Jersey. Investors is in New York as well, and its record is disparate. We'll have more on this.

December 24, 2012

Talk about sleaze: EZCORP Inc. on Dec. 20 announced the completion of several acquisitions, including its previously announced purchase of online lender Go Cash. The acquisition was part of a share placement by Cash Converters and preserves EZCORP's ownership percentage at about 33%, according to SNL Financial. The company also moved into the Arizona market through its acquisition of 12 USA Pawn & Jewelry stores in Tucson and Bullhead City.

Bottom feeders...

December 17, 2012

So HSBC settles for money laundering for drug dealers, but there's no criminal sentence, no jail time, nothing. Meanwhile, SNL Financial reports that "Synovus Financial Corp.'s bulk sale of distressed assets as a net positive that could boost interest in the company as an M&A target. On Dec. 13, Columbus, Ga.-based Synovus announced the completion of a bulk sale of distressed assets. Including this transaction, the company expects to sell distressed assets."

But Synovus is a rogue - who would buy it? Watch this site.

December 10, 2012

If Spain's Bankia tries to sell Miami-based City National Bank of Florida, well, "there will be blood," given that bank's disparities. Watch this site.

December 3, 2012

IMF Won't Answer on Rwanda, Sudan or Hungary, Does on Bosnia and Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29, updated -- The International Monetary Fund is much in the news, and not only on Greece and Egypt.

  But Press questions submitted to the IMF for its Thursday briefing questions on Rwanda, Bosnia, Hungary, Sudan and South Sudan, as well as a long IMF dodged question on Sri Lanka.And none, by deadline, were answered. Here were the questions:

On Rwanda, Mr. Shinohara's statement did not directly mention aid cuts offs amid the M23 controversy. What *is* the IMF's position on that?

On Sudan and South Sudan, how does Khartoum's announcement that no South Sudan oil can flow through for now impact the IMF's views and programs?

In Bosnia, will the opposition boycott of one of the regional governments impact the IMF's relationship and program, impacting public servants getting paid, as Bosniak-Croat federation prime minister Nermin Niksic has said? [Update: this was later answered

IMF Spokesperson: “During the mission earlier this month, staff had reached agreements with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on government budgets for 2013 that are consistent with the objectives of the Stand-By Arrangement. Once these budgets are adopted by the respective parliaments, we can proceed with presenting the first review under the arrangement to the IMF’s Executive Board.”]

On Hungary, what does the IMF think of the country's new foreign currency bond plan? Does it mean no IMF program any time soon?

On Egypt (obviously), what is the effect of Morsi's moves on the IMF program?

  Gerry Rice, spokesman, ran the briefing mostly "in the room," taking an online question on Argentina and the New York court ruling, on which he would not comment. But how about this?

The International Monetary Fund lent into Sri Lanka's military build-up, then when challenged tried to downplay it.

  Two weeks ago, Inner City Press asked the IMF to comment on the Rajapaksa government's new 2013 budget, which reportedly has $2.2 billion for defense / "urban development," a 26% increase over 2012. Inner City Press asked, "Given past IMF claims defense spending was not rising, what is IMF comment now?"

  The IMF did not give a substantive response, but a spokesperson replied, "On Sri Lanka, the 2013 budget is expected to be finalized and presented in early November (we understand November 8). We have not yet seen the 2013 budget, and thus would not be in a position to comment at this time."

  The spokesperson, asking to be identified as such, told Inner City Press "it would be the best if you could follow up on this later this month."

  And so at the IMF briefing two weeks ago and today, after the Sri Lanka budget was released, Inner City Press asked again: "On Sri Lanka, now that the budget is out: given past IMF claims defense spending was not rising, what is IMF comment now?"

In light of news all over the world this month, Inner City Press also asked, "in light of this week's UN report on its failures in Sri Lanka during the killings in 2009, does the IMF as a member of the UN system have any review of or comment on its performance with regard to the killings, accountability and defense spending in the country?"

  But during the IMF's embargoed briefing two weeks ago and this morning, alongside question after question on Greece, no answer was given. [Update: the Sri Lanka question was later answered, below]

   What about the fortnight old questions on Mali and Romania which Inner City Press submitted, and those above, through the IMF Media Center and by email?

   Inner City Press e-mailed again, asking for an explanation before deadline / embargo time. None was received. Then later, these, which we publish in full:

On Sri Lanka:

IMF spokesperson: "The 2013 budget envisages only a moderate increase in defense spending, less than the budgeted increase in total spending and below the projected growth of GDP. As a result, the share of defense spending in total spending and in GDP is declining. This is a welcome development, in line with the Fund recommendation to gradually reduce the defense spending and create room for increased capital spending."

Question: In Bosnia, will the opposition boycott of one of the regional governments impact the IMF's relationship and program, impacting public servants getting paid, As Bosniak-Croat federation prime minister Nermin Niksic has said?

IMF Spokesperson: “During the mission earlier this month, staff had reached agreements with the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina on government budgets for 2013 that are consistent with the objectives of the Stand-By Arrangement. Once these budgets are adopted by the respective parliaments, we can proceed with presenting the first review under the arrangement to the IMF’s Executive Board.”

Hurricane Sandy's impact: the New York Department of Finance Services went weeks without issuing a Weekly Bulletin of merger applications. So the Apple - Emigrant comment period must still be open, right? Especially since the Department only now acknowleged receipt of Inner City Press' Freedom of Information Law request for a copy of the application, and STILL hasn't provided it...

November 26, 2012

So Citizens Republic "would have to improve its operating metrics and be able to participate in FDIC-assisted deals. However, in the spring of 2012, concerns surfaced that due to "the uncertain economic recovery, a continued low interest rate environment, fewer opportunities for accretive FDIC-assisted transactions and increasing regulatory compliance costs," it would be more difficult than expected to achieve management's long-term goals. As such, Citizens decided to reevaluate its long-term plans in July 2012, hiring financial adviser J.P. Morgan Securities LLC to help with the process. J.P. Morgan initially provided a list of 15 potential strategic partners for the company. Citizens authorized J.P. Morgan to contact six of these companies on an anonymous basis to determine whether there was an interest in considering a potential strategic transaction," per SNL Financial.

Must have been hard to figure out which the "anonymous" target was. And there was FirstMerit. And now, here's the challenge. Watch this site.

November 19, 2012

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed timely comments on FirstMerit's application to acquire Citizens Republic:

Reviewing 2011 HMDA data, the more recent data available (and largely unaddressed in existing CRA performance evaluations and fair lending exams), in the Akron MSA that year for conventional home purchase loans FirstMerit Bank made 140 such loans to whites, and only 12 such loans to African Americans (and only two to Latinos). It denied African Americans 1.97 times more frequently than whites; it denied Latinos 2.63 times more frequently than whites.

Citizens Republic's Citizens Bank in Akron in 2011 made three such loans to whites, none to African Americans.

In the Cleveland MSA in 2011 for conventional home purchase loans FirstMerit Bank made 163 such loans to whites, and only THREE such loans to African Americans (and NONE to Latinos). It denied African Americans 2.02 times more frequently than whites; it denied Latinos 3.54 times more frequently than whites.

Citizens Republic's Citizens Bank in Cleveland in 2011 made eight such loans to whites, none to African Americans.

FirstMerit in the Toledo MSA in 2001 made 17 such loans to whites, none to African Americans.

For the record, and in support of ICP's request for a hearing, there are integration worries:

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Sept. 13 revised its outlook on Akron, Ohio-based FirstMerit Corp. to negative from stable, believing the company's deal to acquire Flint, Mich.-based Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. could pose integration and risk-management difficulties...The transaction is the largest acquisition in FirstMerit's history. The rating agency further noted that though Michigan and Wisconsin are to a large extent similar to FirstMerit's traditional market of Ohio, they present new challenges and potentially different competitive dynamics.

If the integration is unsuccessful, unexpected asset quality problems exceeding the marks taken at the time of the acquisition rise, or risk-adjusted capital falls below 7%, the ratings could be cut. On the other hand, in the long term, if FirstMerit effectively grows in these new markets, S&P could revise the outlook back to stable.The agency does not expect to upgrade the ratings in the near to immediate term.

Moody's shared a similar perspective of the deal Sept. 13.

Despite this, FirsMerit is already talking about further acquisitions, with Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer William Richgels telling analysts that "We are going to be keeping in touch with those that we have been speaking with, and we're going to continue to evaluate other opportunities for growth."

There is also litigation. According to SNL Financial:

Flint, Mich.-based Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. ($9.67 billion); its board; and Akron, Ohio-based FirstMerit Corp. ($14.62 billion) are facing four class-action lawsuits for allegedly having breached their fiduciary obligations to shareholders in relation to their stock-for-stock merger agreement, mlive.com reported.

The approximate value of $22.50 per Citizens Republic share — which Citizens shareholders are to get when exchanged with 1.37 shares of FirstMerit under the agreement — has dwindled because of FirstMerit's receding share price, the lawsuits claim.

One lawsuit, by Cecily Hoogerhyde, said FirstMerit had been trading at more than $17 per share before the announcement, which then decreased to as low as $14.94, "causing the implied consideration to drop nearly 10[%], to less than $20.50 per share" as opposed to the original implied value of $22.50, which the lawsuit said was also "inadequate," according to the Oct. 10 report.

The other lawsuits were filed by Michael Decker, Peter Block and a fourth, unidentified plaintiff, the news outlet reported.

The cases have been lodged in the 7th Circuit Court in Genesee County, Mich., before Circuit Court Judge Richard Yuille

On the current record, FirstMerit's applications should not be approved.

November 12, 2012

  And now it can be said - this was filed:


November 2, 2012

Southern District Office
Director for District Licensing
500 North Akard Street, Suite 1600
Dallas, TX 75201

SO.Licensing@occ.treas.gov

RE: Timely Opposition to BankUnited's application to acquire Herald National Bank

Dear Director for District Licensing:

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has serious concerns about BankUnited’s proposal to acquire Herald National Bank and its branches in affluent Manhattan and suburban Long Island, as well as to open four branches in New York -- three in the most affluent parts of Manhattan and one in suburban Suffolk County, totally excluding upper Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

Our organization and several NCRC members in Florida have raised concerns in connection with BankUnited currently underway CRA exam -- these applications for branches in affluent parts of New York should be postponed until that exam is finished and public; right now, they should be denied.

As recently as August, it's reported that BankUnited is still entertaining offers to be bought -- all the while having put Herald National Bank "on ice" during non-compete litigation. Bank expansion applications subject to CRA shouldn't be allowed to be an enticement for wheeling and dealing, but to serve communities and public benefits. These do not.

It has been reported that BankUnited couldn't even make this proposed acquisition, and open these branches until February 1 -- we suggest that the applications be adjourned or withdrawn until then. For the record:

"Kanas settled a lawsuit from Capital One, which had accused him of violating a non-compete agreement in the New York market. By Feb. 1, BankUnited will be able to open branches in New York and more aggressively pursue clients and employees there.

And, now it’s clear exactly where those branches would be.

The applications received by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on Sept. 27 state that BankUnited wants to open branches at 299 Park Ave., 136 E. 57th St. and 960 Avenue of the Americas in New York City. It also wants a branch in Long Island at 445 Broadhollow Road in Melville.

Herald National Bank, which will be merged into BankUnited soon, already has branches at 623 Fifth Ave. in New York City and at 58 S. Service Road in Melville.

At the same time, BankUnited notified the OCC about three branch closures in Florida. It closed two branches in Port St. Lucie on Sept. 28 and plans to shutter a branch in Sun City Center in Hillsborough County in the coming months."http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/blog/2012/10/bankunited-files-plans-for-four-new.html

So the plan is to open branches in affluent parts of New York, and to close them in Florida. The OCC should deny this....

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is concerned about the following data about BankUnited, which has been collected by NCRC  and provided to members and partners at their request: In Miami-Dade County, BankUnited made just 9.8 % of its home loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers in 2010 and decreased it lending to 8.8% in 2011. By contrast, all lenders, as a group, issued 16.5% of their loans to LMI borrowers in 2010 and 17.6% in 2011.

The lending data is even more striking when you consider that 39.3% of households in Miami-Dade County are low- and moderate-income.

In Broward County BankUnited made 30% of its loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers in 2010 but significantly decreased its lending in 2011 making just 6.3% of its loans to these borrowers. In contrast, all lenders, as a group made 26.9% of their loans to LMI borrowers in 2010 and 23.3% in 2011.

The lending data is even more striking when you consider that 38.8% households in Broward are low- and moderate-income.

BankUnited’s lending to African Americans is a fair lending concern.

BankUnited record of meeting the needs of African American borrowers is poor.

In Miami-Dade County BankUnited made just one loan to an African-American borrower in 2010 and zero in 2011.

In Broward County BankUnited made three loans to African Americans in 2010 and zero in 2011.

BankUnited is not serving the needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

The bank had poor lending distribution not just to low- and moderate-income borrowers but also to low- and moderate-income census tracts. The most recent data shows that BankUnited made 6.7% of its home loans to LMI census tracts in Miami-Dade during 2010 and then decreased this lending in 2011 to just 1.8%. In contrast, all lenders, as a group, issued 12.2% of their loans to LMI census tracts in 2010 and 11.0% in 2011.

In Broward the pattern continues with the bank making 10% of its home loans in LMI census tracks in 2010 and then decreasing to 4.2% in 2011. In contrast, all lenders, as a group, issued 10.7% of their loans to LMI census tracts in both 2010 and 2011.

According to the latest data, the bank does an adequate job of providing bank branches in low-income neighborhoods in Broward County. However, data indicates that the bank is not doing an adequate job of branching in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County. In Miami-Dade County, the bank has just 18.2% of its branches in low- and moderate-income communities. In contrast, all lenders, as a group, have 23.5% of their branches in LMI neighborhoods. Furthermore, BankUnited receives just 6.2% of its deposits from LMI communities in the county. In contrast, all lenders, as a group, receive 24.2% of their deposits from LMI neighborhoods during 2011. This may be an indication that the bank needs to better advertise its deposit products and services to LMI communities in Miami-Dade.

According to the most recent Call report data, BankUnited had approximately $4.8 billion in loans and $7.4 billion in deposits for a loan-to-deposit ratio of 64 percent, which is low for a bank with approximately $11.8 billion in assets. Also, it is a full 10 percent lower than the Florida Section 109 loan-to-deposit ratio of 74 percent for all banks headquartered in Florida (Section 109 is a federal regulatory assessment of how a bank’s loan-to-deposit ratio compares against the ratio of other banks on a state level).

The OTS’ previous exam gave BankUnited a Low Satisfactory rating on the lending test. The 2010 and 2011 data suggests that BankUnited merits a downgrade in its lending rating from Low Satisfactory to Needs to Improve because of low lending levels and a poor distribution of loans by income of borrower. The minimal lending levels to African Americans are a fair lending concern that must be rigorously evaluated on the fair lending review accompanying the CRA exam. In addition, the paltry lending volumes suggest that BankUnited’s overall rating should change from Satisfactory to Needs-to-Improve since its branches are collecting deposits but then not lending.

Collecting deposits and not lending on a level commensurate with deposits is one of the classic forms of redlining and neglect of the community’s credit needs.

These applications to acquire Herald National Bank, and for branches in affluent parts of New York should be postponed until that exam is finished and public; right now, they should be denied.

Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to comment on this important matter.

Sincerely,


Matthew Lee, Esq., Executive Director
Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch

November 12, 2012

Fed Met M&T 10 Days Before Hudson Deal, FOIA Shows, Appeal & Protest

By Matthew R. Lee, Exclusive

SOUTH BRONX, November 9 -- When M&T on August 27 announced biggest bank merger deal of the year, a $3.81 billion proposal to buy Hudson City Savings Bank, it was not the first time the Federal Reserve had heard about.

  Inner City Press, which has challenged M&T's application under the Community Reinvestment Act, on November 9 got a belated Freedom of Information Act response from the Federal Reserve Board, less than two hours before the Fed said the extended comment period would close.

  The documents released to Inner City Press show that on August 17, a full ten days before the public announcement, Federal Reserve Bank of New York official John Ricketti wrote to five others within the Fed:

"Wilmers called me this afternoon to inform me that M&T is looking to acquire M&T. [sic] He will be talking to his board about the acquisition at next Tuesday's board meeting and asked to come in Wednesday to talk to us (we're setting something up for late Wednesday afternoon). I'll be up in Buffalo for the board meeting to discuss the [REDACTED] and expect to learn more from him Monday night (I have a one-on-one meeting with him)."

  After that, much is redacted. Click here to view.

   The Fed advised M&T that its application to buy Hudson would probably be protested -- accurately, given that Hudson City in 2011, for conventional home purchase loans in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area, to make 765 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans.

  Of this, a Fed memo of August 24 said "this will require review of any issues that are raised and [REDACTED].

 To view, click on cover email, and talking points One and Two.

  After the August 17 contact but before the proposal was announced, the Fed met on August 22 from 4:30 to 5:30 with "Wilmers" and Rene Jones, Michael Pinto and outside council Rodgin Cohen.

  A slide presentation was made, much of which including on Due Diligence and Complexity has been withheld.

  After the meeting, the New York Fed's Ivan Hurwitz sent a memo to the Fed in Washington, most of which has been blacked out.

  On August 24, the Fed's John Ricketti wrote another memo, with talking points, about his meeting with Rodgin Cohen and Rene Jones, much of its redacted.

Then on August 27, Cohen [Rodge] called the Fed's Tom Baxter, and Wilmer called "Dudley," both summaries redacted.

After the deal was announced, M&T had more meetings with the Fed on September 7. Only after they submitted an application did Inner City Press submitted a FOIA request on October 2, and an initial protest, on October 7.

Now Inner City Press has timely requested a further extension of the comment period, to review the documents so belatedly released, and to appeal what is being withheld.

Withheld is the substantive part of "Confidential" Exhibit O, what M&T will actually PAY to Merger Sub, and nearly all of the anti-money laundering program, material changes and due diligence findings. The Board Resolutions and Agreement and Plan of Merger are all blacked out, which is ridiculous.

  Since the announcement, Super Storm Sandy hit, and SNL Financial reported the Hudson City "said it was still too early to determine how many of its mortgage loans were located in tidal flood zones."

  Regulators had allowed Hudson City in 2011, for conventional home purchase loans in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area, to make 765 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans (and only 44 to Latinos). Meanwhile, Hudson City denied the applications of African Americans 3.21 times more frequently then those of whites.

Picking up on the challenge, the Buffalo News contacted M&T for its comment. M&T spokesman C. Michael Zabel countered that "we support community-based organizations."

But reporting by Inner City Press find this questionable, throughout M&T's footprint down to Virginia. M&T's next move was to reach out to friendlier media and announce that its merger application is proceeding - without mentioning the protest or why it was reaching out.

Similarly, M&T hyped up after the protests it celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at its Newburg, New York branch, and got it reported without any mention of its lending record, much less the challenge.

But at least on M&T, the word got out in New York and New Jersey, where Hudson is based. Watch this site.


November 5, 2012

Six purported shareholders of Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. filed class-action lawsuits against FirstMerit Corp. in September and October alleging the proposed merger price and terms for the Flint, Mich.-based company are unfair, according to both companies' Form 10-Qs.

The lawsuits, filed in Circuit Court of Genesee County in Michigan, also allege Citizens' directors failed in their fiduciary duties by approving the transaction. They seek an injunction to or rescissory damages and other equitable relief.

By name, as reported by SNL Financial, the suits are: Hilary Coyne, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc.; Vladimir Gusinsky Living Trust, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc.; Cecily Hoogerhyde, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc.; Michael Decker, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc.; Robert Block, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc.; and Blair Cole, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Citizens Republic Bancorp, Inc.
 
  We'll have more on this.

October 29, 2012

BankUnited in Florida has applied to open four branches in New York: three in the most affluent parts of Manhattan, and one in suburban Suffolk County. Not only is this redlining, it also jumps the gun: due to a non-compete clause and settlement, the branches couldn't even be opened until February of 2013. Inner City Press has commented - receipt confirmed - asking for the applications to be suspended or withdrawn pending among other things a review Florida NCRC members have requested. We'll have more on this.

October 22, 2012

In the UK, according to SNL Financial, "the Parliament's Treasury Select Committee on Oct. 19 released a report stressing the need for the new Prudential Regulation Authority to have the power to approve large bank mergers. The committee made the recommendation that the government explicitly legislate for the new agency to have that power in a report that concluded that the FSA 'should and could have intervened' in the disastrous acquisition by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc of ABN AMRO Group NV in 2007. RBS needed a £45 billion government bailout following the acquisition. The Prudential Regulation Authority is one of two successor agencies to the FSA due to begin operations in 2013."

And what changes should be made in the USA?

October 15, 2012

Predatory rewarded: the FDIC received 20 bids for failed Bloomington, Minn.-based First Commercial Bank, according to a bid summary last updated Oct. 9, reported by SNL Financial. State regulators closed First Commercial Bank on Sept 7. The FDIC-selected winner, Louisville, Ky.-based Republic Bank & Trust Co. ($3.17 billion), placed an all-deposit, whole-bank bid with an asset discount of approximately $79.4 million. And while, as per FDIC rules, the details of the second-place bid — also known as the cover bid — were omitted from the disclosure, the other nonwinning bids offered asset discounts ranging from $34.9 million to about $126.8 million.

Why would the FDIC, which purported to beat up on Republic for predatory / tax refund lending through Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax, now give it another bank without any application subject to public comment?

October 8, 2012

On Rwanda, IMF Tells ICP It Studies M23-Related Delay in Aid Until Next Week

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 -- For at least three weeks Inner City Press has asked the IMF "On Rwanda, does the cutting of aid based on alleged support of M23 rebels in DRC have any impact on IMF analysis of or programs in the country?"

   Finally as the last question at the IMF's October 4 media briefing spokesman Gerry Rice took the question. He replied, "An IMF mission is in Rwanda... Delays in aid disbursement is one of the issues the mission is looking into. We expect the mission to complete its work early next week and we will issue a press release at that time."

   At the UN, there was a flurry of activity on the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbor, Rwanda in September but as noted the topic is not even listed on the agenda of the Security Council for October.

  After last week's closed-door mini summit on the topic at the UN, Inner City Press was told that the most vocal in pushing sanctions against Rwanda was Belgium, for the allegations of support to the M23 mutineers made in the UN report coordinated by Steve Hege, whose 2009 writings about the FDLR and Rwanda have yet to be explained (they were taken off the Internet after Inner City Press linked to them).

  On Tuesday Inner City Press asked income Security Council president Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala why DRC is not on the agenda, is it just on hold? Video here, from Minute 22:48.

  Rosenthal told Inner City Press that on "Eastern DRC, the Security Council has been waiting for some type of agreement among the Great Lake governments, so far it has not come forth."

  Referring to Inner City Press' question he said, "the way you put it, the topic being on hold, is an accurate reflection of where we are right now. The situation is not good, and that is the reason we are reminding ourselves in the footnote that the topic may come to us this month, though not specifically scheduled." Watch this site.

From the IMF's October 4, 2012 transcript:

There is another question on Rwanda, "Does the cutting of aid based on alleged support of rebels in DRC have any impact on IMF analysis or of programs in the country?" I can say an IMF mission is in Rwanda to conduct a fifth review under the Policy Support Instrument and the discussions for the 2012 Article IV consultation. To answer Matthew directly, delays in aid disbursements is one of the issues the mission is looking into. We expect the mission to complete its work early next week and we'll issue a press release at that time.

IMF Tells ICP Welcomes Sudans Deals, Ready to Support Both - Debt Relief?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 -- Just before Sudan spoke last Saturday at the UN General Debate, the IMF "encouraged the authorities to step up their dialogue with creditors and donors to garner support for debt relief." Sudan's arrears to the IMF itself are part of the problem.

  Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti in his September 29 speech called for debt relief. At the IMF's next media briefing on October 4, Inner City Press asked two questions on Sudan:

"In the UN General Debate, Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti said the country's debts should be forgiven. Any response? Do Sudan's and South Sudan's agreements last week in Addis Ababa have any impact on IMF analysis of or programs in either country? Any IMF comment on the agreements?"

  IMF spokesman Gerry Rice took these as the penultimate question during the embargoed briefing, replying that

"The Fund welcomes the agreement on oil related and other issues between the two countries. We look forward to its implementation and to the resolution of other bilateral issues. The Fund stands ready to continue supporting both countries going forward."

But what support does the IMF give to Sudan? What about Ali Karti's call for debt relief?

Thursday in the UN Security Council, one of the "unresolved bilateral issues," Abyei, was to be discussed. Watch this site.

From the IMF's October 4, 2012 transcript:

"In the U.N. general debate Sudan's foreign minister said the country's debt should be forgiven in response. Do Sudan's and South Sudan's agreements last week in Addis have any impact on IMF analysis or programs in either country? Can you comment on those agreements?" My comment would be that the Fund welcomes the agreement on oil related and other issues between the two countries and we look forward to its implementation and to the resolution of other pending bilateral issues, and the Fund stands ready to continue supporting both countries going forward.


October 1, 2012

On LIBOR, and only after a Freedom of Information Act appeal, we have received this:

From: Jose Alonso
To: jeremy c kress
Cc: stanley crisp; Mark Baker; David Goode
Date: 07/10/2012 06:08 PM
Subject: Fw: Mitsubishi UFJ Said to Suspend Two London Traders on Libor Probe

Jeremy

Here is the update on the Libor issue which you inquire about recently. The response is from Bob Hand, MUFG General Counsel in NYC.

I told Bob that BOG staff was interested in the status of the investigations as part of our application review process.

At the end of the email he expresses concerns as to the impact of this line of inquiry on the SBBT application an offers to meet with you and other interested parties. I will assume that you would invoke ex-parte concerns on such a meeting.

Yes, such a meeting would have, and perhaps did, violate the Fed's rule against ex-parte communication. No summary of the meeting was provided, at least along with Governor Jay Powell's September 25 FOIA appeal ruling...

September 24, 2012

Back in April, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed comments with the FDIC opposing GE - MetLife bank. Now there's this, from SNL Financial:

"GE Capital Retail Bank, a unit of General Electric Co., will acquire approximately $7 billion in deposits from MetLife Bank NA, rather than GE Capital Bank. According to a Form 8-K filed Sept. 21, most key terms of the 2011 agreement remain unchanged. However, the amended transaction will be subject to regulatory approval by the OCC, and approval by the FDIC will no longer be needed. Upon completion of the sale, MetLife Bank will terminate its deposit insurance and MetLife Inc. will deregister as a bank holding company."

This is a scam. We'd hope to hear about it from Tom Hoenig of the FDIC, for example.

September 17, 2012

FirstMerit's $1.3 billion bid for Citizens Republic might put FirstMerit into Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as closing branches in Ohio - but even the rating agencies are dubious about FirstMerit's abilities...

GE's proposed acquisition of the deposits of MetLife Bank, which ICP protested months ago, remains unapproved by the FDIC. Some are saying that, unlike other applications, it requires action by the FDIC board. We'll see.

September 10, 2012

The FERC has given Deutsche Bank Energy Trading 30 days to show cause as to why it should not be fined $1.5 million and required to disgorge $123,198 (plus interest) of unjust profits for allegedly manipulating California energy markets, SNL Financial reported. The agency on Sept. 5 alleged that employees of Deutsche Bank, including some at the senior level, developed a scheme under which the bank's traders asked the California ISO to schedule exports of power over the 17-MW Silver Peak intertie in order to eliminate import congestion. The bank would then profit from the move because it possessed congestion revenue rights for the intertie.

September 3, 2012

In a telling incipient deal, Société Générale SA said Aug. 30 that Qatar National Bank expressed interest in buying the 77.17% stake that the French bank controls in National Société Générale Bank in Egypt, SNL Financial noted. SocGen added that an application was filed with the Central Bank of Egypt for due diligence of the unit but added that the "discussions are preliminary and there can be no certainty as to whether an agreement will be reached." The Egyptian unit is based in Cairo and had 160 branches across the country as of year-end 2011, according to its full-year 2011 report. It booked a full-year 2011 net profit of 1.49 billion Egyptian pounds, up 11% year over year. Ah, Arab Spring..

August 27, 2012

As to Mitsubishi UJF, trying to buy Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, the Fed is trying to withhold whole paragraphs about LIBOR -- unacceptable. Watch this site.

August 20, 2012

  In the wake of the NYSDFS action against Standard Charter, Deutsche Bank is being looked at for similar money laundering for Iran and others.  In denial, Deutsche Bank spokeswoman Friederika Borgmann said the bank had decided by 2007 to stop engaging in new business with countries such as Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea and also exit existing businesses as far as legally possible. We'll see.

Meanwhile the New York State Department of Financial Services quickly filed and settled charges against Standard Chartered Bank for laundering money for Iran to evade sanctions against that country, the same NYSDFS has been remiss in its more local duties.

  A major New York bank franchise, Emigrant Bank, is up for sale to Apple Bank for Savings, but the NYSDFS appears asleep at the switch. The NYSDFS is rubbing stamping mergers and branch closings, and not responding to comments from the public.

  On August 6, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted a timely challenge to the NYSDFS against a pre-merger branch closing by Emigrant. While not responding, the NYSDFS then provided notice of a merger application filed August 8, saying the comment period expired August 6 - click here to view.

 The NYSDFS has not explained this either. Can you say Kafka?

August 13, 2012

First, Brazil's Banco Itau was said to be interested in buying in the United States, looking at Royal Bank of Scotland's Citizens Bank franchise, or Santander - Sovereign or even BNP's Bank of the West. Then they denied it. But do they protest too much?

Past (and future?) CRA rogue WesBanco is buying into Pennsylvania...

August 6, 2012

Still sleazy: Community Bank System Inc. is closing five branches, three of which are former HSBC Bank USA NA branches divested by First Niagara. Among the remaining two, one of the branches is from among the three additional branches that Community Bank is acquiring from First Niagara. Supposedly the consolidation will be effective Sept. 10 and the consolidations will not result in any layoffs.

Green Dot just gave back much of its goodwill — and market value — in one 24-hour period. Green Dot shares lost 61.15% on July 27, prompted by management's decision to slash the firm's full-year guidance in anticipation of rapidly increasing competition.

Green Dot now expects just 5% growth in the average number of active cards, down from the greater-than-20% forecast provided in April. Cash transfer growth was cut as well, to 15% from 20% in the first quarter. The slowdown is likely to hit earnings hard, with the company forecasting 2012 EPS at $1.29 to $1.32, down from the original range of $1.65 to $1.70. That guidance cut marked the second time this year that Green Dot has softened its predictions.

"We see a greater level of uncertainty going forward in our business as our market and the prepaid industry in general continues to evolve," Chairman, President and CEO Steven Streit said on a July 26 conference call, monitored by SNL Financial...

On behalf of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch and its members and affiliates (collectively, "ICP"), this is a FOIA request concerning withheld submission related the applications of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd and UnionBanCal Corporation to acquire Pacific Capital Bancorp & Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, which ICP timely protested.

Many of the applicants' submissions are being withheld, including directly on issues raised in ICP's timely protest. For example, and this is specifically requesting, a July 31 submission recites an FRB questions about Tax Refund Anticipation Loans (raised by ICP), and says "Please see Confidential Exhibit 1."

ICP is request that and the other withheld exhibits.

Similarly, in a July 24 submission, there is a question about Swiss regulators' inquiring into interest rate manipulation (that is, LIBOR scandal) - and it says "Please see Confidential Exhibit 2."

ICP is request that and the other withheld exhibits.

July 30, 2012

   Two of the vendors that sold the credit card add-ons cited in Capital One's settlement with the CFPB and OCC also do business with Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America: private equity owned Affinion Group Holdings, and Intersections, for which Bank of America is more than half of the company's income....

As IMF Briefs on Spain, Former Chief Rato Pushed Bankia to Bailout, Safeguards?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 -- When the International Monetary Fund's mission chief for Spain James Daniel held an embargoed (until now) press call Friday morning, he was asked about the flame out of Bankia, which was chaired by former IMF chief Rodrigo Rato.

  While not followed up on the call, Rato's and now the IMF's role raise questions about the need for safeguards given the revolving door through which former IMF officials pass. Can former IMF-ers benefit from bail outs or "programs" of the the IMF?

  The story of Bankia and its IPO is an ugly and extensive one. The global co-ordinators on the deal were Deutsche Bank -- which, as Inner City Press has noted, has a former official now on the Federal Reserve Board -- J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and UBS.

  The retail underwriters on the retail tranche were Bankinter, Sabadell and Barclays, now of LIBOR fame.

L'affaire DSK garnered worldwide media coverage. But what of financial scandals involving former IMF officials? Watch this site.

July 23, 2012

So just in the last week there are announcements of a credit union merger proposal in Washington State (Prevail and Harborstone), the buy-up of United Community Bnak in Texas, and of Inland in Ontario, California; there is CRA-challenged WesBanco making a move into Pittsburgh. And there is a proposed deal in New York we will keeping a close, close eye on. Watch this site.

July 16, 2012

HSBC is subject to a Senate hearing this week, on funding support for terrorism... JPMorgan Chase's losses mount, along with evidence of what Jaime Dimon knew and when he knew it...

Even without major nationwide news there are a lot of small regional deals, like

July 2: Montana, 7 branch deal

July 2: Maine deal

July 3: Illinois deal, Heartland and Farmer City

July 5: Kansas deal, Southern Kansas

July 5: Nebraska, Valley Bank

July 6: Texas, LubCo (Lubbock)

July 9: California, Opus Bank buying 10 branches in and around LA

July 10: Maryland, federal savings bank deal

July 10: Texas: Comanche - Texas Savings

And that's just in 10 days. Overseas, HSBC is selling in Monaco and buying in Egypt, GE is selling, so is Santander in Latin America...

On Angola's Oil Funds, IMF Tells Inner City Press It's Working on Discrepancies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, updated -- After a series of questions take by the Internation Monetary Fund on Thursday about Greece and Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus, Inner City Press' question about Angola and transparency was asked by spokesman Gerry Rice:

"On Angola, what is the IMF's response to requests that the IMF insist on an audit of the oil revenue unaccounted for from 2007 to 2011?"

  Rice had an answer prepared in his binder, from which he read, saying, "the IMF attaches great important to the transparency of governments in management of public finances."

  He said the IMF and Angola have "devoted efforts" in light of the "large discrepancies observed in this accounts since 2011."

  Rice claimed this has "produced important results" such as "highlighting factors underlying the discrepancies" and "promoting the introduction of institutional measures" for "accountability" for "Angola's oil revenue."

  But where did the money go, other than to real estate in and around Lisbon? Who is being held accountable?

  Rice continued that "the Angolan authorities say the intend to complete work" soon, that they "have adopted measure to address underlying problems."

  As to the IMF, Rice said that the "Board concludedyesterday its 2012 Article 4 consultations with Angola" and that "there will be more info on that discussion, a Public Information Notice" soon. We'll see.

  Inner City Press submitted two other questions, on Sri Lanka and Hungary. On the latter, the IMF half answered, that the authorities are requesting only a Stand By Agreement, "not a PLN."

July 9, 2012

Germany's Bafin is probing Deutsche Bank for LIBOR manipulation. DB's last quarterly report disclosed that the bank had received subpoenas and requests from regulators and government entities in the U.S. and Europe in connection with setting currency rates. Watch for mid-July...

July 2, 2012

Now the estimate for JPMorganChase's London whale dalliance is $4 to $6 million...

In Greek IMF Tragedy & Lagarde Guilt, Africa Ignored As Sudan Protests, Coups

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- The International Monetary Fund and its director Christine Lagarde often use Africa, or the idea of Africa, as a place that they vaguely help or at least care about.

But at Thursday IMF briefing, amid repeated questions about Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Hungary, not a single sub Saharan Africa question was taken, much less answered. It's not that they weren't asked. Inner City Press submitted questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and these, among others:

In Sudan, the IMF earlier this month urges the government to institute "emergency measures." Have the steps since announced, which have given rise to protests that have been cracked down on, been consistent or inconsistent with the IMF's advice?

Pledges to the IMF have given rise to questions & protests in South Africa, the Philippines and elsewhere, by those who say the money could be better spent at home on the poor. What is the IMF's response?

And again: What is the status of IMF programs in and reviews of Mali and Guinea Bissau, given coups in each country?

  But the IMF did not take the questions (in previous weeks, it has answered Inner City Press' questions about Sudan by email after the fact.)

  Now, the IMF gives austerity advice to Sudan, then when protests erupt, the IMF would answer or even take the question.

  A journalist ran in late, citing an interview at the American Enterprise Institute, and still got another answer on Greece. Perhaps it is Lagarde's guilt for telling Greeks to pay taxes when she doesn't. But what about those children in Niger? Watch this site.

June 25, 2012

While the CFPB may have tried to downplay it, Capital One had by far the most complaints against it, see https://data.consumerfinance.gov/dataset/Credit-Card-Complaints/25ei-6bcr and search for Capital One. We'll have more on this.

June 18, 2012

So Mitsubishi UFJ's application to acquire Santa Barbara Bank & Trust is now essentially amended to say at least five branches would be closed, in Gilroy, Hollister Main, Salinas-Harden Ranch, Watsonville and Lompoc. The policy is... confidential.

June 11, 2012

So the FDIC, even after the subprime meltdown, rules that GE Capital Financial Inc, buying the deposits of MetLife Bank, is NOT responsible for the predatory lending of WMC, because it "was a subsidiary of a different financial institution (GE Capital Retail Bank)." This hairsplitting is shameful -- and dangerous. Watch this site.

June 4, 2012

Deutsche Bank AG bragged that its special situations group won the auction for a $911 million loan portfolio being sold by two units of Capmark Financial Group: Midvale, Utah-based Capmark Bank and Capmark Finance LLC. Typically, DB did not reveal the price it paid...

IMF Peppered on Lagarde's Linking Greece to Niger, But Sudan UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- The International Monetary Fund's biweekly embargoed press briefing on Thursday focused almost entirely on the protests to Managing Director Christine Lagarde's comments that Greeks should pay their taxes -- while she does not pay taxes -- and as one Greek journalist focused in on, her comparison of Greece and Niger.

  IMF spokesman Gerry Rice responded to this last by paying the IMF has to serve all of its members including the low income ones; he directed the press to Lagarde's clarification if not apology on Facebook. But is it enough?

  The questions on Greece kept coming, until Rice said, this will be our last question on Greece. But it wasn't.

  Inner City Press submitted a number of questions, including "On Hungary, can you respond to an analysis (by Citigroup) that "the IMF may still require structural expenditure cuts and changes to the tax system"?

  Rice said, on Hungary, that there are "no dates... to start negotiations," adding that "we do continue" to be in touch with "the Hungarian authorities. A lot of actions are needed," he said, "to ensure central bank independence."

  Then the questioning turned back to Greece. Rice said there will be no new mission until elections and a new government. One wonders how big the protests would be, if Lagarde went there now?

  Others of Inner City Press' questions have yet to be answered, on Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and one on Sudan, on which the UN Security Council was simultaneously meeting on Thursday morning:

On Cote d'Ivoire, can you confirm that next month a decision is expected on "an IMF-backed debt relief deal calling for relief of $5-billion of the country's debt, reducing its current stock of debt by 40%"?

What is the status of Pakistan reaching out for a new facility? Is it true the "IMF wants Pakistan to raise tax revenue from the present 10% of GDP to 15% of GDP by 2013"?

On Sudan, because some are critical of the IMF's Edward Gemayel recent recommendation of a "structural reform program," could you explain what this means for the Sudanese?

Watch this site.

Footnote: the press corps covering the IMF backed each other up in pushing questions on Greece and Lagarde's comments, in contrast for example to some in the UN press corps these days.

  Follow ups were sharp, and journalists didn't allow themselves to be used as a way to turn away from or even refuse others' questions. It seemed unlikely there would be pressure to take down stories, or for purges or expulsion. Does money in the water make the reporting more serious? Even within the same mega wire services?

May 29, 2012

Losers: Citigroup has sold 404 million common shares in Akbank TAS through an equity offering, representing a 10.1% equity interest in Akbank, for 5.24 Turkish liras per share. Total proceeds from the transaction are expected to be about $1.15 billion at the current exchange rate, resulting in an after-tax loss of about $243 million in the second quarter. The transaction is estimated to generate approximately 23 basis points of Tier 1 common capital under Basel III, according to a May 25 news release.

Meanwhile, Facebook's botched IPO cost Citigroup's automated trading desk about $20 million.

May 21, 2012

So JPMorgan Chase's gambling loss morphed from $2 billion to more than $3 billion, and some still say that "real reform" was put in place...


On Sudan IMF Has No View on Oil Transit Fee, Notes Country's in Arrears

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 -- As tensions have escalated between Sudan and South Sudan about oil transfer fees and the size of Sudan's debt, Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the International Monetary Fund for its view of the oil fee dispute and about possible debt relief for Sudan.

  At the IMF's Spring Meetings in Washington last month Inner City Press put the question to IMF regional expert Masood Ahmed. Finally on Thursday afternoon, after Inner City Press re-submitted the question to the IMF's embargoed briefing that morning, the following arrived:

Subject: Sudan questions
Date: Thu, May 17, 2012 at 1:55 PM
From: [Spokesperson at] imf.org
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] innercitypress.com

This is in response to your questions on Sudan and South Sudan:

Q - What is the IMF doing on or about the Sudan - South Sudan oil transfer fee dispute?

At the request of the African Union, the IMF has provided estimates of the fiscal and external impact of South Sudan’s separation on both countries. The Fund has not taken any position on the amount of financial assistance or oil transit fees that South Sudan could pay.

Q - … and about any debt relief for Sudan?

The Fund is discussing with the authorities economic policies to help stabilize the situation and implement reforms to sustain more inclusive growth. These could underpin a new Staff Monitored Program. Despite Sudan’s good cooperation on policies and payment to the Fund under successive SMPs, Sudan remains in arrears to the IMF and therefore ineligible to use Fund resources.

These answers are appreciated; among the questions that remain outstanding is

"What is the status of IMF programs in and reviews of Mali and Guinea Bissau, given coups in each country? "

If the IMF's work on the Sudans was at the request for the African Union, what about ECOWAS and these two coup d'etats? Watch this site.

May 14, 2012

So JPMorgan Chase gambles and loses $2 billion, and on Meet the Press Jaime Dimon says there was "almost no excuse." So, what's the partial excuse? Dimon claims JPMorgan Chase has supported 70% of Dodd Frank. But what about the Volcker Rule? Then on the McLaughlinGroup, Financial Times editor Gillian Tett says FT will editorialize for "better regulation" after l'affaire JPMorgan Chase. We'll see.

On Myanmar, IMF Won't Assess Reversion to Repression, Kachin Not Considered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 7 -- When the International Monetary Fund's Meral Karasulu took questions about the IMF's work in and assessment of Myanmar on Monday night, one expected military rule and fighting in the ethnic zones to be a topic.

  But amid the IMF's rosy view, pitching for example natural gas reserves, the world's major wire services focused on exchange rates, natural gas and, in the case of AFP, the Paris Club creditors getting paid back their money.

  Inner City Press asked Meral Karasulu two questions: how likely does the IMF think that a reversion to military rules, and did the IMF even consider the continued conflict in Kachin state in its assessment?

Meral Karasulu politely dodged the first question, saying that the IMF has no "comparative advantage in political analysis," even that it would be "inappropriate" to consider the risk of reversion.

  But as reported exclusively last week by Inner City Press, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Myanmar he thanked and welcomed a company specializing in surveillance technology, including to Gaddafi's Libya, click here for that story.

  Meral Karasulu emphasized the Myanmar's main economic activity is not in the ethnic areas.

  Asked where Myanmar's reserves actually are, Meral Karasulu said in three state owned banks controlled by the Ministry of Finance.

When she was asked what percentage of Myanmar's budget is devoted to the military she said she did not know. (Perhaps relatedly, on Sri Lanka where the IMF does have a lending program, it downplays the growth of military spending even after the scorched earth military compaign of 2009).

Of corruption in Myanmar, Meral Karasulu said she has "no anecdotes," and that during country visits the IMF can't see it. Meral Karasulu will return to Myanmar in the second half of May. Watch this site.

May 7, 2012

IMF Notes Heglig Impact, Dodges on Sudans Oil Transfer Fee, Answers Romania

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 3 -- During the International Monetary Fund's Spring Meeting last month, Inner City Press asked the the spokesperson for the IMF's Masood Ahmed about the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan:

after the press conference, in which my question was about Egypt, I asked Masood Ahmed about Sudan, South Sudan and the IMF, on which he's written, and specifically his / the IMF's view of the oil transfer fee (and impact of stopping oil pumping and destroying the Heglig field). I was told to email the question so here it is: I cover the UN, and Sudan diplomats say they want $34 a barrel transfer fee, South Sudan offers some 40 cents, citing example of Chad to Cameroon, and Azerbaijan to Turkey. What is the IMF's view of this oil transfer fee issue?

   But even as, or because, the conflict military and diplomatic around Heglig continued to heat up, the IMF never answered.

    And so to the IMF's bi-weekly embargoed briefing on May 3 Inner City Press, from in front of the UN Security Council where the day prior Sudan's Ambassador spoke of an investigation and possible reparations for Heglig, resubmitted the above question as well as a question about Romania.

    Lead IMF spokesman Gerry Rice on camera answered the Romania question, saying that even after the fall of the government the IMF mission remains in dialogue and will report back.

   On the reformulated Sudans question, the IMF replied:

In response to your question on South Sudan during today’s press briefing, you can attribute this to an IMF spokesperson:

"Conflict in border areas and a prolonged shutdown of oil production will have serious implications on both countries' economies and people's livelihoods. We look forward to a mutually beneficial resolution of oil and other bilateral issues as soon as possible."

While appreciated, this was the question posed by Inner City Press:

"What is the IMF doing in Sudan and South Sudan given the economic and oil transfer fee roots of the conflict between them? South Sudan cites the IMF for the less than a dollar a barrel transfer fee it proposes. I asked Ahmed Masood during the Spring meeting but have not heard back. What IS the IMF's position?"

So Inner City Press has asked again, and is now told "Sure. Will get back to you on this." Watch this site.

April 30, 2012

ICP has commented to the FDIC, and NYS DFS:

On behalf of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch and its members and affiliates (collectively, "ICP"), this is a comment opposing and requesting public hearings on the application by New York Community Bank to acquire substantially all of the assets, and $2.3 billion of deposits of Aurora Bank FSB.

On the FDIC's web site, the comment period on this application runs through May 5, 2012. This comment is timely.

Aurora is a subprime, some say predatory, lending unit of the scandal wracked Lehman Brothers. For the record:

"Aurora had become one of the largest players in that market, originating $25-billion worth of loans in 2006. It was also the biggest supplier of loans to Lehman for securitization. Lehman had acquired a stake in Aurora in 1998 and had taken control in 2003. By May, 2006, some people inside Lehman were becoming worried about Aurora's lending practices."

NYCB is a bank which has sought to fly under the radar -- for example, a recent search of the FFIEC HMDA data back for "New York Community Bank" reveals only one HMDA reporter, 0000016022-3, reporting geography specific data in only three MSAs.

In these MSA, NYCB is decidedly disparate in its marketing and lending.

In the Phoenix MSA in 2010, the most recent year for which data is publicly available, NYCB made 292 conventional home purchase loans to whites and NO such loans to African Americans. Based on its disparate marketing, NYCB received only four such applications from African Americans, and denied three of them. To Latinos, NYCB more only 14 such loans, compared to the 292 to whites.

In the Fort Lauderdale MSA in 2010, NYCB made 38 conventional home purchase loans to whites, and NO such loans to African Americans.

In the West Palm Beach MSA in 2010, NYCB made 83 refinance loans to whites and only ONE such loan to an African American applicant, and only seven to Latinos.

The FDIC [and NYSDFS] should require answers, extend the comment period and hold public hearings.

April 23, 2012

In the course of spinning its first quarter earnings numbers, Capital One's CEO let it slip that $75 million are being set aside to deal with fraudulently sold products. "Oops." This has been raised to the OCC and Federal Reserve; watch this site.

At IMF, Canada's FinMin Flaherty Tells ICP Glad for Delay of Volcker Rule, Geithner

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON DC, April 20 -- The Volcker Rule on proprietary trading by banks was one of the responses to the subprime financial meltdown of 2008.

  On Friday at the IMF, Inner City Press asked Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty about what it has reported as the Group of 20's opposition to the rule, especially for its treatment of non-US sovereign debt.

  Flaherty told Inner City Press, "it came up informally a couple of times... I can tell you, Canada is please there's been delay in planned implementation date, concerned about extraterritorial effect, I've discussed with Secretary Geithner and we look forward to further developments."

  Geithner, as we've noted and even asked the US State Department to explain, did not show up for the Finance Ministers meeting about Rio + 20 and sustainable development held Friday at the World Bank. But has Geithner given Flaherty some re-regulatory assurance?

  Flaherty was also asked about a "disagreement" he had with Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, concerning whether European countries were doing enough about their crisis to avoid Flaherty's requested veto and loss of European seats in the IMF.

  Flaherty said he's known Schauble for as long as he's been Germany minister, Flaherty has served longer. Could that be the problem?

Inner City Press asked him directly, beyond the alleged differential treatment of sovereign debt, if the mixing of banking and proprietary trading played a role in the meltdown.

  "We're all entitled to our views," Flaherty replied. "In the Canadian situation, proprietary trading was not an issue for us. Some would argue it was not causative. I'll leave to others to debate." Yeah - while he whispers to Tim Geithner about it, then at the G20 in Mexico.

  Later Friday afternoon outside the IMF a protest marched by, to chants including Occupy Wall Street. Few journalists looked up from "making the donuts," so to speak, packaging Christine Lagarde's canned quotes to Charlie Rose as news. And so it has gone at the IMF. Watch this site.

April 23, 2012

In the course of spinning its first quarter earnings numbers, Capital One's CEO let it slip that $75 million are being set aside to deal with fraudulently sold products. "Oops." This has been raised to the OCC and Federal Reserve; watch this site.

April 16, 2012

"A transparent effort by Capital One to impede lawful competition" has been alleged, by two who should know: John Kanas and John Bohlsen formerly of NY-based North Fork Bank. They had served in executive roles with Capital One following the December 2006 sale of North Fork Bancorp. Inc. before departing by mutual agreement in August 2007. Their respective separation agreements contained provisions restricting them from engaging in the consumer or commercial banking business in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut until August 2012. Both executives participated among a group of investors that formed BankUnited and acquired the assets of a south Florida institution of a similar name upon its failure in May 2009. Capital One described the government-assisted deal as "the first step" of Kanas' and Bohlsen's plan to create "a second North Fork" in the New York market.

North Fork, like Capital One, underserved lower income and communities of color. So, a plague on both their houses. The case is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. A hearing on the plaintiffs' summary judgment motion has been set for April 27, but Capital One has requested that the court simultaneously hear summary judgment motions from both sides on May 11.


As IMF Tells Bangladesh How to Regulate Banks, Insiders Rush for Licenses

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- While the International Monetary Fund often insists it does not impose conditions on loans, for the $1 billion program it announced Wednesday for Bangladesh, it required among other things lower fuel subsidies, and centralizing bank regulation.

  Inner City Press asked David Cowen, IMF Mission Chief for Bangladesh, about this bank regulation condition, and about the rush by Bank Bangladesh to give licenses to nine new banks chartered by political insiders, on the eve of the IMF decision.

  Cowen described the required amendments to the Bank Companies Act, for "fit criteria for bank directors," and said that the IMF was aware of the recent license grants, and hadn't had the chance to discuss them with Bangladesh authorities.

  He said regular procedures for licensing new banks had been followed -- indeed -- and that the banks should be subject to the regulations applicable to all banks in Bangladesh.

Here's a description of the six most recent banks and their sponsors:

"former president and Jatiya Party chief H.M. Ershad (Union Bank), ruling party lawmakers Fazle Noor Taposh (Modhumati Bank) and Mohiuddin Khan Al Amgir (Farmers Bank), S.M. Amjad Hussain (South Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank) and Ashequr Rahman (Meghna Bank) and Moniruzzaman Khan Khandaker (Midland Bank), the income tax lawyer to Shaikh Hasina."

What was that again, about "fit criteria for bank directors"?

  Meanwhile HSBC is trying either to sell its 13 Bangladesh branches, reportedly to Standard Chartered, or simply to close them by some accounts.

  On April 10 HSBC announced it is in talks to sell off its operations in Pakistan and is moving in on a sale of its South Korean businesses to the Korea Development Bank.

  Beyond Bangladesh, other Asian markets where HSBC has fewer than 20 branches are Brunei Darussalam, Macao, New Zealand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

As IMF Praises and Turns from Iceland, Cites Basel, Calls Hungary Anti-Bank

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- Has Iceland turned the corner away from financial meltdown? The International Monetary Fund seems to think so. On Thursday the IMF released three reviews of the country and held an embargoed conference call for the press hosted by Julie Kozack, tellingly her last as IMF Mission Chief to Iceland. She will be moving on to Lithuania and Poland.

  The IMF has praised Iceland's write-down of debts, while criticizing Hungary's restructuring, complaining that "all losses from the implied debt reduction would be borne by the banks alone."

  As previously noted by Inner City Press, the IMF likes bank mergers. Last April, IMF European Department Director Antonio Borges told reporters on Friday that Belgium was smart to have pushed Fortis to being acquired by BNP Paribas. He urged more such mergers.

  Inner City Press asked Borges if the IMF proposed any safeguards at all, given that concerns exist that when a local bank is acquired by one based far away, there will be less reinvestment and accountability.

  Borges, while calling this an “interesting question,” bragged that the IMF organized a coordinated effort to get large banks to treat communities, particularly in Emerging Europe, fairly, and that this had worked

  And so it seems, the IMF likes bank mergers. In Iceland this is footnoted, that "data for Landsbankinn and Islandsbanki reflect the impact of their respective mergers with Sp Kef. and Byr in the second half of 2011."

  Only yesterday, the IMF minimized the rushed licensing of nine new banks by political insiders in Bangladesh on the eve of its program with that country, saying that at least they'll be subject to new rules.

  Regarding bank regulation in Iceland, the IMF says

"A strong, intrusive, and independent supervisory agency is essential to help avoid the build-up of risks that can lead to crisis... additional examiners with credit risk expertise may be needed in the onsite inspection area and the credit risk bureau may need more resources to become a powerful supervisory tool. Staff underscored that preserving the FME’s independence, and its capacity and willingness to act, is essential to ensure that the needed strengthening of supervision continues, toward full compliance with Basel Core Principles."

But what of bank regulation in countries like the United States, UK, France and Germany? Watch this site.

April 9, 2012

IMF On Sri Lanka Deficit, No Reference to Defense, No Timeline for Egypt Deal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 5 -- At the International Monetary Fund's briefing on April 5, Inner City Press asked about Egypt and Sri Lanka. The Egyptian answer was short and picked up by wire services -- "the timeline for concluding an agreement is not fixed and will depend on how quickly progress is made by all sides on these issues" -- but the Sri Lanka answer was provided later and so is published here.

  Inner City Press asked, "What is the status of the IMF's program in Sri Lanka? Is the IMF only looking at balance of payments? When would it consider releasing the next and final tranche?"

  Later, just after embargo deadline, the following came in:

From: IMF Media Relations
Date: Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 10:37 AM
Subject: Question Received
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com

Dear Matthew, Thank you for your question. Please attribute the following to Gerry Rice, Director of External Relations Department, IMF.

On April 2, the Executive Board approved the completion of the Seventh Review of the Stand By Arrangement, which enables the disbursement of SDR 275.6 million (approximately $400 million). The Board also approved the extension of the program by 2 months to July 2012 to allow time for the completion of the Eighth and final review.

The main pillars of the program are to rebuild Sri Lanka’s reserves, while transitioning to a more flexible monetary and exchange rate policy framework, reducing the budget deficit to sustainable levels, and strengthening the financial system.

  This follows back and forth with the IMF regarding Sri Lanka's increased defense spending.

  The question of if the IMF is only looking at balance of payments refers, for example, to the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka and accountability for crimes in the final stages of its military conflict in May 2009 -- after which defense spending continued nevertheless to climb, impacting the very budget deficit the IMF refers to.

  Meanwhile the military SCAF government in Egypt is reportedly poised to take out an IMF loan. Inner City Press asked, What is the IMF's reaction to the reported deal in Egypt around an IMF program? Will the program now go forward? Does the IMF think enough 'stakeholders' agree?"

  It was to that that the IMF responded, "the timeline for concluding an agreement is not fixed and will depend on how quickly progress is made by all sides on these issues." Watch this site.
* * *

The Fed has, so far, allowed BB&T to amend its application to acquire BankAtlantic, to tell ICP about its application late, and not yet to extend the comment period. ICP has complained:

This is a third comment on the applications by BB&T to acquire scandal-plagued BankAtlantic. BB&T has significantly amended the proposal after an adverse court ruling -- the changed structure should trigger a new public comment period.

Troublingly, while BB&T outside law firm Wachtell, Lipton send the amendments to the Fed on March 19 by courier, they were only sent to Inner City Press the follow (this) month. So Inner City Pres is requesting an extension of the comment period.

It would be ludicrous to argue that the changes to the proposal, the result of a