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.

January 21, 2019

Amid Targeting of Community Reinvestment Act BancorpSouth Deals in Texas and Alabama Challenged on Disparate Lending

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

NEW YORK CITY, January 14 – The US Treasury Department is the next stage of a process to try to weaken and take the community out of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Docket file here. On January 14, Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press filed comments and an information request with the FDIC opposing BancorpSouth's applications to acquire banks in Alabama and Texas: "This is a first timely comment opposing, requesting hearings and an extension of the comment period on BancorpSouth's application to acquire MERCHANTS TRUST, INC.  1901 North College Avenue  JACKSON, ALABAMA and CASEY BANCORP, INC.  305 East Colorado Boulevard  DALLAS, TEXAS.       Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has compared the most recent public disclosure HMDA data of BancorpSouth to that of the previous years 2015 and 2016 when BancorpSouth was (rightly) “in the penalty box” (see below) - and finds that BancorpSouth continues to get WORSE.     In 2015 in the Jackson MS MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7% while for African Americans it was 19% -- 2.71 times higher. That was troubling.       But it got worse. In 2016 in the Jackson Mississippi MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7.1% while for African Americans it rose to 22.9% -- 3.23 times higher.     And now worse still - in the Houston Texas MSA in 2017 for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth denied African Americans MORE THAN TEN TIMES MORE FREQUENTLY THAN WHITES.     This is even more troubling - and ICP timely requests a hearing on BancorpSouth's proposals...  In Texas, in the Tyler TX MSA in 2016 BancorpSouth made 30 conventional home purchase loans to whites - and NONE to African Americans.  This no such loans to African Americans in this MSA continued in 2017.      In the Mobile, Alabama MSA in 2017 for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth denied African Americans MORE THAN FIFTEEN TIMES MORE FREQUENTLY THAN WHITES.     ICP is requesting evidentiary hearings and that these proposed acquisitions, on the current record, not be approved. There is no public benefit."  BancorpSouth is one of the few banks to have settled redlining charges - then sought to evade regulation. We say no.

January 14, 2019

Lawsuit Against Eleven Lebanese Banks in New York Accuses Them Of Assisting Foreign Terrorist Organization

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT CEFC Video

UNITED NATIONS GATE, January 83 – As international bribery scandals particularly in Portuguese speaking countries are exposed through UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres cover-up of his role in Lisbon based Gulbenkian Foundation's attempted sale of its Partex Oil and Gas' operations in Angola and elsewhere, now another case in Federal Court in New York City, this time involving Mozambique, in Brooklyn, see below. And here's another case we'll be watching:  Riad Salameh, Governor of the Banque Centrale du Liban (BDL), has affirmed  that a civil lawsuit by approximately 1,200 plaintiffs has been brought against 11 Lebanese banks for assisting Hezbollah. The plaintiffs, all US citizens, have filed the lawsuit in court in New York. The defendants in the lawsuit include the following banks:  1. Bank Audi 2. Bank of Beirut 3. Bank of Beirut And The Arab Countries (BBAC)  4. Banque Libano-Française (BLF)  5. BLOM Bank  6. Byblos Bank 7. Fransabank 8. Jammal Trust Bank  9. Lebanon And Gulf Bank (LGB) 10. Middle East Africa Bank (MEAB) 11. SGBL  The civil action was brought on January 1 2019, under the Anti Terrorism Act by American nationals who were injured, and by the estates and families of American nationals who were killed or injured, by reason of acts of international terrorism in Iraq between 2004 and 2011 that were committed, planned or authorized by the United States designated Foreign Terrorist Organization...

January 7, 2019

In EDNY Mozambique Former FM Indicted In Lusophone Bribery Scandal Echoed By UN Guterres and Gulbenkian

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT CEFC Video

UNITED NATIONS GATE, January 3 – As international bribery scandals particularly in Portuguese speaking countries are exposed through UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres cover-up of his role in Lisbon based Gulbenkian Foundation's attempted sale of its Partex Oil and Gas' operations in Angola and elsewhere, now another case in Federal Court in New York City, this time in Brooklyn. It involves Mozambique and its former finance minster working with Credit Suisse, a member of Guterres' UN Global Compact, to defraud the people of that country. Three former Credit Suisse bankers were arrested in London yesterday on US charges that they took part in a fraud scheme involving US$2 billion in loans to state-owned companies in Mozambique: Andrew Pearse, 49; Surjan Singh, 44; and Detelina Subeva, 37. The three were charged in an indictment in  the EDNY Brooklyn, New York federal court with conspiring to violate the FCPA and to commit money laundering and securities fraud, according to spokesperson John Marzulli. Former Mozambique Finance Minister Manuel Chang was arrested in South Africa as part of the same criminal case.  A fifth man, Jean Boustani, was arrested on Wednesday at New York's John F Kennedy Airport. Boustani is a Lebanese citizen who worked for an Abu Dhabi-based contractor of the Mozambican companies. "The indictment alleges that the former employees worked to defeat the bank’s internal controls, acted out of a motive of personal profit, and sought to hide these activities from the bank," Credit Suisse said in a statement. When the guarantees were revealed in 2016, foreign donors, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), cut off support for Mozambique. Inner City Press inside the UN asked Mozambique diplomats about it - until it was roughed up and banned by Guterres. Meanwhile Guterres was refusing throughout 2018 to begin any UN audit into China Energy Fund Committee, implicated in the UN bribery prosecution US v Patrick Ho, Guterres had a secret: his role on the board of Gulbenkian Foundation which was trying to sell its Partex Oil affiliate to CEFC. See Inner City Press' first exclusive report here.

December 31, 2018

  This bank, Cadence, defrauded the public by withholding its argument to the Fed for a rubber stamp speeded up merger approval, now it says: "HOUSTON & ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec 24, 2018--Cadence Bancorporation (NYSE: CADE) (“Cadence”) and State Bank Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: STBZ) (“State Bank”) jointly announced that Cadence has exercised its right to increase the exchange ratio in accordance with the terms of the definitive merger agreement between Cadence and State Bank.

State Bank shareholders will receive 1.271 shares of Cadence Class A common stock for each share of State Bank common stock. After closing, legacy Cadence and State Bank shareholders will collectively own approximately 63% and 37% of the combined company, respectively.

The adjusted exchange ratio results in approximately 4.3 million additional Cadence shares being issued to State Bank. Cadence intends to repurchase these additional shares in the market. The Company’s board of directors has amended the share repurchase authorization to include approximately 4.3 million of total shares.

“This merger represents a major step forward for Cadence,” said Paul B. Murphy, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Cadence Bancorporation. “It unites two exceptionally strong teams of bankers with a shared culture of responsive service. The synergies resulting from our combined organizations will deliver significant customer and shareholder value, and positions us well for continued growth. We are optimistic about our future and are pleased to welcome the State Bank team.”

State Bank Chairman Joe Evans said, “We continue to be excited about this partnership. We have spent a lot of time together over the last six, seven years comparing notes, comparing philosophies and believe that this combination is going to result in a very powerful regional bank. We are thrilled to be in business with Cadence.”

The merger is expected to be completed on January 1, 2019, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions." Yeah...

December 24, 2018

Barclays Bank Fined For Whistleblower Hunt by NYSDFS While OCC Closes Its Ears On WSFS Abuses

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

SOUTH BRONX, December 19 – The British bank Barclays has been fined $15 million for trying to unmask and presumably retaliate against a whistleblower, by the New York State Department of Financial Services. CEO Jes Staley was named in the whistleblower's letter, leaving him with a direct conflict of interest in investigating it. The fine is light but the enforcement action is welcome - at the UN, for example, retaliation is the rule, not the exception. But there are other moves afoot in bank wrongdoing news.  The US Treasury Department is the next stage of a process to try to weaken and take the community out of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Docket file here. The protagonist, akin to Scott Pruitt when he was at the US Environmental Protection Agency or Ryan Zinke at Interior, is Comptroller of the Current Joseph Otting. On September 12 Fair Finance Watch (and on FOIA, Inner City Press) commented to the OCC, here. At the November 19 deadline, not yet posted was Inner City Press' November 17 fourth comment, just as Otting's OCC absurdly waited 13 days to try to rule it does not have to consider Fair Finance Watch's comments on WSFS Bank's application to acquire Beneficial. Now, after the OCC gleefully closed its comment period on that, WSFS on December 13 announced it will close 25 branches. One would think Otting would have to re-open the comment period. But that's not how Otting rolls.

December 17, 2018

Some mergers we are looking at:

Dec 7, IL: SENB Bank announced a proposed merger with Gateway Community Bank;


Nov 29, Texas: Alliance BancShares announced a proposal to acquire Mount Vernon BankShares;

Nov 28, PA: First National Bank of Girard says it proposes to  merge into GNBank (formerly Girard National Bank);

Nov 27, CT-MA: People's United announced a proposal to acquire BSB Bancorp, headquartered in Belmont, Massachusetts;

Nov 26, FL - AL: Florida-based CenterState Bank Corp announced a proposed acquisition of Birmingham-based National Commerce Corp;

Nov 16, AL: BankFirst Capital announced a merger agreement to acquire FNB Bancshares of Central Alabama, the parent company of FNB of Central Alabama;

Nov 16, NC - FL: First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company (known as First Citizens Bank) unveiled a proposal to take over  Biscayne Bancshares;

Nov 13, MS - TX: BancorpSouth Bank announced a merger agreement with Casey Bancorp, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Grand Bank of Texas.

December 10, 2018


On Jamaica IMF Worries of Protracted Wage Negotiations with What It Calls Unsettled Groups

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT NY Post

NEW YORK CITY, December 7 – When the International Monetary Fund on Jamaica issued a statement on December 7, it expressed concern about protracted wage negotiations with so-called "unsettled groups." Is the IMF worried about the length of the talks, or the possible outcomes? Here's the IMF statement: "An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff team led by Uma Ramakrishnan visited Kingston from December 3 to 7, 2018, to take stock of progress on Jamaica’s economic reform program supported by the IMF’s precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). At the end of the visit, Ms. Ramakrishnan issued the following statement:
“Positive developments continue to sustain Jamaica’s economic reform program. The unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 8.4 percent, with significant gains among women and younger workers. Inflation is in the Bank of Jamaica’s (BOJ) target range of 4–6 percent. Gross international reserves were at US$3.4 billion at end-November. Growth for this fiscal year is expected to be 1½–2 percent. Looking ahead, lower global oil prices, if sustained, should support a narrower current account deficit and support domestic demand.
“Continued buoyancy in tax revenue is supporting more capital spending, helping economic activity and living standards. Public debt is expected to fall below 100 percent of GDP by the end of this fiscal year, for the first time since FY2000/01.
“Protracted wage negotiations with the unsettled groups, however, pose risks to this positive picture as they create budgetary uncertainty. This could weigh against efforts to reallocate resources away from the wage bill and toward priority spending areas such as crime, social protection, and disaster resilience. Beyond the current wage negotiations, more fundamental reforms to the compensation framework for public sector employees and a streamlining of government functions, will be necessary to sustainably reduce the wage bill.
“The BOJ and the Financial Services Commission (FSC) are jointly undertaking a risk-based pilot program for consolidated supervision, informed by the recent IMF’s Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP). There is also close cooperation between the BOJ and the FSC aimed at better monitoring and sharing of financial sector regulatory information.
“During the visit, the team met with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr. Nigel Clarke, Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter, and Jamaica’s high-level officials from different ministries, agencies and the central bank. The team also engaged with members of the private sector, labor unions, and the opposition.
"  At least there was this read-out. When the IMF held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on November 15, Inner City Press asked four questions including, "The Pakistan People’s Party’s leader in Senate, Sherry Rehman, as asked 'What is going on with the IMF meetings? Neither the prime minister nor the finance minister briefed the parliament on the terms of the negotiations. Before briefing the IMF with the terms of agreement regarding the country’s foreign debts, the government should have discussed it in parliament. What is with this secrecy?' What is the IMF's response?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice said Matthew Lee has asked about the status and that an IMF team is still in Islamabad discussing a potential new program; he would not confirm if a $5 to $6 billion request is expected.

December 3, 2018

On Money Laundering Deutsche Bank Is Raided While UN Briber Ho Used HSBC and Mashreqbank Which Settled

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

UNITED NATIONS GATE, November 30 – Now Deutsche Bank, which profited as trustee from predatory mortgage lending, has been raided - for month laundering. Will it make the bank sell? Police have searched the offices of all the members of Deutsche Bank’s board as part of an investigation into money laundering allegations linked to the Panama Paper. DB's shares fell 3 percent and touched a record low as a raid that began on Thursday at the bank’s towering Frankfurt headquarters extended into a second day. We'll have more on this - and this: four months after the arrest for UN bribery of former Senegalese foreign minister Cheik Gadio and Patrick Ho, the head of China Energy Fund Committee full funded by CEFC China Energy, his ultimate boss at CEFC Ye Jianming was brought in for questioning in China. Now Inner City Press is covering the trial, here. Among the hooks for the prosecution was payments of alleged bribes not only through HSBC but also Mashreqbank based in Dubai. On October 10 Mashreqbank has been hit with and settled money laundering charges by the New York State Financial Services Department: "Although the Branch's customer base consists principally of foreign financial institutions located in high-risk regions, examiners determined that due diligence files
nonetheless lacked robust information about its foreign correspondent customers' markets." We'll have more on this. On October 4 Ho was again denied bail. Periscope video here. Now on October 9 the prosecution has requested that the trial begin later than the scheduled November 5, writing to Judge
Loretta A. Preska among other things that "this past Friday, October 5, 2018, the defendant submitted a classified notice pursuant to Section 5 of the Classified Information Procedures Act (“CIPA”). The defendant could have filed such notice a number of weeks ago, but waited until the very last day on which such a filing would be deemed timely under CIPA. The defendant also did not notify the Government that he intended to submit such a notice until the Court directed the parties to confer during last
week’s conference. The Government now has to draft, have approved for submission, and submit
a classified response in opposition, in which it intends to request a hearing concerning the use, relevance, and admissibility of classified information that would otherwise be made public by the defense during the trial, and expects, assuming appropriate authorization is provided, to request that the hearing be held in camera." If Ho's lawyers were slow, the US government's Voice of America is more so: it took it five days to report on the public bail hearing held in lower Manhattan on October 4. Tellingly, the report did not include VOA's long-time UN embedded reporter Margaret Besheer, nor did it mention Ho's arms brokering to South Sudan nor the name of previous and convicted UN briber Ng Lap Seng. Besheer has worked with
Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric to bar Inner City Press from even entering the UN and is involved with a pro-UN correspondents group which took $50,000 from Ng then provided the venue for his photo op with the UN Secretary General. (It turns out Guterres maintains a secret "banned" list including political activists, story here.) Similar quid pro quos are expected with Guterres on December 5 on 42nd Street, watch this site.

November 26, 2018

In SDNY SocGen Bank Hit With $1.3B Penalty for Sanctions Violations As UN Briber Ho Nears Trial

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 19 – While the UN bribery case of US v. Patrick Ho, including allegations of violations of Iran sanctions and Libya and South Sudan arms embargos as well as transfer of funds through Mashreqbank and HSBC comes to trial later this month, on November 19 this sanctions violation settlement: "Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, James D. Robnett, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), and Mark Bialek, Inspector General, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“IG-FRB/CFPB”), announced criminal charges against Société Générale S.A. (“SG” or the “Bank”) consisting of a one-count felony information charging SG with conspiring to violate the Trading with the Enemy Act (“TWEA”) and the Cuban Asset Control Regulations promulgated thereunder (the “Cuban Regulations”) for SG’s role in processing billions of dollars of U.S. dollar transactions using the U.S. financial system, in connection with credit facilities involving Cuba (the “Cuban Credit Facilities”).  The case is assigned to United States District Judge P. Kevin Castel.
Mr. Berman also announced an agreement (the “Agreement”) under which SG agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct by stipulating to the accuracy of an extensive Statement of Facts, pay penalties totaling $1,340,165,000 to federal and state prosecutors and regulators, refrain from all future criminal conduct, and implement remedial measures as required by its regulators.  Assuming SG’s continued compliance with the Agreement, the Government has agreed to defer prosecution for a period of three years, after which time the Government will seek to dismiss the charges.  The $1.34 billion in penalties represents the second largest penalty ever imposed on a financial institution for violations of U.S. economic sanctions." Yet. Four months after the arrest for UN bribery of former Senegalese foreign minister Cheik Gadio and Patrick Ho, the head of China Energy Fund Committee full funded by CEFC China Energy, his ultimate boss at CEFC Ye Jianming was brought in for questioning in China. Among the hooks for the prosecution was payments of alleged bribes not only through HSBC but also Mashreqbank based in Dubai. On October 10 Mashreqbank was hit with and settled money laundering charges by the New York State Financial Services Department: "Although the Branch's customer base consists principally of foreign financial
institutions located in high-risk regions, examiners determined that due diligence files
nonetheless lacked robust information about its foreign correspondent customers' markets." We'll have more on this. On October 4 Ho was again denied bail. Periscope video here.

November 19, 2018

Inner City Press Asks IMF of Pakistan Talks and Sri Lanka "Coup" Ongoing Answers Here

By Matthew Russell Lee, CJR PFT NY Post

NEW YORK CITY, November 15 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on November 15, Inner City Press asked four questions including, "The Pakistan People’s Party’s leader in Senate, Sherry Rehman, as asked 'What is going on with the IMF meetings? Neither the prime minister nor the finance minister briefed the parliament on the terms of the negotiations. Before briefing the IMF with the terms of agreement regarding the country’s foreign debts, the government should have discussed it in parliament. What is with this secrecy?' What is the IMF's response?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice said Matthew Lee has asked about the status and that an IMF team is still in Islamabad discussing a potential new program; he would not confirm if a $5 to $6 billion request is expected. Inner City Press also asked, "On Sri Lanka, any updated thinking or action from the IMF given the dissolution of parliament, no confidence in Rajapaksa motion? Who are the IMF's technical counterparts?  Any changes?" Rice said the IMF continues to monitor the political situation and remain in touch with its "technical counterparts." Not yet answered: "On Cameroon, while the IMF's recent report discussed the Cup of African Nations, what is the IMF's assessment of the impact of the ongoing conflict and travel restrictions in the country's Anglophone regions?
On Libya, the US has said it is “critical is promoting greater transparency of Libya’s economic institutions, including the Central Bank of Libya. These reforms will support much-needed conversation among Libyans about enhancing fiscal transparency and promoting a more equitable distribution of the country’s oil resources. The United States stands ready to support this economic dialogue, at Libya’s request and in close coordination with the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.” What is the IMF doing in/for Libya?
 On Saudi Arabia, can you further explain the basis of Mr Azour's statement that current and foreseeable responses to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi will no impact the Saudi economy? Asked whether the IMF felt a need to re-examine its expectations for the economy since the Khashoggi affair erupted, Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia department at the Fund, said it did not.  'What would have an impact is how oil prices will have moved going forward, and a certain number of other indicators like the pace of fiscal adjustment and the reforms that Saudi authorities will implement going forward,' Azour said.
" Back on November 1, Inner City Press asked four questions, including, "On Saudi Arabia, what is the IMF's estimate of the impact of l'affaire Khashoggi on the country's economy, as well as of the US' call for a (sequenced) cessation of hostilities in its war on Yemen?
" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice, after reading out this "question from Matthew Lee," emphasized that the IMF doesn't do politics. He said, however, that the IMF is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and stands ready to re-engage although there are no operations there now due to the conflict. On Khashoggi's murder he said it is too early to estimate how much it will impact confidence in the Kingdom - it already has - and, in what others may take as news, he answered that the impact for now is modest.

November 12, 2018

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

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

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

November 5, 2018

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

October 29, 2018

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

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

October 22, 2018

Mergers we are looking at:


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

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

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

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

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

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

October 15, 2018

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

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

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

October 8, 2018

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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


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

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

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

October 1, 2018

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

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

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

September 24, 2018

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

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive CJR PFT

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

On September 19 Inner City Press profiled the Deputy Administrator of UNDP Tegegnework Gettu, whose travel waste we previously reported on and his threat to staff that they better be careful. Inner City Press Press was thrown out of the UN without due process and Guterres spokesman has refused to answer Inner City Press' questions about travel waste, of his boss Guterres and about UNDP in particular. Gettu's tab is $159,640.41. Look in his leaked list at his inflated airfare to Switzerland, leaked travel budget document downloadable on Patreon here,