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.

July 25, 2016

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

July 18, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Some merger proposal we are watching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4, 2016

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

June 27, 2016

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

June 20, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

Actually answered during the June 16 briefing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Watch this site.
June 13, 2016

Some more we're looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 6, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

 This has not been answered...

May 30, 2016

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

May 23, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 9, 2016

Mergers we are looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2016

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

April 18, 2016

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

April 11, 2016

Some we're looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2016

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

March 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

March 21, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 14, 2016

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

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

A list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2016

 We note the conciliation agreement in Kansas City: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=16-1FEDEXECONCIL0224.PDF There will be more...
February 29, 2016

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

February 22, 2016

Bank merger blues:

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

We'll have more on this.

.February 15, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

We like this: Is there a global environmental justice movement? https://www.tni.org/en/publication/is-there-a-global-environmental-justice-movement We say... yes.

February 8, 2016

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

February 1, 2016

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

January 25, 2016

 Mergers looking at:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 18, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2015

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

December 21, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

December 14, 2015

IMF Answers ICP on Malawi Retrenchment, Global Fund Steps In

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 7 -- When the International Monetary Fund held is biweekly briefing on December 3, Inner City Press submitted a number of questions, including about Malawi but also on Burundi and how much the IMF projects the economy will contract, given the crisis triggered by Pierre Nkurunziza's third term, see below.

   Inner City Press asked, "On Malawi, it is reported that the IMF''s 'recent decision to withhold its latest loan money to the Malawian gov''t could have dire implications for health care. Malawi has put on hold the hiring of 51 medical graduates and a host of health professionals.' What is the IMF''s response?"

 On December 7, an IMF Spokesperson returned with this:

"Currently, the high rate of inflation is eroding living standards of the most vulnerable segments of the Malawian population, and is also dampening private sector confidence, reducing investment demand, and curtailing the economic growth needed to reduce poverty. IMF staff policy advice therefore recommends a certain amount of fiscal retrenchment, combined with tight monetary policy over the short term, as these are necessary to the disinflation process. During this period, IMF staff recommend that Government carefully prioritizes expenditure so as to protect both vulnerable groups and social spending. In this respect, IMF staff are pleased to note that Government is proceeding with the hiring of the graduating medical students and other health care workers, and has arranged for the Global Fund to pay the associated costs up to the end of the 2016/17 fiscal year."

   During the December 3 briefing, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press's Burundi question (and its question on Zambia, below), then said the following as to Burundi, audio here

December 7, 2015

Federal Reserve Asks BNC for CRA Info, Withheld Like Goldman Sachs?

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, December 3 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation expends from the relatively smaller of mid-sized to the largest banks, with Goldman Sachs the most recent example. 

  A mid-sized bank Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is scrutinizing, based on its records, is BNC Bancorp, currently seeking to acquire Southcoast Financial in South Carolina and, prospectively, High Point Bank & Trust.

  There's a problem with this acquisitiveness: BNC is subject to to Compliance Order with the FDIC, which is rare, based on its fair lending record. Fair Finance Watch has raised to the Federal Reserve: 

In the Charleston MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, BNC made 173 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and none to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 68 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying the applications of African Americans 3.94 times more frequently than those of whites.

  Southcoast in the Charleston MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans made 136 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. For refinance loans, Southcase made 35 loans to whites and only TWO to African Americans. To combine these two banks would make them worse.

  In the Greenville MSA in 2013 for home purchase loans, BNC made 117 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and only seven to Latinos.  For refinance loans, it made 31 loans to whites and only one to an African Americans and none to Latinos.

  BNC admits, as it must, that it is below-market in lending to African Americans, but paradoxically tries to use that the fact that it is subject to a compliance order as its defense to the Fed. 

 To Fair Finance Watch, too. FFW asked to see, in writing, what are BNC's CRA plans going forward. BNC replied that it is "unable to share this with you. It is an internal document that is only shared with our Board of Directors and the FDIC (under the Order)."  FFW has requested a copy of the High Point application.

  Now the Federal Reserve has asked BNC for, among other things, for information about its Community Reinvestment Act compliance, and consumer compliance more generally. Inner City Press is putting the Fed's December 2 Additional Information letter online, here.

Federal Reserve's Letter to BNC Bancorp for compliance and other info after FFW CRA protest by Matthew Russell Lee

  BNC is supposed to send a copy of its response, with this information it already declined to provide, to ICP / FFW. But will it try to withhold it? That seems to be the trend at and encouraged by the Federal Reserve.

November 30, 2015

  In upstate New York, as Key and First Niagara propose to combine, there are ads by Evans Bank, which settled charges that it redlined Buffalo East Side, that it is better. Race to the bottom...

November 23, 2015

And what's next? BNC wants to buy High Point Bank. We'll see.

November 16, 2015

Look who wants to grow: Bank of the Ozarks on November 13 announced a proposal to acquire C1 Financial, Inc. and C1 Bank and its 32 branches in Florida including in Miami, Orlando and Cape Coral-Ft. Myers for $402.5 million; on November 5 it has announced a planned $800 million purchase of Community and Southern Bank in Georgia. We'll see.

IMF Answers ICP on Iraq and Mozambique, Not on UN Antigua Corruption Case

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 12 -- When the International Monetary Fund held its bi-weekly embargoed press briefing on November 12, Inner City Press asked about and got answers about Iraq and Mozambique, but not about human rights or the widening UN system John Ashe corruption scandal.

 On Iraq, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question then listed some of the issues; energy subsidies and reforms (or sell off) of state owned enterprises are, of course, the main sticking point. Rice said the IMF Board will consider it early in 2016.

 On Mozambique, Rice summarized the staff-level preliminary agreement on an 18-month program that could be supported by an IMF Standby Credit Facility and said it will be considered by the IMF Board in mid-December. These new November 12 Inner City Press question have yet to be answered:

ICP: On Somalia, a recent UN Security Council resolution “encourages implementation of IMF-recommended reforms to enable the initiation of a Staff Monitored Program.” Please describe the IMF recommended reforms, in particular steps needed to  enable the initiation of a Staff Monitored Program.”

ICP: On Egypt, what is the IMF's estimate of or thinking on the suspension of flights after the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268?

  At the November 12 briefing, Rice was asked if Managing Director Lagarde will discuss Greece and refugees at the upcoming G20 in Turkey, and about the imminent "lending into arrears" a/k/a Ukraine policy change. We'll have more on this.

November 9, 2015

NYCB gobbling up Astoria? We think not.

Key Bank - First Niagara Would Trigger Branch Closing, Lending Disparities, FFW Says

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, November 3 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation continues, even as new mergers portending significant branch closing impacts are announced.

 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch, which has previously expressed its concerns about both KeyCorp and First Niagara, sees no public benefit in the proposed merger of the two for $4.1 billion, announced on October 30.

  First Niagara already closed more than a dozen branches after it acquired them from HSBC (here were some of Fair Finance Watch' concerns when it grabbed New Alliance).  KeyCorp would closed yet more branches (here's some of Fair Finance Watch's analysis of KeyCorp's lending).

  In 2014, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is available, Key Bank National Association in the Buffalo Metropolitan Statistical Area made 258 home purchase loans to whites but only seven to African Americans, while denying the applications of African Americans 2.56 times more frequently than those of whites. For refinance loans, Key's denial rate disparity for African Americans was 2.28.

 In the New York City MSA, Key Bank National Association made 21 home purchase loans to whites and only ONE to an African American applicant. Key made 43 refinance loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. These disparities are not acceptable.

 In other upstate / Western New York work, after Fair Finance Watch advocacy, Community Bank System Inc is expanding its Community Reinvestment Act assessment area, here.

  As to Goldman Sachs, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a supplement comment on October 30 including Goldman's new and troubling settlement with the NYS Department of Financial Services regarding a former Federal Reserve employee impermissibly using Fed information for them. Public hearings and an extension of the comment period are needed.

 As detailed below, the Federal Reserve's General Counsel Scott Alvarez solicitiously agreed to weekend phone calls with Goldman's outside council Rodgin "Rodge" Cohen at Sullivan & Cromwell, and the Fed submitted its "Additional Information" request to Goldman in July, a full month before any application was submitted or the deal publicly announced.

  Thus there was no way for the public to be involved in the Fed's review, which is required by the Bank Merger Act (and the Administrative Procedures Act). The Fed began trying to essentially pre-approve some applications with a 2012 letter to banks, here - but it said no major issues could be addressed this way, and the interchanged would be subject to FOIA.

  In this case, though, where Inner City Press submitted its FOIA request as soon as it became aware of Goldman's GE proposal and application, none of the information would have been available until after the comment period was set to close on September. It has been extended to October 30, due to requests from ICP and other NCRC members, but the Fed is still withholding portions of its communication with Goldman in the face of the FOIA Appeal Inner City Press immediately filed. (ICP has also submitted a timely additional comment on these issues.)

  Inner City Press has previously litigated FOIA requests with the Fed and won, at least in part, for example in obtaining subprime lending information the Fed wanted to withhold, here.  But this should not be necessary in order for the public to have this basic information, during the comment period. Will members of Congress and other chime in? Watch this site.

  This process began by overbroad withholding of basic parts of Goldman's application, click here to view, which Goldman in an October 14 submission to the Fed, here, says has been cured (it has not been).

  Now the Federal Reserve has belatedly responded to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's September 2 FOIA request, with some of its internal documents, many heavily redacted. FOIA letter here; FOIA documents released to ICP here

November 2, 2015

IMF Answers ICP on Austerity in Jamaica, Not on Antigua Corruption Case

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- Amid complaints about the impact of International Monetary Fund programs, Inner City Press on October 29 asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice “in Jamaica, the National Democratic Movement has blamed the IMF for the country's 'health-care system becoming a national disgrace.' What is the IMF's response?”

  Rice during the IMF's embargoed briefing read out this question, audio here, and said he does not agree, that Jamaica's 2015-16 budget includes an increase for the Ministry of Health. Audio of full answer here.

  The IMF left unanswered, for now, Inner City Press' question about Antigua and Barbuda, below; there will be more about Dominica.

 The IMF, it seems, should be more responsive: the Gleaner for example opines that “in 2014, Jamaica paid $138 million more to the IMF than it received from it. We are constantly being told Jamaica passed the IMF test. Look at the punitive primary surplus imposed on Jamaica. At 7.5%, it is way above what is being asked of any other country in the IMF program. It is 4% for Cyprus, 3% for Ireland, 3% for Greece, 3% for Portugal and a puny 1% for Ukraine. One has to wonder why Jamaica is being treated this way.”

  Here are two other questions Inner City Press submitted on October 29, still without answer:

On Antigua & Barbuda, in light of recent comments by IMF Mission Chief Arnold McIntyre, what is the IMF's view of and comment on the information in the US FBI's charge sheet and indictment of Antigua's former ambassador (and former UN PGA) John Ashe, particularly with regard to corruption in the country?

In light of the UN Special Rapporteur's report on human rights (non) compliance by the World Bank, presented this week at the UN, please summarize how the IMF considers the human rights impacts on its decisions.

  We'll have more on this.
October 26, 2015

Countdown: It's BNC Bancorp aspiring for Southcoast Financial Corporation, until Nov 13, watch this site.

October 19, 2015

We are also looking at, in North Carolina: Yadkin Financial Corporation and NewBridge Bancorp announced a proposed merger which would "strengthen Yadkin as the largest community bank headquartered in North Carolina."

October 12, 2015

Predator on the move? Republic Bancorp, parent company of Republic Bank & Trust Company announced a proposal to acquire Cornerstone Bancorp in St. Petersburg, Florida....

October 5, 2015

RBC Met Fed Before City National Disclosed, ICP FOIA Shows, UNreal

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 3 -- The largest US  bank merger proposed so far in 2015, that of Royal Bank of Canada and affluent-focused Los Angeles-based City National Bank, has since April been the subject of a Community Reinvestment Act challenge by Fair Finance Watch.

Back on April 11, Inner City Press submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Reserve for it communication with and about RBC and City National. Only on September 30, more than five MONTHS later, did the Fed response. In the spirit of transparency, we are putting the FOIA response online here.

  It shows among many other things that RBC was meeting with the Federal Reserve well before the public announcement of its City National proposal; it has many redactions which we will be appealing, for example “When you have a chance, please put a note in our files indicating that we asked Charles Fleet about [REDACTED] (b)(5) . Thanks.”

  The LA Times has reported on the "letter from the Fed [which] asks the banks to respond to questions raised in written comments by [FFW]. Spokesmen for the banks declined to comment.... Fair Finance Watch, a New York advocacy group for minorities, questioned a deal between the banks in a June 11 comment letter to the Fed."

  Inner City Press first put that Fed letter online, here; then Canada's National / Financial Post reported without credit it had "obtained" it.

September 28, 2015

Goldman Sachs - GE Comment Period Extended by NYS, Fed Silent

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, September 25 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks, with Goldman Sachs the most recent example. Goldman is trying to speed through Federal Reserve approval to buy $16 billion in insured deposits from GE Capital, and the Fed so far seems bent on helping. It began by withholding basic parts of Goldman's application, click here to view.

  Inner City Press has a pending Freedom of Information Act request; Fair Finance Watch and others, including NCRC, have asked the Fed to extend its comment period, with no response.

  Inner City Press made a similar request to the New York State Department of Financial Services and on September 25, some information was released -- not enough -- and the NYS comment period was extended for 30 days.

 NYSDFS Senior Attorney George Bogdan wrote:

"Dear Mr. Matthew Lee: Your FOIL request has been granted in part. My response letter and 2 Goldman Sachs documents are attached to this e mail. Also note that the comment period for the Goldman Sachs application has been extended by 30 days. An official notice for the extension will be posted online in the DFS Weekly Bulletin for the week ending September 25, 2015."

  While Inner City Press prepares a FOIL appeal, why hasn't the Federal Reserve even ruled on its FOIA request, and extended the comment period like its state counterpart? We'll have more on this.

  On September 22, 2015, the Federal Reserve belatedly released the 2014 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. A quick review of the lending of Goldman Sachs Bank USA in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area shows the Goldman Sachs focus which should require publish hearings in this case.

  Fair Finance Watch, hours after the data was released, has commented to the Federal Reserve at the highest level that "in the New York City MSA in 2014, for conventional home purchase loans (Table 4-2), Goldman Sachs Bank USA made 45 such loans to whites, only two to African Americans and only one to a Latino. For refinance loans (Table 4-3), Goldman Sachs Bank USA made 16 loans to whites and NONE to African American or Latinos. This is inconsistent with the demographics of the New York City MSA and with other lenders' records; it further militate for the timely requested public hearings."

  Goldman Sachs has purported to respond to the comments of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch by releasing a small amount of the withheld information, and arguing that what the wider Goldman Sachs does cannot or will no be considered by the Federal Reserve on this Bank Merger Act application by Goldman Sachs Bank. We've put Goldman Sachs' response online, here. It says:

“FFW states that the audio released by examiner Ms. Carmen Segara requires an extension of the comment period and a public hearing... GS Bank believes the issue is outside the scope of the statutory factors for Board consideration under the Bank Merger Act... Goldman Sachs Bank USA ('GS Bank') hereby submits its response to the three comment letters, submitted on September 2, September 3 and September 9, 2015 (the 'Comment Letters'), by the Inner City Press's Fair Finance Watch ('FFW')....

"FFW makes accusations of 'predatory practices' in the 'mortgage field' and 'municipal finance,' and states that there are a number of compliance settlements that must be reviewed in connection with the Application. FFW references several articles related to lawsuits, settlements and other events, all but one of which involve Goldman Sachs but not GS Bank. GS Bank respectfully submits that such comments are not substantiated by specific arguments or facts. GS Bank notes that none of the articles relate to GS Bank itself, and believes these issues are outside the scope of the statutory factors for Board consideration under the Bank Merger Act.”

  Goldman Sachs is arguing that the acts of a parent company cannot be considered when its bank applies to buy ($16 billion) in insured deposits, an absurd argument. FFW has submitted another comment to the Fed, including that

"ICP has received by mail from Goldman Sachs' counsel a purported response which claims that issues ranging from conflict of interest and under-regulation by the FRB (evidenced for example by the audio leaked by whistleblower Carmen Segarra) is not cognizable under the Bank Merger Act - an absurd argument. The FRB would be the decision maker, therefore such issues must be addressed.

 "Goldman Sachs cavalierly states that since it withdrew some of its indefensible requests for confidential treatment of its application, that issues is resolved. It is not - too much is still being withheld. Significantly, Goldman Sachs has offered no explanation of the specious requests for confidential treatment it made, denying commenters access to information during the comment period. As others now argue, the comment period would be extended and hearing held."

  Inner City Press will be covering this wider National (Community Reinvestment Coalition) protest, in which it joins; it has also submitted more comments to the New York State regulator, in a proceeding currently slated to come to a head on September 28, the first day of the UN General Assembly debate.

September 21, 2015

On Tunisia, ICP Asks IMF of Reforms: Banking Law, Energy Subsidies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 17 -- On Tunisia, Inner City Press at the International Monetary Fund's embargoed briefing on September 17 asked the IMF:

"In Tunisia, Managing Director Lagarde was quoted that 'It is necessary to really work and to consider that these economic reforms are a priority, decisive.' Can you say if these reforms include ending or limited subsidies and tax increases on, for example, gasoline? What process and timeline does the IMF envision for Tunisia?"

  After the embargoed briefing ended, this was provided by IMF:

“These reforms include a sound banking system, a more efficient government and civil service, a fair and efficient tax system, investment-oriented public spending, a business environment more conducive to investor risk taking, and a modern social safety net are key to maintaining growth and creating jobs in Tunisia. On energy subsidy reforms, the decline in international oil prices led to a 1.6 percent of GDP decline in energy subsidies in 2015. What is important next is to make sure that the decline in energy subsidies remains sustainable through the implementation of a new automatic fuel price formula, which is expected by the end of this year.
 
"The IMF envisions that key reforms in the banking sector—completion of the public bank recapitalization process, and adoption of key laws such as the banking and bankruptcy laws—as well as adoption of a tax package aimed at promoting greater equity, efficiency and simplification— are implemented by the end of 2015, which is when the current arrangement is set to expire.”

  Relatedly, amid the refugee crisis, Inner City Press also asked the IMF's spokesperson Gerry Rice on September 17 what does the IMF see as its role in the current refugee crisis, both some countries of arrival, and in the countries people are leaving?

Rice replied, in the televised briefing:

I want to take a question from our colleague [Inner City Press] because he’s asking about another issue that’s very much on our minds I think these days which is -- he’s asking what does the IMF see as its role in the current refugee crisis, both countries of arrival and countries where people are leaving. Well the first thing I’d say is obviously this is a massive humanitarian crisis. The concern first and foremost is for the people effected and the IMF shares that concern. The magnitude of the crisis is indeed extraordinary. As you know European political leaders are working together on the response and we believe managing the crisis will indeed require collective concerted action. On the implications which he was asking about, on the economic cost, on the fiscal dimensions, obviously the crisis is still evolving, so it’s too early for us to estimate specific fiscal impact. It’s going to be case by case in terms of countries, however past international experience with surges in immigration suggest the speed with which immigrants are integrated into the labor force is a crucial factor.

On the European dimension of this crisis there are many factors at play and it’s difficult to make again an economic assessment at this moment but we are working on it and we will be coming back to you in due course on this. I just want to finally mention that Europe is not the only region affected by this issue. Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, for example, perhaps most notably Jordan and Lebanon have been hosting large numbers of refugees from conflict areas including Iraq and Syria and they have been shouldering heavy burdens in accommodating the refugees basic needs for multiple years now.

The IMF has been involved in this issue in terms of dialogue, in terms of urging the international community and most specifically in our programs where needed and where appropriate. We have been trying to create -- help countries create the fiscal space which is something that we can help them with specifically. Create the fiscal space to accommodate some of these large refugee issues. This was the case for example in Jordan recently.

  . We'll have more on this.
September 14, 2015

ICP nomination for bad local bank: Sterling National, withheld information, provides it selectively. We'll have more on this.

September 7, 2015

Now Community Bank System has been asked, by the Federal Reserve:

On May 23, 2015, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch ('ICP') submitted a comment (Comment Letter) in protest of CBSI's proposed transaction, and in the Comment Letter, ICP alleged that: 'When the planned merger of Oneida Savings ·Bank and Community Bank, N.A., occurs in July, about 60 employees could be out of a job.' Our records do not reflect a response from CB SI to ICP's allegation. If you wish to provide a response, please do so within 7 business days.”

IMF Tells ICP of Lagarde on SDGs, Q of Financial Inclusion, Indonesia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 3 -- When the International Monetary Fund resumed its biweekly embargoed media briefings on September 3, Inner City Press submitted four questions. Inner City Press asked:

"Who from the IMF is coming to the UN General Assembly (and SDGs, etc) week in late September, and what is their program? What meeting will they participate in? What do they hope to accomplish?"

IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray answered, as fast transcribed by InnerCityPro:

“Matthew, and others, the Managing Director is scheduled to attend the UNGA particularly the SDGs segment in late September. There was a previous meeting in Addis Ababa we participated in at a high level that dealt with the SDGs... The IMF's Executive Board recently endorsed a 50% increase in access to all the funds concessional lending facilities and to maintain a 0% rate for low income countries that struggle with disasters and conflict. The Executive Board of the Fund has endorsed IMF's engagement in sustainable inclusive growth, on which we'll be elaborating in the weeks and months to come.”

  One focus should be financial inclusion, on which we'll have more during UNGA week.

 In the meanwhile, Murray also said Managing Director Christine Lagarde is about to arrive in Ukraine for "opportunistic" meetings with the authorities, and an IMF mission team will go there on September 22.

  On September 3, Inner City Press also submitted questions about Nepal and Grenada, as well as this:

"In Indonesia the Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives Taufik Kurniawan recently said, 'We do not ask for IMF support in crisis;' at the UN in NY on Sept 2, the Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives of Indonesia H. Fadli Zon told Inner City Press much the same thing. What is the IMF's response to these criticisms or resistance to the IMF, from elected representatives of the country where the IMF now plans its 2018 Annual Meetings?"

  We hope to receive answers.
August 31, 2015

There's a prediction that BNC “will continue with additional expansion into Georgia and Florida.” We'll see about that.

August 24, 2015

In Texas, looking: “Pioneer Bank and First Community Bank”...

August 17, 2015

And now in South Carolina, there's Southcoast, headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, with 10 branches in Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, Moncks Corner, Johns Island, Summerville, Goose Creek and North Charleston...

August 10, 2015

Here are some recently announced proposed deals we are looking at:

August 6, Texas: Prosperity Bancshares announced a proposed merger agreement with Tradition Bancshares;


August 4, Pennsylvania: F.N.B. Corporation and Metro Bancorp, Inc.announced a $474 million proposed merger to acquire $2.4 billion in total deposits, $2.1 billion in total loans and 32 banking offices located in the Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Reading and Lebanon MSAs. With the acquisition of Metro, FNB would have $19.6 billion in assets, including $14.7 billion in total deposits, $13.7 billion in total loans and more than 300 branches;

August 4, New Jersey: Lakeland Bancor and Pascack Bancorp announced a proposed merger;

July 29, Pennsylvania: ESSA Bancorp, Inc. announced a proposal to acquire Eagle National Bancorp;

July 28, Mississippi / Tennessee: Covenant Financial Corp. of Clarksdale signed an agreement to merge into Planters Holding Co. of Indianola which would create one of the largest Delta-based banks with loans and assets surpassing $1 billion.

July 28, California (small): Suncrest Bank and Sutter Community Bank announced a proposed merger (see also Fresno Bee, here);

July 28, Wisconsin: the parent company of Portage County Bank announced plans to purchase Bancroft State Bank;

July 23, Texas: Independent Bank Group announced a proposal to acquire Grand Bank, Dallas;

July 15, California (also small): American Riviera Bank and The Bank of Santa Barbara announced a proposal to merge;

August 3, 2015

IMF Board Funds Ukraine & Jordan, Short-changes Nepal, No Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- When the International Monetary Fund Executive Board met before going on break on July 31, it doled out funds to Ukraine and Jordan, and a smaller amount to post-earthquake Nepal.

  Back on July 29, Inner City Press submitted questions for Managing Director Lagarde, including:

"Given that Nepal after its massive earthquakes was deemed ineligible for the IMF's IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, do you think there is a need to reconsider or modify the criteria of the CCRT?

"Yesterday the UN Ad Hoc Committee on Sovereign Debt Restructuring adopted nine principles to create a global bankruptcy process for countries. What does the IMF think should be done in this regard, and what is the IMF / Managing Director doing?"

  Neither question was answered, or even taken; there is no IMF briefing until September. The program for Nepal announced on July 31 was not under the CCRT, but rather the Rapid Credit Facility:

"The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a disbursement of SDR 35.6 million (US$49.7 million) for Nepal under the Rapid Credit Facility. This financial support will help the country address the urgent balance of payments and fiscal needs associated with the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake that occurred on April 25 causing widespread damage and devastation."

  But apparently this damage and devastation was not widespread enough for the IMF. Shouldn't it explain why it will not seek to amend its CCRT program? And speak about sovereign debt and bankruptcy? We'll stay on this.

  Of Jordan, the IMF on July 31 said that "Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, issued the following statement: 'Jordan’s Fund-supported program has helped the country to successfully weather severe external shocks, including the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.'"

July 27, 2015

IMF Board to Meet on Ukraine July 31, No Answers on Africa, Madagascar, FfD

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- When the International Monetary Fund held a belated media briefing on July 23, before taking its summer break, nearly all the questions were about Greece; at least two Africa questions (from Inner City Press) were not answered, including:

On Madagascar, the IMF's Patrick Imam has said “certain preconditions for the... Extended Credit Facility (ECF) are not yet fully met.” What are those conditions, and what are the IMF's next steps on Madagascar?

What is the IMF's view of the Financing for Development agreement reached in Addis Ababa this month, in particular the non-inclusion of a mechanism to deal with inconsistent global corporate taxation?

  While leaving these and a Press request for an update on Nepal unanswered, the IMF went around and around on Greece and then Ukraine. On the latter, there is a July 31 board meeting tentatively set - before the Board's summer recess.

  On Greece, spokesperson Gerry Rice could not or would not confirm a Troika visit to Athens. He praise Delia Velculescu, being shifted by the IMF to Greece from Cyprus. In the capacity, she answered Inner City Press' questions a year ago, here.

 Apparently answers depend on what (country) you're asking about. A country like Nepal might merit answers for a few briefings, but then no updates (or follow through). We'll have more on this.

  Since the Nepal earthquake, Inner City Press has been asking the International Monetary Fund if it would move to relieve the country's debt burden. Inner City Press resubmitted the question for the IMF's embargoed June 25 briefing, and during it, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question and answered it. Transcript here; video here from 47:50.

  Inner City Press' question: "On Nepal, in the run up to the June 25 International Conference of Nepal’s Reconstruction, and with the World Bank announcing $500 million, is the IMF intending to do anything beyond the $50 million (one year) and $124 million (overall) in its response in the last briefing? Through the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust?"

  Rice said the IMF is represented at the conference in Katmandu -- contrary to some reports, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is NOT there -- and could be the request for the $50 M / $124 M to the Board in July. He emphasized this would be zero interest under the RCF but said Nepal is NOT eligible for the CCRT, GDP damage is not enough.

  Inner City Press would ask, should that threshold be lowered?

July 20, 2015

RBC - City National Gun Jumping Covered by LAT, After FFW Raised It, CBSI Contrasted

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 18 -- The largest bank merger recently proposed, that of Royal Bank of Canada and affluent-focused Los Angeles-based City National Bank, has since April been the subject of a Community Reinvestment Act challenge by Fair Finance Watch.

  Now the LA Times has reported on the "letter from the Fed [which] asks the banks to respond to questions raised in written comments by [FFW]. Spokesmen for the banks declined to comment.... Fair Finance Watch, a New York advocacy group for minorities, questioned a deal between the banks in a June 11 comment letter to the Fed."

  Inner City Press first put that Fed letter online, here; then Canada's National / Financial Post reported without credit it had "obtained" it.

  By contrast, in another pending proposal, CBSI - Oneida, the Syracuse Post-Standard disclosed that "Inner City Press forwarded the letter to news outlets. Some of the Fed's questions focus on whether Community could improperly control matters at Oneida in advance of the acquisition. Community is working on Fed's questions, said Hal Wentworth, Community's senior vice president for retail banking."

  One common theme is that non-control (and therefore antitrust) laws are being violated. One difference is that CBSI does comment to the media -- if only to blame the messenger -- while larger RBC and CNB do not. Arrogance?

 On CBSI's blaming the messenger, FFW has commented to the Fed that it will "will comment again when CBSI has provided a copy of its response to the FRS' questions of July 13. Beyond the CRA and impermissible “control” questions raised therein, we wish at this time to raise the issues that, in a public response to ICP's comments, CBSI's SVP for retail banking said the following, in a prepared statement no less:

'In a statement today, Hal Wentworth, Community's senior vice president for retail banking, said that Inner City Press is not a local group and pointed out that letter was the only one filed on the Oneida deal. "This activist does not do business with either Oneida or Community Bank."'

If it would be inappropriate for CBSI to comment on or disclose information about its customers, in this context the same applies to the above-quoted, which, separately, is reminiscent of human rights abusing countries emphasizing where the rights groups who study and report on them are based."

July 13, 2015

Here are some proposed mergers, large and mostly small, that we are looking at:

July 7, Virginia & West Virginia: Premier Financial Bancorp ($1.3 billion) announced a proposal to buy First National Bankshares Corporation

July 1, Texas: Post Oak Bancshares announced a plan of merger with SSB Bancshares;

June 30, Pennsylvania: Citizens Financial Services proposes to merge with The First National Bank of Fredericksburg;

June 29, Indiana (and Illinois and Ohio), First Merchants Corp. proposed to merge with Ameriana Bancorp;

June 26, Pennsylvania: Juniata Valley Financial Corp. proposes to merge with First National Bank of Port Allegany;

June 24, Ohio / Pennsylvania: Farmers National Banc says it'll buy Tri-State First Banc, Inc;

June 23, Washington state: Northwest Bancorporation proposes to buy  Fairfield Financial;

June 22, California: PBB Bancorp/Premier Business Bank propose to buy First Mountain Bank;

June 22, Arkansas / Missouri: Bear State Financial proposes to buy Metropolitan National Bank;

June 20, Florida: Home BancShares Inc says it proposes to buy Florida Business BancGroup;

June 17, Louisiana: Home Bank says it'll buy New Orleans-based Louisiana Bancorp...

July 6, 2015

Here is a merger ICP Fair Finance Watch has commented on, now projected closing pushed back:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bancorpsouth-announces-extension-of-merger-agreements-with-central-community-corporation-and-ouachita-bancshares-corp-300107249.html

June 29, 2015

 So rather than trying to explain to the Federal Reserve why it violated the law and began to collaborate with City National it hasn't been approved to acquire, Royal Bank of Canada on June 24 told the Fed it had managed to get another comment withdrawn. Well, not that of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch. Lawless....

IMF Tells ICP Nepal Not Eligible for CCRT, Says Flexible with Jordan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- Since the Nepal earthquake, Inner City Press has been asking the International Monetary Fund if it would move to relieve the country's debt burden. Inner City Press resubmitted the question for the IMF's embargoed June 25 briefing, and during it, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question and answered it. Transcript here; video here from 47:50.

  Inner City Press' question: "On Nepal, in the run up to the June 25 International Conference of Nepal’s Reconstruction, and with the World Bank announcing $500 million, is the IMF intending to do anything beyond the $50 million (one year) and $124 million (overall) in its response in the last briefing? Through the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust?"

  Rice said the IMF is represented at the conference in Katmandu -- contrary to some reports, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is NOT there -- and could be the request for the $50 M / $124 M to the Board in July. He emphasized this would be zero interest under the RCF but said Nepal is NOT eligible for the CCRT, GDP damage is not enough.

  Inner City Press would ask, should that threshold be lowered?

  On Jordan, Inner City Press asked: "On Jordan, having seen the IMF's announcement about the end of July, has there been any movement on the criticism by the head of UNHCR and others that the IMF and World Bank in treating Jordan (and Lebanon, etc) as “middle income” can't or don't do enough to provide support given the volume of refugees they have received?"

  Rice said, in essence, that the IMF has been flexible and has given fiscal space to deal with the refugee issues

June 22, 2015

Here's a sleazy deal: “First Republic Bank said Wednesday that it's buying Constellation Wealth Advisors for about $115 million to expand its wealth management services.”

June 15, 2015

So Community Bank System (CBSI) says it is extended anticipated closing date with Oneida Financial - but not why. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a challenge with the Federal Reserve - CBSI's record has not improved. We'll have more on this.

IMF Tells ICP Nepal Applies for RCF, $124 M, Ghana Eurobond Envisioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 -- Since the Nepal earthquake, Inner City Press has been asking the International Monetary Fund if it would move to relieve the country's debt burden. Inner City Press resubmitted the question for the IMF's embargoed June 11 briefing, and during it, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice read out the question and answered it.

  Rice said that Nepal has now made a request to the IMF under the Rapid Credit Facility, and that the IMF will send a mission to the country coinciding with the donors' conference on June 25. He said Nepal could be eligible for $50 million annually, for a total of $124 million. We'll see.

   Rice also answer questions Inner City Press submitted on Ghana's Eurobond and about Jamaica. (He said these questions, “from the UN in New York,” remind of other things in the IMF briefing room other than Greece and Ukraine).

  On Ghana, Rice said that the Eurobond was “envisioned” in the recently agreed program. But what is the status of any talks about it? Inner City Press asked, “Ghana's Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, says the government intends to issue a $1 billion 10-year Eurobond in 2015. What are the status of talks with the IMF in this regard?”

  On Jamaica, Inner City Press asked, “On Jamaica, please comment on criticism that the percentage of people in under the poverty line has grown alongside the IMF's program and that 'last year, Jamaica paid the IMF over $136 million more than it received.'”

   Rice acknowledged that in 2014-15 there was a negative flow out of the country to the IMF, of $163 million. But he said with the new program that has reversed, to in-flow into Jamaica of $127 million in 2015-16, projected to rise to $176 million in 2017-18. Rice acknowledge the rise in the poverty rate from 9.9% in 2007 to 20% in 2012, but said this had to do with the global financial crisis and is the reason for the IMF's program. We'll see.

June 8, 2015

Some of the proposed mergers we are looking at:

June 4, Connecticut: Liberty Bank in Middletown and Naugatuck Valley Financial Corporation announced an agreement for merger;

June 3, Mississippi: BankFirst Capital Corporation and Newton County Bancorporation, Inc. have entered into an Agreement of Merger. With the merger, BankFirst would have total assets in excess of $875 million and 18 total branches across 10 Mississippi counties;

May 29, Midwest into CA: Heartland Financial announced a merger agreement with Premier Valley Bank based in Fresno, California. After the merger, Heartland would serve 11 states (six Midwestern and five Western) from 95 banking locations with assets approximating $7 billion;

May 27, Texas: Green Bancorp (NASDAQ: GNBC) and Patriot Bancshares, Inc. announced they have entered into a definitive agreement and plan of merger valued at approximately $139 million 

May 27, NJ into FLAValley National Bancorp is proposing to buy  CNLBancshares Inc. in a $207 million deal. CNLBank subsidiary has $1.4 billion in assets, $833 million in loans and $1.1 billion in deposits, as well as 16 branches.

June 1, 2015

IMF Tells ICP "No Time Line" on Yemen or Burundi, Is Nepal "Qualified"?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 28, updated -- On the day Yemen talks were supposed to resume in Geneva, but were canceled by the UN, Inner City Press asked the International Monetary Fund for the status of its program.
  
  IMF spokesperson William Murray read out the question -- "on Yemen, given the cancellation or postponement of the talks that had been scheduled to begin today (May 28) in Geneva, what is the status of the IMF's program and any review of it?" -- then read out a response:

"I’ve got 2 separate questions from Matthew Lee, of Inner City Press. Matthew’s question on Yemen, given the cancellation of talks, what’s the status of the IMF’s program?

A: In the context of Yemen and the IMF, the sit is still under review and being closely monitored. We don’t have a time line yet established for any active resumption of discussions over completion of the review of the existing Yemen program. The program is still in place but we’re monitoring developments in Yemen. Come back to us as time goes on. "

 But in place with whom? Hadi in exile? The Houthis?

  Likewise on Burundi, Inner City Press asked Murray about the status of the IMF's "pre-election" program, now that the legislative elections have been briefly delayed, and questions loom over the presidential elections (the UN Security Council "penholder," France, told Inner City Press on May 27 that the conditions for elections are not met).

  Murray, citing the "current security situation," said

"Well, another situation under review, but let me give you our current view on Burundi. Of course the background is well known, current developments. We are following those developments closely, regarding the extended credit facility, that’s the facility that has been in place for some time. The program was recently approved and it’s fair to say that given current security, and political issues, the timing of our next discussion with the authorities is yet to be determined. We shall continue to monitor the situation in Burundi and if possible, will determine that at a later stage, when to set the time for a second review of the credit facility."

  On Nepal, on which Inner City Press asked the IMF again about any debt relief or use of new facilities, Murray said:

"Just to give you a quick status report on Nepal, we had a mission on the ground, they’ve done an initial assessment. It’s not final yet. They will be going back to Kathmandu to complete some analytics because there was another very very severe earthquake. There is a plan for a donors meeting in late June, June 25 I believe, a lot of that analysis which we’re also doing on the macro economic front with the World Bank and other multilateral institutions, that will all feed into the June 25 donors conference, at which point I would expect a very active strategy for Nepal to surface. Right off the top, we have a rapid credit facility that Nepal could certainly have access to, which is one option. In terms of debt relief, that is pending further analysis. As you know we’ve had some reforms in our credit facilities that have certain conditions attached to how a country can qualify for debt relief. It’s unclear at this juncture whether Nepal does or not, but certainly it’s under review."

 We'll have more on this.

May 25, 2015

A merger we're looking at and more - CBSI and Oneida Savings. There's a history here - and decay.

May 18, 2015

   So now in the Senate, a proposal to move the definition of Systemically Important Financial Institution from $50 billion up to... $500 billion.

May 11, 2015

  Merger announced in the last week which we are looking at:

May 8, Wisconsin: Baylake Corp. says it proposes to buy NEW Bancshares and its Union State Bank;


May 7, Illinois (and Arizona), Parkway Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Park Bancorp, Inc. and Park Federal Savings Bank;

May 6, Arkansas into NC: Bank of the Ozarks of Little Rock said it proposes to purchase Bank of the Carolinas and Bank of the Carolinas for $64.7 million;

May 5, Florida: Achieva Credit Union said it has signed an agreement to acquire Calusa Bank - a rare case of a credit union trying to buy a bank. CRA?

May 4, Tennessee: Pinnacle Financial Partners announced a proposal to acquire Memphis-based Magna Bank.

May 4, 2015

 Chicken home to roost: Hudson City Bancorp said net income for the quarter fell to $5.9 million, or 1 cent a share, from $42.5 million, or 9 cents last year, missing analyst expectations by 1 cent. "The latest unexpected delay in the merger contributed to the first quarter's weak earnings," Denis J. Salamone, Hudson's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. He did not mention his bank's fair lending problems highlighted by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch..

On Nepal, ICP Asks IMF If Any Debt Relief, New CCR Trust "Possible"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS / DC, April 30 -- At the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing on April 30, Inner City Press asked, "In Nepal after the earthquake, will the IMF use the CCR Trust? What of the $54 million Nepal owes to the IMF, with $10 million due this year and $16 million in 2016? Any debt relief?"

IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice replied to Inner City Press that

"we’re assessing the situation, we’re seeing exactly what the needs are. We will be looking at all options and all instrumentalities, all instruments that are available to us to respond as effectively as possible to the situation facing the people of Nepal. There are a number of different instruments that could be used, as you know.

"There is the Rapid Credt Facility, for example, which is our zero interest rate facility, provides financing very quickly, limited conditionality aimed at low income countries facing urgent budget balance or payment needs, due to an external shock including natural disasters. So that’s one. That’s one option. And as I said, we’re looking at all options, including potential availability under the new CCR trust."

  This CCR was set in earlier this year, limited to disasters which  destroy more than a quarter of a nation's productive capacity, impact one third of its people or cause damage larger than the size of the country's economy. How the IMF will apply it to Nepal is not yet known.

April 27, 2015

  With Deutsche Bank belatedly fined for its LIBOR scam, even Forbes says it has a rotten heart - and that not even including its foreclosure on predatory loans...

April 20, 2015

 This week, Deutsche Bank under fire, and this from the IMF annual Spring meetings:

On Yemen, ICP Asks IMF of Impact, Ahmed Cites Delay, Hadi Gov Efforts

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS / DC, April 17 -- At the International Monetary Fund's annual meeting on April 17, Inner City Press asked, "On Yemen, given the fighting, airstrikes and uncertainly, any update on the IMF's first review? Any contacts with Hadi government or Houthis since March 26? What is the IMF's view of regional economic impacts?"

 The IMF's Masood Ahmed replied that the IMF's first review remains “on hold until political situation clarifiies and until we can then assess impact on economy.”

  He said “the impact of the  crisis and conflict in Yemen is first and formost humanitarian, the real cost is the human cost. The economy is contracting, oil production is 40% lower, public spending and review is 1/3 down, reserves are down 1/4 this year.”

   And so, Masood Ahmed of the IMF told Inner City Press, “so leads us to have our own small voice to call trying to find quickly a solution to ending the conflict in Yemen so the efforts the government was already trying to make last year to improve economic situation could be continued.”

  But what are the prospects of Hadi returning to power? Now the UN has removed Jamal Benomar as mediator, slated to be replaced by one chosen by Saudi Arabia. Is that sustainable?

Back on March 26 amid the ongoing airstrikes in Yemen, Inner City Press asked the IMF about the status of its program in the country.

   IMF Deputy Spokesperson William Murray said that the first review is postponed until things clarify.

   Back on January 22, Murray had answered Inner City Press that while events in Yemen were not helpful, the review was not until Spring. Now it is postponed indefinitely.

   On March 26, Inner City Press asked Murray if the IMF has had any contact with the Houthis. No, seemed to be the answer - certainly not in recent days, Murray specified.

   Murray declined a follow up question about the impact on oil markets. Now on April 17 Masood Ahmed has provided some figures.

 Also on April 17 Inner City Press asked the IMF, "on Vanuatu, it's said that even after Cyclone Pam the country is not eligible for the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Is that true, and what could be done given that only two small-island states are eligible, despite high debts and storm risks?"

 The IMF's Hoe Ee Khor replied that "We have a mission in Vanuatu right now. We are in the process of trying to draw up the program. The amount we have access to is 22 million SDR. It's small relative to the size of the damages.” Video here.

  He said the IMF is working on the “macro economic framework” which may trigger more financing from Australia, New Zealand and other IFIs like the ADB and World Bank.

     There is a similar problem at the World Bank, with countries like Lebanon and Jordan and some in West Africa not eligible for financing needed to deal with refugees. And now more refugees are being created, for example from Yemen.

  And so it goes.
and

"Deutsche Bank AG’s Dubai branch was fined $8.4 million by the regulator of the emirate’s financial free zone for breaching its rules, including providing false information. The Dubai Financial Services Authority, or DFSA, said it fined the German bank for “serious contraventions” which include misleading the regulator and for failures in its internal governance and systems controls related to booking clients and anti-money-laundering processes. The $8.4 million amount is the largest fine the regulator has ever issued since it was founded in 2004. The Dubai fine comes at a time when Deutsche Bank is expected to pay close to $1.5 billion to settle with U.S. authorities for its alleged role of manipulating interbank lending rates, known as Libor."

April 13, 2015

A merger we have (timely) looked at is Cathay General - Asia Bank. What would be the benefit, of just closing branches? We'll have more on this.

April 6, 2015

On Ghana, IMF Tells ICP $918M Program Will Be Transparent - But Will It?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- Less than an hour after the International Monetary Fund announced that its Executive Board had approved a $918 million program for Ghana, IMF Mission Chief Joel Toujas-Bernate held a media conference call.

  Inner City Press asked Toujas-Bernate what role there will be for civil society in evaluating the program, about access to information and oversight of Ghana’s National Petroleum Company.

 Toujas-Bernate replied that "transparency in public finance" was, in fact, a focus "in particular to respond to need for better access to data on budget preparation and execution [to] broaden support for reform program of authorities."

  He said, "we have engaged during negotiations with civil society representatives and we signaled that transparency will be increased to all of Ghana's society." He said that Ghana has signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). He said, "All program documents will be published soon."

  But why were at least some of the program documents made available during this process? If it wasn't transparent then, will it be in the future?

  Joy FM asked about the upcoming elections -- the IMF said it got commitments from the president himself -- and Bloomberg asked about the impact of interest rates in the US. And that was it.

March 30, 2015

A recent acquisition that escape or evaded all public comment for now was Popular's “emergency” acquisition of Doral Bank, including in New York. It just happened; no attempt was made to assess the community reinvestment implications or reach out to the public. We aim to have more on this.

March 23, 2015

Interesting merger proposal: Pac West trying to buy Square 1 in North Carolina. We'll have more on this.

March 16, 2015

IMF Says It Will Answer on Yemen After Stabilizes, As Talks of Calm in Bangladesh

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 12, updated -- At the International Monetary Fund's biweekly embargoed briefing on February 19,  Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice "in Yemen, the World Bank has suspended its programs due to the 'dangerous political and security situation.' What is the status of the IMF's programs, and its estimate of impacts of the Houthi / Hadi stand-off?"

  Rice read out the question then replied, We are monitoring the situation very closely and will be able to say more once it has stabilized just a bit.

  But what if it doesn't stabilize?

 On Bangladesh, by contrast, the IMF's Rodrigo Cubero on March 10 said " the resurgence of unrest in recent months is taking a toll on the economy..  upside risks from unrest-related supply disruptions... Should calm be restored and uncertainty abate, growth should strengthen to 6½ percent in FY16."

 Of this, Inner City Press submitted this question to the IMF:

On Bangladesh, Mr Cubero said “should calm be restored and uncertainty abate, growth should strengthen to 6½ percent in FY16.” Does the IMF believe that the government's crackdown  is the way to restore calm or another approach should be used?

Update: After the briefing, an IMF Spokesperson provided this to Inner City Press on Bangladeshh:

"Our most recent press release summarizes our views on the economy and the near-term outlook – we would not comment beyond that.”

Inner City Press has been told to expect a response to its question about Sri Lanka, but not for some reason to this one on Ghana:

On Ghana and the draft agreement, is there any procedure for civil society organizations to view it before it goes to the IMF Board?  Does the draft agreement contain any provisions on access to information?

 Neither question, nor four submitted a week ago for a briefing postpone by Washington snow, have been answered. Watch this site.

On Sri Lanka, IMF Tells ICP External Debt Cost's Issue for Creditors, Not It

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 12, updated -- At the International Monetary Fund's biweekly embargoed briefing on February 19,  Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice

"In Sri Lanka, the IMF Post-Program Monitoring mission led by IMF official Todd Schneider concluded there is no urgent need, while others say there's a need to retire or refinance high cost external debt and that 'the IMF last year warned the island was vulnerable to sudden external shocks due to high levels of foreign commercial borrowings.' What is the IMF's view of Sri Lanka's debt and the new government's position?"

  Not during the briefing -- then, Rice responded to Inner City Press question about Yemen -- but some hours afterwards, the following response arrived, attributable to IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice:

“The staff’s view of Sri Lanka’s debt position has not changed since the Article IV consultation, which highlighted the high external debt burden and a rising cost for external financing as Sri Lanka shifts to middle-income status and bilateral concessional debt is replaced with borrowing on commercial terms. The accompanying debt sustainability analysis (DSA) assessed Sri Lanka’s public and publicly guaranteed debt as elevated, and subject to a number of risks, but sustainable over the medium-term.
 
“The recent mission’s statement was that there is no immediate balance of payments need, as Sri Lanka maintains central bank foreign exchange reserves in excess of three months of import cover, and the overall balance of payments is projected to improve with the recent decline in oil prices.  The appears to be  concerned about the high cost of some public external debt and is exploring options for reducing the interest burden and increasing fiscal space. This is an issue between Sri Lanka and its (bilateral) creditors.”

  Next, we'll turn to those creditors. Can you say, String of pearls? Watch this site.

After Sri Lanka's new government spoke of doing another local investigation into war crimes in 2009, and asking for a suspension of the UN Human Rights Council process, Inner City Press on February 13 went to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera's meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  No other media at the UN attended; only the UN's own in-house UN Photo and UN TV. But accompanying Mangala Samaraweera were outgoing Ambassador Palitha Kohona and others. Video here.

  Ban Ki-moon, before Inner City Press was whisked out of the meeting, told Mangala Samaraweera he had met him after the tsunami - that is, when Ban was a South Korean diplomat.

March 9, 2015

In banking, the big get bigger: where are the regulators?

How the 10 biggest banks got even bigger

'14 asset 14dep 13 ass 13 dep

JPMorgan Chase $2,573 $1,363 $2,416 $1,288

Bank of America $2,105 $1,119 $2,102 $1,119

Citigroup $1,833 $897 $1,881 $968

Wells Fargo $1,687 $1,168 $1,527 $1,079

U.S. Bancorp $403 $283 $364 $262

BNY Mellon $385 $266 $374 $261

PNC $345 $232 $320 $221

Capital One $309 $206 $297 $205

HSBC $290 $111 $290 $110

State Street $274 $209 $243

We'd have liked to cite the source...

March 2, 2015

JP Morgan Chase has "announced plans to reduce expenses by $2.8 billion by 2017, including axing approximately 300 branches in the next 22 months.Bank of America Corp. implemented "Project New BAC" in 2011, a cost savings program that involved heavy branch cuts. Since the program was initiated, the company has reduced its branch count from over 6,000 branches to 4,891, adjusted for any openings and closings, and announced mergers and acquisitions as of Feb. 24.Citigroup Inc. also recently began reducing its branch footprint, which is already very small compared to the other large institutions with only 894 U.S. branches, adjusted for any openings and closings and announced mergers and acquisitions, as of Feb. 24. In 2014, the company struck 2 deals with BB&T Corp. to sell over 60 branches in Texas and rumors were swirling last year that the company was looking for a buyer for a handful of it California and Nevada branches" -- all this according to a Financial reporting service that has chosen, for us, to remain UNnamed... Watch this site.

February 23, 2015

IMF Talks Up Ukraine Program, On Libya No Answer, Of Yemen's Poor

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- At the International Monetary Fund's biweekly embargoed briefing on February 19,  Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice for the IMF's view of the economic impacts of the Libyan crisis on that country, the region and the world.  No answer was given.

  Instead, the IMF insisted that its assumptions for proposing over $17 billion to Ukraine would be met; Rice said the IMF's program has no "conditionality" about stopping or even slowing the war.

  Inner City Press also asked, twice, about Georgia, where "Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has said the country has approach the IMF for assistance to stabilize the Lari - can you confirm and what would be the next steps?" This was not answered either.

  Following up on Ghana, on which he answered last week, Rice said an IMF team is in Accra from today to February 26. Inner City Press had asked, "Ghana's head of IMF Negotiation Team Kwesi Botchway has said most of the issues with the IMF have been concluded and to expect action at the April 2015 IMF Executive Board meeting. Is that where things stand?"

  On Yemen, Inner City Press asked, "how does the ongoing political stand-off impact the IMF's program? Who are the IMF's interlocutors in Yemen at this time?" The interlocutor question was not answered. Rice took a question he said was from Yemen -- then corrected, "Saudi Arabia" -- and said the IMF is concerned about the poor.

  Amid a flurry of questions about Greece and a possible Grexit, Rice said, I'm wrapping it, it's a wrap. But the questions will continue.

* * *

 Previously, on February 5, Rice answered on the IMF's process in Ghana (and in Mongolia, see below).

  Inner City Press asked "In Ghana, President Mahama on Feb 3 said, 'Ghana is committed to securing an IMF programme and we are confident that we will reach agreement with the IMF by the end of this quarter.' What is the process / status at the IMF?"

  IMF spokesperson Rice said there has been "good progress," and mentioned "cleaning up the payroll" and "medium term reforms," as well as considering the impact of declining oil prices.

 On August 28, 2014 on Ghana Inner City Press had asked “Convention People’s Party chair Samia Nkrumah has said, 'It will be erroneous to accept the fact that IMF conditionalities could not be rejected since in 1965, Ghana, under the First President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, rejected the proposal of the IMF when they recommended the sale of national assets such as factories in exchange for a loan.' What is the IMF's response?”

  Rice then said that the IMF team will be in Accra in September. Things have moved since then.

  On February 5 about Mongolia, Inner City Press asked, "what is the process forward on their request for an IMF stand-by arrangement? When will a visit to the country take place?"

  Rice replied, "The IMF has received a request from the Mongolian authorities to begin discussions of possible support to Mongolia. The IMF will be sending a team to Ulaanbaatar soon to initiate these discussions."

February 16, 2015

M&T, with its long pending application to acquire Hudson City protested by Fair Finance Watch, NCRC and others, has a mandatory pre-trial conference in the fair lending case against it scheduled for April 7. Will the Federal Reserve take note?

February 9, 2015

Now it can be said: one of the most dubious proposal going is the Application by Sterling National Bank to acquire and merge with Hudson Valley Bank - we'll have more on this.

February 2, 2015

Here's an interesting merger: Bridgehampton proposing to buy Community National, on whose 11 branches one is in Manhattan and one in Queens - in Bayside. We're watching this one.

January 26, 2015

Royal Bank of Canada trying to buy City National? We'll have more on this. And on Cathay General - AsiaBank too...

January 19, 2015

  Here's some new mergers, mostly small:

Washington Savings Bank on January 15 announced a proposal to acquire First Federal Savings - and on the same day, Seattle-based First Sound Bank announced a proposal to acquire Eastside Commercial Bank. In Texas, Guaranty Bancshares on January 11 announced a proposal to buy Preston State Bank. In Louisiana, First NBC Bank Holding Co. announced on Dec 30 a proposal to acquire State-Investors Bank. And so it goes - watch this site.

January 12, 2015

Bank mergers in India and South Korea are being challenged - by employees. In India, “employees' unions at ING Vysya Bank today staged a protest with demands for 'job security' in the wake of its proposed merger with Kotak Mahindra Bank. The protest was jointly organized by the All India ING Vysya Bank Employees' Union and All India ING Vysya Bank Officers' Association, which claimed their concerns over the proposed merger remain unresolved.”

And in South Korea, “the merger talks between Hana Bank and Korea Exchange Bank faced another hurdle Friday as the KEB union demanded that Hana Financial first confirm the detailed process of the merger in advance - a term that the latter will not easily embrace.” We're following this - and would like to see things like it in the USA.

January 5, 2015

Better late than never, the chickens come home to roost: Royal Bank of Scotland, big player in the predatory lending meltdown, now reportedly faces fines from the FHFA and Justice Department. Only now, it's 81% owned by the UK government...

December 29, 2014

  In Puerto Rico, the offices of Doral Bank have been raided -- this is beyond CRA...

December 22, 2014

On CIT - OneWest, from CRC:

FDIC has Already Paid to OneWest
 
under IndyMac Shared Loss
$670,754,214
under La Jolla Bank Shared Loss
$357,650,183
Total
$1,028,404,397
 
 
FDIC Estimate of Future Payments
 
under IndyMac Shared Loss
$1,335,407,190
 under La Jolla Bank Shared Loss
$94,615,970
Total
$1,430,023,160
 
 
Total estimated amount FDIC will pay to OneWest Bank
$2,458,427,557*

December 15, 2014

With IMF Reform Not in CRomnibus, Lagarde Fights Back, in January

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 11 -- With IMF quota reform not included in the more than 1000 pages of the US Continuing Resolution / Omnibus known as CRomnibus, what now will IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde do?

  At the first IMF embargoed press briefing in four weeks, Deputy Spokesperson William Murray was asked (Inner City Press submitted this and five other questions before the briefing, see below.)

  Murray referred to Lagarde's Work Plan for 2015, also under embargo until 10:30 am. Now, at that time, here it is, Paragraph 12:

"12. Governance and resources. Prompt entry into force of the 2010 Quota and Governance reforms is of utmost importance to preserve the quota-based nature of the IMF, and strengthen its legitimacy, effectiveness and relevance. In line with the IMFC’s
commitment to maintaining a strong and adequately-resourced IMF, steps will also be taken to ensure the availability of sufficient Fund resources for crisis prevention and resolution. As
flagged in the Spring WP, in the event that the 2010 Board Reform Amendment and the 14th General Review of Quotas have not become effective by the end of 2014, a Board meeting
on alternative options for rebalancing quotas and increasing Fund resources will be scheduled for January 2015. The Board will discuss a draft report to the Board of Governors on the
15th General Review of Quotas before the end-January deadline for the completion of the 9 Review. The timing of Board meetings on the 15th General Review and on revisions to the
quota formula will be determined, taking into account progress made in ratifying the 2010 reforms."

 So there will be an IMF Board meeting in January on the topic. Murray said the date of the next briefing, in January, is not yet set, pending the date of Lagarde's cusp of the year speech then travel to Davos. Watch this site.

  Inner City Press on December 11 - actually, submitted December 10 -- asked:

If not asked “in the room,” what if the IMF's response to IMF quota not being included in the US Congress' end of year Continuing Resolution / Omnibus?

On Yemen, does Saudi Arabia withholding budget support due to advances by the Houthis impact the IMF's program or predictions? Relatedly, what is the IMF's response to the Yemeni central bank's Mohammed Bin Humam being quoted that “our current level of foreign reserves is still sufficient and in line with our program with the IMF”?

On Ireland, what is the IMF's response to protests against its role in the raised water charges for consumers in that country?

What is the IMF's response to UNASUR Secretary-General Ernesto Samper being quoted, Dec 8 in Quito, opposing Managing Director Lagarde's comments on Latin America and that “the IMF does not have the moral authority to give any recommendations to us after we were subject to their constraints for many years, negating any possibility for progress”?

On Dec 10, the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs' World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 report addressed Ebola imposing “major economic costs in the affected countries through disruptions to travel and trade.” What are the IMF's estimates now of Ebola's impact?

  Watch this site.

December 8, 2014

Along with the mergers we listed last week, there's another in Hawaii, where Hawaiian Electric Industries announced last week a proposal to be acquired by NextEra Energy, in a $4.3 billion deal. “The transaction does not include American Savings Bank, which HEI also owns. The company says it plans to establish the bank as an independent publicly traded company. ASB Hawaii’s estimated current value is approximately $800 million, or approximately $8.00 per share. The spinoff is expected to be completed immediately prior to and is contingent upon the completion of the combination of HEI and NextEra Energy.”

We'll see about that...

December 1, 2014

We are looking at these proposals:

Iowa into Minnesota: MidWestOne Financial Group of Iowa City, Iowa proposing to buy Central Bancshares and Central Bank of Golden Valley, Minnesota....

North Carolina into Virginia: BNC Bancorp, holding company for Bank of North Carolina proposes to buy Valley Financial Corporation and Valley Bank of Roanoke, VA...

Hawaii: First Foundation Inc. proposes to buy Pacific Rim Bank in Honolulu, Hawaii.

November 24, 2014

 Here are two applications to the Federal Reserve that look almost identical - but they're not:

IBERIABANK Corporation, Lafayette, Louisiana    to merge with Old Florida Bancshares, Inc., Orlando, Florida, and thereby acquire its two subsidiaries, Old Florida Bank and New Traditions Bank, both in Orlando, Florida    3    Atlanta    12/15/2014

IBERIABANK Corporation, Lafayette, Louisiana CORRECTION    to merge with Florida Bank Group Inc., and thereby indirectly acquire Florida Bank, both in Tampa, Florida    3    Atlanta    11/24/2014

November 17, 2014

We'll be cryptic here for now: Fair Finance Watch commented on BB&T application to acquire 41 branches from Citibank in Texas, then on BB&T application to acquire Bank of Kentucky. After that and a weird response from BB&T, the bank announced a larger $2.5 billion proposal to buy Susquehanna. What do you think comes next?

In Burkina Faso, IMF Tells ICP Mission Off Until Recognized Govt

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13, updated with transcript -- When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed media briefing on November 13, Inner City Press asked about Burkina Faso: "does the IMF have any comment or response to the change of government, any impacts on IMF programs or forecasts for the country or its neighbors?"

  IMF deputy spokesperson William Murray replied that "in terms of Burkina Faso there were some issues with a mission recently but now the situation is evolving. As soon as an internationally recognized transitional government is in place, we look forward to resuming discussions with the authorities."

Citing "signals for donor engagement," Murray said the IMF "anticipates the transitional government  is likely to want to continue a program engagement of some sort. Depending on the authorities' wishes and the commitments they are willing to undertake, options might be a one year program under the Rapid Credit Facility or continuation of the current ECF supported program."

  And there you have it.

From the IMF's subsequently released transcript:

IMF's William Murray: I have a question, again from Matthew Lee, on Burkina Faso. On Burkina Faso, does the IMF have any comment or response to the change of government and any impacts on IMF programs or forecasts for the country or its neighbors. Let me -- I'm going to have to dive into my brief here, Matthew. In terms of Burkina Faso, you know there are some issues there with the mission recently, but now the situation is evolving and we are following developments in Burkina Faso closely. As soon as internationally recognized transitional government is in place, we look forward to resuming our discussions with the authorities. Burkina Faso has a long track record of strong performance with programs supported by the IMF. Since the current program provides a signal for broader donor engagement, we anticipate that the transition government is likely to want to continue a program engagement of some sort. Depending upon the authorities' wishes, and the commitments that they are willing to undertake, options might be a one year program supported by the rapid credit facility or possibly continuation of the current ECF supported program. Program implementation capacity will also be an important consideration. That's our latest update on Burkina.

All right, I think we can wrap this up. Is there any other questions we can? Okay, great


November 10, 2014

  Look at two new mergers:

In Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Utah, Nov 5, Banner Bank & AmericanWest Bank for $702 million http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/11/05/3956752/americanwest-bank-to-merge-with.html

In Massachusetts, Berkshire Hills Bancorp & Hampden Bancorp, Nov. 4 http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Banks-agree-to-109M-merger-5870004.php

November 3, 2014

 We are looking at new mergers in TN - NC, Wisconsin, Louisiana - Florida (redux), Oklahoma, West Virginia into Pittsburgh, and Tennessee. Watch this site.

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