Inner City
        Press' Bank Beat Reporter


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

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

May 1, 2017

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

April 24, 2017

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

April 17, 2017

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











April 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

April 3, 2017

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

By Matthew R. Lee

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

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

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

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

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

March 27, 2017

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

March 20, 2017

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

By Matthew R. Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 6, 2017

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

February 27, 2017

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 20, 2017

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

February 13, 2017

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

February 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 30, 2017

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

January 23, 2017

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

January 16, 2017

Some proposed mergers we are looking at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 9, 2017

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

January 2, 2017

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

December 26, 2016

We timely filed this:

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

This comment is timely.

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

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

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

December 19, 2016

Some proposed mergers we are watching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are ones to watch:

Federal Reserve:

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

December 12, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

  Inner City Press also asked about Egypt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2016

Ah, slides:

November 21, 2016

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

November 14, 2016

Mergers we are looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2016

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

October 31, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2016

Some mergers we are looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2016

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

By Matthew R. Lee

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

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2016

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

September 26, 2016

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

September 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2016

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

September 5, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNanswered were these two:

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

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

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

August 29, 2016

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

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

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

August 22, 2016

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

August 15, 2016

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

August 8, 2016

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

August 1, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Some merger proposal we are watching:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4, 2016

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

June 27, 2016

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

June 20, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

Actually answered during the June 16 briefing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Watch this site.
June 13, 2016

Some more we're looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 6, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

 This has not been answered...

May 30, 2016

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

May 23, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 9, 2016

Mergers we are looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2016

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

April 18, 2016

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

April 11, 2016

Some we're looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2016

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

March 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

March 21, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 14, 2016

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

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

A list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2016

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

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

February 22, 2016

Bank merger blues:

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

We'll have more on this.

.February 15, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2016

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

February 1, 2016

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

January 25, 2016

 Mergers looking at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 18, 2016

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 28, 2015

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

December 21, 2015

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

By Matthew Russell Lee

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

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

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

December 14, 2015

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:

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;