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.

August 13, 2018

Some mergers we are looking at:

July 31, Texas: Steele Holdings,  parent of American State Bank, announced a proposal to acquire Joaquin Bankshares and Texas State Bank;

July 31, Indiana - Illinois: NorthWest Indiana Bancorp. parent of Peoples Bank SB, and AJS Bancorp, Inc. announced aproposal in which NWIN would acquire AJSB and its wholly-owned subsidiary, A.J. Smith Federal Savings Bank, of Midlothian, Illinois;

July 30, Ohio:  Richwood Bancshares, Inc. the holding company for the Richwood Banking Company, said it proposes to acquire Home City Federal Savings Bank;

July 27, Washington State: Banner Corporation announced a proposed merger with Skagit Bancorp Inc. (promoted in NYC's Times Square on Aug 3:

July 26, Florida: FMB Banking Corporation says it is merging with The First Bancshares Inc;

July 25, Georgia into FLA: Weston-based FCB Financial Holdings, the owner of Florida Community Bank, says it has agreedto be acquired by Synovus Financial Corp. based in Columbus, Georgia;

July 25, Carolinas: First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company and Palmetto Heritage Bancshares, announced a merger agreement;

July 25, Mass:  Hometown Financial Group, Inc. the holding company for bankESB (Easthampton, MA) and bankHometown (Oxford, MA), and Pilgrim Bancshares, Inc. (OTC: PLRM) have jointly announced a merger;

July 24, Texas:  Dallas-based Veritex Community Bank and Houston-based Green Bank NA propose to merge;

August 6, 2018

To Gabon's Ali Bongo IMF Doles Out $100M With No Mention of 40 Year Family Rule and Delayed Elections

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, August 1 – The International Monetary Fund is doling out money to Ali Bongo's government in Gabon, with nary a mention of four decades family rule or delayed elections. It's like the IMF's work in Cameroon, below. As to Gabon on August 1 the IMF said it "completed the second review of Gabon’s economic program supported by an extended arrangement under Extended Fund Facility (EFF). Completion of the review enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 71.43 million (about US$ 100.2 million). This brings total disbursements under the arrangement so far to SDR 214.29 million (about US$ 300.7 million). Following the Executive Board discussion on Gabon, David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair stated: “Macroeconomic conditions are slowly improving in Gabon, but the recovery remains fragile. Estimates indicate that overall economic growth weakened due to declining oil production and the stronger-than-expected impact of fiscal consolidation on sectors linked to government expenditure. These weaknesses were moderated by a robust growth of the mineral extraction, agriculture, and timber sectors. In 2018, higher oil prices, new investment in the oil sector and export processing zones, and increasing manganese production will help support a modest recovery of economic growth to about 2 percent.

“Gabon’s performance under the EFF arrangement has been mixed, with fiscal slippages in late 2017 and early 2018 complicating cash management, undermining efforts to manage and clear external arrears. The authorities have reiterated their commitment to the program and have implemented a supplementary budget for 2018 aiming to bring the fiscal consolidation back on track. The new budget is supported by strong measures to contain the wage bill and other non-priority spending. The planned elimination of a large number of semi-autonomous government agencies and the strengthening of controls on the remaining agencies should improve the transparency and efficiency of public spending. Steps have also been taken to boost non-oil revenue collections, including by eliminating costly customs duty exemptions except for only a few items. To better manage fiscal risks should non-oil revenue collections underperform, the supplementary budget introduces an automatic adjustment mechanism for public spending.

“The authorities have renewed their commitment to the arrears clearance strategy. As a corrective action for completion of the second review, the authorities cleared all arrears owed to bilateral and multilateral creditors, as well as arrears owed to commercial creditors whose claims are guaranteed by a sovereign. The authorities intend to clear all remaining commercial non-guaranteed arrears by the end of the year. To avoid new arrears, the authorities committed to strengthening cash flow management, including through regular updates of their monthly fiscal cash flow plans. The authorities plan to clear domestic arrears per the agreed calendar under the Club de Libreville.

“Gabon’s near-term economic prospects will depend on continued financial sector stability. Decisive steps should be taken to accelerate the resolution of the three public banks in distress, and to develop the framework for the resolution of non-performing loans. Clear and regular communication of the domestic arrears clearance strategy would also be important to rebuild economic confidence.

“Social spending needs to be protected and expanded to maintain broad support for the economic recovery strategy. Strict implementation of the authorities’ announced measures is essential, including to establish a minimum floor of social assistance spending for vulnerable groups and stepped up public outreach efforts to better communicate social spending objectives." Communication without elections, same family for 40 years? After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system, which on both July 5 and July 6, 2018 has banned Inner City Press for covering the UN's budget (
Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II) - including the International Monetary Fund. On July 23 the IMF published a report on Cameroon, including touching on the economic impact of the "anglophone crisis." The IMF report states: "The current anglophone crisis takes its roots in Cameroon’s unification in 1961. The 1972 constitution replaced federalism with a unitary state. Throughout the years, the anglophone population, which resides mostly in the north-west and south-west regions and account for 20 percent of Cameroon’s total population of 25 million, has demanded more autonomy and rights, while the state has become increasingly centralized. They founded the largest opposition party (Social Democratic Front) in the 1990s.
The crisis has escalated to an armed separation movement with rising humanitarian costs. The crisis started in October 2016 with strikes by lawyers and teachers and was followed by a boycott of schools, protests and ghost towns. It subsequently morphed into an armed movement for independence marked by violence on both sides, which escalated in recent months to killings and detentions, burning and looting of villages, and kidnappings of government officials and civilians. Despite a heavy military presence, the insecurity has spread leading to rising humanitarian costs. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that more than 20,000 people have fled to Nigeria, and 160,000 have become internally displaced persons (IDPs). This adds to the burden from 340,000 refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that the cost of assisting refugees and IDPs in Cameroon has risen to US$87 million, of which only US$15 million are funded. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the anglophone crisis is taking a toll on the economy. A rigorous quantification is difficult because of lack of adequate data. However, real exports of coffee and cocoa, grown mostly in the anglophone areas, have decreased by about 10 percent in 2017. Coffee export volumes further declined by 72 percent in the first quarter of 2018 (y/y). Tax revenues decreased by 8–9 percent in both regions in 2017 compared with 2016, due to lower economic activity and difficulties to collect taxes. Additional security expenses amounted to 0.4 percent of GDP in 2017 and at least 0.2 percent of GDP in 2018." Inner City Press was informed, not by the IMF, that on July 10 the IMF held a conference call with NGOs, while continuing as recently at July 6 to dole out funds to the Paul Biya government. In late June a group of lawyers and human rights organizations wrote to the IMF's Christine Lagarde to flag a possible breach of IMF loan terms by the government of Cameroon. The loan, which was approved in June 2017, “aims to restore the country’s fiscal and external sustainability and unlock job-rich, private sector-driven growth.” Under its terms, Cameroon agreed to a recurring obligation to report, within two weeks, “[a]ny decision, decree, law, order or circular having economic or financial implications, from its publication date or effective date.” It seems clear however that Cameroon did not report at least two instances when the government shut or slowed down internet services in certain regions of the country, which experts say would have cost millions to the country’s economy. A conservative estimate of the economic harm done places it at $3.2 million, while others estimate that the costs may have been as high as $38.8 million. “The result is that the government’s unlawful interference with internet freedom has had a debilitating effect on the economy, affecting not only media companies but also businesses, as they are dependent upon internet for transactions and operations,” reads the letter. Then there was a call.

July 30, 2018

More mergers we are watching:

these in Colorado:

and in Texas, "San Antonio’s Vantage Bank Texas and McAllen’s Inter National Bank"

and this one in Washington State, of interest because it quickly follows a rare merger fall-apart:

On France Lagarde's IMF Praises Banks Avoiding Large Indebted Firms and Communications Amid Benalla and Biya

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 – When the International Monetary Fund released from embargo its report on Managing Director Christine Lagarde's home country France at 10 am on July 26, it will full of praise including of French banks. It noted, however, that "vulnerabilities remain, especially related to elevated debt levels in parts of the corporate sector against a backdrop of global interest rate normalization. Directors welcomed the recent macroprudential measures aimed at reducing imbalances and underlined the need for continued monitoring of vulnerabilities and building bank buffers against shocks, including through the implementation of ongoing international regulatory changes." It cited "the definition of large indebted firms used by the Haut Conseil de Stabilité Financière (HCSF) in its macroprudential policy to limit banks’ exposures to vulnerable firms." And the IMF recommends "Building buffers in the banking system to limit potential spillovers. The decision to limit bank exposures to large indebted corporates and the activation of the countercyclical capital buffer
are welcome decisions and continuing to rely on communication tools to raise awareness of market participants." This while Macron is under fire for his aide Benalla roughing up protesters, and while French ally Paul Biya in Cameroon, to which the IMF is handing money, is outright shooting women and children and Anglophone villages. Communications tools, indeed. After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system, which on both July 5 and July 6, 2018 has banned Inner City Press for covering the UN's budget (
Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II) - including the International Monetary Fund.

July 23, 2018

UN Briber Patrick Ho of CEFC Loses Motions to Dismiss on FCPA and HSBC Money Laundering, UN Bans Press

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 – Four months after the arrest for UN bribery of Patrick Ho, the head of China Energy Fund Committee full funded by CEFC China Energy, his ultimate boss at CEFC Ye Jianming was brought in for questioning in China. Now on July 19, the lawyers for Patrick Ho argued before U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska that count after count of the indicts should be dismissed. First they argued that under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, if Patrick Ho is a "domestic concern" some counts of the indictment must be dropped. The prosecution called the argument absurd -- Ho is a national of China and a resident of Hong Kong who acted for the "Energy NGO" China Energy Fund Committee in allegedly bribing UN President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, as well as Chad's President Idriss Deby - and the judge agreed. Next they argued that even a series of transfers from HSBC in Hong Kong to HSBC in New York to Mashreq Bank in NY to Mashreq Bank in Dubai did not fall under the money laundering statute. The judge, citing the the Daccarett case and Julius Baer cases from DC, disagreed. Periscope video here. The motions to dismiss were denied, and Inner City Press left the court to deal with the UN, which not only still hasn't even started an audit of CEFC's bribery but has, since July 3, banned Inner City Press which asks from the all UN premises. Fox News story here, GAP blogs I and II, Independent here. The UN is corrupt. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press made this connection: the president of ECOSOC is Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN. Her president, in Prague Castle, is Miloš Zeman -- who, like Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa when he was UN President of the General Assembly, made Ye Jianming an official adviser. (Inner City Press' CEFC investigative covered has been picked up in the Czech media, for example here.) Now on April 17, Zeman is set to meet this week with another Chinese state owned firm, CITIC and its chairman, Chang Zhenming. CITIC is reportedly seeking to buy a stake in CEFC's Czech-based unit CEFC Europe. So Inner City Press asks, would CITIC buy its way into China Energy Fund Group's consultative status with ECOSOC, presided over by the Czech Republic? The Czech Mission to the UN, and ECOSOC's supposed spokesperson Paul Simon, have yet to answer any of Inner City Press' written questions. This is today's UN, under Antonio Guterres.

Earlier, Zeman sent two officials to Chinese to inquire into the status or, or help, Ye Jianming: chancellor Vratislav Mynár and economic advisor Martin Nejedlý flew to Shanghai on March 13, along with CEFC  European division head Jaroslav Tvrdik, and have now returned. They said Ye “is being investigated for a suspicion of breaking the law,” after meeting CEFC President Chan Chauto. CEFC’s Czech-based unit CEFC Europe said: “CEFC Europe has been informed about the planned change in the shareholder structure in which Mr Ye Jienming will no longer be active as a shareholder nor in the company’s leadership. NOW might Zeman's Representative Chatardová belatedly take action in the UN ECOSOC of which she is President? 

 Inner City Press has repeatedly written to the Czech Mission to the UN, to the attention of
Marie Chatardová as President of ECOSOC, asking how China Energy Fund Committee given all of the above can remain in special consultative status with ECOSOC. The Czech Mission has not answered, including when the question is raised at the UN's televised noon briefing, as Inner City Press asked again on March 19, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Deputy SG Amina J. Mohammed is going to the Czech Republic about ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council].  So, I was going to and may still ask Brenden [Varma] this, but I wanted to ask you this.  It has arisen that the China Energy Fund Committee, the ultimate owner in Shanghai has purportedly been brought in for questioning, and it turns out he was not only an adviser to Sam Kutesa as PGA [President of the General Assembly], but also an adviser of the Czech Republic President.  The Czech Republic has sent people to sort of look into his situation, but the Czech Republic also has the presidency of ECOSOC.  So, noting that I haven't gotten any answer from the Czech Mission, my question is…

Spokesman:  I think those are questions that you should address to the Presidency of ECOSOC.

Inner City Press: I guess but my question is an overall UN question.  Is there… is there any… it seems like it might be a conflict of interest if your President has a business relationship with an NGO to be in charge of the committee that is either… how do we get an answer if…?

Spokesman:  That is a question for the… that’s a question for Member States.  Member States elect the Presidency of ECOSOC.  They elect the bureau.  Those are Member State questions.  I struggle to answer the questions directed to the Secretary-General.  I think Member States need to answer other questions."

July 16, 2018

Some mergers we are watching:

July 2, IL:  
Midwest Bank says it will acquire Andalusia Community Bank;

June 29, TN: 
Knoxville-based SmartFinancial says it will apply to acquire Maryville’s Foothills Bank & Trust;

June 27, NC into Wisc: Securant Bank & Trust says it plans to merge into Raleigh, N.C.-based First Citizens Bank;

June 27, TN FNS Bancshares, Inc. (“FNS”), parent of FNB Bank says it will buy Catoosa Bancshares, Inc. (“Catoosa”), parent of Capital Bank;

June 26, 2018, Wisc: Altoona, Wis.-based CCF Bank, says it is merging with United Bank, a lending institution with offices in Eau Claire, Strum, Osseo, Mondovi, Eleva and Ettrick;

June 26, KY-OH: Forcht Bancorp, Inc. says it has reached an agreement to purchase Watch Hill Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio

June 25, KS: Salina Bank says it will merge with Western Kansas Bank

June 21, VA: Roanoke Rapids Savings Bank says it will merge with Roanoke Valley Savings Bank;

June 21, NJ: SB One Bancorp, the holding company for SB One Bank, whose formation was completed just months ago with the merger of Sussex Bank and Bergen County Bank, announced a plan to acquire Enterprise Bank, which has four full-service branch locations in Union, Middlesex and Essex counties.

June 20: IN, MN: Old National Bancorp, the Midwestern banking system that late last year entered the Minnesota market by acquiring Anchor Bank, has planned a second acquisition that would double its presence in the state. KleinBank, the 111-year-old, family-owned community bank out of Chaska...

July 9, 2018

In Cameroon Lagarde's IMF Pays Out $78 Million Amid Biya's Killings in Anglophone Zones But Citing ACN

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 – After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system, which on both July 5 and July 6, 2018 has banned Inner City Press for covering the UN's budget - including the International Monetary Fund. On July 6, 2018 the IMF announced: "IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation, Completes Second Review Under Extended Credit Facility Arrangement, and Approves US$77.8 Million Disbursement for Cameroon. Growth is estimated to have decelerated to 3.2 percent in 2017 mainly due to a steep decline in oil production despite the gradual rebound in international prices.
The macroeconomic outlook for 2018 remains positive, with growth expected to rebound to 4 percent, driven by the onset of gas production, construction activities for the 2019 African Cup of Nations (CAN).
The Cameroonian authorities have adopted a comprehensive economic reform program to restore fiscal and external sustainability and buttress private sector-led and inclusive growth, supported by the IMF’s ECF arrangement.
On July 6, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation[1] and completed the second review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for the Republic of Cameroon. Completion of this review enables the disbursement of SDR 55.2 million (about US$77.8 million).

The three-year ECF arrangement with a total access of SDR 483 million (about US$680.7 million or 175 percent of Cameroon’s quota) was approved by the IMF Executive Board on June 26, 2017.

Following the Board discussion of the ECF review, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director, and Acting Chair, made the statement below:

“Cameroon’s performance under its ECF-supported program has been mixed against the backdrop of slower economic activity and security concerns. End-year spending overruns offset strong non-oil revenue collection, resulting in a higher-than-envisaged fiscal deficit. Nonetheless, structural reform implementation has been broadly satisfactory and net foreign assets accumulated faster than anticipated owing to a narrowing of the current account deficit.

“The authorities have reiterated their commitment to the program and have implemented corrective measures to bring the fiscal adjustment back on track in 2018, including preparing a revised 2018 budget and tightening expenditure controls. Strict implementation of the 2018 revised fiscal targets will be essential to support the buildup of fiscal and external buffers for Cameroon and the region. With significant spending pressures associated with the 2018 elections, a worsening security situation, and the 2019 African Soccer Cup, any additional oil revenue should be saved.

“Public debt has risen in 2017 owing to faster-than-envisaged execution of investment projects. Strictly limiting new borrowing and tilting its composition toward concessional borrowing would be key to maintaining public debt sustainability. The stock of contracted but undisbursed debt should also be reduced. Financial sector and structural reforms would reduce vulnerabilities and address remaining competitiveness bottlenecks.

Cameroon’s program is supported by the implementation of supportive policies and reforms by the regional institutions in the areas of foreign exchange regulations and monetary policy framework and to support an increase in regional net foreign assets, which are critical to the program’s success." After the IMF told Inner City Press is viewed Yaounde's policies toward the Anglophone areas as a fiscal risk, on June 26 the IMF board handed the Biya government $171 million.

July 2, 2018

IMF on Rep of Congo Told Inner City Press July 11 With Corruption on Agenda, NGOs UNlike UN, Sri

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 7 – On the morning of June 28 for the International Monetary Fund's embargoed media briefing Inner City Press submitted several questions including on Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka and, as always, Cameroon. IMF Spokesman Gerry Rice, after calling on those in the room read out Inner City Press' Congo question, "from Matthew Lee in New York," which was as follows: "On Congo-Brazzaville, please confirm or deny that the IMF Executive Board will meet on the country's bail-out request on July 6, and state what some of the issues, particularly on anti-corruption, are." Rice said in fact the Board is tentatively set to meet on Congo later, on July 11 and that anti-corruption is indeed a major issue, that the IMF says civil society should allowed to be involved. (This is in contrast to today's UN Counter-Terrorism High Level Conference, which excludes NGOs and, at least at the background briefing level, some Press.) On Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked, "On Sri Lanka, what is the IMF's assessment if the country is moving quickly enough toward a transparent power pricing formula - must it / will it be fully implemented by September?" Rice's Sri Lanka answer included that the Finance Minister assures that the elimination of fuel subsidies will help the poor, because the subsidies have been helping the rich. We'll have more on this. On June 7 Inner City Press asked the IMF about Barbados, Zambia, Jordan and Ukraine. Rice, after calling on those in the room on the latter two - as well as a named Ukrainian journalist - left Zambia and Barbados for last, nameless, deferred. On Barbados Inner City Press had asked, "what will the IMF do to try to ensure austerity measures don't hurt the poor and also lead to protests and political instability?" Rice answered that there is an IMF team finishing in Bridgetown and there might be a statement

June 25, 2018

Mergers we are watching:

June 18, OK into CO, AZ:  BOK Financial says it will apply to acquire CoBiz Financial, mostly in Colorado and Arizona, for nearly $1 billion;

June 15, W Virginia:  United Bancorp Inc said it seek to acquire Powhatan Point Community Bancshares;

June 15, North Carolina: Carolina Trust BancShares announced it seeks to acquire Clover Community Bankshares;

June 15, Indiana into Illinois: Merchants Bancorp said it will apply to acquire FM Bancorp Inc;

June 12, Illinois:  First Mid-Illinois Bancshares announced it will seek to acquire SCB Bancorp;

June 11, Tennessee: CapStar Financial Holdings said they aim to acquire Athens Bancshares.

June 4, Louisiana (& Texas) - Business First Bancshares announced it plans to acquire Richland State Bancorp;

May 31: Independent Bank, parent of Rockland Trust Company, and MNB Bancorp, parent of The Milford National Bank and Trust Company announced a plan to merge;

May 31 Ohio First Mutual Holding Co launched First Mutual Bank, a result of the merger between Doolin Security Savings Bank, FSB ("Doolin") and Belpre Savings Bank ("Belpre").

May 30, Massachusetts: Rockland Trust said it will apply to acquire Milford National Bank;

May 28 - "Fifth Third To Acquire MB Financials For $4.7 Billion In Stock-And-Cash Deal"

May 21, Minnesota (& South Dakota) - Minnwest Bank announced a proposal to acquire Security State Bank of Lewiston.

June 18, 2018

Citigroup LIBOR Scam Yields $100M Settlement to 42 States While Deutsche Did $220M to 45

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 – When Citigroup managing director Michael Eckhart appeared at the UN on June 4, it was to talk about renewable energy with the UN Environment Program. Inner City Press asked Eckhart about Citigroup's role in the Dakota Access Pipeline. But that is one only of Citigroup's many scams. Today on June 15 it is announced that Citigroup will be paying $100 million to 42 states for having manipulated LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate. In fairness, there are other scammers too. Deutsche Bank, currently rumored to be mulling a merger with Commerzbank, in October 2017 had to pay $220 million to 45 states. The predators continue.

Back on June 4 Eckhart paused and admitted it was a lender, than said that the outcry against the pipeline, on indigenous human rights and other issues, was entirely unexpected. He said they had not protested early enough. Video here. But what about free prior informed CONSENT? Is silence consent? Or, as is too often the case, is the UN a place of hypocrisy?

As Inner City Press has shown, UNEP paid money to Volvo Ocean Races, and appears to have engaged in pay-for-prize with MoBikes. Inner City Press also asked about the UN bribery scandal in which China Energy Fund Committee - oil money - bribed UN President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, but CEFC remains in special consultative status with UN ECOSOC. Video here. We'll have more on this - and on Citigroup. Watch this site.

June 11, 2018

Redliner BancorpSouth Wants Icon Bank of Texas Amid Deregulation at CFPB and Fed, FFW Challenges

By Matthew R. Lee, Patreon

NEW YORK, June 9 – While the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Mick Mulvany disbands the statutory Consumer Advisory Board and the Federal Reserve undermines the Volcker Rule, out in the field even a bank which recently settled racial redlining charges, BancorpSouth, is moving to take advantage of the deregulatory frenzy to snap up Icon Bank of Texas in Houston. Fair Finance Watch has opposed it, to the FDIC: This is a first timely comment opposing, requesting hearings and an extension of the comment period on BancorpSouth's application to acquire ICON BANK OF TEXAS and ICON CAPITAL CORPORATION. Fair Finance Watch has compared the most recent public disclosure HMDA data of BancorpSouth to that of the previous year 2015 when BancorpSouth was (rightly) “in the penalty box” (see below) - and finds that BancorpSouth got WORSE.

In 2015 in the Jackson MS MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7% while for African Americans it was 19% -- 2.71 times higher. That was troubling.
  But now it's worse. In 2016 in the Jackson Mississippi MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7.1% while for African Americans it rose to 22.9% -- 3.23 times higher. This is even more troubling - and ICP timely requests a hearing on BancorpSouth's proposal.

   Previously, FFW protested the applications of BancorpSouth to merge with Ouachita Bancshares Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire Ouachita Independent Bank, and with Central Community Corporation, and thereby indirectly acquire First State Bank Central Texas, Austin, Texas. - based on racial discrimination in lending. Then BancorpSouth's CEO said the company wanted to “alleviate... regulatory oversight,” and become the “only state-chartered bank not a part of the Federal Reserve system.”

  In Texas, in the Tyler TX MSA in 2016 BancorpSouth made 30 conventional home purchase loans to whites - and NONE to African Americans. 
The comment periods must be extended, also on the grounds in other comments FFW believes the FDIC will be receiving including NCRC of which FFW is a member.
ICP is requesting evidentiary hearings and that this proposed acquisition, on the current record, not be approved. There is no public benefit." Inner City Press is pursuing information about the proposal, and about the OCC and other agencies

June 4, 2018

Citizens Financial Group proposes to buy the assets of Franklin American Mortgage in Franklin, Tennessee...

May 28, 2018

Fifth Third trying to buy MB Financial? We'll be there. Watch this site.

May 21, 2018

UN Bribery Indictee Patrick Ho Paid Through HSBC, Stanbic, Mashreq and Deutsche Bank, UN To Charge?

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 – Four months after the arrest for UN bribery of Patrick Ho, the head of China Energy Fund Committee full funded by CEFC China Energy, his ultimate boss at CEFC Ye Jianming was brought in for questioning in China.  On May 15 the prosecution detailed how the bribes were paid, as part of responding to Ho's motion to dismissed. The funds to Kutesa when from HSBC in Hong Kong to Deutsche Bank in New York to Stanbic in Uganda. The funded to Gadio, in two tranches, when from HSBC in Hong Kong to HSBC in New York to Mashreq Bank in New York to Mashreq Bank in Dubai. On May 17 Ho should hear a ruling on his re-request for bail. At the UN, which has yet to even order an audit while Ho's China Energy Fund Committee is still in special consultative status with UN ECOSOC, Inner City Press asked if the UN hopes to get awarded attorneys fees like it did, to the tune of $302,000, in the case of Ng Lap Seng, with the same prosecutors. The UN declined to comment - it remains UNreformed. Watch this site. On May 2, Patrick Ho and five lawyers argued for more than an hour to try to get bail granted - it was not. Judge Katherine Forrest noted that even if Ho's motions to dismiss some counts, and to suppress evidence collected with his iPad password, are in fact granted, the case will still proceed. She asked his lawyers to research whether the equity in his mother's home in Hong Kong could be transferred to a bank in the United States. Ho's lawyer Andrew Levander quoted him that this is a case not only against Ho, but also against CEFC and China it its "One Belt, One Road." The prosecution's Douglas Zolkind recounted how Ho inside the UN worked with former Senegal foreign minister Gadio to bribe Chadian president Gadio, who "laughingly" referred to Brazilian bribes for another oil concession. Ho's lawyers analogized him to Jeff Bezos of Amazon and to Donald J. Trump. He will be back in court in a forthnight on May 17 at 3 pm - and so will we. Post hearing Periscope video here.

May 14, 2018

Another merger, and one note:

May 3, DC-area: Fairfax-based First Virginia Community Bank proposes to acquire Colombo Bank, a century-old Rockville bank primarily serving Montgomery County

Delaware Place Bank, first item below, recently had a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating...

May 7, 2018

Some mergers we're looking at:

May 2, Illinois:  Wintrust Financial Corporation says it proposes to acquire Chicago Shore Corporation, the parent company of Delaware Place Bank, an Illinois state-chartered bank;

April 30, Texas: Allegiance Bancshares proposes to acquire Post Oak Bancshares, whose Post Oak Bank, N.A. operates thirteen (13) banking locations: twelve (12) located throughout the greater Houston MSA and one in Beaumont;

April 30, Kansas: Capitol Federal Financial says it plans to acquire Capital City Bancshares, Inc. ("CCB"), the parent company of Capital City Bank, a state chartered bank headquartered in Topeka, KS;

April 24, Florida:  CenterState Bank says it plans to acquire CharterBank

April 30, 2018

On UN Pension Fund, Investments in HSBC and Shell Smell Bad, SG Passes Buck to GA, UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 25 – With UN Pension Fund problems including late payments and $3.4 billion in foreign exchange costs leading to the departure of Secretary General Antonio Guterres' previous representative to the Fund Carolyn Boykin, who issued a gag order to staff not to leak to Inner City Press, problems remain. Among them are investments in Shell, despite its record in for example Nigeria's Ogoniland, and in HSBC, laundering of Mexican drug cartel funds among other dubious practices. On April 25, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I'm sure you've seen, you may even be quoted in, but I want to ask you a bit more about The Guardian's piece about the Pension Fund and what they say is in… investment in dirty profits.  They list Shell, given its record in Ogoniland and Nigeria, HSBC money laundering from Mexican drug cartels.  What are the standards that the UN Pension Fund applies to its investments?

Spokesman:  They are standards set by the General Assembly.  Okay, Mr. Varma, all yours.  Thank you." Minutes later Inner City Press asked Mr Brendan Varma, the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, about it. He said he'd look into it. It's not in his office's summary, and seven hours later, no answer. Watch this site.

April 23, 2018

At IMF Spring Meetings, Inner City Press Asked About Yemen and IMF Response, Here

By Matthew Russell Lee, Audio

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 – When the International Monetary Fund held its Middle East press conference at its Spring Meetings on April 20, Inner City Press submitted this question: "On Yemen, what are the IMF's predictions and what are its current actions, for example in ensuring the payment of public servants? Relatedly, what is the impact of the war on Yemen on the Saudi economy? -Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press." Spokesperson Wafa Amr read the question, from Matthew Lee, to Jihad Azour, the Director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, who said (full audio here), "The situation in Yemen has inflicted a big humanitarian toll. The Fund is helping the Yemeni authorities, the Central Bank, in designing and managing the financial framework to distribute salaries... and import goods and medicines. With the government, we try to help them preserve the Central Bank and the ministry of finance. We are in dialogue with global community, providing assessment of the challenges and the best instruments that could help." Afterward, the IMF sent Inner City Press an email that "Yemen is suffering deep humanitarian and economic crisis. Outlook is very uncertain and will be dependent on security developments. Recession in Yemen continued in 2017 and GDP fell by 14 percent. We expect zero growth in 2018, under the assumption that the conflict will end end of the year." It's appreciated, but there was no answer about the impact on the Saudi economy. Watch this site.

April 16, 2018

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has asked some questions of Ameris, on Hamilton - without addressing or acting on Ameris' false statements in the other still pending proceeding. We'll have more on this.

April 9, 2018

As BancorpSouth Pays $13M To Shareholders Misled on Redlining & Money Laundering, Pay To Play

By Matthew R. Lee

South Bronx, New York, April 3 – The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation, the mechanical repeating of whatever a challenged bank says, has been exemplified by the gambit by BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch challenged on disparities and which settled racial redlining charges, to drop its Federal Reserve charter and evade regulation. Now BancorpSouth is paying $13 million to settle a lawsuit in Federal court by shareholders who say the bank misled them about not only money laundering but also its fair lending record. Pay to continue to play. We'll have more on this. ICP/FFW timely protested that application to the FDIC: "Dear Regional Director Elmquist, Ass't Regional Director Finnegan and others at the FDIC: "This is a first timely comment opposing, requesting hearings and an extension of the comment period on BancorpSouth's cynical application to evade regulation after its redlining and settlement. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch protested the applications of BancorpSouth to merge with Ouachita Bancshares Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire Ouachita Independent Bank, and with Central Community Corporation, and thereby indirectly acquire First State Bank Central Texas, Austin, Texas. - based on racial discrimination in lending... Now BancorpSouth makes this application, and its CEO Dan Rollins states that it wants to “alleviate... regulatory oversight,” and become the “only state-chartered bank not a part of the Federal Reserve system.” We oppose this cynical evasion, particularly by one of the few banks having settled redlining charges.

April 1, 2018

ICP Asked IMF About US - S Korea Bilateral Deal on Foreign Exchange, Here, Myanmar Q

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on March 29, Inner City Press submitted questions about South Korea, Myanmar and Jamaica, see below. Spokesman Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' South Korea question. From the IMF transcript: "on South Korea. This is from Matthew Lee. The U.S. says it's Treasury Department is finalizing an understanding with South Korea to avoid practices that provide an unfair competitive advantage. What does the IMF think of such bilateral forex arrangements? There are other questions on trade, so let me just take that. On the U.S.-Korea discussions on trade, I don't have the details of that. So, you know, I wouldn't speculate on that. What I would say more generally is that we believe bilateral and regional agreements can bring important benefits by building on a strong multilateral trade system that promotes transparency and includes well-enforced trade rules that promote even-handed competition, is what I would say on that one." Rice spent much of the briefing trying to correct "commentary" - that is, coverage - of Madame Lagarde's CFC proposal; he added as the final online question that an IMF team will be in Brazzaville in early April. This comes after the IMF praised another long time family run government in Gabon. He promised very "products and events" for the upcoming Spring meetings. Inner City Press asked: 1) "In the IMF's Myanmar statement it is said that “the direct economic impacts of the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state have been largely localized.” Can you explain? How local? 2) In Jamaica, the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) says it was following the orders of the IMF when it cut off funding to the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica Campaign implemented by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), leaving its future in doubt. What is the IMF's response?" Watch this site - the IMF has yet to respond on some previous questions. On Cameroon, with the government continuing to cut and/or slow the Internet in the Anglophone parts of the country amid border incursions into Nigeria and "refoulement" of refugees there, what is the IMF's estimate of the costs, and comment on continuing to support and this government and its actions? On March 7 Inner City Press asked an IMF press conference about the Nigerian economy this question: "What does the IMF think the economic impact will be of CITES' inquiry into the irregular export of endangered rosewood to China, and new restrictions imposed on such exports from Nigeria?" We'll have more on this. (Inner City Press also asked Amine Mati, Senior Resident Representative and Mission Chief for Nigeria and Lucie Mboto Fouda, "On the Nigerian banking sector, did the IMF consider the allegations of fraud, from the account in First Bank Nigeria Plc of NNPC and Agip, to the non-payment of interest by Standard Chartered Bank, Fidelity Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Access Bank, FCMB, Skye Bank, Sterling Bank, Zenith Bank and Unity Bank after the sale of  Power Holding Company of Nigeria?   Separately, what about Nigerian banks' service to SMEs?"

New merger proposal we're looking at: Renasant Corp., the parent of Renasant Bank, proposes to buy Brand Group Holdings Inc. of Atlanta for $452.9 million...

March 26, 2018

In Florida, another one bites the dust: "Less than two years after an investor group took control, Premier Community Bank of Florida is selling to an out-of-state buyer. The parent of National Bank of Commerce, based in Birmingham, Alabama, announced late Tuesday that it would acquire Premier, a $236 million-asset lender with four offices in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Following recession-era bank failures and more recent acquisitions, Premier is the only community bank still headquartered in Manatee County."

March 19, 2018

Some mergers we are looking at:

March 12, OH into IN:  Civista Bancshares, Inc proposes to acquire United Community Bancorp and  United Community Bank;

March 12, WA into OR: Heritage Bank is [proposing] acquiring an Oregon bank to expand in Portland;

March 5, VA into NC:  Parkway Acquisition Corp. proposes to acquire Great State Bank in Wilkesboro, North Carolina;

Feb 26, Cali: First Choice Bancorp proposes acquiring Pacific Commerce Bancorp and Pacific Commerce Bank...

March 12, 2018

On North Korea Sanctions Violations, Ship Was Funded By Bank of Maldives, Ex-Prez Nasheed Says

By Matthew Russell Lee, Full Exclusive, Video

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 – As South Korean envoys met with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang and emerged with talk of North Korea suspending or even some said eliminating its nuclear program if assured security, and KCNA published photos, from South Asia came more talk of sanctions busting. The Maldives former president and now opposition figure Mohamed Nasheed picked up on Japan's reporting of ship to ship oil transfers from a Maldives-flagged ship, and added finance to it. He's quoted that "a ship with the Maldives' flag on it sold oil to North Korea ignoring the United Nations sanctions on the country. This ship was not only registered in the Maldives, but also funded by the Bank of Maldives. Japan's foreign ministry also announced that a Maldives ship was transferring oil to the North Korean regime on high seas. This shows that President Yameen is steering the country to a very dangerous path. I am not surprised at this because Yameen did the same thing a few years ago with Myanmar, when the country was under international sanctions." We'll have more on this. In the face of North Korea sanctions, the UN in December 2017 used the sanctioned Foreign Trade Bank and Russia's Sputnik Bank to release EUR 3,974,920.62 into the country, documents obtained by Inner City Press and exclusively published on February 21 show. On February 21, Inner City Press asked the Dutch chair of the UN Security Council's 1718 Sanctions committee about the exemption. He refused to comment, saying the issue did not come up in the meeting he had just exited. Video here, but see below. Now amid renewed focus in the lead up to the belated release of the UN Panel of Experts report, the Washington Post has done a deep dive into North Korea's laundering of coal: " The Togolese-flagged Yu Yuan and the Panamanian-flagged Sky Angel, both Chinese owned, were among two separate sets of cargo vessels that passed in and out of Kholmsk harbor in late summer and early fall of last year, carrying coal that at least partly originated in North Korean mines" - and ended up, the report goes on, in South Korea and Japan. This while Japanese media, particularly those ostensibly most hard line, go soft not only on the UN (see below) but also on Japan's own Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, which turned a blind computer eye to business with North Korea, then fled the New York regulator while being investigated, see below. Also now amid renewed focus on Sisi's Egypt as purchaser and selling-place for North Korean weapons, US President Donald J. Trump on March 4 spoke with Sisi, and the US issued this, without even a mention with North Korea: "President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt.  President Trump and President Al Sisi discussed opportunities to enhance the American-Egyptian partnership on a range of security and economic issues.  The leaders discussed Russia and Iran’s irresponsible support of the Assad regime’s brutal attacks against innocent civilians.  President Trump and President Al Sisi agreed to work together on ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria and achieving Arab unity and security in the region." And not the 30,000 RPGs?

March 5, 2018

The worm has turned: while in the US branches have been closing  — 1,771 in 2017, according to NCRC - McKinsey says that in 2017, banks in Africa had a ROE of almost 15%, second only to banks in Latin America and more than double that achieved by similar institutions in developed markets in Asia, Europe and the US. We'll have more on this.

February 26, 2018

Amid New US Sanctions, UN Let N Korea Take EUR 4M from Sputnik Bank, US Asks UN to List, Japan 3

By Matthew Russell Lee, Full Exclusive, Video

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 – In the face of North Korea sanctions, the UN in December 2017 used the sanctioned Foreign Trade Bank and Russia's Sputnik Bank to release EUR 3,974,920.62 into the country, documents obtained by Inner City Press and exclusively published on February 21 show. The US announced new sanctions on February 23, and has now asked the UN sanctions committee which approved the UN's own transfer to adopt the US list. Japan has chimed in on three: Belize's Wan Heng 11, North Korea's Yu Jong 2 and Dominica-flagged Yuk Tung. Significantly, though, the UN on February 23 refused to answer basic questions about its hard currency dealings in North Korea. At the February 23 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I sent you these in writing, but I wanted to ask you, I guess, not having gotten any answers, to factual questions about the transfer of hard currency into DPRK, North Korea.  The letters that we obtained and published is about one quarter [of 2017], but is there a way to know what the the euro or dollar volume for the year 2017 is?  And has the UN conducted any audit of its activities, because there's no country plan, at least none that's public? Spokesman:  "I will see what we can… what we can get." Hours later Dujarric called his end of day and week lid, without providing any of the information. This is called a cover up. On February 21, Inner City Press asked the Dutch chair of the UN Security Council's 1718 Sanctions committee about the exemption. He refused to comment, saying the issue did not come up in the meeting he had just exited. Video here.

But a letter from Sputnik Bank stated that "unauthorized person (I.V. Tonkih) led  negotiations with Korean party on interbank correspondent relationship." Photos here, more documents in PDF now published on Patreon, here. On February 22, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about how Sputnik Bank, given its admission, was selected, and then additional questions in writing, below - which Dujarric would not answer or confirm. Video here.

From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you quickly about a thing in North Korea.  I've learned yesterday and published the documents of a waiver sought by the UN system, he UN Resident Coordinator, Tapan Mishra. To use a, some say little-known, but, in any case, not a prominent Russian bank as a correspondent bank to send €4 million into North Korea in December.  And I wanted to know, first of all, how is the bank… there's a document that's… that's part of the request that shows that the Russian bank acknowledges that an unauthorized person even negotiated the correspondent bank relationship.  How does the UN system choose which correspondent bank to use?  And is this comment… is this… it seemed like they presented this as an emergency for third-quarter disbursements of 4 million euros into North Korea…Spokesman:  Listen, I don't know the details of the agreement.

February 19, 2018

After ICP Protest to Ameris Bank Merger With Atlantic Coast & Hamilton, Fed Asks 10 Qs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, February 17 – The bank with the worst record in the United States for gouging consumers with overdraft fees, Ameris, has applied to the Federal Reserve to buy Atlantic Coast Bank in Florida, and thereafter Hamilton State Bancshares. On January 29, Fair Finance Watch filed formal opposition to both with the Federal Reserve, citing the gouging, Ameris' disparate mortgage lending record in Atlanta, Georgia and Florida, and the Community Reinvestment Act. See below. Inner City Press has requested records under the Freedom of Information Act. Now the Federal Reserve has asked Ameris a series of question, full copy here on Patreon: "In connection with the application under section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act on behalf of Ameris Bancorp (“Ameris”), Moultrie, Georgia, to merge with Atlantic Coast
Financial Corporation (“ACFC”), and thereby indirectly acquire Atlantic Coast Bank, both of
Jacksonville, Florida, the following additional information is requested. Supporting
documentation should be provided as appropriate. 1. Describe any due diligence performed by Ameris or related to the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”), including any efforts to ascertain the needs of the communities served by Atlantic Coast Bank. To the extent the needs of the communities
to be served were identified, summarize how Ameris contemplates assisting in addressing
those needs. 2. Indicate any of products or services of Atlantic Coast Bank that Ameris contemplates discontinuing in connection with the proposal. To the extent that any products or
services would be offered in replacement of any products or services to be discontinued,
indicate what these are and how they would assist in meeting the convenience and needs
of the communities affected by the transaction. 3. In the application (page 10), Ameris indicates that Ameris Bank plans to continue to
implement the current CRA policies of Atlantic Coast Bank following consummation.
Elaborate on that statement, including to what extent, if at all, the CRA policies of
Ameris Bank would be implemented at the combined institution. 4. Indicate to what extent Ameris Bank’s consumer compliance program, including its fair lending program, would be implemented at the combined institution. 5. Relative to the branches of Atlantic Coast Bank that Ameris currently intends to close
upon consummation of the bank merger, which are listed on page 6 of the Bank Merger
application, as well as the “Julington Creek Branch” and “Jacksonville Branch” of
Ameris Bank that Ameris currently intends to close upon consummation, please specify
which are consolidations/relocations and closures in accordance with the guidance
provided in the revised joint policy statement by the banking agencies regarding branch
closings. 1 In addition, specify the branches which are located in LMI or minority census
tracts, and, for the contemplated closures in LMI or minority tracts, indicate efforts
contemplated to mitigate the potential impact of these closures. 6. Describe any litigation or investigations by local, state, or federal authorities involving Ameris or any of its subsidiaries or ACFC or any of its subsidiaries that is currently pending or was resolved within the last two years. 7. Based on staff’s review of the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated
November 16, 2017, between Ameris and ACFC (the “Agreement”), section 4.9 of the
Agreement (regarding the making of any loans in excess of $1,000,000) raises concerns
that Ameris may be able to exercise control over the day-to- day operations of ACFC and
Atlantic Coast Bank prior to the Federal Reserve’s approval of the application. Discuss
in detail the reasons ACFC and Atlantic Coast Bank are required to give prior notice to
Ameris for the actions described in section 4.9. Explain whether this provision would
give Ameris the ability to control the activities that ACFC and Atlantic Coast Bank
conduct in the ordinary course of business. Discuss the reason for choosing the specific
dollar amounts requiring prior notice to Ameris and provide the number and percentage
of transactions within the last year that would have required prior approval under the
stated conditions. 8. Provide the Disclosure Schedule referenced in the Agreement.
9. Clarify whether section 5.3 of the Agreement would require ACFC or Atlantic Coast
Bank to disclose confidential supervisory information or other information the disclosure
of which is prohibited by applicable statute or regulation. If section 5.3 of the Agreement
would require the disclosure of such information, provide a commitment signed by
Ameris stating that Ameris will not seek to enforce section 5.3 of the Agreement with
respect to any confidential supervisory information, and provide a copy of such
commitment to ACFC. 10. Provide updated financials for the period ending December 31, 2017. In your response, please include pro forma capital and asset quality ratios, as well as pro forma estimates for exposure to commercial real estate lending for the combined firm.
Please provide your response within eight business days." We'll have more on this. From Fair Finance Watch's (and Inner City Press') filing with the Fed: "This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Ameris Bancorp to merge with Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation, and thereby directly acquire shares of Atlantic Coast Bank in Jacksonville, Florida. Fair Finance Watch has reviewed Ameris' lending in 2016, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data is available, in both the Atlanta and the Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and finds both to be disparate. In the Atlanta MSA in 2016 for refinance loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 3.75 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 152 such loans to whites, only 16 to African Americans and only eight to Latinos. In the Atlanta MSA in 2016 for home purchase loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.11 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 582 such loans to whites, only 206 to African Americans and only 48to Latinos. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for home purchase loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.69 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 203 such loans to whites and only SEVEN to African Americans. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for home improvements loans, Ameris made five such loans to whites and none to African Americans or Latinos. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for refinance loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.2 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 100 such loans to whites and only FOUR to African Americans. This is disparate. Fair Finance Watch also reviewed Ameris' home purchase lending in the Tallahassee MSA in 2016: Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 3.78 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 147 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans. Ameris is systemically disparate. Also for the record, and to be addressed at the requested evidentiary hearings: “Georgia bank socking customers with overdraft fees,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 3, 2017: “Ameris Bank collected the most overdraft/insufficient fund fees per account of any U.S. bank, says the analysis, which is based on federal government data from the first three quarters of 2016. Ameris collected an average of about $176 per account.. The No. 2 bank on the list of the top 10 collected an average of about $131 per account. The national average was $17.76.”  This is predatory. Ameris gobbled up Jacksonville Bank and now seeks Atlantic Coast. Would branched be consolidated or closed? This must be addressed, including at the requested evidentiary hearings. We note that Ameris is already trying to look beyond this challenged proposal, to try to acquire Hamilton State Bancshares, Inc. and Hamilton State Bank. We also hereby oppose that; the two proposal should be consolidated and hearings held on both. On the current record, Ameris' application should be denied." 

February 12, 2018

Mergers we are watching:

Feb 9, Oregon: Oregon Community Bank says it plans to acquire Grand Marsh State Bank;

Feb 6, Maine, rare credit union proposed merger between York County Federal Credit Union of Sanford and Atlantic Federal Credit Union of Brunswick;

Jan 23, Ohio into NC: Park National Corporation says it plans to apply to acquire NewDominion Bank, which would leave Charlotte NC with only one bank headquarters: BofA;

Jan 23, Illinois into Florida: CNB Bank Shares says it has signed an agreement to merge Jacksonville Bancorp with and into CNB Shares;

Jan 18, Michigan: Mackinac Financial Corporation, the holding company for mBank, said it wants to merge with First Federal of Northern Michigan Bancorp.

February 5, 2018

Pinnacle bragging of closing branches in "underperforming" markets: "Pinnacle Financial Partners Corp. confirmed Monday that it eliminated at least 145 former BNC Bancorp jobs in 2017, with plans for another 40 jobs this year.

The Nashville, Tenn., bank completed its $1.9 billion purchase of the High Point bank June 16, gaining $7.4 billion and 76 branches, including three in Forsyth County and 20 overall in the Triad.

At $22.2 billion in total assets, it has become a top-50 U.S. bank.

BNC had 1,075 employees in the Carolinas and Virginia when the deal closed, so the reduction represents 17 percent of its former workforce.

Pinnacle spokesman Joe Bass said the bank initially had plans to eliminate another 109 jobs, but those employees were retained in “different, needed roles.”

Bass said the bank also has added 27 “financial advisors and other revenue producers” in the former BNC territory, 13 since the closing of the deal.

Pinnacle listed having 2,222 full-time equivalent employees on June 30, up from 1,217 on March 31. The workforce was down to 2,132 on Dec. 31.

Pinnacle closed 10 BNC branches in December, including the High Point branch at 109 Penny Road, known locally as Pennybyrn, and in Randleman, Bass said.

“The Penny Road location was a special office only open for two half-days a week,” Bass said.

Terry Turner, Pinnacle’s president and chief executive, told analysts during a fourth-quarter conference call Jan. 17 that the closed branches 'weren’t exclusively rural markets by definition, but they were underperforming markets.'" New low for Pinnacle.

January 29, 2018

The worm turns: "An Ohio-based bank is planning to acquire NewDominion Bank, a move that would leave the Queen City with just one bank headquartered here. Newark, Ohio-based Park National Corp., the holding company for Park National Bank, has agreed to pay $76.4 million to purchase the remaining shares of the Charlotte-based community lender, which would put NewDominion under the community bank division of Park National Bank. If the merger is completed by mid-year as expected, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) would be the only Charlotte-based bank left in the Queen City."

January 22, 2018

ICP Asks IMF of Tunisia, Yemen Central Bank, Somalia Debt, and Cameroon, Some Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on January 18, Inner City Press submitted questions about Yemen, Somalia, Tunisia and Cameroon. On Yemen, it asked "With continuing holes in the Yemeni Central Bank, what if anything is the IMF doing?" IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question and then said that the IMF is helping to build the Central Bank's capacity amid the humanitarian crisis. Transcript to come. On Somalia, Inner City Press asked of reports that “Somalia owes around $4bn making it almost impossible for Mogadishu to access new funds from the IMF.” The IMF puts the figure at $5.1 billion. What explains the difference, and how could Somalia access new IMF funds?" Rice replied that records were lost in the war and are being reconstructed; for now $5.1 billion is the figure. Again, transcript to come,  - and more on Cameroon and the continued undermining of the Internet and the economy by this big IMF recipient, Paul Biya's government. Before Rice's long Tunisia answer, Inner City Press had asked: "On Tunisia, what is the IMF's comments on its role in imposing austerity on the country since the popular uprising of January 2011? Did the IMF exerted sustained pressure on the Tunisian Central Bank to stop intervening in the currency markets to defend the value of the Tunisian dinar, increasing imports?" The IMF was prepared for this, emphasizing for example that cooking oil will not be subject to the VAT, but sweets and alcohol will. Video and transcript to come.

January 15, 2017

Mergers we are looking at:

Jan 12, CA: Heritage Commerce Corp proposes to acquire United American Bank;

Jan 10, PA into OH:  First Commonwealth Financial Corporation says it will apply to acquire Cincinnati, Ohio based Foundation Bank;

Jan 9, Michigan: Meta Financial Group proposes to acquire Crestmark Bancorp and Crestmark Bank;

Dec 29, PA:  Juniata Valley Financial Corp. says it will acquire Liverpool Community Bank;

Dec 29, CA: Nano Financial Holdings says it will acquire Commerce Bank of Temecula Valley

December 26, Ohio: LCNB National Bank says it will acquire Columbus First Bank;

Dec 19, CA: First Foundation Inc. proposes to acquire PBB Bancorp...

January 8, 2018

Another merger proposal we are looking at, deep in the heart of Texas: AimBank aims to acquire Platinum Bank. We'll see.

January 1, 2018

On December 27, BancorpSouth said it had received – after nearly four years of waiting – regulatory approvals from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance, to complete its mergers with Ouachita Bancshares Corp., of Monroe, Louisiana, and Central Community Corp., of Austin, Texas. "We are pleased to have secured the necessary regulatory approvals and are working to complete both transactions," said BancorpSouth Chairman and CEO Dan Rollins in a press release.  Note: this is the redlining bank, that's why the deals were and should be delayed, denied. We'll have more on this.

December 25, 2017

Another merger we'll be looking at in early 2018: NC-based First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. announced a proposal to acquire Tampa-headquartered HomeBancorp.

December 18, 2017

Some mergers we are looking at:

Dec 13, Iowa-based (12 state) Heartland Financial USA announced a proposal to acquire First Bank Lubbock Bancshares;

Dec 12, TN into AL: SmartBank said it will buy Southern Community Bank with branches in 

Dec 12, California: TriCo Bancshares said it plans to acquire FNB Bancorp, parent of First National Bank of Northern California;

Dec 11, Louisiana:  Union Savings and Loan Association proposes to acquire Hibernia Bancorp;

Dec 6, MS into FLA: The First Bancshares announced it proposes to acquire Sunshine Financial;

Dec 5, Mich: Independent Bank Corporation (says it proposes to acquire Traverse City State Bank;

Dec 1, Missouri: Guaranty Federal Bancshares says it proposes to acquire Carthage, Missouri-based Hometown Bancshares

Dec 1, Florida: City National Bank announced it proposes to acquire TotalBank from Banco Santander of Spain;

Nov 28, Texas: Independent Bank Group says it proposes to acquire Integrity Bancshares, Inc. and its subsidiary, Integrity Bank SSB, Houston, Texas;

Nov 27, FLA: FCB Financial Holdings says it will buy Floridian Community Holding;

December 11, 2017

In Michigan, The Traverse City State Bank says it will be merging with Independent Bank and that the merger is expected to close in the first half of 2018....

December 4, 2017

  In Florida, the proposed acquisition of a Spain-owned bank by one owned in Chile is presented by some, spun by others as local. We'll see.

ICP Asks IMF of Caribbean Critique, No Reclassification, Yemen & Zambia Answered, Kenya Not

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 30 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on November 30, Inner City Press asked about critiques of the IMF from the Caribbean, about Yemen, Zambia and Kenya. The first three of these were answered. IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice read out Inner City Press' question: "Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said of the IMF, 'If you care about the Caribbean, you must change the rules of engagement and allow us to help ourselves.'He's said the billions of dollars in Caribbean loans should be reclassified by the IMF. What is the IMF's response?" Rice said Managing Director Lagarde is aware of the criticism from the Caribbean forum a few weeks ago and that a study is underway including of catastrophe bonds but, he said, the IMF cannot currently do the requested reclassifications to make countries eligible for concessionary financing.On Zambia, Rice notes that Inner City Press at the UN had asked, "Treasury Secretary Fredson Yamba has said Zambia expects to host an IMF mission before the end of the year and hopes to have a $1.3 billion loan deal in place in early 2018. 'Come 2018, we must have a final (IMF) programme. It has taken a long time because the parameters have been changing.' What is the IMF's status with Zambia?" Rice said after the pause in August,progress has been made, the interest is there, but some information and clarifications are still awaited. "We are waiting for further data and details on the government's external borrowing plans," he said. On Inner City Press' Yemen question, Rice said the IMF "donor grants will be needed" for the payment of wages and social assistance and that the IMF is willing to help with macro-stability once the conflict is over. But when will that be? Here was and is Inner City Press' Kenya question: In Kenya, IMF rep Jan Mikkelsen is quoted that “discussions about the current programme and what will follow after the expiration in March are expected to begin soon, with the new government taking office. The authorities have indicated that they are interested to continue a programme relationship with the IMF."Has the IMF taken note of, and what is its comment on, the critique of the election by Raila Odinga and the NASA Coalition? Would the IMF also confer with the opposition?" We'll have more on this. 

November 27, 2017

  Revolving door continues to spin: Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is joining private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg... His predecessor Timothy Geithner cashed out to Warburg Pincus in 2014.

November 20, 2017

Japan's Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi Skirts North Korea Sanctions With "Incorrect" Application to US OCC, Public Excluded

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photo

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 – Amid talk of increased enforcement of sanctions on North Korea, and possible imposition of new sanctions against Myanmar, a November 13 letter from the New York State Department of Financial Services cites Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi for “continuing compliance failures in Hong Kong, which has a 'repeat transaction' program for certain high risk clients in Chinese cities bordering North Korea. The repeat transaction program results in not more but less scrutiny of these clients transactions.” The NYSDFS letter also notes that BTMU has processed transaction through its New York branch for “Burmese parties” on the OFAC sanctions list. How did Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi react to the New York regulator's investigation of these issues? It applied on October 30 to switch to the more lax Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and had its application approved in a mere week, then threw the state regulators out of its New York branch on Sixth Avenue. All this just a few blocks from the United Nations whose Security Council, on which Japan has a seat until the end of the year, has imposed rounds of sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons program, and was set to vote for a new UN Special Envoy on Myanmar, or Burma, on November 16. What's going on? Now Inner City Press can exclusively report a further outrage, not included in the NYSDFS letter nor a Wall Street Journal article which quoted it. The OCC gave its approval in a week even while belatedly listing Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi's filings under "THESE APPLICATIONS APPEARED INCORRECTLY IN A PRIOR WEEKLY BULLETIN." Photo here; link to Bulletin here. The public, as is the trend under the OCC, was cut out. The face savings compliance agreement, here, does not cure or address this. The OCC is lax not only in sanctions compliance and absurdly short comment periods on corporate applications - it also markets itself to banks as being “flexible” on other compliance issues including the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act. Recently the OCC announced that even a rare less than satisfactory CRA rating would not bar approval of a bank's application, click here for that Inner City Press coverage. A new Comptroller, Joseph Otting formerly of OneWest Bank, is set to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate this week, even while the OCC has refused to answer a pending Press (and CRC) request under the Freedom of Information Act. A lawsuit has now been filed. What will a FOIA request into the OCC's communications with Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi yield? Watch this site.

November 13, 2017

It's not just in the US, and neither are we: Punjab National Bank Set to Shut / Merge or Re-Locate 300 Branches Across India

November 6, 2017

Mergers we are watching:

Nov 3, New Jersey: Spencer Savings Bank, SLA proposes to acquire Wawel Bank;

Nov 2, Illinois: Bank of Farmington proposes to acquire Laura State;

Nov 2, MO: The Bank of Missouri says it will apply to acquire Martinsburg Bancorp;

Nov 1, Illinois: State Bank of Speer says it will merge with Morton Community Bank;

October 30, Montana: Glacier Bancorp proposes acquiring First Security Bank - note: a combination would control 35% of the local Bozeman banking market;

Oct 30, Virginia: Old Point Financial Corp., the parent company of Old Point National Bank, says it will acquire Citizens National Bank;

Oct 24, MS - AL: The First Bancshares, Inc. says it will acquire Southwest Banc Shares, Inc. parent company of First Community Bank in Alabama;

Oct 23, Maine into NH:  Bangor Savings Bank proposes to acquire Granite Bank;

Oct 19, NJ: First Bank says it will acquire Delanco Bancorp;

Oct 17, IL: Midland States Bancorp, Inc. says it will acquire Alpine Bancorporation...

  And in Germany, US-present Deutsche Bank says it will acquire Postbank to form one unit with $325 billion in assets. In Mexico, Banorte says it will acquire Interacciones to form the country's second-largest financial group.

October 30, 2017

Proposed mergers we are looking at: From the North (North) East: New Hampshire based Granite Bank proposes merging into Bangor Savings Bank in Maine; together they'd have $4 billion and 59 branches...

October 23, 2017

  On Associated - Bank Mutual, the Fed e-mailed Inner City Press part of the application but not, it seems, the rest of the file including the multiple protests. Maybe we're missing something... Meanwhile, Bank Mutual Corp. reported third quarter net income of $3.8 million, or 8 cents per share, down from $4.5 million, or 10 cents per share, in the third quarter of 2016.

October 16, 2017

On Cameroon, IMF's Superficial Answer, After Telling ICP Internet Cut Off A Financial Risk

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 – After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lounceny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN system - including the International Monetary Fund. After the IMF told Inner City Press is viewed Yaounde's policies toward the Anglophone areas as a fiscal risk, on June 26 the IMF board handed the Biya government $171 million. And after Inner City Press asked the IMF on October 13, during its Africa press conference during its Annual meeting, about the rising crisis in Southern Cameroon, the IMF's Abebe Aemro Selassie Director of the IMF's African Department, said on camera that it is hard to assess the impacts but the IMF tries to pay heed to "situations like the one you refer to." Really? (He was upbeat on Gabon, too, with no reference to the protests.)

October 9, 2017

Amid a mounting fight against Wisconsin based Associated (it would close 36 branches if allowed to acquire Bank Mutual, list herewe note that "there were 60 U.S. bank mergers and acquisitions completed in the second quarter of 2017, and Wisconsin accounted for 10 percent of them."

  There are also evasions and negative fall-out from proposed mergers, like "236 people being laid off by Sterling Bancorp following the completion of its merger with Astoria Financial Corp." Associated Bank's announcement it would There's been more such negative consolidation fall-out of the type we in NCRC can and should monitor, collect and amplify, organize around, using social media.

A list:

Oct 6, Louisiana: Business First Bank proposes acquiring Minden Bancorp;

Oct 4, Indiana: MutualFirst Financial proposes to merge with Universal Bancorp;

Oct 3, Alabama: Troy Bank and Trust Co. proposes to buy First National Bank;

Oct 2, Oregon:  Beneficial State Bank proposes to fully acquire Albina Community Bank;

Sept 25, South Carolina: First Reliance Bancshares, Inc. proposes to acquire Independence Bancshares;

Sept 21, 2017, Tennessee: F&M Bancshares Inc., the parent bank holding company of Centennial Bank, proposes to acquire Merchants & Planters Bancshares Inc;

Sept 21, Massachusetts: Brookline Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:BRKL)(“Brookline”) proposes to merge with First Commons Bank, NA;

Sept 20, Oklahoma: American Bancorporation, Inc., the holding company for American Heritage Bank, headquartered in Sapulpa, Okla. proposes to acquire Highland Ban-Corp, Inc.

October 2, 2017

ICP Asks IMF of Talks with "Money Launderer" in Congo, Pakistan Minister Dar Charged

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 – When the International Monetary Fund held its biweekly embargoed briefing on September 28, Inner City Press asked among other things about the IMF negotiating with a reputed money launder in Congo-Brazzaville, and about corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar of Pakistan, also in IMF talks. On the former, IMF Deputy Spokesman William Murray said the IMF is again in Brazzaville, for the third time, having a “series of contacts” on financial assessment. He declined to confirm or deny the IMF is talking with Orion Oil's Lucien Ebata, but this is widely known, as is his dealings in cash, via the Panama Papers. We'll have more on this. Inner City Press' Pakistan question was and is: “On Pakistan, it is reported that “the IMF said it had been told by Pakistani officials that the restrictions [on luxury imports] would be removed within a year but Mr Abbasi now says his government was planning to impose more.” Also, what is the IMF comment on the corruption charges against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar?” But when re-submitting through the IMF's online form, with allows only 300 characters, Inner City Press took out “[on luxury imports]” thinking the IMF would know what restrictions were being referred to, since they imposed them. They did not, and did not address the Ishaq Dar corruption allegations. Yet. Watch this site. When the International Monetary Fund re-started its biweekly embargoed press briefings on September 14, Inner City Press submitted questions about Hurricane Irma and moratoria, Mozambique, DR Congo and Ghana: "what is the IMF's response to civil society saying 'the Finance Minister, in particular, is facing conflict of interest investigation with USA SEC, Ghanaian SEC and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in Ghana... We are losing hope as the IMF seems not concerned about all these developments”? The first two got answered, during the briefing, then this on Ghana, from an IMF Spokesperson: "We are aware of the allegations raised in Parliament and the related debates that have been reported on by the media. The Minister of Finance testified before Parliament to clarify the issue. Since the approval of the ECF arrangement we have been working with the authorities on strengthening debt management and improving governance and transparency of government operations. The enactment and ongoing implementation of the Public Financial Management Act, along with the implementation of the debt management strategy, indicate progress in these areas."  Inner City Press asked: "On Antigua and Barbuda, and Hurricane Irma impacted countries more generally... will there be no moratoria? What is the IMF doing?" IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said, "There's a question from Matthew Lee on moratorium... on that, I would refer to what Mme Lagarde said a few days ago, of course the IMF has tremendous