Inner City Press' Community Reinvestment Reporter

  

     Welcome to Inner City Press’ CRA Report.  Our other Reporters cover the financial services industry, human rights, the Federal Reserve, and other beats.  ICP has published a book about the CRA-relevant topic of predatory lending - click here for sample chapters, a map, and ordering informationCBS MarketWatch of April 23, 2004, says the the novel has "some very funny moments," and that the non-fiction mixes "global statistics and first-person accounts."  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']," City Limits, 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.

Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere. Click here for a recent BBC piece on Inner City Press' reporting from the United Nations. New: Follow us on TWITTER   BloggingHeads.tv  Click for March 1, 2011 BloggingHeads.tv re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption by Inner City Press. 2014: MRL on Beacon Reader  For or with more information, contact us.

December 5, 2016

After ICP Challenges TIAA-Everbank, Fed's 3d Round of Qs, CRA Included

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, November 29 -- 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. 

  Then there are cross-industry proposals like TIAA's attempt to acquire Everbank of Florida, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 29 challenged, and attempts from overseas to buy Genworth.

The Federal Reserve has asked a third round of questions of TIAA, which we publish here in full, including one on CRA:

"In connection with the request for the Board’s prior approval pursuant to section 10(e)(1)(A)(iii) of the Home Owners’ Loan Act, as amended, 12 U.S.C. 1467a(e)(1)(A)(iii), and 12 CFR 238.11(e) by TIAA Board of Overseers, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”), and TCT Holdings, Inc., each of New York, New York, to acquire control of EverBank Financial Corp., a savings and loan holding company, and EverBank, a federal stock savings association, both of Jacksonville, Florida, the following information is requested. Supporting documentation should be provided as appropriate.

1. If the transaction is consummated as proposed, describe in detail any authority that the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) or any other regulatory entity (apart from the Federal Reserve Board) may have to:

a. Prevent TIAA from down streaming funds or otherwise acting as a source of financial strength to a subsidiary, including a subsidiary depository institution;

b. Directly or indirectly prevent the Surviving Intermediate HoldCo (as that term is defined and used in the application) from down streaming funds or otherwise serving as a source of financial strength to the resultant subsidiary depository institution;

c. Directly or indirectly require Surviving Intermediate HoldCo to dividend or otherwise distribute funds to TIAA; or

d. Directly or indirectly require a subsidiary depository institution to dividend or otherwise distribute funds to TIAA. For each of the scenarios described above, include a detailed discussion of the circumstances in which the regulator could exercise such authority, and include citations as appropriate.

2. Indicate any dollar amount or percentage thresholds or limitations on transactions that TIAA may conduct with a subsidiary or affiliate, including with the Surviving Intermediate HoldCo, without prior approval of DFS, and provide any statutory or regulatory authority that addresses this limitation.

3. To the extent not previously disclosed in the application, and to the extent known with respect to EverBank, discuss any pending or recently resolved litigation with or investigations by regulators, including, but not limited to, those pertaining to consumer protection laws and regulations, against TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB (“TIAA FSB”) or EverBank.

4. Clarify the extent to which the consumer compliance, fair lending compliance, and Community Reinvestment Act programs of the resultant depository institution will consist of the current programs of TIAA FSB or EverBank. Discuss any aspects of these programs that differ from those currently in place at TIAA FSB or EverBank."

Earlier, some of TIAA's answers were provided to Inner City Press on November 10 and are published here (here and embedded below in full)

"We are grateful for this opportunity to respond to the comment letter filed by Inner City Press  /Fair Finance Watch on 29 October 2016 (the “Comment Letter”), regarding the application submitted by TCT Holdings, Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”)... The Comment Letter makes a series of assertions regarding the lending practices of TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB (“TIAA FSB”) and EverBank by referencing certain Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data for 2015. It also suggests that TIAA does not satisfy the requisite managerial standards consistent with approval. Finally, the Comment Letter requests an extension of the public comment period and a public hearing on the Application...

EverBank has advised the Applicants that it has carefully evaluated and investigated the allegations and it has provided the Applicants with information following its manual review of each of the eight declined applications underlying the data cited in the Comment Letter...

The commenter also suggests that allegations in a dated news article that TIAA has engaged in improper business practices in Brazil should be considered by the Federal Reserve Board as a factor when considering the managerial resources of the Applicants. The news article cited in the Comment Letter does not provide a complete or accurate portrayal of how TIAA conducts business in Brazil and other markets... TIAA is a signatory to the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment."

  Ah, the United Nations... We'll have more on this.

November 28, 2016

Inner City Press has just filed: "This is a FOIA request for the entirety of the November 22, 2016 submission in connection with the Application by TIAA et al to acquire EverBank. As provided under the FRB's ex parte rules, the submission refers to “confidential” exhibits the withholding of which we are challenging with this FOIA request for, for example, “Please see Confidential Exhibit 7 for an explanation of the uncommitted $300 million credit line;” “the Resultant Institution will continue to satisfy the QTL test under prong (iv), as demonstrated in Confidential Exhibit 2;”" etc...

And this:

This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRS's public comment period on the Application by United Bankshares and UBV Holding Company to acquire 100 percent of the voting shares of Cardinal Financial Corporation and Cardinal Bank

These transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. United Bank has a disparate lending record and is growing worse, as does Cardinal's George Mason Mortgage.

And, significantly, the specifics of which branches would be closed have not been publicized.

In the Washington DC MSA in 2015 for home purchase loans, United Bank (Virginia) made 96 such loans to whites and only five to African American applicants, and only seven to Latinos.

In the Silver Spring - Rockville MSA in 2015, for home purchase loans High Point made 14 loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

Consider also the record of Cardinal's George Mason Morgage, which United wants to buy.
In the Washington DC MSA in 2015 for conventional home purchase loans, George Mason denied the applications of African Americans 3.17 times more frequently than whites, and those of Lationos 2.17 times more frequently than whites.

See also, http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-business/20160827/united-bankshares-buys-cardinal-now-largest-company-headquartered-in-wv#sthash.8FhbkxWN.dpuf:

“Cardinal is based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with 30 branches of its subsidiary Cardinal Bank in the Washington, D.C., metro area.... As with most mergers, there’s potential for overlap whether it’s in branch-based or corporate positions, but Adams said it’s too soon to tell how many positions will overlap... Adams said United has also seen the effect of this trend. 'In all of our locations, five states and the nation’s capital, there is a trend toward customers not using the branches as much as they used to, and I think that trend will continue.'”

On the current record, hearings should be held and the application(s) should not be approved. The comment period must be extended.

November 21, 2016

Of BOK, the Fed said last week of ICP's comment, " a commenter objected to the proposal on the basis of alleged disparities in the number of residential real estate loans made to minority borrowers, as compared to white borrowers, by BOK Bank in the Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas, Metropolitan Statistical Area (“Kansas City MSA”); the Houston, Texas, MSA (“Houston MSA”); and the Phoenix, Arizona, MSA (“Phoenix MSA”), as reflected in data reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) for 2014.25 The
commenter further alleged that BOK Bank confined African American and Hispanic borrowers to government loan programs instead of conventional loan products in the
Kansas City MSA. Also, the commenter criticized the rate at which BOK Bank denied applications by African Americans and/or Hispanics, compared to the rate of denials for
whites, for home refinance loans in the Houston and Phoenix MSAs, as reported under HMDA for 2014. In addition, the commenter generally alleged that BOK Bank has a
weak record of lending to people of color and low-income individuals and a weak record of consumer compliance."

And we maintain that - and note the Fed accepting that "On September 9, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that it had settled charges against BOK regarding allegations that BOK Bank’s Corporate Trust Department, primarily through a senior executive, concealed problems and red flags from investors in certain bond offerings for which BOK Bank served as indenture trustee and dissemination agent between 2007 and 2015. See BOK Bank, SEC Order Instituting Cease-and-Desist Proceedings, File No. 3-17533 (September 9, 2016)"

November 14, 2016

After ICP Challenges TIAA-Everbank, Defense of Lending, Land Grabs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, November 10 -- 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. 

  Then there are cross-industry proposals like TIAA's attempt to acquire Everbank of Florida, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 29 challenged, and attempts from overseas to buy Genworth.

The Federal Reserve has asked questions of TIAA, some of whose answers were provided to Inner City Press on November 10 and are published here (here and embedded below in full)

"We are grateful for this opportunity to respond to the comment letter filed by Inner City Press  /Fair Finance Watch on 29 October 2016 (the “Comment Letter”), regarding the application submitted by TCT Holdings, Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”)... The Comment Letter makes a series of assertions regarding the lending practices of TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB (“TIAA FSB”) and EverBank by referencing certain Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data for 2015. It also suggests that TIAA does not satisfy the requisite managerial standards consistent with approval. Finally, the Comment Letter requests an extension of the public comment period and a public hearing on the Application...

EverBank has advised the Applicants that it has carefully evaluated and investigated the allegations and it has provided the Applicants with information following its manual review of each of the eight declined applications underlying the data cited in the Comment Letter...

The commenter also suggests that allegations in a dated news article that TIAA has engaged in improper business practices in Brazil should be considered by the Federal Reserve Board as a factor when considering the managerial resources of the Applicants. The news article cited in the Comment Letter does not provide a complete or accurate portrayal of how TIAA conducts business in Brazil and other markets... TIAA is a signatory to the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment."

  Ah, the United Nations... We'll have more on this.

After ICP Challenges TIAA-Everbank, Here's TIAA's Defense to Federal Reserve of Lending Disparities, Land G... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

November 7, 2016

After ICP Challenges People's United Bank's Suffolk Bid, Fed Asks 13 More Questions

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 31 -- 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.

Now the Federal Reserve, as released to Inner City Press on October 31, has asked People's United a series of questions, including for Community Reinvestment Act information from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 year to date, it's (lack of) lending to African Americans and small businesses, its claims about  RBS Citizens Bank branches and restrictions imposed in connection with the still only proposed - and opposed - merger. We'll have more on this.

And on this: People's United Bank, if allowed to acquire Suffolk National Bank, would layoff at least 76 workers, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification under the WARN Act, to the NYS Dep't of Labor....

October 31, 2016

Challenge to TIAA's Attempt To Buy Everbank, Citing Landgrab in Brazil

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 29 -- 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. 

  Then there are cross-industry proposals like TIAA's attempt to acquire Everbank of Florida, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 29 has challenged. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has written to the Federal Reserve:

On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting public hearings and an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Applications of TCT Holdings Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and TIAA Board of Overseers, all of New York, New York; to acquire EverBank Financial Corp and thereby indirectly acquire EverBank. This first comment is timely.

This is in essence a proposal for a major cross-industry acquisition, in which TIAA (accused among other things of land grabs in Brazil, see below), which has limited experience in banking and a limited and highly disparate record in mortgage lending, seeks to acquire the largest Florida-based bank, with its own issues. Public hearings are needed.

In the St. Louis MSA, TIAA-CREF Trust in 2015, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is available, reported data but lent only to whites.

Meanwhile Everbank, in the Miami MSA in 2015 for home mortgage loans in HMDA Table 4-1 had a 77% denial rate for African Americans, versus a 36% denial rate for whites. In Tampa for Table 4-1 it had a 100% denial rate for African Americans. Public hearings are required.

For the record, under the Managerial Resources and integrity factors, consider this:

TIAA-CREF, U.S. Investment Giant, Accused of Land Grabs in Brazil NOV. 16, 2015

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — As an American investment giant that manages the retirement savings of millions of university administrators, public school teachers and others, TIAA-CREF prides itself on upholding socially responsible values, even celebrating its role in drafting United Nations principles for buying farmland that promote transparency, environmental sustainability and respect for land rights.

But documents show that TIAA-CREF’s forays into the Brazilian agricultural frontier may have gone in another direction.

The American financial giant and its Brazilian partners have plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into farmland deals in the cerrado, a huge region on the edge of the Amazon rain forest where wooded savannas are being razed to make way for agricultural expansion, fueling environmental concerns.

In a labyrinthine endeavor, the American financial group and its partners amassed vast new holdings of farmland despite a move by Brazil’s government in 2010 to effectively ban such large-scale deals by foreigners.”

For obvious reasons anticipating regulatory push-back against this proposal, TIAA got a clause to withdraw if too much questions are asked or restrictions proposed.

What is the public benefit? The fact that TIAA is run by a former FRB vice chairman militates even more strongly for the requested public hearings."

October 24, 2016

Lending Discrimination Kills Mergers as BancorpSouth Withdraws, ICP Proceeds on People's United

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 22 -- 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 BancorpSouth in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

After BancorpSouth settled the redlining charges, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch immediately wrote to the Federal Reserve urging that its pending merger applications be denied or withdrawn. Now the latter has happened. The Fed has informed Inner City Press of the formal withdrawal of BancorpSouth's application; we've published the letter here, and will stay on this, to December 2017, as long as it takes.

As to People's United, using 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 17, 2016

ICP Challenges FNB's Reach into the Carolinas for Yadkin Bank, Disparities in Baltimore & Ohio, Insiders

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 15 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to FNB / First National Bank of Pennsylvania now trying to buy Yadkin Bank in the Carolinas while barely lending to people of color in Baltimore, Cleveland or Akron.

 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 15 challenged this application and FNB, as it did Bancorp South in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Using the just-released 2015 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, Inner City Press has commented to the Federal Reserve in Washington and Cleveland:

 "On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application of F.N.B. Corporation to acquire Yadkin Financial and Yadkin Bank. This first comment is timely.

F.N.B. Corporation's lead bank, First National Bank of PA, has a disparate record of lending, for example in the Baltimore and Cleveland MSAs, below. Yadkin is an amalgam of banks slapped together by private equity investors, who would be the primary beneficiaries of this proposed deal. But what is the public benefit?

In the Baltimore MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available and not taken into account in any FNB CRA example, FNB made 86 home purchase loans to whites and only 3 to African Americans, only two to Latinos. This is inconsistent with the demographics of Baltimore, to put it mildly. FNB's denial rate for African Americans was 2.75 times higher than for whites; it was 3.13 times higher than for whites. This is redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and FNB should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

People's United record is scarcely better in the Cleveland MSA, another out-of-Pennsylvania market that would be a predictor of how FNB would (under) perform in the Carolinas. In the Cleveland MSA in 2015, FNB made 297 home purchase loans to whites and only 12 to Africans and only 3 to Latinos, applications from which it denied 4.13 times more frequently than whites.

In the Akron, Ohio MSA in 2015, FNB made 41 home purchase loans to whites, only one to an African American (in Table 4-1) and none to Latinos.

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied.

Please also note for the record: “Using Tuesday’s closing price on the NYSE, here’s how much more the top 10 individual backers’ stakes will be worth at close, according to FactSet Research:

Adam Abram, lead independent director: $14,298,826.15

Michael Patterson, director: $6,969,354.35

Scott Custer, CEO: $3,836,876.80

Harry Spell, board member: $3,453,074.25

Joseph Towell, chairman: $2,705,434.65

David Brody, board member: $1,645,403.35

Steven Lerner, board member: $1,311,405.15

Steven Jones, chief banking officer: $1,285,450.00

Barry Dodson, board member: $1,117,767.15

Terry Earley, CFO: $1,030,739.45

Insiders currently own about 12 percent of Yadkin, with the bulk, at 67 percent, owned by institutional investors.”

See also:

"The prominent level of private-equity ownership in the Raleigh bank had many analysts and financial experts convinced that it would be sold sooner than later, even though Yadkin just completed on March 1 its $456 million purchase of Greensboro-based NewBridge Bancorp. NewBridge went on a three-bank buying spree after securing $56 million in new private-equity capital in November 2012.

Meanwhile, Yadkin gained $45 million in private-equity capital in October 2012 and subsequently bought VantageSouth Bancshares Inc. of Raleigh and NewBridge. Those private-equity infused deals provided Yadkin with a sufficient branch coverage of North Carolina’s three urban areas to convince FNB Corp. executives to leapfrog over Virginia to make its $1.4 billion offer.

Stone Point Capital LLC, LY Holdings LLC and Lightyear Capital LLC each own 4.46 percent of Yadkin’s 50.84 million outstanding shares. Stone Point and Lightyear were provided with a representative on Yadkin’s board of directors. At $27.35 a share, the sale could be worth $61.2 million for each firm.”

This is a proposal driven by these private equity investors: but what is the public benefit?
 

October 10, 2016

ICP Protests BNC - High Point, 2015 Lending Fell 80% from 2014

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 4 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to Bank of North Carolina (BNC), whose proposed acquisition of High Point Bank Corporation Inner City Press has challenged and the Federal Reserve has asked questions on, and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

On the evening of August 24, the Federal Reserve asked BNC questions about Inner City Press' protest, including:

"The public comment submitted on the proposed merger includes assertions that Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from several metropolitan areas indicate that both BNC Bank and High Point Bank had unfavorable levels of mortgage lending to African American and Hispanic individuals as compared to white individuals."

Now while BNC brags it will close its deal by the end of October, Inner City Press has just submitted a second comment with the just released 2015 HMDA data. BNC's conventional home purchase lending to African Americans in the Charleston MSA has falling by over 80% from 2014 to 2015. Inner City Press has today submitted to the Federal Reserve:

"this, with Compliance Plan withheld, is the record of the proposal acquirer: 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.

  In 2015, things got substantially worse. For conventional home purchase loans in the Charleston MSA in 2015, while BNC made 45 such loans to whites, it made only ONE to an African American (down from six in 2014).  This application should be denied. We ask for more time to comment on this 2015 data.

On the current record, hearings should be held and the application(s) should not be approved. The comment period must be extended."

 The Winston-Salem Journal reported: "regulatory approval was delayed in part by two New York advocate groups challenging BNC's lending practices involving minority and underserved applicants in its markets. Inner City Press and affiliate Fair Finance Watch filed a protest with the Federal Reserve under the federal Community Reinvestment Act. It is a normal practice of those groups to challenge minority-lending practices when a significant bank purchase is announced. Fed officials asked for additional information Dec. 2. BNC responded and asked that its minority-lending data remain confidential. Rick Callicutt, the bank's chief executive and president, said in April that because BNC has surpassed $5 billion in total assets, it faces "a higher level of expectation to market more heavily to the underserved in its markets. All our Community Reinvestment Act exams have been good."

  Really? BNC's conventional home purchase lending to African Americans in the Charleston MSA has falling by over 80% from 2014 to 2015.

October 3, 2016

The Fed on September 30 said, "Of the 42 proposals withdrawn in the first half of 2016, 20 proposals were withdrawn at the initiative of the applicant. The remainder were withdrawn after consultation with staff for technical or procedural reasons or because the proposals raised significant issues regarding the statutory factors that must be considered by the Federal Reserve. Specifically, 13 of these proposals raised financial and managerial issues as well as regulatory compliance and CRA and fair lending issues."

  So what about BancorpSouth? Or a Spanish bank down the pike?

 The Federal Reserve has responded to Inner City Press' FOIA request about BNC - but has, tellingly, redacted everything about "Enforcement Actions." We are not convinced.

September 26, 2016

And now more questions from the Fed to BNC:

"on Bank of North Carolina, Thomasville, North Carolina (“BNC Bank”), to acquire High Point Bank Corporation (“HPBC”), parent of High Point Bank and Trust Company (“High Point Bank”), both of High Point, North Carolina, pursuant to section 3(a)(5) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended (“BHC Act”), the following additional information, including the information in the confidential appendix, is requested. Supporting documentation should be provided as appropriate.
1. Given BNC’s rapid expansion, describe in detail BNC’s merger and acquisition processes for targeting, acquiring, and integrating acquired businesses. Include the level of board and senior management oversight and reporting, due diligence activities, audit coverage, and the involvement of risk control groups as appropriate.
2. Describe how BNC governs significant project activities and whether there is an independent oversight function that oversees project changes that occur when BNC makes an acquisition.
3. Regarding BNC’s current enterprise risk management, respond to the following:
a. Discuss the impact that the integration of Southcoast has had to BNC’s risk management framework.
b. Indicate whether risk reporting includes information regarding integration activities. If so, describe how this information could be used by senior management to allocate the necessary resources to address integration concerns, should any arise.
c. Describe how BNC’s risk management framework would change upon consummation of the proposed transaction.
4. Provide a pro forma list of shareholders who will own, control, or hold with the power to vote 5 percent or more of the voting shares of BNC upon consummation of the proposed transaction. Your response should indicate whether any identified shareholder is a bank or bank holding company. In calculating the voting ownership, include any warrants, options, and other convertible instruments, and show all levels of ownership on both a fully diluted and on an individually diluted basis. Aggregate the interests of any related shareholders."

September 19, 2016

So Bank of Oklahoma, after Inner City Press' protest, was asked in what markets it will improve. It has now named cities in six states. We'll see....

September 12, 2016

After ICP Challenges Its Suffolk Bid, People's United Calls NYC "Lower Hudson," Recent

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, September 8 -- 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.

On September 7, the General Counsel of People's United Robert E. Trautmann filed a response, which as to the analysis of New York City redlining submitted by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch argues that the disparities are OK because People's supposedly only recently entered the market.

  But it entered in 2010. How long can it call this recent? And why should it be permitted to build itself up on Long Island while this redlining of New York City's lower income communities of color persists?

Tellingly, People's United Bank's purported response to Inner City Press' redlining analysis calls New York Times the “Lower Hudson Valley region.”

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed with the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency:

"a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by People's United to buy The Suffolk County National Bank of Riverhead, NY. The newspaper notice says the comment period runs at least through August 16; this comment is timely.

People's United proposes to buy Suffolk County National Bank and its 27 branches in New York. But in the the New York City MSA in 2014, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available, People's United made 82 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos. This is 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.

For refinance loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made 24 loans to whites, 1 to an African American and four to Hispanics. For home improvement loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made eight loans to whites, and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

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 the Nassau-Suffolk MSA in 2014, People's United made 48 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. For home improvement loans it made 16 loans to whites and NONE to African American or Latinos.

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied."

September 5, 2016

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has been looking at the Bank of Oklahoma, noting that

In the Kansas City MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, BOK for Table 4-2 made 242 loans to whites and only eight to African Americans. People of color were confined to Table 4-1 loans: 35 to African Americans, and 36 to Latinos, versus 204 to whites.

In the Houston MSA in 2014 for refinance loans, BOK made 126 loans to whites and only six to African Americans; it had a denial rate for African Americans of 55%, and for Latinos of 52%, versus only 30% for whites.

In the Phoenix MSA in 2014 for refinance loans, BOK made 168 loans to whites and only THREE to African Americans and 11 to Latinos; it had a denial rate for Latinos of 36%, versus only 26% for whites.

Now, as if on cue, BOK serves up a new Community Reinvestment Act performance evaluation as a rebuttal. But even it lists Low Satisfactory rating in Arizona and Texas for lending, in Arkansas and Colorado for service, and in Maryland for both lending AND service.

So what rating do you think the OCC gave Bank of Oklahoma, which is trying to buy Missouri Bank and Trust in Kansas City? And what Kansas City bank do you think hasn't had a CRA exam in nine years? Watch this site.

August 29, 2016

ICP Protested BNC - High Point, Now Fed Asks Questions, Here

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 24 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to Bank of North Carolina (BNC), whose proposed acquisition of High Point Bank Corporation Inner City Press has challenged and the Federal Reserve has asked questions on, and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

On the evening of August 24, the Federal Reserve asked BNC questions about Inner City Press' protest, including:

"The public comment submitted on the proposed merger includes assertions that Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from several metropolitan areas indicate that both BNC Bank and High Point Bank had unfavorable levels of mortgage lending to African American and Hispanic individuals as compared to white individuals.

-Directly address the assertions of unfavorable levels of mortgage lending to those population segments identified by the commenter in each relevant geographic area referenced in the comments;

-Discuss in detail the outreach and marketing activities by BNC Bank and High Point Bank, including any contemplated changes to those activities after consummation of the proposal; and

-Describe in detail the fair lending risk management policies and procedures of BNC Bank and High Point Bank, including any contemplated changes to these policies and procedures after consummation of the proposal...

 Discuss any plans to open, close, or consolidate any bank branches in connection with the proposal, or separately from the proposal, particularly in low- and moderate-income (“LMI”) areas. To the extent that any branches in LMI areas would be closed, discuss management’s plans to mitigate the impact of such closures on the affected communities."

On BNC, Inner City Press / 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)."

  We'll have more on this.

August 22, 2016

Last week, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch challenged People's United - Suffolk County National Bank. Now: "Elizabeth Montgomery, a People’s United spokeswoman, said the bank does not comment on pending litigation, but noted that it feels “comfortable” with its lending practices. “We’re a highly regulated institution and we’re very proud of our history of residential lending and we’re comfortable with our practices,” she said. Suffolk did not return a call for comment."

  We'll have more on this.

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

Citing Redlining, ICP Challenges People's United Bid For Suffolk County National Bank

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 8 -- 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 has now 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.

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed with the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency:

"a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by People's United to buy The Suffolk County National Bank of Riverhead, NY. The newspaper notice says the comment period runs at least through August 16; this comment is timely.

People's United proposes to buy Suffolk County National Bank and its 27 branches in New York. But in the the New York City MSA in 2014, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available, People's United made 82 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos. This is 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.

For refinance loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made 24 loans to whites, 1 to an African American and four to Hispanics. For home improvement loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made eight loans to whites, and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

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 the Nassau-Suffolk MSA in 2014, People's United made 48 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. For home improvement loans it made 16 loans to whites and NONE to African American or Latinos.

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied."

August 8, 2016

After Taking Goldman Sachs Calls on Sunday, Fed Fines It $36M, Denies FOIA

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 3 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - which gets weekend service from the Federal Reserve's top lawyer - down to the Bank of North Carolina, for which it hides the "compliance plan" that ostensibly rebuts Fair Finance Watch.

On August 3 after earlier in the year doling out an approval for Goldman Sachs on GE, the Fed announced it has

"ordered Goldman Sachs Group to pay a $36.3 million civil money penalty for its unauthorized use and disclosure of confidential supervisory information and to implement an enhanced program to ensure the proper use of confidential supervisory information. Additionally, the Board announced that it is instituting enforcement proceedings against Joseph Jiampietro, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, seeking to impose a fine and permanently bar him from the banking industry."

 Goldman Sachs on January 14, 2016 withheld basic information from the response it was required to send to Inner City Press, see below.

But on March 21, after the Fed was notified of extensive irregularities in its processing of the Goldman Sachs - GE application, the Board hauled off and approved it, saying, in footnote 49, that

"Two commenters express concerns about GS Bank’s use of the Board’s prefiling process, suggesting that commenters could not participate in the resolution of substantive issues raised by the proposal because these issues were resolved before the filing of this application. One of these commenters withdrew its comments in full following its discussions with GS Bank.

 The Federal Reserve has established a prefiling process to provide potential applicants with information about the procedural requirements, such as timing and the applicable forms, associated with a proposal. See SR Letter 12-12. This process also helps to identify information that may be needed in connection with issues that the Board typically considers in connection with a particular type of application or notice, such as
competition or financial stability. The prefiling process is not used, and was not used in this case, to resolve or predetermine the outcome of any substantive issues. As in every case, the substantive issues involved in this case were considered and resolved as part ofthe processing of GS Bank’s formal application. In doing so, the Board considered all public comments on the proposal.

Voting for this action: Chair Yellen, Vice Chairman Fischer, and Governors Tarullo, Powell, and Brainard."

 Absurdly, when on January 22 Goldman Sachs sent Inner City Press a copy of its January 18 answer to the Fed, it withheld whole pages and exhibits.

August 1, 2016

Here is the fraud of US Community Reinvestment Act "enforcement" - detailed challenges are deemed rebutted by "Compliance Plans" a bank submits -- which are then deemed confidential in full, no reasonably segregable information, under FOIA exemption 8. This is from the FDIC this week:

Dear Mr. Lee:
This is our final response to your July 8, 2016 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information that you described as follows:
This is a request for the Bank of North Carolina submission to the FDIC in connection with Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's CRA protest, referred to
(and relied on) by the Federal Reserve in this order:

"BNC further represents that BNC Bank is committed to continually improving its performance in the Greenville and Charleston MSAs and to meeting the needs of
all members of the communities. BNC notes that the commenter filed similar comments with the FDIC on an application for an unrelated acquisition, which was approved on the condition that BNC Bank develop and submit a supplement to its existing compliance plan that would strengthen the bank’s fair lending compliance program. BNC asserts that the supplement to BNC Bank’s compliance plan, which has been approved by the FDIC and implemented by the
bank, adequately addresses the concerns raised by the commenter on this proposal."

ICP's June 18, 2016 comments on Bank of North Carolina's application to acquire High Point Bank and Trust requested this plan. The FDIC extended the comment period to July 8 - but still, none of the plan has been received. Hence this formalFOIA request (and request for further extension of the BNC - High Point Bank and Trust comment period).

Our records search has been completed, and the record that you requested (Record) was located. We have determined that the Record does not contain any reasonably segregable non-exempt information. Therefore, your FOIA request is being denied.

The Record is exempt from disclosure in its entirety under FOIA Exemptions 4 and 8, 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(4) and (b)(8), and is being withheld in full. Exemption 4 permits the withholding of trade secrets, and confidential or privileged commercial or financial information obtained from a person. Exemption 8 permits the withholding of information contained in, or related to, the examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of the FDIC in its regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
This completes the processing of your request.

 We'll have more on this.

July 25, 2016

ICP Protested  NYCB - Astoria on Disparities from NY to Cleveland, Fed Qs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 20 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to New York Community Bank, Chemical Bank in Michigan, Bank of North Carolina and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

In January of this year, Inner City Press submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve to NYCB's application to acquire Astoria, see below. Now on July 20, the Fed has asked NYCB this:

"Based on staff’s review of the current record, the following additional information is requested. Supporting documentation, as appropriate, should be provided.

"In its February 13, 2016, comment on the proposal, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (“ICP”) alleges that New York Community Bank’s and Astoria’s branch patterns disproportionately exclude Upper Manhattan and particularly the Bronx, which ICP states is the most predominately minority and low-income community in the state of New York. Please respond to these allegations. Please provide a copy of the public portion of your response directly to Matthew Lee of ICP. Any information for which you desire confidential treatment should be so labeled and separately bound in accordance with section 261.15 of the Board’s Rules Regarding Availability of Information"

 We'll see. Inner City Press' protest set forth that  NYCB in the New York City MSA in 2014 made 109 home purchase loans to whites -- and only THREE to African Americans. For refinance loans, NYBC in the the NYC MSA in 2014 made 27 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American.
 
  In the Cleveland, Ohio MSA (where NYCB bought Ohio Savings - and in the new this week), NYCB in 2014 made 17 refinance loans to whites in 2014 and only one to an African American, while denying African Americans, while denying African Americans three times more frequently than whites.

 " In the Nassau Suffolk (Long Island) MSA in 2014 NYCB made 107 home purchase loans to whites -- and only ONE to an African American, while denying African Americans 4.7 times more frequently than whites.

Aggregate / all lenders on Long Island 2014, conventional home purchase loans:

Unlike NYCB's 4.7 denial rate disparity between African Americans and whites, for all lenders it is (substantially) below 2 to 1: by all lenders on Long Island in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, African Americans were denied 1.62 times more frequently then whites.

  Unlike NYCB's 107 loans to whites for each (1) loan(s) to African Americans, for the aggregate there are 23 loans to whites for each loan to African Americans.

" For refinance loans, NYCB in the the Long Island MSA in 2014 made 52 loans to whites and only three to African Americans and only TWO to Latinos, while denying Latinos 2.32 times more frequently than whites."

In April 2014, Inner City Press submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve of 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 - Round Two."

Fair Finance Watch's analysis to the Fed showed that "in the Jackson MS MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth made 258 loans to whites, only 17 to African Americans and five to Latinos. BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7.4% while for African Americans it was 25.8% -- 3.49 times higher. This was troubling.

NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Jackson MS, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 4.5% while for African Americans it was 26.4% -- now 5.87 times higher.

  In 2012 in the Baton Rouge LA MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2012, BancorpSouth made 60 such loans to whites; only three to African Americans and one to a Latino.
NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Baton Rouge MSA, BancorpSouth was up to 72 loans to whites - but NONE to African Americans."

Now BancorpSouth is changed by the government with "redlining by placing its branches in the Memphis area outside of minority neighborhoods and directing nearly all its marketing away from such neighborhoods."

July 18, 2016

In a proposed $1 bbillion merger, the applicant (Chemical) has... misunderstood, telling the Federal Reserve "Applicant misunderstood the initial question in the June 21, 2016, request for information and included in Exhibit B only that space used for teller lines and platform branch staff. The Exhibit did not include other portions of the buildings by the bank in its operations. Attached is a Revised Exhibit B that shows the correct percentage of the space occupied by Talmer. Only three parcels of owned real estate are occupied less than 100 percent by Talmer. Those three are Elyria, Ohio – Downtown (73.8%), Muskegon, Michigan (67.2%) and Portage, Michigan (77.42%)."

July 11, 2016

ICP Protested BancorpSouth, Now Sued by DOJ, Chemical & BNC

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 9 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to Chemical Bank in Michigan, Bank of North Carolina and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

In April 2014, Inner City Press submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve of 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 - Round Two."

Fair Finance Watch's analysis to the Fed showed that "in the Jackson MS MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth made 258 loans to whites, only 17 to African Americans and five to Latinos. BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7.4% while for African Americans it was 25.8% -- 3.49 times higher. This was troubling.

NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Jackson MS, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 4.5% while for African Americans it was 26.4% -- now 5.87 times higher.

  In 2012 in the Baton Rouge LA MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2012, BancorpSouth made 60 such loans to whites; only three to African Americans and one to a Latino.
NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Baton Rouge MSA, BancorpSouth was up to 72 loans to whites - but NONE to African Americans."

Now BancorpSouth is changed by the government with "redlining by placing its branches in the Memphis area outside of minority neighborhoods and directing nearly all its marketing away from such neighborhoods."

July 4, 2016

On Bank of North Carolina's application to acquire and merge with High Point Bank and Trust, the FDIC has given Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch until July 8 to submit comments - but will they be releasing the until-now withheld (but FRB-relied on) compliance plan of BNC?

June 27, 2016

  What's (not) in your wallet? Capital One is closing branches in New Jersey: "Capital One will close five of its six branches at the Shore on July 23, a company spokesperson said Thursday, in a sign that giant banks are re-evaluating how they serve their customers.The bank is closing branches in Aberdeen, Lakewood, Marlboro, Toms River and Wall." Wallet...

June 20, 2016

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has submitted a "timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FDIC's public comment period on the Application by Bank of North Carolina (BNC) to acquire and merge with High Point Bank and Trust.

These transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. Bank of North Carolina (BNC) has a disparate lending record and is growing worse. The lack of transparency concerning BNC's “Compliance Plan” must end on this transaction: the plan must be publicly released.

Consider also the record of High Point, which BNC wants to buy.

In the Greensboro MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, High Point made 39 such loans to whites and only ONE to an African American applicant, and none to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 23 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying the applications of African Americans FIVE times more frequently than those of whites.

For home improvement loans in the Greensboro MSA in 2014, High Point made 8 loans to whites and only one to an African American applicant.

In the Winston Salem MSA in 2014, for home purchase loans High Point made 11 loans to whites and only one to an African American applicant.

And this, with Compliance Plan withheld, is the record of the proposal acquirer: 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.

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.

The Federal Reserve recently relied on this withheld compliance plan and commitments from BNC we've yet to see: "BNC further represents that BNC Bank is committed to continually improving its performance in the Greenville and Charleston MSAs and to meeting the needs of all members of the communities. BNC notes that the commenter filed similar comments with the FDIC on an application for an unrelated acquisition, which was approved on the condition that BNC Bank develop and submit a supplement to its existing compliance plan that would strengthen the bank’s fair lending compliance program. BNC asserts that the supplement to BNC Bank’s compliance plan, which has been approved by the FDIC and implemented by the bank, adequately addresses the concerns raised by the commenter on this proposal."

But that's been withheld.

The Winston Salem Journal of June 3, 2016 reported: “Inner City Press and affiliate Fair Finance Watch filed a protest with the Federal Reserve under the federal Community Reinvestment Act. It is a normal practice of those groups to challenge minority-lending practices when a significant bank purchase is announced.

Fed officials asked for additional information Dec. 2. BNC responded and asked that its minority-lending data remain confidential.

Rick Callicutt, the bank’s chief executive and president, said in April that senior management “has been actively working with our banking regulators to gain the necessary approvals for the Southcoast transaction.”

Because BNC has surpassed $5 billion in total assets, Callicutt said, it faces “a higher level of expectation to market more heavily to the underserved in its markets. All our Community Reinvestment Act exams have been good.”

He said that as part of the Southcoast approval process, “we have allocated additional planning, marketing, outreach and credit resources to the underserved within our markets.”

Callicutt said the bank is “confident that the significant progress we have made in this area will position us for more expeditious regulatory approvals in the future.”

Without releasing the compliance plan? And with High Point's weak record? This cannot be. We request evidentary hearings.

On the current record, hearings should be held and the application(s) should not be approved. The comment period must be extended."

June 13, 2016

Chemical Bank in Michigan tells the Federal Reserve, in a response late-provided to Inner City Press, that its 100% denial rate for Latinos in the Flint MSA is okay, citing a case in which they asked for an unexpired resident alien card and none was provided. Toxic like that water....

June 6, 2016

Federal Reserve Gives BNC An Approval Based on Secret Compliance Plan

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, June 2 -- 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, seeking to acquire Southcoast Financial in South Carolina and, after that, High Point Bank & Trust.

On June 2 after a long delay, including delay in providing basic information to Inner City Press, the Federal Reserve approved the Southcoast deal. The Fed said, "In this case, the Board received comments from a commenter who objects to the proposal on the basis of alleged disparities in the number of conventional home
purchase loans made to African Americans and Hispanics, as compared to whites, by BNC Bank."

 Then the Fed says, "BNC further represents that BNC Bank is committed to continually improving its performance in the Greenville and Charleston MSAs and to meeting the needs of all members of the communities. BNC notes that the commenter
filed similar comments with the FDIC on an application for an unrelated acquisition, which was approved on the condition that BNC Bank develop and submit a supplement to its existing compliance plan that would strengthen the bank’s fair lending compliance program. BNC asserts that the supplement to BNC Bank’s compliance plan, which has been approved by the FDIC and implemented by the bank, adequately addresses the concerns raised by the commenter on this proposal."
 
But that's been withheld. We'll have more on this.

 On March 1 the Federal Reserve e-mailed Inner City Press a memo about a meeting it had with BNC Bank's highest executives, under the Fed's rules on Ex Parte contacts, avoiding the fair lending and Community Reinvestment Act issues which Inner City Press has raised. We are publishing the Federal Reserve memo online here.

  But as Inner City Press immediately replied, including to the Fed's Office of the Secretary, why did the Fed wait until March 1 to send a memo of a January 28, 2016 meeting -- more than a month? Does that comply with any meaningful rule on Ex Parte communications? We'll have more on this.

  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. But after Fair Finance Watch protested the deal, and the Fed told BNC to send it a copy of the bank's response, the response was provided six days later with with the entirety of the Community Reinvestment Act response withheld. See here.

Inner City Press has immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and a second comment with the Fed.

May 30, 2016

  Why should proposed bank mergers be commented on and fought? Consider Old National - Anchor bank, announced in January and just closed - as soon as they consummated, but not before, Old National filed that it will lay off 138 people. We'll have more on this.

May 23, 2016

Now looking into merger agreement that calls them Frontier (First Cash) and Cowboy (Cash America):

"(a) Regulatory Authorizations. All consents, authorizations, orders or approvals of each Governmental Authority necessary for the consummation
of the Merger and the other transactions contemplated by this Agreement set forth in Section 8.1(a) of the Frontier Disclosure Letter and Section 8.1(a) of the
Cowboy Disclosure Letter shall have been obtained.

(b) Antitrust Approvals. Any waiting period (and any extension thereof) applicable to the Merger and the other transactions contemplated by this
Agreement under the HSR Act shall have been terminated or shall have expired, and any other antitrust, competition, investment, trade regulation or similar
consents, authorizations, orders or approvals that are required under any other material Antitrust Law, the absence of which would prohibit the consummation
of the Merger and the other transactions contemplated by this Agreement, shall have been obtained or made or any applicable waiting period with respect
thereof shall have expired or been terminated."

  Can you say, unfair and deceptive?

May 16, 2016

 Despite the Federal Reserve saying that, after it extended its response time, it would provide Huntington - FirstMerit documents Inner City Press requested under FOIA by May 2 (see below), none of been provided. The comment period should not be closed by the Fed. Consider:

April 18, 2016

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request No. F-2016-0152

Dear Mr. Lee,

On March 21, 2016, the Board of Governors (“Board”) received your electronic message dated March 20, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, for the entire[t]y of the “[a]pplication by Huntington to acquire FirstMerit” and all records reflecting FRS communications with Huntington or FirstMerit for the past twelve (12) months.

Pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until May 2, 2016, in order to consult with two or more components of the Board having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.

If a determination can be made before May 2, 2016, we will respond to you promptly. It is our policy to process FOIA requests as quickly as possible while ensuring that we disclose the requested information to the fullest extent of the law.

Very truly yours,

Jeanne M. McLaughlin

Manager, Freedom of Information Office

And then... nothing.

May 9, 2016

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch, which has protested Huntington - FirstMerit, was sent this by the Federal Reserve:

Dear Mr. Lee:
Attached is a memorandum summarizing staff’s telephone conversation with Ms. Patricia A. Robinson of April 25, 2016, counsel for Huntington Bancshares Incorporated (“Huntington”), regarding the application by Huntington to acquire all the voting shares of, and to merge with, FirstMerit Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire FirstMerit Bank, N.A., pursuant to section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended.  We send this memorandum to you in accordance with the Board’s procedures regarding ex parte communications.

Date: May 3, 2016
To: File
From: Federal Reserve staff
Subject: Telephone Conversation with Patricia A. Robinson, Esq.
re:Application by Huntington Bancshares Incorporated to Acquire Shares of, and to Merge with, FirstMerit Corporation

On April 25, 2016, staff of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Benjamin McDonough, Pam Nardolilli, Mark Buresh, Andrew Hartlage, and Brian Phillips) had a telephone conversation with Ms. Patricia A. Robinson, counsel for Huntington Bancshares Incorporated (“Huntington”), Columbus, in connection with the application filed by Huntington to acquire all the voting shares of, and to merge with, FirstMerit Corporation (“FirstMerit”) and thereby indirectly acquire FirstMerit Bank, N.A., both of Akron, all of Ohio, pursuant to section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended.

Staff discussed with Ms. Robinson a capital-related matter regarding the issuance of Huntington preferred shares in exchange for currently outstanding FirstMerit preferred shares.

  UNsaid: Robinson used to work in the Fed's Legal Division...

May 2, 2016

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed this:

This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting a complete copy of an and an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Chemical Financial Corporation to merge with Talmer Bancorp and thereby acquire voting shares of Talmer Bank and Trust.

This over $1 billion proposal is by a bank with a weak record of people to people of color and lower income people, and of consumer compliance.

In the Flint, Michigan MSA in 2014 Chemical Bank for home purchase loans had a 100% denial rate for Latinos; it made 14 such loans to whites and only three to African Americans. Chemical Bank's home refinance lending in the Flint MSA in 2014 was all to whites: 11 loans to whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos. Similiarly for home improvement loans, 10 loans to whites, none to Latinos; African Americans submitted two applications, one denied, the other “withdrawn.”

In the Battle Creek MSA in 2014, Chemical Bank made 26 loans to whites and none to African Americans (again, two applications, one denied and the other “withdrawn”).

This is unacceptable. So is this:

La Michigan: “Oddly I had enough money in both of my Chemical Bank accounts and they charged me a $64 over draft fee for my smaller account. I HATE that BANK! It used to be Northwestern Bank, but Chemical bought them. I am getting ALL my money out of there as soon as my debit card comes from the credit union.”

The stated rationale of Northwestern selling out to Chemical was the same, increase compliance costs, etc. Chemical promises to increase lending. But has it? What of its public statements that is will be opening branches? Hearings are needed.

April 25, 2016

ICP Awaits Fed's FOIA Response on Huntington - FirstMerit, May 16 New Date

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, April 22 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks, more Fed-favored banks like Goldman Sachs - through those in the upper bulge like Huntington, seeking to buy First Merit and close more than 100 branches.

 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on March 19 filed with the Federal Reserve a challenge to Huntington's application to acquire First Merit and close 107 branches. On April 16, Inner City Press made a third filing, for an extension of the comment period.

  On April 22, a week after Inner City Press' request but a day after Huntington CEO Steve Steinour downplayed the branch closures to his shareholders, the Federal Reserve called Inner City Press and said the comment period will now run to May 16. Later this was put online.

 While appreciated, will this help keep branches open? We'll see - for now, the Fed has extended its time to respond to Inner City Press' long pending Freedom of Information Act request:

April 18, 2016
 
Mr. Matthew R. Lee
Inner City Press
PO Box 20047
New York, NY 10017
 
Re:       Freedom of Information Act Request No. F-2016-0152
 
Dear Mr. Lee,
 
On March 21, 2016, the Board of Governors (“Board”) received your electronic message dated March 20, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552... Pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until May 2, 2016, in order to consult with two or more components of the Board having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.
 
If a determination can be made before May 2, 2016, we will respond to you promptly.  It is our policy to process FOIA requests as quickly as possible while ensuring that we disclose the requested information to the fullest extent of the law.
 
  So the documents should come in before May 16. Watch this site.

April 18, 2016

Inner City Press has filed: This is a timely third comment opposing, reiterating ICP's March 20 FOIA request on, and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Huntington Bancshares to acquire FirstMerit Corporation.

  The Board has STILL not responded to ICP's FOIA request and the comment period must be extended on that ground alone.
 
   This proposed merger would, if approved, result in the closure or “consolidation,” see below, of more than 100 branches -- nearly 50 are in the Cleveland, Akron and Canton areas. Huntington's lending in two of these areas was analyzed in ICP's first comment; FirstMerit is initially reviewed here. More will follow. These closures and “consolidations” would cause harm; what would be the countervailing public benefit? Public hearings are needed.

In its most recently submission, Huntington states that “the Board published notice of the Application in the Federal Register on March 17, 2016, inviting the public to comment on the Application through April 15, 2016.  Therefore, the current comment period on the Application is 36 days and it remains open to provide interested members of the public and ample time to comment on the Application.”
 
  Inner City Press is informed that Huntington has represented that it will not oppose, in fact will support, an extension of the comment period. Yet it is 4:50 pm on April 15 and nothing has been announced. Therefore this submission, requesting an extension of the comment period.

April 11, 2016

  So 107 prospective branch closures by Huntington, and not only no Fed public hearing - no extension of the comment period to consider this near-unprecedented level of closure? Pathetic...

April 4, 2016

ICP Zeroes In On Huntington Bank, Shutting Low Income FirstMerit Branches

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, April 2 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks, more Fed-favored banks like Goldman Sachs - through those in the upper bulge like Huntington, seeking to buy First Merit and close more than 100 branches.

 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on March 19 filed with the Federal Reserve a challenge to Huntington's application to acquire First Merit and close 107 branches.

  Now Inner City Press has received Huntington's response to the Fed, and it is woefully inadequate. Inner City Press has replied:

"Huntington's Response to ICP, written by former Federal Reserve Board legal counsel Patricia Robinson -- we are concerned about this revolving door -- is dismissive of the issues raised.

 The Response states that 'Of the 107 consolidations / closings, a strong majority (62 of 107 or 58%) are short distance branch consolidations' -- but includes actions forcing consumers to travel more than one mile among these “consolidations.”

Even using this definition, Huntington in its Response to ICP admits to no fewer than 45 prospective branch closures, an extraordinary number militating for the requested public hearings.

Section D.1 of Huntington's Response to ICP lists low and moderate income branches and the income demographics of the branches that would “receive” them. Significantly, in every instance where the income demographics of the branches being shuttered and the “receiving” branch, Huntington has chosen to shutter the lower income branch.

There's moderate into middle, for example

Legacy FirstMerit Bank branch at:
430 Northfield Rd., Bedford, Ohio
44146
(Cuyahoga County)
– moderate-income census tract

“moving to”

Legacy Huntington Bank branch at:
5321 Warrensville Rd., Maple
Heights, Ohio 44137
(Cuyahoga County)
– middle-income census tract

There's low income into middle:

Legacy Huntington Bank Branch at:
1500 East Main Street, Kent, Ohio
44240
(Portage County)
– low-income census tract

moving to

Legacy FirstMerit Bank branch at:
1729 State Rt. 59, Kent, Ohio 44240
(Portage County)
– middle-income census tract

There's even moderate into upper:

Legacy FirstMerit Bank branch at:
3505 Lee Rd., Shaker Heights, Ohio
44120
(Cuyahoga County)
– moderate-income census tract

“moving to”

Legacy Huntington Bank branch at:
17121 Chagrin Blvd., Shaker
Heights, Ohio 44120
(Cuyahoga County)
– upper-income census tract

But there is NOTHING moving the other way. Hearings are necessary.

March 28, 2016

  Drilling in more closely into the negative impacts of the proposed Huntington - FirstMerit merger, covered here and here, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has now looking at FirstMerit's record in 2014 in Akron:

  FirstMerit in the Akron MSA in 2014 made 214 home purchase loans to whites -- and only 13 to African Americans and only two to Latinos. Troublingly, FirstMerit denied the applications of African American for home purchase loans 4.14 times more frequently than for white: a 9.2% denial rate for whites versus a whopping 38.1% denial rate for African Americans.

For refinance loans, FirstMerit in the Akron MSA in 2014 made 158 loans to whites and only six to African Americans and none to Latinos. Its denial rate for African Americans was 35.7%, versus only 20.6% for whites.

For home improvement loans, Huntington in the Akron MSA in 2014 made 47 loans to whites and only two to African Americans and NONE to Latinos. Its denial rate for Latinos was 100%. Its denial rate for African Americans was 77%, versus 50% for whites.
 
  Not pretty. We'll have more on this.

March 21, 2016

 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed a timely first comment opposing / requesting public hearings on the application by Huntington Bancshares to acquire FirstMerit Corporation.  This proposed merger would, if approved, result in the closure of more than 100 branches -- nearly 50 are in the Cleveland, Akron and Canton areas  Two of these areas are analyzed below; more will follow. These closures would cause harm; what would be the countervailing public benefit? Public hearings are needed.

  Huntington in the Akron MSA in 2014 made 197 home purchase loans to whites -- and only nine to African Americans and only three to Latinos. 

For refinance loans, Huntington in the Akron MSA in 2014 made 263 loans to whites and only nine to African Americans and only ONE to Latinos. Its denial rate for Latinos was 77.8%, versus only 50.7% for whites.

For home improvement loans, Huntington in the Akron MSA in 2014 made 23 loans to whites and only FOUR to African Americans and NONE to Latinos. Its denial rate for Latinos was 100%.

    Huntington in the Cleveland MSA in 2014 made 582 home purchase loans to whites -- and only 37 to African Americans and only nine to Latinos. 

For refinance loans, Huntington in the Cleveland MSA in 2014 made 680 loans to whites and only 58 to African Americans and only 14 to Latinos. Its denial rate for Latinos was 80%, versus only 54% for whites; Huntington's denial rate for African Americans was 72%.

For home improvement loans, Huntington in the Cleveland MSA in 2014 made 88 loans to whites and only NINE to African Americans and only one to Latinos. Its denial rate for Latinos was 96.4%, versus only 72.8% for whites; its denial rate for whites was fully 94%.

    We will have more comments, but for now the comment period should be extended; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.

March 14, 2016

Good news / work in Kansas City: "Redlining complaints against First Federal Bank of Kansas City have led to a settlement aimed at creating $2.5 million worth of home loans in majority African-American neighborhoods. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mediated the settlement, which originated from complaints by the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Kansas City and the Historic East Neighborhoods Coalition of Kansas City."

  Inner City Press has protested BNC Bancorp and its proposed expansion for some time, based on lending disparities and lack of transparency. The Federal Reserve, while purporting to be transparent until its Rules on Ex Parte Communication, on March 11 provided Inner City Press with another terse memo that disclosed... nothing. Here it is:

On March 2, 2016, staff of the Federal Reserve System met with executives of BNC Bancorp (“BNC”), High Point, North Carolina at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (“Reserve Bank”) to discuss financial, managerial, and supervisory related matters that the Board would need to consider in its review of BNC’s proposal to acquire Southcoast Financial Corporation (“Southcoast”), and its subsidiary bank, Southcoast Community Bank, both of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, pursuant to section 3(a)(5) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956.

 Participants of the in-person meeting consisted of the following: Richard Callicutt (Chief Executive Officer and President) and David Spencer (Chief Financial Officer) of BNC, and Keith Larkin (Assistant Vice President of Supervision, Regulation and Credit), Paul Frey (Managing Examiner of Supervision, Regulation and Credit), Adam Drimer (Assistant Vice President in Applications), Richard Gilbert (Vice President of Supervision, Regulation and Credit) and Wayne Cox (Banking Applications Manager) of the Reserve Bank. Stuart C. Stock, Esq. (counsel for BNC) participated via teleconference. The following staff of the Board participated via teleconference: Patrick Grant of the Board’s Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation; and Victoria Szybillo and Amber Hay of the Board’s Legal Division.
 At the beginning of the meeting, staff of the Board’s Legal Division discussed the Board’s rules on Ex Parte communications that would govern any discussions related to BNC’s proposal to acquire Southcoast.
Discussion: The meeting was scheduled as a follow-up item to the Reserve Bank’s inspection of BNC and its subsidiary bank, Bank of North Carolina (“Bank”), Thomasville, North Carolina. The meeting centered on topics that would be considered by the Board in its review of an application under the financial, managerial, and supervisory factors of section 3 of the BHC Act. During the meeting, BNC’s executives shared information regarding (i) BNC’s plans for handling the integration of acquired entities into BNC’s banking organization, (ii) the Bank’s and BNC’s capital levels, and (iii) the Bank’s and BNC’s future plans
 Due to the receipt of a public comment alleging that BNC and Southcoast have engaged in discriminatory lending practices in certain metropolitan statistical areas, the Board’s rules on Ex Parte communications precluded discussion with BNC concerning the convenience and needs factor under section 3 of the BHC Act. Staff of the Board’s Legal Division remained throughout the meeting to ensure compliance with the Board’s rules on Ex Parte communications.March 7, 2016

Federal Reserve Gives ICP Memo of BNC Meeting, from Jan 28, Faux Ex Parte

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, March 1 -- 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, after that, High Point Bank & Trust.

 On March 1 the Federal Reserve e-mailed Inner City Press a memo about a meeting it had with BNC Bank's highest executives, under the Fed's rules on Ex Parte contacts, avoiding the fair lending and Community Reinvestment Act issues which Inner City Press has raised. We are publishing the Federal Reserve memo online here.

  But as Inner City Press immediately replied, including to the Fed's Office of the Secretary, why did the Fed wait until March 1 to send a memo of a January 28, 2016 meeting -- more than a month? Does that comply with any meaningful rule on Ex Parte communications? We'll have more on this.

  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. But after Fair Finance Watch protested the deal, and the Fed told BNC to send it a copy of the bank's response, the response was provided six days later with with the entirety of the Community Reinvestment Act response withheld. See here.

Inner City Press has immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and a second comment with the Fed.

February 29, 2016

On First Niagara, Key Says It'll Address Branches Later, Withholds, ICP FOIAs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, February 23 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - and those in the upper bulge like KeyCorp, seeking to buy First Niagara and close a lot of branches.

 In a submission to the Federal Reserve dated February 12 but only mailed to Inner City Press on February 20, Key answers questions about branch closings by saying "Additional information will be provided supplementally." Key withholds a Community Reinvestment Act and other answers. See here.

 Inner City Press on February 23 submitted a FOIA request:

This is a FOIA request for the entirety of the February 12, 2016 submission in connection with the Application by Application by KeyCorp to acquire First Niagara Financial Group of which a heavily redacted copy was received by Inner City Press on February 22-23, as a timely commenter, by Goldman Sachs. (The cover letter to ICP says February 12, but the USPS Express envelope says Feb 20, notice received Feb 22, picked up Feb 23.)

   Key's answer has many exhibits withheld -- all of which we are hereby requesting under FOIA. Simply as examples:  Page 1 referes to Confidential Exhibit 1 and 2(a); Page 2 refers to Confidential Exhibits 2(b), 3, 4 and 5; in the Community Reinvestment Acti section, “Confidential” Exhibit 10 is withheld. We also note that the Fed still owes ICP a FOIA response on this application, and that Key's answer on branch closings is 'Additional information will be provided supplementally.' The comment period must be extended; we request this information in advance."

February 22, 2016

As Regions Bank CRA Cut, ICP Protests Republic Bank, Key - First Niagara

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, February 17 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - through those in the upper bulge like KeyCorp, seeking to buy First Niagara and close a lot of branches, down to Kentucky-based Republic Bank, back in the tax loan business including in New York City.

  One development pointing in the other direction is the Community Reinvestment Act downgrade of Regions Bank. Inner City Press has previously commented to the regulators on disparities in Regions' record, while noting that the bank has timely provided its Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Loan Application Register data.

  As simply one example, in the Jackson, Mississippi MSA in 2014, Regions Bank denied the applications for convention home purchase loans of African Americans 3.21 times more frequently than whites.

Now, no new mergers. Shouldn't this apply to some other banks as well?

February 15, 2016

After ICP's Protest of NYCB - Astoria Bank, Fed Asks Qs Due Feb 26

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, February 13 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - and those in the middle, seeking to become a Systemically Important Financial Institution like New York Community Bancorp is, applying to buy Astoria Bank.

 After Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a timely protest, the Federal Reserve on January 8 asked NYCB 14 questions. Inner City Press has put the Additional Information letter online here, including a request to know which branches NYCB would close, how it would try to sell of Astoria's loans, etc. Inner City Press said, there should now be more fair lending questions, and the comment period should be extended.

 On January 21, the Federal Reserve has informed Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch that the Fed is re-opening and extending its comment period on NYCB - Astoria until February 16.

 But on February 12, the Federal Reserve asked NYCB a series of questions, due February 26, telling NYCB to send a copy of its response then to Inner City Press. How can the comment period close ten days before that? On February 13 Inner City Press commented to the Fed in New York and Washington:

"This is a second timely comment opposing and requesting a further extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by New York Community Bancorp (“NYCB) to acquire 100% of the voting shares of Astoria Financial Corp and indirectly acquire Astoria Bank.

ICP commented on this application on January 6. On February 12, the Fed asked NYCB questions including

“Please describe in further detail NYCB’s business model with respect to mortgage loans secured by one-to-four family residential properties. In your description, discuss the channels NYCB uses to originate or acquire such loans, and describe the key elements of NYCB’s policies, procedures, and practices to ensure compliance with fair lending and consumer protection laws as they relate to such lending. Where such policies, procedures, and practices differ by channel, explain the key differences. Your response should discuss NYCB’s third party vendor management program, to the extent NYCB relies on third parties to originate or acquire such loans.”

ICP has commented on those issues and wishes to comment on NYCB's response, due on February 26. The comment period should be extended.

Furthermore on February 2 NYCB in an investors' presentation (here) bragged about how many of Astoria's branches are within one mile of an NYCB branch (52%). Clearly, the issue of which branches NYCB should be address before the comment period closed, including at the public meeting ICP is requesting.

Note for the record how NYCB's (and Astoria's) branching pattern disproportionately excludes Upper Manhattan and especially The Bronx, the most predominantly minority and the lowest income community in New York State. This map is incorporated into the record by reference. Action should be taken on this pattern, including on this merger application (which should be denied.)"

February 8, 2016

Huntington's CEO has already spoken of “significant” branch closings if allowed to acquire FirstMerit -- more than 100? We'll have more on this.

February 1, 2016

  Inner City Press waited and waited but has now filed this:

Dear Chair Yellen, Secretary deV. Frierson and others in the FRS:
This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by KeyCorp to Acquire First Niagara.
First, the comment period must be extended. All the way back on December 16, 2015, Inner City Press submitted a FOIA request for documents related to this proposal. It was assigned number F-2016-00073 by the Federal Reserve.
But on January 20 the Manager of the FRB's Freedom of Information Office wrote to Inner City Press that “pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until February 2, 2016, in order to consult with two or more components of the Board having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.” Full text below, for the record.
The comment period is set to expire on January 31 -- six weeks after ICP's FOIA request, but days BEFORE the Fed's response. This request to extend the comment period is being submitted on January 30 and must in context be granted.
In the interim, in support of ICP's request for public hearings, consider that 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.

Nor is the lack of transparency, as the comment period is set to close, on branch closures or “consolidations.” The comment period must be extended and public hearings held.

Here for the record is the Fed's January 20 letter to ICP:

“Re: Freedom of Information Act Request No. F-2016-00073

Dear Mr. Lee,

On December 17, 2015, the Board of Governors (“Board”) received your electronic message dated December 16, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, for the entire[t]y of the “Application by KeyCorp to acquire First Niagara Financial Group,” and for all records reflecting [Federal Reserve System] communications with KeyCorp or First Niagara for the past twelve (12) months. In an e-mail communication on December 17, 2015, you were provided with the public portion of the application by KeyCorp to acquire First Niagara Financial Group, Inc.

Pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until February 2, 2016, in order to consult with two or more components of the Board having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.

If a determination can be made before February 2, 2016, we will respond to you promptly.”

But on the eve of the closing of the comment period, nothing has been received. The comment period must be extended; on the current record, public hearings should be held and the application denied.

January 25, 2016

After ICP's Protest of NYCB - Astoria Bank, Fed Extends to Feb 16

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, January 21 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - and those in the middle, seeking to become a Systemically Important Financial Institution like New York Community Bancorp is, applying to buy Astoria Bank.

 After Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a timely protest, the Federal Reserve On January 8 asked NYCB 14 questions. Inner City Press has put the Additional Information letter online here, including a request to know which branches NYCB would close, how it would try to sell of Astoria's loans, etc. Inner City Press said, there should now be more fair lending questions, and the comment period should be extended.

 Now on January 21, the Federal Reserve has informed Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch that the Fed is re-opening and extending its comment period on NYCB - Astoria until Tuesday, February 16. We'll have more on this.

January 18, 2016

After ICP's Protest of NYCB - Astoria Bank, FDIC Denies Expedited Processing

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, January 15 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - and those in the middle, seeking to become a Systemically Important Financial Institution like New York Community Bancorp is, applying to buy Astoria Bank.

 After Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a timely protest, the Federal Reserve On January 8 asked NYCB 14 questions. Inner City Press has put the Additional Information letter online here, including a request to know which branches NYCB would close, how it would try to sell of Astoria's loans, etc. There should now be more fair lending questions.

Now on January 15, after Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch also filed comments with the FDIC, that agency has written to NYCB's Joseph Ficalora asking for a response, and stating that

"We are writing in reference to the enclosed e-mail that we received from Executive Director Matthew Lee, of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch concerning your institution's application to acquire Astoria Bank. We reviewed the subject e-mail in accordance with the guidelines of 12 C.F.R. Section 303, and deemed it a Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) protest for the purpose of your application. The subject e-mail raises issues regarding your institution's record of lending to African American and Latino persons. The anticipated time and research required to investigate these issues has contributed to the removal of your institution's application from expedited processing."

 NYCB's home mortgage lending is extremely disparate; its multi-family lending, some to slumlords, is no defense.

January 11, 2016

Protest of NYCB - Astoria Merger to Fed, Which Plays FOIA Games for Goldman

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, January 7 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - and those in the middle, seeking to become a Systemically Important Financial Institution like New York Community Bancorp is, applying to buy Astoria Bank.

 NYCB's home mortgage lending is extremely disparate; its multi-family lending, some to slumlords, is no defense. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed this with the Fed:

  “On behalf of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch, this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting a complete copy of an and an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by New York Community Bancorp ('NYCB') to acquire 100% of the voting shares of Astoria Financial Corp and indirectly acquire Astoria Bank.

  The applicant NYCB in the New York City MSA in 2014 made 109 home purchase loans to whites -- and only THREE to African Americans. For refinance loans, NYBC in the the NYC MSA in 2014 made 27 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American.

  While NYCB may attempt to minimize these severe disparities by pointing to multi-family loans, there are significant complaints about that lending; note also this account of the CFPB which lists the ostensibly mostly multi-family NYCB with more complaints against it than banks that are both larger and more “retail."

  In the Nassau Suffolk (Long Island) MSA in 2014 NYCB made 107 home purchase loans to whites -- and only ONE to an African American, while denying African Americans 4.7 times more frequently than whites. For refinance loans, NYBC in the the Long Island MSA in 2014 made 52 loans to whites and only three to African Americans and only TWO to Latinos, while denying Latinos 2.32 times more frequently than whites.
 
  In the Cleveland, Ohio MSA (where NYCB bought Ohio Savings), NYCB in 2014 made 17 refinance loans to whites in 2014 and only one to an African American, while denying African Americans, while denying African Americans three times more frequently than whites. Similar disparities exist for NYCB in New Jersey, Arizona and Florida -- ICP is requesting public hearings on this ill-conceived proposed merger.
 
  As the Federal Reserve surely knows, this proposal was driving by activist investor pressure on Astoria (by Basswood Capital Management LLC); both institutions' securities fell significantly in price when it was announced. The price to consumers would include the closure of branches, disclosure of which should be demanded during the extended comment period and at the requested public hearing(s).

 The comment period should be extended; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.”

 Meanwhile Goldman Sachs is trying to speed through Federal Reserve approval to buy $16 billion in insured deposits from GE Capital, and the Fed, documents  released to Inner City Press under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show, is inappropriately bent on helping, including by closing its comment period. But now the Fed has given itself an extension to respond to Inner City Press' December 3 FOIA request for Goldman Sachs' withheld December 2 submission, writing this to Inner City Press:

"Re: Freedom of Information Act Request No. F-2016-0056
 
Dear Mr. Lee,
 
On December 3, 2015, the Board of Governors (“Board”) received your electronic message dated December 2, 2015, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, for the entirety of the December 2 submission in connection with the “Application by Goldman Sachs Bank USA for the Acquisition by Purchase and Assumption of Certain Deposit Liabilities and Certain Very Limited Non-Financial Assets of GE Capital Bank.”
 
Pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until January 19, 2016, in order to consult with two or more components of the Board having a substantial interest in the determination of the request.
 
If a determination can be made before January 19, 2016, we will respond to you promptly.  It is our policy to process FOIA requests as quickly as possible while ensuring that we disclose the requested information to the fullest extent of the law."

January 4, 2016

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has commented, on Republic Bank, quoting the WSJ: "“Washington-based Fenway Summer LLC, in January reached a deal with Louisville, Ky.-based Republic Bancorp Inc. to offer a credit card that is being pitched as a more affordable alternative to payday loans, which are short-term loans that often charge triple-digit interest rates. The Build Card, which is being rolled out later this year, will charge an annualized interest rate of 25% to 30% and will cap borrowers’ initial credit lines at $500.”

Thirty percent interest? In New York, that's called usury.

But Republic has told the Federal Reserve (and FDIC) that it's just "adequately priced for risk." We'll have more on this.

December 28, 2015

Federal Reserve Asked BNC for CRA Info, Which Withholds It, Ozarks Inquiry

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, December 21 -- 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. But after Fair Finance Watch protested the deal, and the Fed told BNC to send it a copy of the bank's response, the response was provided six days later with with the entirety of the Community Reinvestment Act response withheld. See here.

Inner City Press has immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and a second comment with the Fed.

 Separately, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed the second of two comments to the St Louis Fed:

"This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRS's public comment period on the Application by Bank of the Ozarks to acquire Community & Southern.

This proposed transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. Bank of the Ozarks has a disparate lending record, including in the Atlanta MSA where it proposes to acquire C&S (which itself just acquired branches from CertusBank while leaving behind others to be closed, evading any review).

In the Atlanta MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, Bank of the Ozarks made 25 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans -- it had a 100% denial rate for African Americans.

For refinance loans, it made 17 loans to whites and NONE to African Americans -- it had a 100% denial rate for African Americans.

There is more to be said, but this is outrageous, and in the MSA in which Bank of the Ozark proposes to make this acquisition.

In the Little Rock MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, Bank of the Ozarks made 332 such loans to whites and only 13 to African Americans -- it denied the applications of African Americans 4.3 times more frequently than those of whites.

This is outrageous, and systematic. Bank of the Ozarks has also had consumer compliance issues."

On BNC, 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.

December 21, 2015

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed the second of two comments to the St Louis Fed:

"This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRS's public comment period on the Application by Bank of the Ozarks to acquire Community & Southern.

This proposed transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. Bank of the Ozarks has a disparate lending record, including in the Atlanta MSA where it proposes to acquire C&S (which itself just acquired branches from CertusBank while leaving behind others to be closed, evading any review).

In the Atlanta MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, Bank of the Ozarks made 25 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans -- it had a 100% denial rate for African Americans.

For refinance loans, it made 17 loans to whites and NONE to African Americans -- it had a 100% denial rate for African Americans.

There is more to be said, but this is outrageous, and in the MSA in which Bank of the Ozark proposes to make this acquisition.

In the Little Rock MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, Bank of the Ozarks made 332 such loans to whites and only 13 to African Americans -- it denied the applications of African Americans 4.3 times more frequently than those of whites.

This is outrageous, and systematic. Bank of the Ozarks has also had consumer compliance issues."

December 14, 2015

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRS's public comment period on the Application by Republic Bancorp, Inc. to acquire 100 percent of the voting shares of Cornerstone Bancorp

These transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. Republic has a disparate lending record and is growing worse. Significantly, after its rogue-like tax refund anticipation lending, now Republic is back with subprime cards. This should be reviewed, before this or any other acquisitions (see, e.g.http://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/blog/morning-edition/2015/10/exclusive-republic-bancorp-eyes-1-operation-in.html) and ICP is requesting public evidentiary hearings on this. See, e.g., WSJ of Feb 18, 2015:

Washington-based Fenway Summer LLC, in January reached a deal with Louisville, Ky.-based Republic Bancorp Inc. to offer a credit card that is being pitched as a more affordable alternative to payday loans, which are short-term loans that often charge triple-digit interest rates. The Build Card, which is being rolled out later this year, will charge an annualized interest rate of 25% to 30% and will cap borrowers’ initial credit lines at $500.”

Thirty percent interest? In New York, that's called usury.

In the Louisville MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, Republic made 651 such loans to whites and only 22 to African Americans, and only13 to Latinos. It denied the applications of African Americans 2.15 times more frequently than those of whites. For refinance loans, it made 215 loans to whites and only 10 to African Americans; for home improvement loans it made 129 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying 7 of 10 applications received from African Americans.

In Nashville in 2014, Republic made 13 home purchase loans to whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

December 7, 2015

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has commented to the Fed, "On October 22, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch belatedly received from the Fed SOME of the documents about this proposal as early as it could, on September 2. Dated December 3, and provided to Inner City Press on December 4, Governor Powell belatedly ruled on ICP's FOIA appeal - and while continuing to wrongfully (for ICP's perspective) withhold much information, acknowledged that basic information about what was to be acquired for wrongfully withheld. Accordingly, the comment period must be re-opened. We submit this at the earliest possible time and await confirmation that the comment period has been re-opened."

November 30, 2015

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has commented to the Federal Reserve:

...The irregularities in this proceeding, including under FOIA, have been noted for example in http://www.americanbanker.com/news/law-regulation/fed-under-the-microscope-in-goldmans-deal-for-ge-deposits-1077968-1.html -- for which the Federal Reserve declined any comment. For the record:

"Fed Under the Microscope in Goldman's Deal for GE Deposits

November 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — The criticism by consumer advocates of Goldman Sachs' acquisition of GE Capital's online deposits has now given way to questions over how the Federal Reserve Board has handled the application... "They're kind of preapproving something before the public can learn anything about it," said Matthew Lee, founder of Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch. "This is not the way it's supposed to be. It's just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong."

...The Fed declined to comment on the record and Goldman Sachs declined to comment beyond what it has said in public materials... The National Community Action Foundation — a Washington-based coalition of community groups — said in a Sept. 28 letter to the New York Fed that Goldman Sachs has "been a leader in helping develop effective and innovative programs to better our fight against poverty." The Carver Federal Savings Bank, which describes itself as "one of the largest African- and Caribbean-American managed banks in the United States," said in its Sept. 30 letter that it supports Goldman's application based on its investment in Carver and support in construction investment in its service area in Brooklyn.”

Note: ICP did not receive either of those submissions, nor it appears other parts of the record. These should be provided, and the comment period must be extended.

The rogue-like culture of Goldman Sachs has been further on display since ICP's last comment, see, e.g., https://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2015-267.html

Washington D.C., Nov. 25, 2015 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against a former Goldman Sachs employee accused of stealing nonpublic information in the firm’s e-mail system so he could trade illegally in advance of client mergers and make more than $450,000 in illicit profits.

November 23, 2015

Goldman Sachs Uses Small Bank Relief For Federal Reserve Pre-Review on GE

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, November 19 -- 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, documents  released to Inner City Press under the Freedom of Information Act show, is inappropriately bent on helping, including by closing its comment period.

 On November 19, Goldman Sachs submitted a purported reply to the Federal Reserve, stating among other things that "Certain Comment Letters express concern with the contact between GS Bank and Board staff prior to GS Bank submitting the Application. GS Bank respectfully submits that the contact was both appropriate and ordinary in the context of the Board’s own guidance on pre-filing communications.11 Additionally, the allegations of contact are not germane to the scope of the statutory factors set forth for Board consideration under the Bank Merger Act."

  The 2012 Fed letter Goldman Sachs cites was meant to benefit smaller banks - and did not envision Additional Information letters before the public was even notified of the proposal. The misuse of small bank "regulatory relief" by the likes of Goldman Sachs casts new light of legislative riders being considered for the US spending bill due December 11.

 Going forward, KeyCorp is trying to buy First Niagara, and NY Community Bank wants to buy Astoria; there will be opposition.

November 16, 2015

 There are yet more adverse developments regarding Goldman Sachs:

Goldman Sachs faces investigation over auction of securities,” November 3, 2015, Bloomberg and Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-goldman-e45af72c-8242-11e5-8bd2-680fff868306-20151103-story.html

Goldman Sachs added the offering and auction of securities, as well as 'when-issued trading,' to a list of activities that regulators and other government bodies are investigating.The bank made the disclosure Tuesday in a quarterly regulatory filing, without specifying which agencies or regulators are probing the items on the list.”

See also, Nov 3, 2015, “Goldman Sachs settles CDO class action,”http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=d1e75f3f-239c-42d9-8eea-8f68c8a41152

On November 3, 2015, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a class of investors over Goldman’s sale of two collateralized debt obligations.”

 And the Fed has STILL not ruled on Inner City Press' October 24 FOIA appeal...

November 9, 2015

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 (