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.

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 (here's some of Fair Finance Watch's analysis of KeyCorp's lending).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 2, 2015

ICP Comments on Goldman Sachs, Will on Key & NY Community Bank

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 30 -- 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.  At the other end of the spectrum, after Fair Finance Watch advocacy, Community Bank System Inc is expanding its Community Reinvestment Act assessment area, here.

 In between, and going forward, KeyCorp is trying to buy First Niagara in the same area as CBSI, and NY Community Bank wants to buy Astoria; there will be opposition.

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

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

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

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

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

October 26, 2015

FOIA Response to ICP Shows Goldman Met Fed in May on GE, Pre-Reviewed

By Matthew R. Lee, Exclusive

NEW YORK, October 23 -- 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 just released to Inner City Press under the Freedom of Information Act show, is inappropriately bent on helping.

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

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

 While Inner City Press is appealing, even as released the documents show that Goldman Sachs through its law firm Sullivan & Cromwell reached out to Fed General Counsel Scott Alvarez in May 2015 about the transaction, and was largely able to vet it with the Fed's staff by July, even receiving an "additional information" request before any application was filed.

  Since the public cannot comment or ask questions before a transaction is announced, this "pre-review" by the Fed in essence cuts public review and transparency out of the process. The Fed's rules against ex-parte communications can't be triggered before there is an application. But should Fed review be held, and apparently completed, before there is any public notice?

  The documents Inner City Press has obtained under FOIA show that on May 14 and May 18, Goldman Sachs and its outside counsel Rodgin "Rodge" Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell told the Fed and its General Counsel Scott Alvarez of their plans for GE Capital Bank.

 On May 28, the Fed met with Goldman which presented a "deck" of information about "Project Apple," much of it still redacted as provided to Inner City Press (which is appealing under FOIA).

  As precedents, Goldman Sachs cited Capital One - ING and RBC - City National (see below).

 This was followed by a May 29, 2015 letter from "Rodge" to the Fed's Scott Alvarez, asking for confidential treatment of everything including the letter, and including from any Governmental inquiry. (Page 28 of FOIA response to ICP.) A similar letter was submitted by Cohen on June 16, attaching a letter the Fed has redacted in full from Goldman Sachs' Esta E. Stecher.

  Scott Alvarez took the conversation onto the telephone, not subject to FOIA, on June 16. His accompanying e-mails, as redacted, only say "Thanks! Scott."

 On June 26, the Fed' Alison Thro wrote that "Rodgin Cohen was in today briefly to discuss, among other things, GS’s plans to acquire the deposits of GE’s ILC. He asked what the next steps might be." What were those "other things"?

 On July 13, the Fed sent Cohen a "request for additional information concerning the proposal by GS Bank to purchase certain assets and assume the deposit liabilities of GE Capital Bank."

  A request for additional information is usually what the Fed sends a bank or bank holding company after it has submitted an application; a commenter would get a copy. Here, the Fed was pre-reviewing Goldman Sachs' proposal, entirely outside of any public scrutiny. (The later public questions are as if by rote: the fix was already in.)

  On Friday, July 17 the Fed's Thomas Baxter wrote to Scott Alvarez that the transaction would be public announced the next Monday -- AFTER the Fed's "additional information request" -- based on a long voicemail from Harvey Schwartz of Goldman Sachs. (Page 59 of FOIA response to ICP). Alvarez was on the phone with "Esta of GA and Rodge Cohen."

  Alvarez said he was willing to talk with Goldman Sachs on Sunday, July 19. Cohen had written to Alvarez:

"In view of the various communications on Friday and the intended announcement of the deposit assumption transaction on Monday, GS believes that it must decide over this weekend whether it can proceed as scheduled and, as a matter of fairness and transparency, what it can tell GE. As we have discussed, this transaction appears to be a centerpiece of the GE restructuring. We would therefore most appreciate the opportunity to have a conference call as soon as possible over the weekend to obtain as much clarity as possible as to timing and other relevant matters.
We apologize for intruding into your weekend and thank you your consideration of this request." (Page 65 of FOIA response.)

   The reference to "fairness and transparency" was apparently without irony. But Goldman stood the Fed up.

  But this announcement was postponed. Alvarez wrote on July 20 that "Rodge just sent a note that GS wants to postpone signing the deal with GE and the announcement for 2 to 3 weeks." More review continued, outside of public scrutiny. Alvarez made himself available on Sunday, July 26. But to no avail.

 The deal was publicly announced on August 13 and Goldman Sachs on August 18 submitted the apparently pre-approved application. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted a comment and FOIA request (delayed until now); the end of the FOIA response has a redacted reaction to the "public comment." Now others have commented and a campaign has begun. But has the Fed already made up its mind?

On Goldman Sachs, Federal Reserve's Initial FOIA Response to Inner City Press on GE Capital Bank by Matthew Russell Lee

October 19, 2015

On Goldman, Federal Reserve Ignores Oct 16 FOIA Deadline, Collusion Like CIT?

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 17 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks, with CIT and OneWest a major, and Goldman Sachs the most recent, example. Goldman is trying to speed through Federal Reserve approval to buy $16 billion in insured deposits from GE Capital, and the Fed so far seems bent on helping. It began by overbroad withholding of basic parts of Goldman's application, click here to view, which Goldman in an October 14 submission to the Fed, here, says has been cured (it has not been).

  Inner City Press still has a pending Freedom of Information Act request; Fair Finance Watch and others, including NCRC, asked the Fed to extend its comment period, which has now been done, until October 30, with the Fed's FOIA response to Inner City Press due on October 16. But as of October 17, no response from the Fed, despite this letter:

"Re:       Freedom of Information Act Request No. F-2015-0336
 
Dear Mr. Lee,
 
On September 2, 2015, the Board of Governors (“Board”) received your electronic message dated September 2, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, for the entirely of 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,” and for all records reflecting FRS communications with Goldman Sachs for the past twelve (12) months. On September 3 and September 9, the Board provided you with the public portions of the application.
 
Pursuant to section (a)(6)(B)(i) of the FOIA, we are extending the period for our response until October 16, 2015, 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 October 16, 2015, 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,
 
/signed/
 
Jeanne M. McLaughlin
Manager, Freedom of Information Office"

 But even by October 16, no response from the Fed. Only this from Goldman Sachs, only snail-mailed by its counsel:

Goldman Sachs' 2d Reply to Inner City Press, As Fed Withholds FOIA Documents by Matthew Russell Lee

October 12, 2015

Federal Reserve Re-opens Comment on Goldman Sachs-GE to Oct 30

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 5 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks, with Goldman Sachs the most recent example. Goldman is trying to speed through Federal Reserve approval to buy $16 billion in insured deposits from GE Capital, and the Fed so far seems bent on helping. It began by withholding basic parts of Goldman's application, click here to view.

  Inner City Press still has a pending Freedom of Information Act request; Fair Finance Watch and others, including NCRC, asked the Fed to extend its comment period, responded to today:

"The Federal Reserve Board on Monday announced that the public comment period has been extended through October 30, 2015, on the application by Goldman Sachs Bank USA, New York, New York, to assume certain liabilities and acquire certain assets of GE Capital Bank, Holladay, Utah, under section 18(c) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act... The original comment period, which closed on September 19, 2015, is being extended to allow interested persons more time to review the proposal and to provide comments... Comments regarding this application must be received at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Attention: Bank Applications Officer, 33 Liberty Street, New York, New York 10045; comments.applications@ny.frb.org) or the Office of the Secretary of the Board (20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20551) on or before October 30, 2015."

  Just last week, the Fed told Inner City Press a comment it submitted on Goldman Sachs, with new Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, was "untimely" --

"Dear Mr. Matthew Lee, Executive Director Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch

We acknowledge receipt on September 22, 2015 of your email dated September 22, 2015  ("Comment Letter"), commenting on the application filed by Goldman Sachs Bank USA... The public comment period for this application ended on September 19, 2015. Since your Comment Letter was received after the end of the public comment period, it will not be made a part of the record of this application unless the Board in its sole discretion determines to consider your late comments. However, you previously submitted timely comments that have been made part of the application record that the Board will consider."

October 5, 2015

Fed Won't Answer ICP's Goldman Sachs FOIA Request Until October 16

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 2 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks, with Goldman Sachs the most recent example. Goldman is trying to speed through Federal Reserve approval to buy $16 billion in insured deposits from GE Capital, and the Fed so far seems bent on helping. It began by withholding basic parts of Goldman's application, click here to view.

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

September 28, 2015

Financial Inclusion, Now Pitched by IMF, UNsolved in US, SDGs Reviewed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY -- A new International Monetary Fund study, just out from embargo today, says that  "financial inclusion is mentioned under several of the United
Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" and that "this year’s post-2015 Development Agenda squarely puts financial inclusion as a key objective for United Nations member countries."
 
  So how will real financial inclusion be addressed during the UN General Assembly ministerial week, from on September 28 with Presidents Obama of the US and Buhari of Nigeria, through Peru on September 29 and India on October 1?

  Inner City Press asked the IMF on September 3, and will be asking countries. Of the above named countries, the IMF report ("Financial Inclusion: Can It Meet Multiple Macroeconomic Goals?" by Ratna Sahay, Martin Cihák, Papa N’Diaye, Adolfo Barajas, Srobona Mitra, Annette Kyobe, Yen Nian Mooi, and Seyed Reza Yousefi) states

"Nigeria: The comprehensive Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2012 aims to reduce the exclusion rate from 46 percent of the adult population (in 2010) to 20 percent by 2020. Working across key
stakeholders, the strategy seeks to address five major barriers to financial inclusion: (1) income; (2) physical access; (3) financial literacy; (4) affordability; and (5) eligibility.

"Peru: e-money. The authorities have taken various measures to expand access and usage of financial services. In 2014 the “financial inclusion opportunities map,” an interactive tool, was launched. It promotes an innovative “Peruvian model” based on the 2012 electronic e-money legislation and a new unified mobile payments platform that links various providers of financial services with customers.

"India: the Reserve Bank of India’s long-standing policy on priority sector lending (PSL) requires banks to set aside 40 percent of their assets to priority sectors. Most public sector
banks meet this requirement, but end up with high nonperforming loans and concentrated credit risk.  Recently, the Pradhan
Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana [PMPDY], a financial inclusion initiative, was launched with the goal of opening a bank account for every household."

India's seems like a particularly illuminating approach, including to the US, of which the report states

"The United States: the recently completed Financial Sector
Assessment Program (FSAP) (IMF, 2015d) calls for financial inclusion to feature more prominently on the U.S. policy
agenda. The Global Findex survey ranks the United States 27th out of 147 countries in terms of the percentage of adults with a bank account in a formal financial institution, and a 2013 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) survey finds that 20 percent of U.S. households are 'underbanked' and 8 percent are 'unbanked.' More work is needed."

We, and NCRC, will have more on this.

September 21, 2015

Goldman Sachs Tells Fed to Ignore Segarra Leak & Settlements, ICP Reply

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, September 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 so far seems bent on helping. It began by withholding basic parts of Goldman's application, click here to view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2015

So M&T, noted discriminator, has settled a Fair Housing Act case. But its purported partner Hudson County has not - the merger should not be considered for any approval. Time for a hearing.

On Goldman Sachs - GE Capital, ICP has formally demanded that the Fed provide a FOIA ruling that can be appealed, before the comment period closes, whether on September 19 or later...

September 7, 2015

Goldman Sachs Blacks Out Basic Parts of Application to Buy $16B from GE

By Matthew R. Lee

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

 As Inner City Press exposed last month, Royal Bank of Canada jumped the gun and began doing business with City National Bank without any Federal Reserve approval (see Los Angeles Times, here.)

 Now, even as New York regulators says their comment period on Goldman Sachs' GE Capital proposal extends at least through September 28, Goldman has published fine print notices in the New York Post and a newspaper in Utah saying the Federal Reserve will stop listening on September 19.

  Really? After the Fed made Goldman Sachs a bank holding company with no public comment period at all, so Goldman could get a bail-out? After the Fed's coziness with Goldman Sachs was again demonstrated, by the audio taped by then-Fed examiner Carmen Segarra?

  Inner City Press immediately submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all of Goldman Sachs' GE Capital application and related records. The Federal Reserve has provided a heavily redacted copy, on which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has commented to the FRB in Washington:

"Among many other things, Goldman Sachs believes it can withhold the volume of deposits it seeks to acquire from GE Capital Bank, WHAT is seeks to acquire (and what not to acquire) from GE Capital Bank, its number of employees in Utah, the contact people on its application, the number of non profit organizations it tells the FRB it serves on the board of -- presumptively public -- and even the NAMES of the exhibits it seeks to withhold entirely. This is abusive and unprecedented and the FRB must, in response, have the comment period begin again. Otherwise, applicants only benefit by making absurd and abusive requests for confidential treatment. There is much more to be said, including at the public hearings ICP is requesting, but it is imperative that the Board act on this as quickly as possible."

When Goldman Sachs became a bank holding company literally overnight in 2008, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch and others including NCRC asked the Fed how this was done with no public comment period at all.

In other news,

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

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

August 31, 2015

Fallout of a merger in Ohio: “A century-old tradition came to an end this week as Lorain National Bank officially ceased to exist because of to a merger with Pennsylvania-based Northwest Bank. The transition didn’t occur without problems, according to Lorain National Bank customers... One man described the changeover as 'a screwed-up mess' in a voicemail left with the paper. He said customers could not access their accounts online, while others went to various bank branches and found them closed, which bank officials say wasn’t the case. 'As far as we know all of our branches are open,' said Melanie Clabaugh, Northwest Bank’s manager of communications. 'As is the case with any transition, you can run into a couple of issues.'”

A couple of issues? Where are the regulators on this?

Well, the Federal Reserve produced a video purporting to say what the Community Reinvestment Act is - without any description of the public comment on merger process. Hmm...

August 24, 2015

As ICP begins new campaigns as well, Community Bank System continues anti-CRA moves in its proposal to acquire Oneida. ICP has just put in this comment:

This is a interim supplemental comment opposing and again requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on this application:

Community Bank, Inc., DeWitt, New York to acquire Oneida Financial Corp, Oneida, NY, & indirectly acquire State Bank of Chittenango, Chittenango, NY, & Oneida Savings Bank, Oneida, NYk, & thereby engage in the operation of a savings association pursuant to section 225.28(b)(4) 4 Chicago 05/26/2015

ICP is a timely protestant to the application; as such CBSI was required to send it copies of its submissions to the FRS including its responses to Additional Information letters.

The record reflects that CBSI incorrectly withheld the majority of its July 29, submission. ICP complained and FOIA-ed, and CBSI's counsel emailed it a second version of the response with less information removed.

Now by regular mail ICP has received CBSI's Associate General Counsel's supplemental letter purporting to further reduce or gerrymander the bank's proposed future CRA assessment area.

ICP opposes such gerrymandering. CBSI's main defense to its disparate lending record is to claim that its community is less diverse than the counties it is in. Now it seeks to further limit its assessment areas -- this is precisely the problem

CBSI, on which as noted ICP has previously commented, has been getting worse. In 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Buffalo MSA, Community Bank NA made 44 such loans to whites, NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

CBSI's focus is exemplified by this August 11 report: “Community Bank System's wealth management subsidiary has a new office now open in the North Country. The new location opened Aug. 3 in Plattsburgh. It offers investments, insurance and trust planning and management.”

Here for the record is another August 11 report: “In a letter dated Aug. 7, the Fed instructs Community Bank System Inc. to sign a document declaring that it will not control expenses or hiring at Oneida Financial before the deal closes. If Community Bank signs off, it agrees to not interfere with Oneida Financial’s normal course of business.”

See, http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/blog/morning_roundup/2015/08/community-banks-oneida-deal-must-meet-new.html

ICP has not received any copy of any such signed commitment, which in any event it contends would not comply with antitrust law or the Bank Holding Company Act

August 17, 2015

That a federal judge, Katherine Polk Failla, opined that New York City's Responsible Banking Act was preempted by the US and NYS Community Reinvestment Act is not surprising. But will the De Blasio administration appeal?

Julian Bond called #PredatoryLending “legalized extortion,” here in 2011: http://www.stlamerican.com/business/local_business/article_de13df1c-31a3-11e1-be27-001871e3ce6c.html …. #RestInPeace

August 10, 2015

Fed Asks Community Bank System - Oneida To Drop Two Merger Agreement Provisions

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 8 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation extends from large to smaller banks. As Inner City Press exposed last month, Royal Bank of Canada jumped the gun and began doing business with City National Bank without any Federal Reserve approval (see Los Angeles Times, here.)

  Community Bank System of upstate New York filed with the Fed nine answers to questions asked after Inner City Press' challenge -- and tried to withhold fully eight of the nine responses. More here.

  Now an August 7 letter from the Federal Reserve to Community Bank System indicates problems with its February merger agreement, specifically Sections 5.7(b)(9) and (10). Click here to view Fed letter, uploaded by Inner City Press.

  How could a bank of this size, that wants to become bigger, write and sign a merger agreement like this?

 To find out, Inner City Press immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the whole submission - and even the Federal Reserve has seen through Community Bank System's absurdly -- and tellingly -- overbroad withholding, releasing all but one part of one of the eight withheld responses.

  Here's is the Federal Reserve's letter to Inner City Press granting most of its FOIA request

August 3, 2015

Fed Rejects Community Bank System - Oneida Withholding 8 of 9 Responses

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 1 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation extends from large to smaller banks. As Inner City Press exposed last month, Royal Bank of Canada jumped the gun and began doing business with City National Bank without any Federal Reserve approval (see Los Angeles Times, here.)

  Community Bank System of upstate New York filed with the Fed nine answers to questions asked after Inner City Press' challenge -- and tried to withhold fully eight of the nine responses. More here.

  Inner City Press immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the whole submission - and even the Federal Reserve has seen through Community Bank System's absurdly -- and tellingly -- overbroad withholding, releasing all but one part of one of the eight withheld responses.

  Here's is the Federal Reserve's letter to Inner City Press granting most of its FOIA request: here is the now unredacted version of Community Bank System's submission.

July 27, 2015

To FRB, Community Bank System - Oneida Withhold 8 of 9 Responses

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 25 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation extends from large to smaller banks. Last week the Federal Reserve hauled off and approved CIT - One West, with whose executives the Fed met before the deal was even announced a year ago.

  Further down the food chain, Community Bank System of upstate New York filed with the Fed nine answers to questions asked after Inner City Press' challenge -- and is trying to withhold fully eight of the nine responses. More here.

  Inner City Press is challenging this under the Freedom of Information Act, comparing Community Bank System's outrageous withholding at the Fed with other banks, and with Community Bank System's to the OCC, more here.

July 20, 2015

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

By Matthew R. Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  On June 6, FFW submitted into the record before the Fed:

"RBC, City National off to friendly start ahead of $5.4B takeover Globe and Mail, May 26, 2015

July 13, 2015

On Dodd-Frank, ICP Asks IMF Of Redefining SIFI to $500B, Of Somalia Remittances

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- When the International Monetary Fund released reviews and papers about the United States, complete with support of the Dodd Frank Act and mentions of anti money laundering protection on June 8 Inner City Press asked about the proposal to raise the definition of Systemically Important Financial Institution from $50 billion up to $500 billion and if tight AML strictures are to blame for cutting off remittances to Somalia.

  Aditya Narain, IMF mission chief for the Financial Sector Assessment Program and deputy director, Monetary and Capital Markets department, told Inner City Press that the IMF believes such definition should give predictability, but should be based on risk and not necessarily only asset size.

  Narain told Inner City Press, "On the first one, our general belief is that supervisory approaches should be risk based, and therefore the materiality and proportionality of institutions should be taken into account for to develop supervisory frameworks. At the same time, we also recognize that it’s important to have some clear rules, regarding a unit, in this case size of institutions, because not only does it set a aseline of expectations, but it also provides a useful framework for people to anchor their expectations on. So that’s why, in a sense we would agree that it’s important to make these approaches risk based and therefore not dependent on size alone. I should add also, that our only political ideology is financial stability, for the purpose of this exercise.

  But will this be used FOR the Senator Richard Shelby draft bill?

  On remittances, Aditya Narain said it is an important question but one that the IMF is dealing with in other venues; it apparently wasn't raised to the US during this process. Why not?

 Narain told Inner City Press, "On the regulatory question, this is an issue which is being discussed in several forums where the IMF has been participating, and this is an issue not just for the US, although it has been most discussed in the context of the US, but the effects of the AML on remittances and the result, the stringent adherence to standards has led to a concern more globally that might be affecting the flow of remittances to those jurisdictions... where such remittances and the channels through which they flow are more important. We have not discussed this... there is work ongoing in the Fund, including in collaboration with other institutions like the World Bank... and we expect to be able to have more information on this in a few months time."

   In the embargoed media conference call, two questions in a row went to the Financial Times, which opined that the IMF report takes the side of the Democratic Party. The IMF disagreed. The IMF said, in writing, “As the epicenter of the global financial crisis that began in 2008, the United States passed a major law in 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act, to reform its financial system. Officials need to complete the rulemaking under the law, while parts of reform agenda face legislative proposals to water them down.”

   Central Banking asked two questions and Reuters one, on federal insurance regulation. The underlying papers will go online on the IMF's website. Watch this site.

Also: When the Fed acted on BB&T  - Susquehanna with FOIA issues not satisfactorily resolved, it said "in the first quarter of 2015, the FDIC also approved a proposal by Branch Bank to acquire 41 branches of Citibank, National Association, in Texas. In connection with that proposal, the FDIC directed Branch Bank to develop a CRA strategic plan." We'll have more on this.

July 6, 2015

RBC - City National Gun Jumping Questioned by Fed, After FFW Raised It

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 3 -- The largest bank merger recently proposed, that of Royal Bank of Canada and affluent-focused City National Bank, has since April been the subject of a Community Reinvestment Act challenge by Fair Finance Watch.

  Now Royal Bank of Canada has been asked more questions by the Federal Reserve. Inner City Press has uploaded the letter, here.

  On June 6, FFW submitted into the record before the Fed:

"RBC, City National off to friendly start ahead of $5.4B takeover Globe and Mail, May 26, 2015, quoted from below.

  Now the Federal Reserve has asked RBC:

"A commenter alleged that in May 2015 RBC and CNB collaborated to extend credit to a customer of CNB.  Please address this claim. In your response, discuss in detail in detail whether RBC exercises a controlling influence over the management or policies of CNC or CNB without prior approval of the Board. In addition, discuss whether, since entering into the proposed transaction, RBC and CNB have collaborated, or plan to collaborate, on extending credit to any other borrower, and describe the nature and circumstances of those collaborations."

  There are other problems, including RBC's non-compete agreement with PNC Financial Services. But this gun-jumping should be fatal to the proposed merger.

June 29, 2015

ICP Asks Of Tax Evader HSBC & Remittance Cutter Westpac In UN Global Compact

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- The UN Global Compact was studied and praised in a 205 page study by DNL-GL, launched on June 25. Inner City Press asked DNL-GL's Henrik Madsen if he has listened to critics of the Compact as "bluewashing," having as members banks like HSBC which engage in tax evasion and predatory lending.

  Madsen replied that he would be telling companies later in the day that they should pay their taxes. Fine - but HSBC has helped its customer to evade taxes. What about that?

  Georg Kell of the Compact said Madsen will be joining the Compact board of directors; earlier he said he's told the Compact principles are in the Koran.

 Inner City Press asked about Westpac, which cut remittances to Somalia. This was not directly answered.

Back on June 5 financial inclusion was the topic at the UN when Queen Maxima of the Netherlands held a press conference at the UN, for which she's the the “Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.”

  Inner City Press asked Queen Maxima what she has done on the issue of banks like Barclays and Westpac cutting of remittances to Somalia. Video here.

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

June 22, 2015

Talk about phoning it in. The Fed on June 15 wrote or ruled, on an application where Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch was the commenter:

The Board received two comments from a single commenter who objected to the proposal principally on the basis of Sterling Bank’s record of extending home mortgage credit to minority individuals in the New York-Wayne-White Plains, New York-New Jersey Metropolitan Division (“New York City MSA”) and the NassauSuffolk Metropolitan Division (“Nassau-Suffolk MD”), as reflected in data reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”)17 for 2013. The commenter expressed concerns that, based on 2013 HMDA data, Sterling Bank was not meeting th credit needs of minority individuals in the communities served by the bank.18 The commenter also contended that Sterling Bank’s HMDA data are “irregular.” The commenter noted that the bank reported three withdrawn and three incomplete applications for refinance loans to African Americans in the New York City MSA and no denials, suggesting that the bank is prescreening minority borrowers.

Fn 18: Sterling represented that Hudson Valley Bank is primarily a commercial lender and does not have a material mortgage program. Mortgage loans represented approximately 14 percent of the bank’s overall lending portfolio as of December 31, 2014.”

FN 19: Sterling asserted that three loan applications were withdrawn at the prospective borrowers’ request because they did not wish to continue the transaction and that the three other applications were deemed incomplete because the prospective borrowers did not provide the requested property, asset, or income documentation needed by the bank to make a lending decision.”

So the Fed accepts 14% as “not material”? And that all people of color “requested” to withdraw their applications is acceptable? This vague commitment does not make up for it:

Sterling Bank has determined to increase its marketing and outreach efforts to better serve the needs of its communities and has adopted its revised CRA Plan. Although the bank intends to remain primarily a commercial lender, it expects to increase its outreach efforts for residential mortgages. Sterling Bank also stated that it will continue pursuing the other community development and CRA-related initiatives set forth in its revised CRA Plan. Sterling plans to reassess the goals and objectives in its CRA Plan to determine if any adjustments are necessary to reflect the acquisition of Hudson Valley.”

We'll have more on this. And this - on another application ICP has commented on, this was reported:

In a statement today, Hal Wentworth, Community's senior vice president for retail banking, said that Inner City Press is not a local group and pointed out that letter was the only one filed on the Oneida deal. 'This activist does not do business with either Oneida or Community Bank, but nonetheless made vague allegations regarding Community,' Wentworth said. 'These allegations were entirely without merit and will be fully addressed by Community Bank and Oneida Savings in the application process.'”

If it would be illegal for CBSI to so disclose information, for its own purposes, about those who have accounts with it, how is this not illegal too? And from a human rights perspective, what a pathetic and telling response. We'll have more on this.

June 15, 2015

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a fourth timely comment on RBC - City National on June 11:

By letter date June 1, the FRB granted FFW an extension of the comment period through June 11.
 
  Please note that RBC's belated release of some documents it improperly sought confidential treatment for does not resolve ICP's FOIA request - we are awaiting an FRB ruling in order to, if need be, appeal. We object, for example, to the continued redaction of “holder and interest” as to subsidiaries; even the ADDRESS of “Independence Investments, LCC,” even the description of Aston / LMCG and of City National Rochdale Hong Kong and RIM Securities and all of CNB Wealth Management; an unspecified volume of “Confidential” Exhibit 10; portions of the “Source of Funds” and “Interconnectedness” analysis; etc.

 Released (improperly withheld) information shows that RBC Bank did not make any community development loans, for example...

Meanwhile in Iowa, Farmers State Bank is planning on selling their closed branch property in Raymond -- with a 20 year deed restriction that another financial institution can not open in that location.
It's said the Union State Bank from Greenfield, Iowa is interested if the building was available. We'll have more on this.

June 8, 2015

RBC - City National Comment Period Extended, Banks Jumped the Gun

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, June 6 -- The largest bank merger recently proposed, that of Royal Bank of Canada and affluent-focused City National Bank, has since April been the subject of a Community Reinvestment Act challenge by Fair Finance Watch.

  Now the Federal Reserve Board has granted FFW an extension of the comment period on the proposed merger, through June 11, FRB letter here, due to RBC improperly withholding information which was subsequently released after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Inner City Press.

   FFW will comment by June 11 - but has submitted to the Fed an objection dated June 6 noting the two banks admitted they are already working together on transactions, without any authorization.

   FFW on June 6 submitted into the record before the Fed:

"RBC, City National off to friendly start ahead of $5.4B takeover Globe and Mail, May 26, 2015

June 1, 2015

After CRA protest, First Tennessee has told the Fed that “First Tennessee is committed to achieving the targeted 30% of originated mortgage loans to LMI borrowers and is preparing plans accordingly. First Tennessee has formed a project team and is developing a detailed execution plan including initiatives to leverage marketing programs, review underwriting guidelines, and assess product design. First Tennessee anticipates the detailed plan will be completed by August 31, 2015.” But why should any merger be ruled on before then? And why are the applicants trying to withhold information about HMDA and a mortgage company relationship?

May 25, 2015

While the Senate is debate letting “community” banks out of most regulations, with both parties more or less on board, here's a snapshop from the field:

in Raymond, Iowa the last branch was closed by Farmers State Bank, whose only loan denial was to a moderate income applicant. The (part time) mayor of the town complained to the FDIC, which held a tele-conference that left him feeling (seeing) the rubber stamp. And so it goes.

May 18, 2015

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

  The Federal Reserve Board has hit a new low on Freedom of Information Act compliance. On May 15, its Governor Jerome Powell, put in charge of FOIA appeals after joining the Fed from Deutsche Bank and the Carlyle Ground, rubber stamped by rote all of the Fed's FOIA withholdings, for example on CIT - OneWest. Previous Governor in that post have most often overturned parts of the underlying denial, but Powell upholds each and every withholding -- like a FISA court, some say, or a court in Egypt. Inner City Press predicted this back in 2011-2012, and noted it on Capital One. But it has gotten worse.

  When New York Fed president William Dudley read a prepared speech to the Bronx Bankers earlier this month, he had a lot of canned advice on how to help the borough. He didn't say what he would do to actually enforce the Community Reinvestment Act and resist regulatory capture by Citi, Chase and Goldman Sachs...

May 11, 2015

Fed Withholds OneWest Branch Closing, CIT Internet Deposit Info, ICP Appeals

By Matthew Russell Lee

NEW YORK, May 9 -- Federal bank regulators remain captured by large and becoming-large banks like the CIT Group, a Freedom of Information Act response to Inner City Press from the Federal Reserve this week shows.

  Like the Fed's previous FOIA response, exclusively published here, that showed its officials met CIT and OneWest before their proposed merger was announced, this time the Fed is withholding information on services and branches to be shuttered by OneWest.

  These include a low income branch at 390 W. Valley Parkway, Escondido, CA 92025 and another at 2245-B Ventura Blvd, Camarillo, CA 93010.

  For another branch to be shuttered, the address is entirely redacted, blacked out. Inner City Press has submitted an appeal under FOIA, also for information withheld about CIT Bank's Internet Deposit Data by County. How can the Community Reinvestment Act be enforced in this way? Even the names of the counties have been withheld.

  Now that the US House Oversight Committee, though spokesperson Melissa Subbotin Sillin, is asking for FOIA horror stories, the Federal Reserve and the other bank regulators -- and the US State Department, on delay -- should and will be looked at.

May 4, 2015

  Last week Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed opposition to the proposed merger of Royal Bank of Canada and City National Bank, which focuses on the most affluent. Click here for that. Now it emerges that others have opposed the deal too, noting that a focus on the affluent is inconsistent with the CRA.

 On this deal, the Federal Reserve has hit a new low - Inner City Press' request under FOIA of April 11, it waited to acknowledge until the stated end of the comment period. More than a week later, still none of the requested documents have been provided. We'll have more on this.

April 27, 2015

CRA Protest to RBC - City National, FFW on Lending Disparities

By Matthew R. Lee

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

  This comes after the M&T - Hudson City merger stalled after similar filings by FFW. On Royal Bank of Canada / City National, the April 23 filing with the Federal Reserve says

City National Bank is known as a bank directed at the (most) affluent. RBC is that as well:

In the New York City MSA in 2013, for conventional home purchase loans, RBC made no loans to African Americans or Latinos. It made one loan to a white applicant (for $1.8 million) and six to “race not available” applicants, for a total of over $36 million.

RBC Bank (Georgia), in the Atlanta MSA in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans made one such loan to an African American, six to whites, and none to Hispanics. In the Raleigh NC MSA in 2013, RBC Bank (Georgia) made two loans to whites, none to African Americans or Latinos.

City National Bank, in the NYC MSA in 2013 for home purchase loans, made no loans to African American or Latino borrowers. It made 10 loans to whites - none denied -- and 35 to “race not available.” By income, there were 36 loans to upper income borrowers, and only one to the other income tranches.

City National Bank, in the Los Angeles MSA in 2013 for home purchase loans, made two loans each to African Americans and Latinos. It made fully 45 loans to whites.

City National Bank, in the Nashville MSA in 2013 for home purchase loans, made no loans to African American or Latino borrowers. It made one loan to a white borrower - none denied -- and six to “race not available.” FFW contests City National Bank's compliance with HMDA.

How is this consistent with the CRA? For the record, RBC previously bumbled in the USA with Centura and Alabama BanCorporation. Now it returns, only for the affluent. Hearings are necessary.

 Under the Freedom of Information Act, Inner City Press / FFW has submitted a

"a formal request under FOIA for the exhibits that Royal Bank of Canada has claimed are confidential and that the Federal Reserve has withheld from Inner City Press on its April 8 response to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's April 4 request, including but not limited to the 'RBC Bank (Georgia), N.A. CRA Plan,' the list of subsidiaries, information pertaining to the U.S. structure of Royal Bank."

The withholding of this CRA plan - hearkening to the Federal Reserve rejected CIT's request to withhold such a plan, and extension of the comment period and holding of public hearing(s) - is outrageous; it must be released sufficiently before any closing of the comment period such that ICP can comment on it. We are therefore requesting all of the withheld exhibits (listed below)

AND all Federal Reserve communication with or about Royal Bank of Canada or City National since July 1, 2014.

Beyond the request for communications, including emails and text messages, these exhibits:

City National Corporation Subsidiaries; Information Pertaining to the U.S. Structure of Royal Bank; Integration Framework; Due Diligence Summary; Royal Bank of Canada Organizational Chart; RBC USA Holdco Corporation Organizational Charts; City National Corporation Organizational Chart; Pro Forma Financial and Related Information; Asset Quality Information; Risk Management Information; Royal Bank of Canada BSA/AML Compliance Program; Information pertaining to BSA/AML Integration; Interconnectedness Analysis; RBC Bank (Georgia), N.A. CRA Plan; Source of Funds; City National Corporation Dividend Information; Principal Information Information Pertaining to Item 3(2) and Item 12 of Form FR Y-3F

None of this information has been provided, even the CRA plan. The comment period must be extended and on the current record, the application must be denied.
 
  Inner City Press previously reported that filing by FFW with the Federal Reserve against M&T's application, that Hudson City in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2011 made only five home purchase loans to African Americans, compared to hundreds to whites while denying the applications of African Americans 3.21 times more frequently than whites.

  That 2011 data was quoted by Bloomberg News earlier this month reporting that now the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are investigating Hudson City, putting the M&T deal, also challenged by NCRC and others, in doubt. Click here for that, here for the NJ Bergen Record, also citing Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch.

April 20, 2015

After CRA Protest, Hudson City Probed, M&T Slowed, Updated Data Here from Fair Finance Watch

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

NEW YORK, April 18 -- Federal bank regulators remain captured by large and becoming-large banks like M&T, but less so relatively smaller institutions like M&T's target Hudson City Saving Bank.

  Inner City Press previously reported the filing by Fair Finance Watch with the Federal Reserve against the merger, that Hudson City in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2011 made only five home purchase loans to African Americans, compared to hundreds to whites while denying the applications of African Americans 3.21 times more frequently than whites.

  That 2011 data was quoted by Bloomberg News last week, reporting that now the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are investigating Hudson City, putting the M&T deal in doubt. Click here for that, here for the NJ Bergen Record, also citing Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch.

 But there's more, and its worse. FFW has just filed this comparison to 2013 with the Federal Reserve:

"Hudson City's record was even worse in 2013 than in the 2011 data cited above. In the NYC MSA for conventional home purchase loans, while Hudson City made (only) five such loans to African Americans in 2011, this fell to only FOUR such loans to African Americans in 2013, compared in 2013 to 427 such loans to whites: a more than one hundred to one ratio, totally out of step with the demographics and other lenders' records.

"For refinance loans in the NYC MSA, while Hudson City in 2011 made 8 such loans to African Americans in 2011, this fell to only SEVEN such loans to African Americans in 2013, compared in 2013 to 801 such loans to whites: again a more than one hundred to one ratio, totally out of step with the demographics and other lenders' records.

"This is presumptive discrimination and the reported DOJ and CFPB investigations are entirely appropriate and should be deferred to by the FRB. What does this say, as well, about M&T's due diligence and managerial resources?"

  Why has the Federal Reserve not dismissed M&T's application?

  The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, part of the US Treasury, is scarcely better, releasing to Inner City Press on March 9 a redacted copy of Sterling's CRA presentation, here.

 Now on April 17 the Federal Reserve has asked Sterling questions about inconsistencies in its previous responses, and about Green Campus Partners. We'll have more on this.

  See here on the CIT Group and another belated Freedom of Information Act response to Inner City Press from the Federal Reserve on February 20. Uploaded exclusively here

April 13, 2015

Since 2012 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has opposed M&T's proposal acquisition of Hudson City Bank. On (Good) Friday April 3, M&T announced it would not close by April 30. On April 6, Hudson City CEO Denis J. Salamone issued a statement that “given the unexpected notice of delay over a holiday weekend, the board of Hudson City needs more time to understand the nature and timing of the delay and its potential impact on the transaction before the board can determine its course of action.” Ouch...

April 6, 2015

Here are two comment periods: RBC - City National to April 23 to the New York Fed (Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has already commented), and Pac West - 1 Square to May 1 to the San Francisco Fed - watch this site for more on this and other applications...

March 30, 2015

Among community-based groups there's more and more talk about bank branch closing, how to find out about them in advance and try to stop them or reduce the negative impact.

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch notes that while the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency includes branch closures in its old-school “Weekly Bulletin” along with pending mergers, the Federal Reserve and FDIC do not include branch closures in their online lists of pending applications. This shield state banks, along with their branch closures, in secrecy. It is something we aim to address.

March 23, 2015

Here's something wrong - M&T Bank, when it submitted CRA answers to the Federal Reserve on March 4 by its Group Vice President Brian R. Yoshida did NOT send copies to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch, NCRC and the other commenters. This was only done more than a week later by M&T's outside counsel at Wachtell, Lipton who is Patricia A. Robinson, who used to work in the Fed's Legal Division. Something's wrong here...

March 16, 2015