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.

November 30, 2020

HUD FOIA Case Put Off For Inauguration As Rule on Housing Eligibility May Die Sine Die

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 24 –  The Legal Aid Society, represented by the Winston & Strawn law firm, has sued the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under FOIA in March. On July 16 U.S. District for the Southern District of New York Judge Lewis J. Liman held another conference on the case; Inner City Press covered it. 

 Now on November 24 the case has been adjourned "sine die" because the underlying rule may die. There was a proceeding on November 24 and Inner City Press covered it. Reference was made to the Presidential inauguration being less than 50 days off. Judge Liman apologized for not getting into the docket endorsement of the adjournment, and took the opportunity to wish Happy Thanksgiving and safety. How many other cases will be adjourned like this?

  That FOIA request concerns a HUD rule limiting eligibility to housing based on immigration status of family members. The requesters want to know who worked on the rule.

  In another FOIA case against HUD handled by Judge Liman, PRLDEF now LatinoJustice is seeking documents about the disproportionate impact of the "Verification of Eligible Status Rule." Judge Liman held a proceeding on July 28 and Inner City Press covered it. A meet and confer had released a few documents, but HUD still disputes a fee waiver.

Judge Liman asked how LatinoJustice plans to disseminate documents to the public. The response was, El Diario, Huffington Post, even the Daily Mail. The next conference was set for August 20. This case is LatinoJustice PRLDEF v. HUD, 20-cv-4859 (Liman).

 On July 16 Judge Liman told the parties to agree to a production schedule by July 27, or to brief the issue. The Government's lead lawyer said she will be on vacation. The the deadline remains, with another conference scheduled for July 31. There were 640 pages in 132 White House documents, minus White House briefing documents.

 On September 25 Judge Liman held another conference with Inner City Press also covered. It came after a dispute arose whether PRLDEF's request for mixed-status family data was a new request not covered by the fee waiver request. Judge Liman inquired in detail, and set a new October 30 date. Inner City Press will continue to follow this case.

Inner City Press as a journalistic FOIA practitioner sees increasing foot dragging by Federal agencies like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, see here. So Judge Liman's approach is needed. The case is Legal Aid Society v. HUD, 20-cv-2283 (Liman).

November 23, 2020

Pro Crypto US Comptroller Brooks Wants To Give Gifts to Anchorage and Figure at 11th Hour

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SOUTH BRONX, Nov 18 – In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and the election, with a fintech and crypto-currency proponent installed as Acting Comptroller, SoFi and its controller SoftBank sought to get and got a U.S. bank charter.

 Meanwhile Inner City Press' requests under the Freedom of Information Act into Acting Comproller Brian P. Brooks' conflicts of interest in the fintech and crypto-currency world have yet to be fully answered.  

  Now, with Brooks cynically nominated to be confirmed (to test out how fast he could be fired under Section 2 of the National Bank Act), Brooks has gone whole hog, inviting any and all crypto firms into the national bank world through the trust bank loophole, without regard to CRA or anything else. There is Anchorage, represented by Dana Syracuse through the revolving door from the NYS Department of Financial Services; there is Figure. All this must be opposed - and will be.

   And so now on November 9, Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press have begun a call to block Brooks from handing out any more national bank charters between now at January 10 - such charters would be illegitimate, gifts by a lame duck. We'll have more on this.

November 16, 2020

While FTC Gets $371 For Discrimination Victims of Bronx Honda Lenders Not Named

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 10 – Bronx Honda of East Tremont Avenue targeted Bronxites of color for higher prices; victims now get $371 each from the FTC. But when Inner City Press checks it out, Bronx Honda doesn't only use Honda Finance - it says it has "strong relationships" to find customers the best loans. So who are the other lenders? And are they being charged? We aim to have more on this. Here's from the FTC, November 10:

"The Federal Trade Commission is sending refunds totaling nearly $1.5 million to individuals who were affected by allegedly unlawful financing and sales practices by Bronx Honda. According to the FTC, Bronx Honda and its general manager told sales employees to charge higher financing markups and fees to African-American and Hispanic customers. The defendants told employees that these groups should be targeted due to their limited education, and not to attempt the same practices with non-Hispanic white consumers. The FTC further alleged that Bronx Honda failed to honor advertised sale prices, changed the sales price on paperwork in the middle of the sale without telling the consumer, double-charged consumers for taxes and fees, and misrepresented to consumers that they were required to pay extra reconditioning and warranty fees to purchase “certified” vehicles. The FTC is providing refunds, averaging about $371 each, to 3,977 victims of Bronx Honda’s practices.

November 9, 2020

Flagstar Bank Blames Regulators For Golden Parachute Delay But Docket Excludes Public

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 1 – Joseph P. Campanelli was apparently an officer of Flagstar Bank, who wants his golden parachute payments but is being told he can only get them if the Federal Reserve and FDIC (and, it seems, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) sign off. 

On October 30 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, to whom the case was assigned in August 2019, held a proceeding. Inner City Press covered it. 

  In the proceeding Judge Engelmayer to his credit told counsel for Flagstar, which was once referred to as Flagstaff like in Arizona, that they could not hide behind the regulators by citing "best efforts" language in the agreement.

  The difficult is that even hours after the open proceeding, the complaint of PACER still says, "You do not have permission to view this document." We will continue on this.

The case is Campanelli v. Flagstar Bancorp, Inc., 19-cv-7299 (Engelmayer)

November 2, 2020

SoFi Bank Charter Rubber Stamped by Pro FinTech Comptroller Brooks After FFW Protest

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SOUTH BRONX, Oct 28 – In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, and with a fintech and crypto-currency proponent installed as Acting Comptroller, SoFi and its controller SoftBank are seeking to get a U.S. bank charter. The WSJ and others have reported the bid, but it is not yet on the OCC's website (which often lags behind such that public comment periods end before notice is given). 

 Meanwhile Inner City Press' requests under the Freedom of Information Act into Acting Comproller Brian P. Brooks' conflicts of interest in the fintech and crypto-currency world have yet to be answers.  

And so on July 13 Fair Finance Watch filed with the OCC, including this: "July 13, 2020
 Office of the Comptroller of the Currency  DC Comptroller Brooks and Mr. Lybarger, Deputy Comptroller for Licensing  & Northeastern District Office 
 Re: Timely First Comment on SoFi's reported application to the OCC to get into banking 

Dear Mr. Lybarger, Ms. Cummings and others in the OCC:  This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the required OCC's public comment period on reported proposal by SoFi to get a national bank charter.  

    This is a major proposal, by a fintech in which SoftBank has a large stake. Yet, it is not yet on the OCC's website, where as of July 13 the most recent Weekly Bulletin cuts on on July 4. The only charter application listed as open for comment is Monzo Bank; the New Bank application link does not work. So, any comment period will have be be extended. This is a request for the complete application, all portions that the OCC after review does not find withholdable under FOIA. 

     Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch opposed SoFi's previous, suspended attempt to get into banking. Since then the questions have only grown.  

    For now, we note that Inner City Press asked the OCC's FOIA unit for a copy of Comptroller Brooks' conflict of interest list with fintechs but has yet to receive it. Pending receipt, we ask that Acting Comptroller Brooks be recused from this application and that you confirm this in writing.

      As to SoftBank, the dispute regarding another of its holdings, WeWork, portends the type of problems that regulators like the OCC are directed to keep out of, not invite into, the banking system.

     For the above reasons, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, the comment period should not yet start or should extended, until in person public hearings can be held, and Comptroller Brooks' should be recused pending/and his conflict of interest list should be released."

And now on October 28, Brooks' OCC has rubber stamped the application, stating "The OCC received one comment related to the Proposed Bank’s plans for complying with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA, 12 USC 2901 et seq.), asserting, among other things, that the CRA plan included with the application only provides an outline of proposed activities without sufficient details. The OCC also received one other comment opposing approval of the charter application for reasons not related to the CRA and requesting an extension of the comment period. The CRA requires that the OCC take a national bank’s or federal savings association’s (bank) CRA record into account when evaluating an application for a deposit facility. 12  SoFi Bank, National Association, Cottonwood Heights, Utah (proposed) OCC Control Nos. 2020-WE-Charter-315294 and 2020-WE-Waiver-315536  2  USC 2903(a)(2). An application for a deposit facility is defined to mean, among other things, “a charter for a national bank or federal savings and loan association.” 12 USC 2902(3)(A). The CRA regulations require that “[a]n applicant... for a national bank charter must submit with its application a description of how it will meet its CRA objectives, if applicable.” 12 CFR 25.02(b). The Proposed Bank’s charter application included a CRA plan that provided an initial description of how it proposes to help meet the credit needs of its community. With regard to the commenter’s concerns about the sufficiency of the Proposed Bank’s CRA plan, the CRA requires the OCC to consider a proposed insured bank’s description of how it will meet the credit needs of its community in considering a charter application. 12 CFR 25.02(b). The OCC expects that organizers of a bank will begin to develop a CRA plan during the charter application phase; however, the OCC does not expect a bank to have a fully developed plan at this stage. The CRA plan should be finalized after a bank has received preliminary conditional approval from the OCC, but prior to final approval of the charter application. The Bank has demonstrated in its charter application and through discussions with OCC staff that it understands the requirements of the CRA and has begun to develop a CRA plan. The Bank is considering a strategic plan pursuant to 12 CFR 25.18, and the OCC will work with the Bank in the development of a strategic plan if this alternative is chosen." Rush job, rubber stamp. Watch this site.

October 26, 2020

Goldman Sachs Gets $2.9B Deferred Prosecution Deal Like HSBC Fed Reserved

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Patreon
Honduras - The Source - The Root - etc

FEDERAL COURTS NYC, Oct 22  – In the 1MDB scandal Inner City Press live tweeted a proceeding in August 2020, here and below.

Now on October 22, "today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Goldman Sachs entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section and Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Sections (the Department) in connection with a criminal information filed in the Eastern District of New York charging the Company with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. GS Malaysia pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to a one-count criminal information charging it with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Previously, Tim Leissner, the former Southeast Asia Chairman and a Participating Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ng Chong Hwa, also known as “Roger Ng,” former Managing Director of Goldman and Head of Investment Banking for GS Malaysia, has been charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ng was extradited from Malaysia to face these charges and is scheduled for trial in March 2021. All four cases are assigned to U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie of the Eastern District of New York."

  For those counting, HSBC also got a deferred prosecution agreement. And the Federal Reserve, in the shadows, has let Goldman Sachs into bank, and rubber stamps mergers like by Banco Bradesco to this day. From August 2020:

 OK - in EDNY, 1MDB / Malaysia defendant EDNY Ng Chong Hwa, a.k.a. “Roger Ng" charged with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from 1Malaysia Development is before Judge Margo K. Brodie. Inner City Press will live tweet - thread

 Judge Brodie says there is a back-up of cases caused by COVID19, no assurance this trial can go forward in January 2021. Says won't have real info in September - even if protocol is in place, it will still be being tested. AUSA points out extradition from Malaysia

 AUSA says a status conference in early October would be fine "even if the trial is moved a little bit." Defense lawyer: I understand the difficulties of the court. But I'd like to convince the government or your Honor to loosen Mr Ng's conditions of home detention

Defense lawyer: Malaysia is not allowing Americans into the country at all, at least until September. This is a challenge we face. We'd like Mr. Ng to get out a bit more, and exercise. Judge: I think the parties should work that out. Next date Oct 6 at 10 am?

Judge: Does that work? Yes. Yes. No need to exclude time on this matter but I'll do it anyway. See you in October. Have a good day. Adjourned.
 And on Goldman, from SDNY:

Bryan Cohen, a Goldman Sachs banker charged with insider trading with the same cooperating witness as Telemaque Lavidas now on trial, on January 7 pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

  The US Attorney's Office did not publicize the proceeding or its 30 to 37 month plea deal, but Inner City Press was in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrates Court as the only media, and spoke afterward with Cohen's defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman. More on Patreon here.

  Brafman told Inner City Press the connection to the Lavidas trial is the same cooperating witness. More formally, he said that "To his credit, Mr. Cohen has accepted responsibility for his conduct and will thereby avoid a trial. We are hopeful that at sentencing we will be able to pursuade Judge Pauley that despite his criminal conduct Mr. Cohen is a fundamentally decent young man who should be sentenced in a relatively lenient fashion."

As HSBC and Wells Eye Harlem Brownstone Bankruptcy Appeal Arrives in SDNY

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Oct 22 – Laverne Leonard lives in a brownstone on 131st Street in Manhattan and is worried it will be foreclosed on by lenders and/or servicers who don't even own the loan, including HSBC and Wells Fargo as server. 
  On October 22 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Lewis J. Liman held a bankruptcy appeal proceeding. Inner City Press covered it.  

 Judge Liman asked where the property is, and noted that he had a big box of documents related to the matter. He urged Ms. Leonard to email his Chambers.

The case is In Re: Laverne Leonard, 20-cv-6811 (Liman)

October 19, 2020

As Bronx Amalgamated Closing Has Negative Impact Inner City Press Hits BNB Dime Merger

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - CJR - PFT

South Bronx, Oct 14 –  This is a tale of two closing of bank branches, in The Bronx and in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

  In the South Bronx closing, by Amalgamated Bank, the FDIC did not hold a public meeting.

  But as to Kenosha, the Federal Reserve has said: "This is in reference to the notice provided to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (“Reserve Bank”) by Johnson Bank, Racine, Wisconsin to close its branch located at 2729 18th Street, Kenosha, Wisconsin.   This Reserve Bank received correspondence regarding the branch closure which discusses its adverse effects on available banking services in the area; this Reserve Bank considers the comment not frivolous. Therefore, under Federal statute 12 USC § 1831r-1, this Reserve Bank shall convene a meeting of interested parties to explore the feasibility of obtaining adequate alternative facilities and services for the affected area following the branch closure.... Respectfully,   Jeremiah Boyle Assistant Vice President Community and Economic Development Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago."

  This is the same Federal Reserve which rubber stamped Banco Bradesco, and even serviced Varo at the Reserve Bank level. But the FDIC held no meeting, even virtual, on this (acknowledged as negatively impactful by the New York State Department of Financial Services, which has yet to meaningful act of the negative impacts of Dime being taken over by BNB, below) --

"October 7, 2020 (TR-CRB) AMALGAMATED BANK 275 Seventh Avenue (Fourteenth Floor, New York, NY 10001  In accordance with Section 28-c of the Banking Law, the Superintendent of Financial Services has found that the closing of branch office at 94 East Burnside Avenue, Borough of Bronx, City of New York 10453, will result in a significant reduction of financial services in the community affected." And? We'll have more on this - and on Dime / BNB.

October 12, 2020

Citibank Tells Those Facing Discrimination To Move But Inner City Press Hits BNB Dime

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - CJR - PFT

South Bronx, Oct 6 –  Citigroup, the global colossus, has issued a report including on what is says individuals can do when faced with discrimination.

Citibank recommends... moving. Here, at page 93: "Move: While a difficult decision, relocation may be the answer to improved jobs prospects. Sixty five percent of the Black population resides in 16 states in the U.S. However, according to a survey by McKinsey and Company, on average these states rank below national averages in metrics that can lead to an improved quality of life and wealth generation. Black workers, especially younger workers can opt to move to states that are generating the most jobs in high paying industries."

  Beyond being a "difficult decision," isn't this just accepting and perpetuating redlining?

  Instead, here's what Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is doing:

October 5, 2020

Dime Community Bank To Be Bought By BNB With No Loans to African Americans So Protest

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - CJR - PFT

South Bronx, Sept 28 –  Brooklyn based Dime Community Bank, it is proposed, would be taken over by Long Island-based Bridge Bancorp, making few to no loans to people of color. Fair Finance Watch has filed a timely protest:

"September 28, 2020 New York State Department of Financial Services Attn: Linda A. Lacewell, Acting Superintendent of Financial Services A   Re: Timely First Comment on Applications by Bridge Bancorp, Inc. to acquire control of Dime Community Bank and all related applications

Dear Acting Superintendent Lacewell:  This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the NYSDFS' public comment period on the Applications by Bridge Bancorp, Inc. to acquire control of Dime Community Bank and all related applications  The applicant's BNB Bank in New York State in 2019 made 108 HMDA-reported loans to whites -- and NONE to African Americans, and only two to Latinos. 

  This is unacceptable and Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press hereby timely request public evidentiary hearings and that Bridge Bancorp's and BNB Bank's applications be denied on Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending grounds.  

  Dime Community Bank, whose record Inner City Press has previously critiqued with some impact, in 2019 in NYS made 16 HMDA reported loans to whites, five to African Americans and NONE to Latinos. This is too is unacceptable, particularly in combination. This proposed merger should be denied.   

 See also, Shelter Island Reporter of July 6, 2020: "Certain retail locations on the East End w[ould] operate under the BNB Bank name for at least one year, according to a press release. It did not specify which locations.... what started as a trickle of bank branch closings and mergers has turned into a river. Capital One was among a handful of major banks that bucked the trend as late as 2014, actually adding more branches. But three years ago it joined the brick-and-mortar vanishing act, as reflected by branch closings on the East End, including Shelter Island. According to The Economist, since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have closed more than 10,000 branches."

All impacts of this proposed merger should be disclosed - this a timely request to be emailed a copy of the application(s), which should have been placed on the Department's website for public review as many Federal agencies do.  The comment period should be extended; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved." We'll have more on this.

       Watch this site.

September 28, 2020

Insurers Beat NYS Regulator In ACA Case in 2d Circuit Now SDNY Follows Suit

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 24 – Insurers sued the NYS Superintendent of Financial Services for a 2017-18 regulation requiring them to pay a portion of the funds they received under the ACA's risk adjustment program into the NYS treasury. 

 The insurers won in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. 

 On September 24 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York  Judge John G. Koeltl held a proceeding. Inner City Press covered it.

   The State's lawyer wanted a delay, to change their regulations seemingly voluntarily.

 Judge Koeltl rejected these optics, and granted the insurers summary judgment.

The case is, or was, UnitedHealthcare of New York, Inc. et al v. Vullo, 17-cv-7694 (Koeltl)

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September 21, 2020

Varo Bank The Bancorp Application Protested to OCC But Crypto Brooks Rubber Stamps It

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK