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. See, in November 2021, Inner City Press' book "Belt and Roadkill," here

December 5, 2022

Lakeland Bank DOJ Settlement Left Disparities in NY Unaddressed so CRA Merger Challenge

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

SOUTH BRONX NY, Dec 3 – When the US Department of Justice sued and immediately settled with Lakeland Bank for fair lending violations, it announced a proposed merger with Provident Bank.

As if to sweep it under the carpet.

And when Fair Finance Watch looked into it, it found that the DOJ settlement did not address in any way the banks' disparities in New York. So on December 1, the FDIC's comment deadline, it filed the below, with Inner City Press on the FOIA:

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Attn: Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg, Frank Hughes 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1200 New York, NY 10118-0110  Re: Comment on Applications by Provident Bank to merge with Lakeland Bank 

Dear Chairman Gruenberg, Regional Director Hughes and others at the FDIC:   This is a timely comment on, the Application of Provident Bank to merge with Lakeland Bank which appears on the FDIC website under "Applications In Process Subject to the CRA Report" with an initial comment periods running through December 1. This comment is timely. And as set forth below, the FDIC should extend its comment period, at least until December 15 to coincide with the Federal Reserve comment period on the proposed holding company merger.   

  Lakeland was sued by DOJ and settled, just before this proposed merger was announced. See here "The DOJ said that all of Lakeland’s branches were located in majority-white neighborhoods and that its loan officers did not serve the credit needs of Black and Hispanic neighborhoods...  Lakeland, a community bank, operates 68 branches in northern New Jersey and in New York’s Hudson Valley." 


  Notably, the settlement does not address in any way Lakeland's redlining in New York.

   But consider, for the record: in 2021 in New York based on its disparate marketing Lakeland made 27 mortgage loans to whites -- while making NO loans to African Americans. None. Zero. Zip. This must be addressed.  

And it would not be addressed by Provident, which in New York in 2021 made 20 mortgage loans to whites -- while making NO loans to African Americans. None. Zero. Zip. This merger should be denied.

   Note also that in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, this proposed merger is already the subject of two lawsuits: 22-cv-9946 and 22-cv-9980. 

Inner City Press is requesting an extension of the public comment period, public / virtual evidentiary hearings and that, on the current record, the applications not be approved      FFW and Inner City Press have been deeply concerned about the rush by the FDIC's to rubber-stamp mergers by redliners, money launderers and predatory lenders. This has been killing the Community Reinvestment Act and we timely request public hearings.  The comment period should be extended; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.

Watch this site.



November 28, 2022

Prosperity Bank Faces CRA Challenge to Lone Star State Bank and FirstCapital Bank in Texas

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

FEDERAL COURT / S Bronx, Nov 25 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will be again enforced under this Administration and its regulators including under the incoming divided Congress is an open question.

   Now Fair Finance Watch with Inner City Press on the FOIA has filed comments with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation against the applications by Prosperity Bank in Texas:

November 25, 2022 

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Attn: Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg Dallas Kristie K. Elmquist, Regional Director Julie V. Banfield, Deputy Regional Director Chris Finnegan, Assistant Regional Director (Consumer Protection) 1601 Bryan Street, 38th Floor Dallas, Texas 75201-4586 

Re: Comment on Applications by Prosperity Bank, El Campo, Texas to acquire Lone Star Bank of West Texas and FirstCapital Bank of Texas, N.A. 

Dear Chairman Gruenberg, Regional Director Elmquist, Ass't Regional Director Finnegan and others at the FDIC:   This is a request for all information in the possession of the FDIC about, and a timely comment on, the Applications of Prosperity Bank, El Campo, Texas to acquire Lone Star Bank of West Texas and FirstCapital Bank of Texas, N.A. which appear on the FDIC website under "Applications In Process Subject to the CRA Report" with an initial comment periods running through December 16. This comment is timely.  

   The applicant Prosperity Bank in 2021 in Texas based on its disparate marketing made 5453 mortgage loans to whites -- while making only 188 loans to African Americans. Meanwhile it denied fully 94 applications from African Americans, versus only 1186 from whites. This is far out of keeping with the demographics, and others lenders, in Texas in particularly in Prosperity Bank's CRA assessment areas - this is outrageous.    

  The applicant Prosperity Bank in 2021 in Oklahoma based on its disparate marketing made 320 mortgage loans to whites -- while making only 38 loans to African Americans.  This is far out of keeping with the demographics, and others lenders, in Oklahoma in particularly in Prosperity Bank's CRA assessment areas - this is outrageous. 

Beyond these disparities, there is the question of possible service reductions. Already, for the record, consider this:   "I was with Prosperity Bank in Cleveland, Texas and my I was with Prosperity Bank in Cleveland, Texas and my account was scammed and I lost 2 of my Social Security checks and the cash I had in the bNK. tHEY PAID MY BILLS IN NOVEMBER AND NOW THEY SAY i HAVE TO PAY THEM $1013 after they didn't protect my account and I lost over $2,828 and had nothing to live on. I paid on a plan with Noeton Security and they got my debit card number and took all my money and the bank says I gave Noeton permission to get American Express gift cards. What can I do about this? Yes I did speak with the manager of Prosperity Bank in Cleveland, Texas.... The bank says they will turn me in for collection and the BBB and I will never be able to open another bank account 

  Inner City Press is requesting an extension of the public comment period, public / virtual evidentiary hearings and that, on the current record, the applications not be approved

November 21, 2022

CRA Protest to Gaming MVB Bank Bid On Hemp Lender West Town Bank Yields Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon MVB File
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

SOUTH BRONX NY, Nov 17 – Amid the focus on big mergers like Bank of Montreal Harris - BNP Paribas and the stalled Flagstar / NYCB, there are other also dubious smaller merger proposals.

Fair Finance Watch is on the lookout, with Inner City Press on the FOIA, and filed this:

Dear Chair Powell, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS:    This is a request for a full copy of, and a timely first comment on, the Applications of MVB Financial Corp., Fairmont, West Virginia; to acquire Integrated Financial Holdings, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, and thereby indirectly acquire West Town Bank & Trust, North Riverside, Illinois, and acquire voting shares of West Town Payments, LLC, Raleigh, North Carolina, "and more." 

Fair Finance Watch has been reviewing West Town Bank including its 2021 HMDA data not taken into account in any CRA exam and finds it troubling. FFW in looking into MVB Bank find its offers of banking for gaming, but for CRA questions, not even an email address, only a snail mail address. This is not a best practice, far from it. 

   In terms of HMDA data, in 2021, West Town Bank made 319 mortgage loans to whites with seven denials. Meanwhile to African Americans it made only TWENTY FIVE loans, while denying five applications. A referral should be made to the DOJ for fair lending violations.     MVB, proposing to buy West Town Bank including its hemp lending, is engaged in gaming lending, fintechs - but has not put its CRA file online or even available by emailing."

  First after the filing, MVB provided Fair Finance Watch with what it calls its 271-page CRA file (for some reason, only "as of April 2022") which we've put on DocumentCloud here to make it public as all CRA files should be.

Now on November 17, Fed questions including

"This correspondence relates to the application filed by MVB Financial Corp. (“MVB”), Fairmont, West Virginia, to acquire Integrated Financial Holdings, Inc. (“IFHI”), Raleigh, North Carolina, and thereby indirectly acquire West Town Bank & Trust (“West Town Bank”), North Riverside, Illinois, pursuant to sections 3(a)(3) and 3(a)(5) of the Bank Holding Company (“BHC”) Act, and to indirectly acquire voting shares of West Town Payments, LLC, Raleigh, North Carolina, pursuant to sections 4(c)(8) and 4(j) of the BHC Act. Based on Federal Reserve staff’s review of the current record, the following additional information is requested. Please provide responses to the following items, including those in the Confidential Annex. Supporting documentation should be provided as appropriate: 1. Provide a revised page 1 of the FR Y-3 Application to Become a Bank Holding Company and/or Acquire an Additional Bank or Bank Holding Company (“FR Y-3”) form to state that MVB’s application is submitted pursuant to both sections 3(a)(3) and 3(a)(5) of the BHC Act. 2. In response to Question 20 of the FR Y-3, MVB represents, “No existing branches will be closed or consolidated as a result of the Proposed Transaction.” However, Exhibit A of the Agreement and Plan of Merger of West Town Bank with and into MVB Bank does not include West Town Bank’s North Riverside, Illinois branch in the list of surviving bank branch locations. Confirm, if such is the case, that MVB does not intend to close any existing branches of either West Town Bank or MVB Bank, Inc. (“MVB Bank”), Fairmont, West Virginia, in connection with the proposed transaction. 3. MVB represents that the following IFHI’s wholly-owned nonbank subsidiaries are anticipated to be sold or dissolved prior to consummation of the proposed transaction: (1) SBA Loan Documentation Services, LLC, (2) West Town Insurance Agency, Inc., (3) Glenwood Structured Finance, LLC, and (4) Patriarch, LLC. For each subsidiary: a. Provide a status update on the dissolution or sale of the subsidiary; b. For any subsidiary that has not yet been dissolved or sold, provide an estimated date by which the dissolution or sale is expected to be completed; and c. Confirm, if such is the case, that the subsidiary would not be acquired or operated by MVB following consummation of the proposed transaction. 

  4. Confirm MVB intends to maintain an ownership interest in VeriLeaf, Inc. and Dogwood State Bank, following consummation of the proposed transaction. 5. The FR Y-3 and Agreement and Plan of Merger and Reorganization dated as of August  12, 2022, between IFHI and MVB indicate that IFHI provides services to marijuana- related businesses (“MRBs”). Indicate whether MVB anticipates continuing to provide  services to MRB customers following consummation of the proposed transaction. If not, describe how and when the combined organization would terminate that business line. If yes, describe the nature and scope of IFHI’s current activities with MRB customers and the combined organization’s anticipated activities with MRB customers. The response should summarize product or services offerings and the size and scope of the business line. In addition, the response should describe the criteria or system for identifying and classifying MRB customers and the combined organization’s definition of MRB customer, if any. 6. Discuss the due diligence process MVB undertook relating to IFHI’s servicing of MRB customers. In addition, summarize any due diligence findings relating to that business line, including whether the due diligence identified any risks, weaknesses, or concerns at IFHI and how the combined organization intends to address them following consummation of the proposed transaction. 7. If applicable, provide an overview of the laws, regulations, orders, or other requirements or guidance that impact IFHI’s and the combined organization’s provision of services to MRB customers. The response should: a. Discuss how the combined organization would manage and mitigate risks associated with servicing MRB customers and ensure compliance with any statutes, regulations, or guidance in each jurisdiction in which the combined organization would service MRB customers. b. Indicate how the combined organization would monitor potential changes to applicable laws concerning providing services to MRB customers in the future. c. Discuss existing policies and procedures as well as any contemplated changes at the combined organization to ensure compliance with applicable law and the 2014 Financial Crime Enforcement Network guidance titled “BSA Expectations Regarding Marijuana-Related Businesses.”  8. Discuss MVB and/or MVB Bank’s record of compliance with the West Virginia Community Reinvestment Act, W. Va. Code §§ 31A-8B-1 to 5, including the date of MVB and/or MVB Bank’s most recent evaluation and rating, as applicable. 9. In the FR Y-3, MVB states that the proposed transaction would create benefits for clients of West Town Bank by enabling them to take advantage of a larger branch and ATM network. Describe in greater detail how the clients of West Town Bank, whose only branch is located in Illinois, would benefit from access to the MVB Bank’s branch and ATM network, which is located in West Virginia and Virginia. 10. Provide a copy of the most recent version of the CRA Strategic Plan that is expected to become effective in January 2023.  NONCONFIDENTIAL // EXTERNAL  11. On page 21 of the FR Y-3, MVB states that MVB Bank is in the process of reviewing the products and services of West Town Bank. Indicate when that review is expected to be completed. If already completed, explain whether any products and services offered by either MVB Bank or West Town Bank would be discontinued after consummation of the proposed transaction. Additionally, discuss whether there would be any changes to the terms or provision of the products and services currently provided, including fees. 12. Confirm whether the consumer compliance program of the merged bank would be MVB Bank’s current program. Describe any modifications to the consumer compliance risk management program that are planned as a result of the proposed transaction. 13. Discuss any enhancements that would be made to MVB Bank’s consumer compliance risk management system to accommodate the proposed additional and expanded activities described in the strategic business plan in Confidential Exhibit E." Full letter on Patreon here.

Watch this site.

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November 14, 2022

Predatory Lender Republic Bank & Trust Faces CRA Challenge to CBank Merger Application

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

FEDERAL COURT / S Bronx, Nov 11 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will be again enforced under this Administration and its regulators including under the incoming Congress is an open question. The same is the case about predatory lending.

   Now Fair Finance Watch with Inner City Press on the FOIA has filed comments with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation against the application by notorious predatory lender Republic Bank & Trust to buy CBank:

November 11, 2022
FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg FDIC - Chicago Regional Director, John Conneely Deputy Regional Director, Teresa Sabanty
 
Re: Timely Comment opposition and requesting an extension of the comment period on the application by high-cost lender Republic Bank & Trust to acquire CBank and Commercial Industrial Finance, Inc.

Dear Chairman Gruenberg, Regional Director Conneely, Deputy Regional Director Sabanty:  

 On behalf of Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press and in my personal capacity, this is a timely comment opposing and requesting an extension of the comment period on the application by high-cost lender Republic Bank & Trust to merge with CBank and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Commercial Industrial Finance, Inc. which "provides equipment leasing and financing to businesses nationwide." 

 Republic is a notorious high-cost lender. "Non-bank payday lenders try to get in on the action by putting a bank’s name on the loan, allowing them the pre-emption protection. One company engaged in this is Elevate Financial. Its line-of-credit product, Elastic, uses Republic Bank, which is chartered in Kentucky, to make the loans. Elevate supplies the underwriting software and therefore controls who gets a loan. Republic Bank holds onto the loans, but then sells a 90 percent “participation interest” to an affiliate of Elevate. Functionally speaking, Elevate issues and effectively owns the loans, but it has a legal fig leaf that enables it to point to Republic Bank as the actual lender. This enables Elevate to sell Elastic, which its financial disclosures say carries an annual percentage rate of 109 percent, in states like Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon, which cap interest rates at 36 percent. It also allows Elevate to sell what is effectively a payday lending/installment loan product called Rise in states where payday lending has been banned, like Arizona."

Note for the record on this application, subject to CRA, that Republic Bank and Trust enables Enova, which operates payday and installment lender CashNetUSA, to make NetCredit- branded installment loans at rates up to 99.99% APR.

  In terms of HMDA data, in 2021, Republic Bank and Trust in Kentucky made 2429 mortgage loans to whites with 162 denials. Meanwhile to African Americans it made 303 loans, while denying fully 51 applications.

  In Ohio in 2021, Republic Bank and Trust
made 72 mortgage loans to whites with seven denials. Meanwhile to African Americans it made ten loans, while denying four applications.  

  In Florida in 2021, Republic Bank and Trust made 260 mortgage loans to whites with 45 denials. Meanwhile to African Americans it made eleven loans, while denying six applications.    Public evidentiary hearings are needed.   

 FFW and Inner City Press have been deeply concerned about the rush by the FDIC to rubber-stamp smaller mergers by these sized redliners. This has been killing the Community Reinvestment Act and we timely request public hearings. The comment period should be extended; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.     Very Truly Yours,     Matthew Lee, Esq.   Executive Director  Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch

Watch this site.

November 7, 2022

CRA Protest to Gaming MVB Bank Bid For Redlining Hemp Lender West Town Bank Yields Docs

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon MVB File
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

SOUTH BRONX NY, Oct 31 –   Amid the focus on big mergers like Bank of Montreal Harris - BNP Paribas and the stalled Flagstar / NYCB, there are other also dubious smaller merger proposals.

Fair Finance Watch is on the lookout, with Inner City Press on the FOIA, and filed the below.  Since filing, MVB provided Fair Finance Watch with what it calls its 271-page CRA file (for some reason, only "as of April 2022") which we've put on DocumentCloud here to make it public as all CRA files should be, and the Fed has provided portions of the application, including that target "IFHI owns a 30.5% interest in VeriLeaf, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its main office in Austin, Texas, which is a start-up company that provides automated software solutions and related compliance and risk management services to assist banks with enhanced due diligence needed for higher-risk customer bases, such as hemp businesses." Watch this site.


October 31, 2022

CRA Challenge to Gaming MVB Bank Bid For Redlining Hemp Lending West Town Bank

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

SOUTH BRONX NY, Oct 25 –   Amid the focus on big mergers like Bank of Montreal Harris - BNP Paribas and the stalled Flagstar / NYCB, there are other also dubious smaller merger proposals.

Fair Finance Watch is on the lookout, with Inner City Press on the FOIA, and just filed this:

Dear Chair Powell, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS:    This is a request for a full copy of, and a timely first comment on, the Applications of MVB Financial Corp., Fairmont, West Virginia; to acquire Integrated Financial Holdings, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, and thereby indirectly acquire West Town Bank & Trust, North Riverside, Illinois, and acquire voting shares of West Town Payments, LLC, Raleigh, North Carolina, "and more." 

Fair Finance Watch has been reviewing West Town Bank including its 2021 HMDA data not taken into account in any CRA exam and finds it troubling. FFW in looking into MVB Bank find its offers of banking for gaming, but for CRA questions, not even an email address, only a snail mail address. This is not a best practice, far from it. 

   In terms of HMDA data, in 2021, West Town Bank made 319 mortgage loans to whites with seven denials. Meanwhile to African Americans it made only TWENTY FIVE loans, while denying five applications. A referral should be made to the DOJ for fair lending violations.     MVB, proposing to buy West Town Bank including its hemp lending, is engaged in gaming lending, fintechs - but has not put its CRA file online or even available by emailing.     Public evidentiary hearings are needed.    

  FFW and Inner City Press have been deeply concerned about the rush by the Federal Reserve to rubber-stamp smaller mergers by these sized redliners. This has been killing the Community Reinvestment Act and we timely request public hearings.  The comment period should be extended; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.  

The Fed, through the FRB of Richmond, has replied: "October 25, 2022 Mr. Matthew Lee, Esq. Executive Director Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch  Dear Mr. Lee: This is to acknowledge receipt of your comment letter with respect to the applications by MVB Financial Corp

October 24, 2022

Credit Suisse Sued in SDNY, Pays NJ Predatory Lending Settlement But More Coming

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

SOUTH BRONX / SDNY, Oct 18  – Credit Suisse, now on trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for rigging foreign exchange prices in a case covered by Inner City Press, has separately settled with the New Jersey Attorney General for its role in the US predatory lending scandal.

   "Credit Suisse said Monday that the settlement allows the bank to resolve its only remaining mortgage-backed securities matter involving claims by a regulator" - but there is opposition from beyond the too often defanged regulators.

  This is on top of money laundering supporting dictators from Zimbabwe to Kazakhstan, and assisting in the destruction of a Ukrainian agricultural firm.

Now it wants to set its asset management business in the US. It should and will face opposition, from Fair Finance Watch and others. Watch this site. 

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Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Click here to become a patron.

October 17, 2022

BMO Harris BNP Faced Fed Qs After Admitting Mislabeling Info Now More Confidential Answers

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